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Denise Roll

Age: 45

Occupation:Sales

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Radiance of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 12th, 2003

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

THE SHIP
Overall Review
I am use to staying in nice hotels so when others speak about the beauty of the ship I was expecting more, but it won’t disappoint you no matter what your expectations are from reading the various posts. The rooms, for a ship, are spacious. And by Friday you will finally find most of the bars, restaurants and entertainment spots. Service was personalized enough for me. Some had posted it wasn’t personalize, but anymore and I would have found them annoying.

WHAT TO WEAR and PACK
This was my big question. It had been years since my last cruise. First I over packed and second RCI lost one of our bags at the back end of the trip. I just returned today and still hopeful it will be returned. Put big ugly red ribbons on your bags so they can be identified easily by you and by someone else picking your bag up by mistake.
The formal nights are very formal. More men wear tuxes than not and on the casual dressy night some were in suits, but many dressed the “Don Johnson” look. There wasn’t a single night the women were not dressed to kill. The photo sessions encourages you to dress very nice. Where else can you buy a quality picture for only $20?
But how many swimsuits and shorts should I bring? I say bring a swimsuit for each day because that is all you are in. Every excursion (just about) requires a swimsuit. We actually put shorts on twice so I only needed two pair of shorts the entire trip.

WORKOUT FACILITY
This was the most disappointing to me. We chose this ship because their ads say they have spinning. They have cycle classes and the bikes are Pulse Bikes. Pretty bad for those of us use to Johnny G or Schwinn bikes. The instructors are OK, but not up to date trained. I didn’t bother going to the other classes because I am an instructor and if I’m going to pay for a class and tip them, I expect them to be up to date, just like I have to be back home. . Cycle music was pretty good but they played the same CD twice. You’d think RCI would get them 5 different CD’s for each day. It isn’t that hard! For workout equipment it is well equipped. I’m tough to please so if you are not a fitness enthusiast you will find the classes perfectly acceptable. The spa has a deal for $50 a week (or $15 a day) to use this wonderfully specialized room with heated tile seats. We never had time, but was a great idea.

The Spa
They have it all. Pricy compared to what I can get here in Philly and I treat myself back home so I didn’t use their services. If you are newly married or dating check out the couple do it yourself massage package.

PORTS OF CALL
WOW, what lovely places we visited. Here are our recommendations:

We came in a day early and stayed in San Juan and the Wyndham Condata.. It was pricy, but I think everything is in this city. I’d recommend going in a day early. We walked around Old San Juan, had a lovely dinner (all meals are expensive. $90 for two with no alcohol), and the following morning before we hit the ship we went to the Fort. Later we were told we should have tried Café Puerto Rico for authentic food at a more reasonable price.

St. Thomas – Go shopping. I bought the most beautiful bracelet (14 K gold, solid, diamond cut) for $11.50 an ounce! I priced several jewelers and when they knew I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to pay they bargained. At home a good quality bracelet goes for around $18-$20 an ounce and then you pay tax. We bought other jewelry. We were so tired we went to the ship and fell asleep in the sun, but if you got more energy head to the beach. Know your prices back home and they will bargain.

Antigua was Monday. We went on a snorkel excursion early and glad we did because we didn’t find anything to see in town and the cab drivers make you nuts. It is dirty and pretty seedy. I’d snorkel in the AM and then grab a cab to any of the beaches. Leave your shopping for another port. But if you forgot anything like toothpaste this is the port to pick it up because we found everything pretty inexpensive due to the value of the dollar.

St. Maarten was pure heaven. I could have stayed there for a week and felt like I died and went to heaven. We went on the America’s Cup excursion – a must do for all active and non active. You can sit and enjoy or actually do the work. We’d do this one every time it is so much fun. We hit the ship for a quick lunch and headed back out and grabbed a cab for $5 each and headed to Orient Beach. We rented two beach chairs and an umbrella for $15 sipped on Carib beer for $2 each and enjoyed the most beautiful sand and water we have ever seen. We asked Elvis, yes Elvis, to come get us at 3:30 for a ride back. He was there to pick us up and we had time to walk around before we headed to the ship. Everyone who shopped said the bargains were far superior here than St Thomas! You need at least two days on this Island. The people are so nice and no one is pushy.

St. Lucia was pretty. The waters were not nearly as blue as in St. Maarten. We made a grave error by going on the 7 hour Land and Sea to Soufriere. So many recommended it, but we found it hot, boring, and simply too long. Others took the North Coast and Beach Tour and thought it was great. One couple took the Island Splendour and enjoyed it because their tour guide was very informative. In our tour, part was on a boat and we got to snorkel which was nice. I bought these great necklaces for $5 each. They started at $8 and came down to $5. They say they are made from the lava rock. I’m not sure that is true, but they are beautiful. Great idea for the gifts you need to bring home. Better yet, they look expensive.

Barbados – This was the most wonderful snorkeling we’ve ever seen. I thought I was in Disney or at an IMAX theater because it was that beautiful A snorkel trip is essential on this Island. We started our day with a cab ride into town for $1 each and walked around. This is not a poor Island and no bargains to be found. Frankly I don’t think you can get it cheaper there than here. Plus, our dollar is worth twice as much so you would think you could get a deal or two, but that isn’t the case. Don’t save your shopping for this Island – go enjoy the water here!

Dinner Time
We were so lucky to have great couples at our table. We are from the Philadelphia area and one couple was from Leeds, England. The other couple was from St Croix.. It was so wonderful learning more about English customs, and learning why someone from St.Croix would feel the need to go on a cruise when they are from a beautiful Island. We couldn’t have lucked out with a better table. We ranged in age from late 30’s to mid 50’s. We never did the same excursions so it made dinner conversation more interesting. We loved Teo, our waiter.

FOOD
Unlike others who say the food was OK, I thought for a ship of 2,100 passengers they did a pretty good job. Breakfast and lunch didn’t impress me, but dinners were good. We heard Monday was a non impressive night so we went to Chops and had a wonderful meal. My filet was delicious and my husband had the strip. He wouldn’t recommend it, but the lamb chops and the Veal Chop we heard were outstanding. On Friday we should have gone to Portofino’s but we enjoyed our table mates so much we didn’t go. Friday’s dinner was average. But don’t listen to the others who say the food is very average. I agree breakfast and lunch is average, but maybe we ordered the right items at dinner because we were not disappointed.

Entertainment
Fair to poor, but don’t let that keep you from the ship because there is so much to do who cares.

My Pet Peeve
It was parents who let their kids run wild in the pool and didn’t care how it impacted the guests. . There is a child’s pool intended for children to have fun, run, and splash their hearts out. . However, so many parents didn’t want to sit at the kids pool with their children, therefore if you wanted to simply chill by the pool the kids made it nearly impossible. Parents didn’t care if their kids were wild. And then there was the inability to get ice without your room attendant, but we worked that one out. If you want ice in your room tip them early and ask them to have it there for you.

Check in and out
I read all these horror stories and it isn’t all that bad. Sure the lines are long, but they lost a piece of our luggage and I’m still not complaining. Just remember they had 2100 of us to get off the ship by 10AM. I personally thought they did a good job in both directions. RCI may not perfect, but 2100 people is a lot of people.

Questioning to buy the Insurance or not?
If we had not paid $99 per person we would have no coverage for our lost bag except under our homeowners. Plus, you get other protection. When I took this out I was more concerned about the war, but she did tell me, it also covers your luggage. It was a sign and I didn’t realize it at the time. Buy the insurance! Lord only knows what RCI will make us do if they don’t find our bag, but I’ll do another post if it isn’t smooth. (and on every web page that talks about cruises).

How much will it cost us on the ship?
Cost cutting ideas-
They say you can’t take alcohol on the ship. I took a bottle of scotch and I bought these small bottles of scotch for show times (Scotch and Water). My husband is a big soda drinker. He bought the card and we took more diet on the ship. At one port I bought a bottle of wine and brought it on the ship. They just charged me $8 corkage fee. Instead of paying $40 for a bottle I ended up with $15 for my total cost.

On excursions they want to sell you water for $3.50. I got suckered into that one day to find on each excursion they give you water, juice, beer, soda, and rum punch. I carried that $3.50 bottle home with me. When it comes to pictures, wait until the last night and then pick the best. Otherwise, you might buy early and then find yourself buying more because they do get better as the week progresses. They keep them out all week.

Excursions, Alcohol, ect – that added another $950 to our tab when we checked out. We didn’t drink much and I bought a few bottles of alcohol on the ship, but it is so cheap that was a small part of the $950. Excursions start to add up, pictures are $20 each and you’ll want a couple at least, they have “real coffee” in a coffee shop which my husband hit daily.

Money we spent off the ship and gambling- We took $800 cash and came home with less than $100. I suppose my husband played and lost with about $300, but that was cheap entertainment for a week. Between tips for porters, cabs, umbrella’s, odd gifts this ate up most of my $400. We took $100 in singles and came home with only a few remaining. My husband watched some real gamblers and he never saw any of them win.

Jewelry – don’t forget what you might spend on jewelry, booze, cig’s and such. This can be a credit card purchase.

Tipping- We did the pre tip package and glad we did. They put a voucher in your room on Friday so you have something to give them. Everyone at our table wished they had paid up front. I recommend it because it is one thing done and out of the way.

One Final Note
When you buy your excursions look in the envelope. We bought them as soon as we hit the ship because I didn’t want to get blocked out. It wasn’t until we went on our first excursion that we realized they gave us two tickets for the first day excursion and then only sold me one for the rest of the week for each excursion. It was a human error on their part, but they tried to tell me I couldn’t buy another one for The America’s Cup. They eventually did. They tried to be nice, but this was their error. Mine in not checking as he handed me the tickets, but when he gave me day one with two tickets you assumed the other days had two tickets. It all worked out, but check. Again, they are trying to please 2100 passengers.

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