Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Radiance of the Seas
Sailing Date: May 8th, 2004
Itinerary: 7 Day Hubbard Glacier Cruise (Ex Vancouver)
For my wife Narelle and I This was a special 20th Wedding Anniversary present for each other, and our first cruise ever of which we were full of high expectations from the exceedingly good name Royal Caribbean International have in the competitive world of cruising, and making this trip from our home in "Sydney, Australia", to Vancouver added to the excitement of being "Virgin Cruisers".
We chose Royal Caribbean after carefully looking at all the other cruise lines options and weighing up all the pros and cons of each cruise ship and what each individual cruise as a whole, had to offer and of course price was a major contributing factor in deciding what cruise itinerary (in this case Alaska) had to offer and RCI seemed to be good value for our hard earn cruise dollar.
We then read a stack of cruise reviews from RCI past cruisers and it was after reading many mixed reviews that we decided to take "Radiance Of The Seas" as our ship and booked with our very trusted travel agent in Sydney on the very 1st RCI cruise of Alaska for the 2004 season.
Having decided on RCI as our cruise line we then decided on "Radiance Of The Seas" as our ship, after viewing at least 300 photos of the ship on the "Web shots" site of personal and published photo's by previous cruise people, and it gave us a fantastic and very detailed look inside and outside this amazing vessel of 90.000 tons.
We arrived at Vancouver's (Galantine Pier cruise terminal) about Midday on the day of departure (Saturday May 8th 2004)things seemed to be in a bit of a turmoil outside the terminal as Port Vancouver cruise staff tried to supervise the luggage check in of probably 2000 passengers or so, and it was obvious to us that this being the first cruise of the season, smooth sailing and teething problems of checking in luggage was proving to be rather difficult, however we had our pre assigned Stateroom on deck 7 (7000) which was directly at the bow of the ship just above the Helipad.
This particular cruise turned out to be also "Amway Taiwan's 2004 Alaska Cruise"
and there were I believe about 850 Taiwan Amway guests on board, which seemed to be causing all sorts of major of problems with both luggage logistics and actual checking, and it rather resembled a circus as cruise staff tried to cope, so seeing that 1st hand caused me a bit of concern as it was very disorganized.
The disorganization continued at check in and as my wife and I checked in to receive our cruise cards, we discovered that we had been re assigned to another cabin on deck 7 but it turned out to be a much better balcony stateroom (7032)so that was a plus, but as we proceeded up to the boarding area, and deck 7 holding area, nobody had any idea of where to wait or what lines to go to for immigration.
We were moved 3 times into different lines by Port Vancouver staff for immigration checks and with hundreds and hundreds of passengers accumulating in supposedly "Deck Lines" and by this time it was fast approaching 2:00pm so we had been there checking in for 2 hours and not even reached immigration.
After more line shifting and very disgruntle immigration staff, we finally boarded "Radiance" at about 2:30pm and as soon as we entered the Centrum everything we had just experienced flew out the window, the sheer majesty and size of this almighty vessel stunned us and we suddenly realized this was to be our home for the next 8 days, and with smiles from ear to ear and amazingly friendly RCI staff we were escorted up to deck 7 and to our stateroom cabin.
We were welcomed by our stateroom cabin attendant (Xavier) from Pakistan, and what a delightful start, he went through all the things in our cabin, explained the daily activities on the Day 1 brochure and everything we needed to know to make our 1st day as relaxing as he could.
There was a life vest drill scheduled door 4:15pm, as we were scheduled to depart Vancouver at 5, but this was delayed till well after 5:30pm as there were still apparently big hassles boarding everyone and a mechanical problem as well.
We familiarized ourselves with the ship in general and get a reasonably good sense of direction, and we unwound with dinner in the "Windjammer Cafe" where the food was above all expectations very well prepared and in vast quantities of every conceivable fare, we were absolutely stunned at the level of quality from the "Windjammer Cafe" which we were constantly visiting for the next 8 days.
"Radiance" finally set sail under cloudless skies at 9:10pm, 4 hours later that scheduled but nobody really cared too much, and the Captain kept in constant communication through the ships amazing speaker system as to our departure time.
As we set sail out of Vancouver gliding our way out of Vancouver harbor, the non stop entertainment on various decks and in the "Arorua Theatre" heralded the start of "Party Time" and Narelle and I visited all the main entertainment areas of the ship sampling a bit of everything on offer, from an exquisite flamenco guitarist and Pianist of the Radiance Grand piano. to the disco of the Hollywood Bar on deck 13.
Our first dinner appointment in the magnificent "Cascades" restaurant where we met a delightful couple from England of whom we shared company each evening at the 1st 6:00pm dinner sitting which we had been pre assigned each night.
Again, the food was unbelievable as was our 2 waiters assigned to our table for the entire week, Wines were very expensive but you could order by the glass which were priced at about 5 to 6 dollars US a glass.
Cascades had a different menu each night and we had 2 formal evenings one of which was a Lobster night, and the selection of cuisine in the Cascade was as varied as the rest of the cruise program but the attentive staff made the whole Radiance dining experience a masterpiece in co ordination.
We went to bed at around 1:00am and awoke to the gentle washing of the ships side wake, traveling at 16knots through our first taste of the Alaskan Inside passage, towering mountains either side of us and nothing but the serenity if this amazing silent wilderness bathed in brisk morning sunlight.
We discovered the Solarium pools very early on in the cruise as they were on the deck above us at the bow end of the ship, what an amazing experience, hot turbo tubs, and pools with amazing African decor and many an hour over the next week was spent just relaxing in the spa and pools of the Solarium.
Breakfast awaited us in the "Windjammer" and once again, we were amazed at the selection of Breakfast delights, we had never experienced this in our lives and literally took our breath away.
There seemed to be some confusion as to weather you paid for your beverages or not, as most food was included in the price of your Cruise Ticket, and the majority of the English speaking passengers weren't quite sure if coffee, juices etc, were included as in some of the cafe's on board Radiance you actually had to pay for these, but it turned out that all non alcoholic beverages in the "Windjammer Cafe" were complimentary at all meal times.
I think RCI should make that a little clearer to their guests, a small and trivial point I suppose, but an important one too.
On the evening prior to our first port of call, (Juneau) the Shopping Cruise guide spoke in the "Arorua Theatre" to all those who wanted to know a little more about what was to offer in all the ports we were visiting on this cruise, but it was really a huge sales pitch for various Diamond and Jewelry shops most of which was totally relevant to us, as we didn't come cruising to buy Diamonds, so we passed on all the advice and sales pitch by the very talkative shopping director.
Trying to decide on what shore excursions to take was a very difficult task as there seemed to be dozens to choose from at each port of call and all fairly expensive, RCI had provided us prior to out cruise with a full list of the excursions but even up until the day of our arrival in Juneau we hadn't decided primarily due to the high cost factor.
But our morning arrival in Juneau on day 3 saw us take the 5hour "Treck and Tram" tour which was fabulous, and it was the only port we Tendered ashore which worked like clockwork with no delays and no fuss or bother.
We returned to the ship in plenty of time for our 7:30pm departure and the most amazing sunset I'd ever seen, sitting out on the back deck of the "Windjammer" sipping delightful coffee and pastries.
There were 2 other major dining area's on Radiance, "Portofino's Italian Restaurant" and "The Chops Grill", however a $20:00 per head surcharge applies to both these dining venues, and so we opted for either the "Windjammer" or "Cascades" for dining.
For late night snacks, "The Sea view Cafe" on deck 12 made for some delightful eating as it was open till Midnight or 12:30am with a fine selection of good food, although all drinks were charged for, but I frequented the Cafe many times very late while Narelle was content with a bedside coffee and watching the many movie mad documentary channels of cable TV from RCTV.
Near to the entrance of the bay that leads out of Juneau to the ocean, we were enveloped in a dense Fog, which slowed us right down with a very airy feeling as the bridge sounded the ships horn every 2 minutes or so, which continued way into the late night.
Next port was Skagway, Day 4 arriving at 6:00am under cloudless, fogless skies and the shore excursion I was most looking forward too, the "Yukon White River Railroad" train excursion an amazing and breathtaking rail trip in old rail cars right up into the Yukon Mountains, much of which are covered in snow and ice all year round.
A chance also to take a break from Shipboard dining and taste the local cuisine, which we did for both lunch and dinner that day. (Grilled Alaskan Salmon)Wowwwwwwwwwww...............
Souvenir shops were plentiful in Skagway as they were in all the ports of call, with something for everyone and for all budgets.
Day 5 saw us cruising to the "Hubbard Glacier" and the weather was turning very cold as we headed north and one overcast, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would probably not see much of the Glacier at all due to overcast and fog.
Suddenly like a screen, the fog lifted at about 11:00am and There before us was the awesome sight of Glacier Bay, brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies erupted above us and we were in for the most amazing spectacle of the cruise, the Hubbard Glacier in all It's glorious splendor, and the sea was like a millpond.
As we sailed slowly toward the Glacier, the Captain was weaving in and out of broken ice and made a 360o turn and got within 2.5 miles of the glacier face, the closest he had ever taken a vessel of this size and he decided at the last moment to send out a runabout Power boat and get some fantastic photos of the Radiance amongst the ice, which were made for sale the next day.
We spent nearly 2 hours at the Glacier and passengers and crew alike had never experienced Hubbard in these conditions.
Awesome would be an understatement.
The feasting and Entertainment continued aboard Radiance over the next 3 days, with spectacular stage shows by the RCI singers and dancers together with special guest artists, plus a Karaoke competition for all guests and a magnificent rendition of "Old Man River" by the ships captain on the last night of the cruise.
with our last port of call being Ketchikan and a leisurely day taking in the sights and sounds of this very busy fishing town, (We opted for no shore excursions at this port).
The captain hosted a formal cocktail evening on day 4 of the cruise and we all got to have our photo taken with the captain.
A quick word about all the official photo's, there were professional photographers everywhere, all over the ship and ashore as well, and if you bought every single photo they took of you over the 8 days, they'd end up costing as much as the cruise itself, so be warned not to buy everything that you see, we bought a formal shot on the illuminated staircase of the ship's centrum and 3 others and received a beautiful photo album with our portrait shot plus the Radiance in the Hubbard Glacier.
The photo shop and Duty Free shops are quite extensive, and I must say that the duty free alcohol is amazingly cheap, so do your duty free alcohol buying on board.
We followed the inside passage back to Vancouver arriving at 5:30am on May 15th
Disembarkation was at 9:45am and was very well organized by thru RCI staff.
A far cry from the week previous.
All the web sites, photos etc could not have prepared us for this amazing 8 day experience on Radiance Of The Seas.
Will we go Royal Caribbean again ?
YES, YES, YES. Absolutely, and here's my 10 out of 10.
PORT VANCOUVER PASSENGER HANDLING: 4
ROYAL CARIBBEAN STAFF: 10
RADIANCE OF THE SEAS: 10 +
CASCADES DINING: 10 +
WINDJAMMER CAFE: 10 +
STATEROOM CABIN STAFF: 10 +
SEA VIEW CAFE: 10 +
OVERALL CRUISE EXPERIENCE: BRILLIANT
Well done Royal Caribbean,1st impressions will last us a lifetime.
Warren & Narelle Barnett