Philip M. Haggerty
Number of Cruises: 16
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Radiance of the Seas
Sailing Date: May 1st, 2005
Itinerary: West Coast Repositioning
My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 16th cruise. Our prior sailings have been on Carnival’s Elation to the Mexican Riviera; on the now defunct Commodore Line’s Enchanted Isle to the Caribbean for 11 days; a 7 day cruise, also in the Caribbean on Celebrity’s Galaxy; followed by a marvelous cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires on Mercury, also a Celebrity vessel. We then did our Alaskan cruise on Sun Princess, followed by another 7 day Caribbean trip aboard Norwegian Sun and a trans-canal on Celebrity’s Infinity.
We then sailed on Millennium for a Mediterranean cruise in May 2003, followed by a Baltic cruise tour on Regal Princess later that year. We then went to Hawaii for the first time on Infinity in November 2003 and did our first HAL on Veendam in the Caribbean the next spring. In March 2004 we took Galaxy from Baltimore to Rome, and returned to the Caribbean in October on Zaandam. A few months before this cruise we went back to the Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess and in March had a very adventuresome trip down the Amazon on Oceania’s Insignia . All except the first two cruises have been reviewed on www.cruisereviews.com.
WHY THIS CRUISE?
We had never sailed on Royal Caribbean, nor along the West Coast. Radiance had spent the fall, winter and early spring in the Caribbean, and then sailed through the Panama Canal to San Diego. After we debarked in Vancouver it would start its summertime Alaska cruise program. The pricing on these repositioning cruises is usually quite reasonable and this trip was really a low budget excursion.
PLANNING THE CRUISE
This was one of our least taxing cruises for pre-planning. America West and Southwest Airlines both offer frequent, low cost flights between Phoenix and San Diego, and America West has non-stop flights from Vancouver. We therefore made our own airfare arrangements. Cruise lines have arrangements with major carriers and do not deal with regional airlines such as America West and Southwest. When we relied on Celebrity to provide our air transfers to start our Infinity cruise to Hawaii, they sent us to San Diego via Los Angeles!
This was the first cruise in which I did not pack my tuxedo. Although the material supplied by RCCL suggested that on six night cruises there would be two formal nights, it turned out that there was only one, and fewer that 15% of the men wore tuxes. My dark blue blazer with dark flannel pants was perfectly suitable. We both managed to get all our belongings into one suitcase apiece plus two carry-ons for Edith and one for me. We were a little concerned about the possibility of cold and rain on the West Coast at this time of year, but we each did fine with a sweater and a light rain jacket.
This was as easy and comfortable an embarkation as we have ever experienced. The flight to San Diego is just a little over an hour. Dropping rapidly in to Lindbergh Field directly over the downtown high rises is always entertaining. Once past downtown we saw Radiance shining bright and white in the harbor; a marvelous prospect. We were on the ground quickly and took a ten-minute cab ride to the Harbor Pier for $9.00 with tip. We drove directly up to where they took our two bags, and walked into the pier side check-in. This was about 2:30 in the afternoon and they had been embarking passengers for a while. The documents said boarding would start at 2:00, but it obviously had begun before that. There were about 20 manned check-in stations, only half of which had customers, so we walked up to a vacant station and were processed through in a couple of minutes and in our cabin by 2:45.
RADIANCE OF THE SEAS - THE SHIP
Radiance is a large vessel of more than 90,000 tons. It is a Panamax ship, meaning that it is as large as a vessel can be to transit the Panama Canal. It first sailed in 2001, so it is fairly new. The design has some good points and some aspects that we considered to be less than helpful.
The passenger flow is designed around a central atrium, called The Centrum, which stretches from Deck 4 up through Deck 11. This Centrum is located slight aft of mid ships. The main elevator bank is on the port side of the Centrum, with two glass faced elevators looking inwards to the atrium, and four looking out to sea. The main stairwell is directly aft of the Centrum. There are no other elevators or stairwells any further aft of the Centrum, only a three elevator bank with adjacent stairs forward. This had the effect of making elevator service slow at high demand times. It also resulted in being unable to go by elevator to the Seaview aft on Deck 13. Since the hours of this venue were limited, and it was quite cold and windy on deck at night, we were among the hordes who did not use this cafe despite its good reputation. Nor do I expect it will get much business at night on Radiance’s Alaskan cruises.
Radiance lacks a high, forward looking lounge area. The Viking Crown Lounge, also known as Starquest, on Deck 13 is also midships and has a smashing view of the forward superstructure and radar antennae. The forward portions of both Deck 11 and 12 are taken up with the gym and spa, although both these decks have open air forward areas which provided a great spot to see the Golden Gate Bridge on the third day of the cruise. By way of partial compensation for the lack of a forward lounge, the public area of all the lower decks have many windows on either side, affording frequent visual connection with the sea.
Aside from these criticisms, it is a well decorated, maintained and reasonably designed ship. There are about 28 inside and outside cabins on Deck 2. Deck 3 is a passenger deck with tender access. Deck 4 has cabins forward. The Centrum begins here, with a bar, a small dance floor and a bandstand. The Guest Relations Desk is starboard, with the excursion desk attached. One either side are entrances into the lower level of the main dining room, called Cascades. There are actually two small rooms before you enter the dining room proper, one called Breakers, where we were seated, and the other called Tides, which was used only for occasional meetings, but not dining. There are good windows on either side of the dining room, but since the galley is behind the dining room, there are no windows looking aft as on many ships such as Celebrity’s main fleet. Deck 4 also has an outside promenade which goes completely around the ship, although you have to go up one deck as you approach the prow. This stairwell leads to the helicopter landing deck, which is actually open to the public and affords a great “Titanic” view over the water forward.
Deck 5 stars with the Aurora Theatre forward, and proceeds aft through the art gallery/photo shop area on the starboard side and a conference room portside. You next enter the shopping section with a reasonable selection of mid priced stores.
Aft of this is the Centrum area, with the Latte-Tudes coffee bar starboard and the internet cafe to port. Behind Latte-Tudes is a nice seating lounge. Once past the Centrum you enter the Deck 5 access to Cascades Dining Room. There is a Grand Staircase from this deck to Deck 4 of the restaurant.
Deck 6 starts with the upper level of the Aurora Theatre, and proceeds aft past the motion picture theater. This is a small room, but has the new “stadium” seating at a steep pitch so each seat has a clear view of the screen. You then pass through the fairly large casino. This location means that no one is required to go through the Casino to get anywhere, except the motion picture theater, since access to the main show theater is very convenient from Deck 5. We heard that there was one really high roller who lost a lot on this trip. We do not indulge in the joy of waving good-bye to our money. Aft of the Casino you are back at the Centrum and then you can only continue along the starboard side of the ship. You first pass through a long and narrow bar called The Schooner Bar. This largely has a nice sea view. Opening off this lounge are the two specialty restaurants, Chops Grill and Portofino’s. They both had port side window views and seemed very pleasant. Aft of this you entered the Colony Club, a lounge, entertainment and dance venue containing 5 distinct areas. First you pass the billiard room with self-leveling tables. We never had a sea rough enough to inspire a visit here to see if they work. Past this is an area labeled the Jakarta Lounge for no apparent reason, a dance floor with bandstand, another bar at the aft end of this deck with adjacent tables, and yet another small lounge area on the port side called the Calcutta Card Club. The Colony Club was used for Bingo among other things. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are passenger cabin decks. On each deck there is a small area forward of the open Centrum. Three of these seemed to be used only as small sitting areas, but Deck 9 housed the miniscule library.
Deck 11 has a large spa forward. Aft of this is the Solarium, which is a glass roofed covered pool area with padded deck chairs and a jacuzzi. Then you go outside to the outdoor pool with its deck chairs; aluminum affairs with stretched nylon coverings. Aft of this you are back indoors in the Centrum leading to the Windjammer Cafe. This buffet has a variety of indoor and outdoor portions; some exposed to the air, some partially enclosed, with the main seating area entirely indoors of course.
Deck 12 has the fitness center and exercise room forward. You then go outside and back to the Centrum portion, which of course is enclosed, and has a small room for Crown and Anchor members. It also has a small round window, which is at the top of the Centrum and enables one to look all the way down to Deck 4. Attached to this room aft is the Game Arcade, Art Studio and Adventure Ocean rooms for kids. You then go outside past the children’s pool with slide and arrive at a small building which houses the Seaview Cafe starboard, Golf Simulator aft and sports area portside. Deck 13 starts in the middle of the ship and has the Starquest Lounge. Leaving this lounge and proceeding aft outside you pass the famous Royal Caribbean Climbing Wall. I never saw anybody using it, but we understand that it was attempted by some. You then go aft by a bridge in the middle of the ship above the children’s pool, and reach the putting range, a nine hole course with some challenges in addition to the wind.
All of the public areas were well very decorated and maintained, although I did see some carpet staining in the stairwells, a not infrequent result of people carrying food from the buffet to their cabins. The tables in the bar and lounge areas were a nice dark wood, with pleasant brass lighting. The Centrum was quite resplendent in white painted surfaces and shiny brass fixtures. The stairwells reminded me of Celebrity with their art deco brushed aluminum, light wood and glass. Some of the art work was quite striking, and we liked the outdoor statuary. The cabins were supplied with a ship’s art guide that was very detailed and informative. This is the first such guide we have seen and more cruise lines should provide something like this if they really are proud of their art. The tables and furnishings in the Windjammer Cafe were quite nice, and there was one area of this cafe, which had deep padded cane armchairs and love seats, which were extremely comfortable, but always in demand. The seats in the Aurora Theatre were good and offered adequate sightlines. The aluminum and nylon deck chairs provided everywhere except the solarium conveyed a bargain basement impression. The Solarium itself was one of the nicer places on board, with its sculptures, warm atmosphere and padded lounges.
The open glass elevator cages provided views of either the ocean or the atrium, but the design of these makes them smaller than normal elevators, and as I noted, they were frequently crowded and slow. We tried to use the stairs as much as possible.
In addition to the usual locations for art, the walls through the cabin halls did have some small art pieces; not as much as on Celebrity, but at least a minor break in otherwise drab areas.
Our cabin was No. 9604, a Class D1 Superior Ocean View with balcony. I am not sure what made it “Superior”, but it may have been slightly deeper than the normal ocean view balcony cabins. As you entered it had a small bathroom to the right and closet to the left. The closet had fairly adequate hanging space and shelf space. The door arrangement was a tad strange, with one main door to the closet proper and one to the shelf area with “reach around” access to part of the closet. The closet was actually part of a nice dark wood console, which continued into the cabin to form the desk area and another console area containing the TV, safe and more shelf space. Typically we had more than enough room for our accoutrements. The bathroom has a small shower with curtain; large enough for relatively slender people such as Edith and me, but certainly not generous. The shower contained a wall unit for shampoo/conditioner dispenser which was empty when we arrived, a fact not noticed until my first shower. Soap is provided, but no other toiletries, which seemed pretty chintzy. Opposite the desk was a small love seat with a fixed table. The seating/desk area had a curtain between it and the sleeping area, which was nice. The bed therefore was next to the doors leading out to the balcony; the first time we had experienced this arrangement. The bed itself was provided with a rather thin mattress, but as usual, we had little trouble sleeping most nights. There were two pictures on the painted walls. There were a couple of somewhat unique lamps by each side of the bed, with a normal bulb plus a focused spotlight inside the vertical shaft of the lamp. The balcony was quite shallow, probably about four feet in depth, with two side chairs and a small table. A teak rail topped a glass body affording a clear view outwards. The cool weather on this cruise was not conducive to outdoor lounging, even if there had been more room on the balcony. Its principal utility was to take advantage of an occasional view of land or an other ship, as well as the harbors we visited. The deck was some kind of composition and the partitions between the balconies as usual were open at the top and bottom. The carpeting was good, and the overall stateroom impression, except for the bathroom, was favorable. Two pool towels were provided in each room, with an exchange plan for the pool area. The towels provided in the bathroom were skimpy as to number and certainly not of high quality.
DINING ON RADIANCE OF THE SEAS
If one does not count the mid afternoon snack on boarding, this short cruise afforded the opportunity for 6 breakfasts and dinners and 5 lunches. We actually had 6 breakfasts, but only 5 dinners and 4 lunches due to our shore visits, so our impressions were based on somewhat limited experiences compared to other cruises. We ate dinner only in the Cascades Dining Room, not wanting to bother with the specialty restaurants on this short a trip. We had heard they were good, but the menus did not reach out and cause us to change our plans. They charge an extra $20.00 per person. All our breakfasts and lunches were in the Windjammer Cafe.
The dinners were quite good; at least up to Princess and possibly HAL standards for preparation and flavor. The menus combined appetizers and soups, without making it clear that you could order both. The entree selection was reasonable without being very imaginative. Dessert is ordered off a separate menu; although we much prefer Celebrity’s method of bringing around a sample tray so you can see what you can have. Edith reported that the vegetarian menu was the best she had ever experienced in any restaurant on land or sea. Meat which was ordered with a choice of degree of “doneness”; came as requested. Reynaldo, our waiter from the Philippines and Mark, his assistant from Trinidad were quite good and very cheerful, especially Mark.
The Windjammer Cafe is a very pleasant venue, with nice dark wood tables, comfortable arm chairs, a lot of space and a generally attractive atmosphere. The buffet stations are separate enough to allow easy access; and the only time there was any crowding was at breakfast on debarkation day in Vancouver. However, no trays are provided. Each station has a supply of large oval plastic “plates”, plus available small bowls and small plates. Silverware is wrapped in napkins at each station, nothing being provided at the tables beyond salt, pepper and sugar. Coffee stations are scattered about, some self serve, some in bar like arrangements with servers. The selection for breakfast was adequate, with the usual items available and an omelet station. I never saw a toasting set-up, and missed the excellent provision for toast and toasted bagels found on Insignia. Juice was either orange or apple, and pre-poured into glasses.
Lunch was also rather uninspired as to selection, which did not seem to vary much. I have gotten into the habit of eating more substantial breakfasts and having only a small piece of fish and one vegetable for lunch (plus dessert of course!).
The food comments apart, we greatly enjoyed dinner because of our table companions. We were assigned, at our choice, to early dining and at a large table. The table was set for 12, but only 10 of us showed up. There were Don and Ann from Escondido, CA; Dennis and Sandy from Dana Point, CA; Dave and Connie from Colorado Springs (on their first cruise) and Amy with her 3½ year old daughter Amalya, from San Diego. We were a merry band indeed, much enjoying each other’s company. We have usually been fortunate with our dinner companions, and this trip certainly retained or raised the standard.
THE CRUISE - ENTERTAINMENT
Perhaps the most memorable entertainer was - the Captain. I had heard from prior reviews of Radiance that Captain Kent Ringborn was the Singing Captain. This certainly was true. He not only sang at his reception; but also took a major role in the final show. And we were provided with a CD each of his songs, delivered to our cabin on the last night. This was a special trip for him as he was leaving the ship in Vancouver for retirement to Portugal. He has a pleasant bass-baritone, and I enjoyed his selection of songs, which were fairly traditional. Aside from this, the entertainment was standard cruise fare. The Cruise Director, Gordon Whatman also sang. There was one production number; a highly touted song and dance collection called “The Piano Man”. We saw a singer-impressionist- pianist named Bobby Arvon whose main claim to fame was that he sang the theme song to the old TV show “Happy Days”. and Craig Dahn, another singer . Our port visit to San Francisco was from 7:00 A.M. to midnight, so there was no show that night. All in all the level of entertainment was pleasantly unsophisticated, and not very memorable except for Captain Ringborn.
In addition to the shows, there was a “classical” acoustic guitarist who played in the Centrum lounge, a string group performing one or twice a day in the Schooner Bar or Centrum Lounge, and a dance band that played at various spots. There also was a solo pianist who played mostly in the Schooner Bar. The level of entertainment appeared very minimal for a large ship with more than 2000 passengers.
THE CRUISE - SHIP’S SERVICES
The daily new sheet is called “Cruise Compass”. It has 4 pages, the last two of which have all the daily activities, dining hours, music and dancing hours etc. It is designed so that these pages can be separated from the first two pages and folded for easy carrying. However the print is small and the information limited. Some of the events receive an expanded treatment on Pages 1 and 2. Printed daily news reports from the real world were provided on Deck 4. The TV had a station which clearly showed the ship’s location, heading, speed and a variety of navigational and weather information. One’s account status can be brought up also; but there was no TV guide to the movies or satellite station shows available. We did not use the excursion desk, but Guest Relations personnel were very pleasant and helpful. When I made my first card purchase, at one of the shops, it did not go through. We had to go to Guest Relations where they re-entered my credit card and explained that some of the data collected at the pier side check-in had not been transmitted correctly to the ship’s computers.
The Captain came on at noon each day with a regular report. Each cabin had a knob, which could lower the volume on all ship’s announcements except emergency messages. Aside from the lifeboat drill announcement, which we expected, there was one occasion after we retired to bed in San Francisco, and were woken up at 11:30 with the loudspeaker asking two or three passengers to check in. We found out later that at least one or two people never made it back on board that night. In the public areas there were the usual announcements about Bingo, Art Auctions, etc. We don’t mind the daily Captain’s report, but much prefer cruise lines like Celebrity and Oceania without advertising distractions.
Radiance was unique among all ships we have sailed in that it did not provide signs in the stairwell or elevator areas directing people to the gangways or tender boarding locations on port days. These locations were not intuitive, and the announcements not always clear, and we wandered about on two decks trying to find the tender location in Astoria.
THE CRUISE - PORTS
Our three ports were not ones receiving great hordes of ship borne visitors, although San Francisco and Victoria are major tourist destinations. We arrived at the Golden Gate at 5:45 in the morning; just at first light. The outside decks were crowded as we enjoyed the unique experience of sailing beneath the magnificent bridge into the harbor. Fortunately we had a sunny day all day to enjoy the city which the writer O. Henry; in a more romantic time; called “Baghdad by the Bay”. Since no one can see the entire city in one day, and we both had visited it several times, we chose to rent a car and drive across the bridge north to Marin County. We first visited the John Muir Woods National Monument immediately west of Sausalito, and then drove north to Bodega Bay to have lunch in the restaurant on the pier made famous in the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. We returned to the city after stopping to see a friend in Larkspur, and drove back across the bridge about 6:00 P.M. We returned the car and took a taxi to the pier next to our ship’s docking point to have dinner with my nephew at a typical, eclectic San Francisco restaurant. The Muir Woods is a magnificent small park with a beautiful stand of redwood trees, which have never been logged. Fortunately we arrived fairly early and were able to see a fair sized portion of it without too many other people around. As we were leaving, several busloads of other tourists arrived which would make it rather crowded. Once again the value of renting a car rather than taking a ship’s tour was demonstrated.
After a sea day our next stop was Astoria, Oregon. Before we embarked we were surprised to find out that another cruise ship was arriving the same day, HAL’s Oosterdam, doing a four day cruise from Vancouver. Not only that, but Oosterdam received the only pier side docking, despite its arrival at 10:00 A.M., and we were forced to tender to shore. We had rented a car from Enterprise, and they sent a van to meet another group and us. We drove eastward along the Oregon side of the Columbia River for about 50 miles and then crossed the river to head north into Washington State and Mount St. Helens. We proceeded up mountain roads, partially through clouds, and uncertain of what we would be able to see. We did come out of the clouds at about 3800 feet and at the first viewpoint had a good look at the mountain, although high clouds obscured the volcano’s crater. We went on to the Coldwater Lake Visitors Center, but Johnson Ridge, the closest point was closed due to “seismic activity” which has occurred over the past few months. We understand that the trails within five miles of the peak, closed for several months, have since been re-opened. The Coldwater visitor’s center has an excellent view of the valley down which the avalanche had rushed, followed by the lava flow.. The size of the area destroyed by the eruption was striking, and the whole area immensely impressive, even though we could not see the shattered peak due to high clouds.
We returned via the Washington side of the river, crossing the lengthy bridge which crosses the mouth of the Columbia River. We had enough time to take a quick driving tour of Astoria which has a number of well preserved Victorian homes, many with delightful river or bay views. We sailed out past Oosterdam, and sounded our ship’s horn, which drew a reply from the HAL vessel, and a louder response from us, with a further challenge following from Oosterdam. Those of us on deck hearing this “battle of the ships’ horns” were greatly amused and delighted.
Victoria, our final port city, is a delightful town. We docked outside the Inner Harbor, and could see the State of Washington and the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic range clearly standing out to the south across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Shuttle buses took us to town for $5.00, a fare that was good for unlimited travel all day.
We took an Inner Harbor boat tour on a tiny craft holding at the most twenty people, but carrying only four for our trip. It was a very informative and pleasant trip, lasting about 1¾ hours and costing $12.50 Canadian for the senior rate. We then went across the street to the British Columbia Royal Museum. While this is not a huge museum, its displays are extremely well arranged and provided detailed views of wildlife on the second floor and the Native People’s culture as well as early European settlers life style on the third floor. There was an IMAX theater, which we did not attend since we wished to return to Radiance for lunch. After returning via our shuttle bus and being entertained by our singing bus driver, we went back to town after lunch and wandered around the busy downtown shopping area before going to tea. No, we did not go to the famous Empress Hotel High Tea, but to a more modest establishment called the St. James Bay Tea Room. Even the small amount we ordered was substantial, and very inexpensive. Many of our fellow sailors chose to visit the famous Butchart Gardens, but since I had seen them twice, and Edith once, we skipped it this time. But they are worth seeing if you have not done so already.
We have to say that we were quite pleased with our port excursions. The three stops were one of the main reasons why we chose this cruise and we were not disappointed with anything except the cloud cover over the top of Mt. St. Helens; but even that was a minor flaw.
For the most part, the crew was friendly, smiling and efficient. As usual, one tends to remember the exceptions. Our shower shampoo dispenser was empty on our embarkation, but a call the next day brought a prompt refilling. One night our cabin steward evidently misunderstood us when we said we were leaving for the show, and our cabin did not receive its turndown service or the Cruise Compass. To make up for this a bottle of Chardonnay was delivered to our room the next day with an apology. I don’t drink at all, and Edith does not like Chardonnay, but one of our table companions, who was proceeding on to the Alaska cruise at the completion of our trip, was pleased to have the benefit of a full bottle of wine for their cabin on their continuation cruise.
On our last sea day afternoon I went to the Colony Club aft on Deck 6 for a Coke. Bingo was wrapping up, and one half of the aft section, which was served by its own bar, was reserved for a private group. But despite the fact that the relatively small Bingo crowd was not ordering much, and the private party was slow in arriving, it took well over ten minutes before a waiter came over to take my order, and I certainly have had more outgoing and friendly service.
For our purposes, this was remarkably smooth. We had a 2:30 flight from the Vancouver airport. When our debarkation ticket color was called; at about 9:00 which gave us time for a reasonably relaxed breakfast; we were directed from the gangplank to a bus. The bus was about ¾ full. One of the passengers had left his camera behind, and the debarkation team retrieved it for him in about ten minutes. We then pulled around to the other side of the pier (this was not the main cruise pier in Vancouver, but one about a mile south). There we waited for about 30 minutes while more people got on. They had hauled their luggage out of the pier and loaded in onto the bus in the same way we had done on all our former cruises. Our luggage however was taken directly from the ship to the airport, apparently by special truck. We then drove to the airport, a trip which takes about 40 minutes since Vancouver has no real freeway system. When we arrived we were directed to a carousel where our luggage was waiting, and we only had to take our bags a few yards to the airline check in. We then proceeded to take our bags and ourselves directly through US Customs and Immigration. This meant that when our non-stop flight landed in Phoenix, we were treated as a local, inside USA flight and landed at a regular gate to debark and picked up our luggage in the normal manner. This was as painless a procedure for debarkation in a foreign country as we have ever experienced. We think we owe this to the Vancouver BC government as well as Royal Caribbean.
OVERALL EVALUATION OF RADIANCE OF THE SEAS AND ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE LINES
Radiance is a good looking ship, and with its maximized window usage in public areas, provides a bright and cheerful atmosphere. However the limited elevators, and small passageways off the Centrum, through which everyone passes, made for crowding and slow transit through the ship at times. The furniture, furnishings and artwork were all of high quality, and all of the public rooms were pleasant. Our cabin was quite decent and serviceable, with our only complaint being the size of the shower, less than luxurious towels, and the lack of toilet articles. We should note that the shower was at least as large as that on Diamond Princess however.
The food was not bad, about the level of Princess, a little below HAL, but no match for either Celebrity or Oceania. The main dining room service was quite good, and we never had the sense that our wait staff was too rushed. Our crew had only two tables with about 14 people on a normal seating.
We did not expect much by way of entertainment, and what we got was okay for a short cruise where one stop, San Francisco, lasted well past the entertainment hour.
The lifeboat muster drill was as easy as we have ever had. We did not have to leave our muster station, the Schooner Bar, to go outside and stand under our life boats, and the instructions were brief and to the point.
Despite some criticisms, we enjoyed this cruise. I have realized in reading many cruise reviews that those of us who have sailed more than say 8 or 10 times tend to be more critical than new cruisers who are amazed at the entire adventure. We liked the itinerary and would suggest it to anyone who has not done it before. Royal Caribbean is not unduly expensive, and does not seem to be pushy about on board activities or services that involve extra charges, so you get pretty fair value for your money. If you are looking for a short cruise with novel and entertaining ports and a couple of well spaced sea days on which to relax, this is a good trip, and we are glad we made it.