This was our third cruise on Royal Caribbean, but the first two were on older ships. First the positives on Radiance, in our opinion:
The ship is gorgeous, and we especially loved the glass elevators looking out to the sea and the eight story atrium. It was definitely the most beautiful ship we have been on. The beds were very comfortable (though pillows were not). We found the coffee, Seattles Best, very much to our taste, both in the buffet and main dining room. Free of charge lemonade and soft serve ice cream are available at all times, as well as hot chocolate mix, and on Princess neither hot chocolate mix or lemonade were free on my last cruise, as I recall. The staff were friendly and service oriented. Of small interest to me, but still a touch many like, towel animals appeared many nights as part of turndown service, but chocolates did not.
Since we had just recently completed our fifth cruise on Celebrity, we were for the first time Platinum on Royal Caribbean as well. We received a few perks such as priority embarkation, a "special" lounge for disembarkation, baseball caps, and a coupon book with $7.50 or so free internet, a free drink coupon, a free wine tasting, etc. Also, the special party for platinum and diamond members was very nice, with champagne, etc. and nice snacks.
Now for the negatives: In our opinion, the food quality was mediocre in most instances. We ate dinner in the main dining room every night. The only main courses that were in the "very good" category, in the main dining room, were the fish items the first few days and the lobster and shrimp the last night. Meat was defnitely mediocre cuts. Ironically although the lamb chops in the dining room were fair, the leg of lamb being carved one day at lunch in the buffet was excellent. Almost every dessert that we tried looked much better than it tasted. Portions of everything are smaller than they used to be (though of course you can always have seconds of anything). Shrimp cocktail, which I alaways have daily, was only available two nights out of the eleven. The menu was configured in three courses, to encourage to order just a soup, salad or an appetizer, not two or three, though savvy cruisers know better. Of course Baked Alaska is long gone, but they did have lobster the last night.
I cannot eat leafy greens, so I always order avocado on ships the first day, as a daily item to be served to me when others have salad. It is always graciously presented on Princess and Celebrity. Now, the new policy on Royal Caribbean is that all special requests have to be given by the waiter to the head waiter, who then relays them to the kitchen authority person for decision. Avacado was denied, except for one night, and my request for berries in lieu of dessert was totally denied.
I am severely hearing impaired, and our TA always requests, and receives for us, a table for two (unless we are traveling with others). In this case, we were assigned to a table of ten, and were unable to change it after waiting in a long line.
The dining room is configured with many more large tables than I have seen before, lots of tens on the upper level where we were. Ours was a funny shape for a ten, a oblong table. There seemed to be less staff in the dining room (though they deny cuts), and even though we had an excellent server and good enough assistant, dinner took two hours and longer each night.
We are used to being able to pick up the abbreviated NY Times Newsheet on all cruises. Royal Caribbean has discontinued that completely, and their suggestion for news coverage at guest services was to use the internet. The daily activity newsletter was inferior to that of Celebrity and Princess (not that either of those would win a journalism award) in that no information on the ports, geography, population, culture, or the like, is provided.
In our opinion, the entertainment in the showroom was as good as on most ships, certainly better than on Splendour of the Seas in the Med last May. However, we were surprised, in view of the beauty of the ship, at how plain and uninspiring the showroom was in appearance.
Where we felt another real lack was in the area of enrichment programs. With Princess and Celebrity, on their longer cruises,we have excellent lectures with fine naturalists, scientists and the like. There were supposed to be two programs totally (in eleven days) on Alaska, but I missed the mention of the second one in the daily paper, if it appeared at all.
Although all cruiselines are cutting back, it seemed to be more extreme here, and lots of others agreed with us. We will cruise Royal Caribbean again, but only when it is a real "deal", and it starts or ends in San Diego. We are taking our son and daughter in law and grandkids on Radiance's 9 day Mexican Riviera cruise over Thanksgiving vacation, but in our opinion that is priced very well and it is round trip San Diego. Also, I talked to children and parents of children, and all were very happy with the kids programs, and that is important for our six, eight and ten year old grandkids.
If you have any questions, I would be glad to try to answer them.