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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 05-28-2009, 01:49 PM
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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.
Ellie
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:00 PM
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I don't understand the problem with the berries for dessert. As I recall RCI has desserts which use various berries, so simply putting a plate of them together shouldn't have been a problem. Avocado? Could be just something they don't stock up on for Alaskan cruises. Just guessing. But since you got it one night we know they did have at least one!

When we went to Alaska on a 7-night with RCI last summer, we had zero lectures or naturalists aboard.

I've run the gamut on beef and lamb with RCI - sometimes great, usually average, sometimes mediocre. Great lamb shank on the Sovereign last summer, not-so-good on the Rhapsody two months prior to that. Could be a supplier issue.
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:45 PM
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It sounds like overall you had a good cruise. I'd like to make a few comments though about your observations.

You kept comparing Royal Caribbean (RCI), to Princess (PCL) and Celebrity (CEL). The cruise lines don't have star ratings per se like hotels. The cruise industry does have classifications though. RCI is in the classification of "Mass Market", and CEL and PCL are in the classification of "Premium" line. One of the differences is those "small touches" such as you mentioned in your comparisons. Small touches like the difference in enrichment programs, and even the difference in the daily bulletin. To say RCI is making extreme cutbacks because they didn't have enrichment programs like CEL or PCL, or their bulletin wasn't as informative, is an inaccurate comparison because it may be normal for RCI. "Cheap" cruises or "good deals" are only good if the cruise line is a good match for your expectations.

To avoid disappointment, anyone with special dietary needs should always contact the cruise line 2-3 weeks prior to cruising.

In the past the NY Times News has always been by the Guest Services area. Lately, I have been finding it in the Library, along with crossword and Suduko. Perhaps the Guest Services didn't bother to tell you to look there, or they thought you already had looked there, and the library was just out of the days supply.

In 70 plus cruises I don't think two hours for dinner is extreme. It's normal. Especially considering the tables of ten as you state, and the number of tables your waiter may have been assigned. Perhaps because your used to table for two the service is quicker.

I wish you many happy cruises.
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:36 PM
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I think I read something a while back about RCI ending the onboard newspapers. I don't recall specifically. It might have been a different cruise line. I guess I'll find out in a couple of weeks when we board the Grandeur.
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Old 05-28-2009, 06:49 PM
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Cruise fanatic, guest services TOLD us they have discontinued the NY Times sheet completely, not even a library copy. I thought I was clear on that, and also that I was not just talking of one day.

Also, I have cruised Royal Caribbean twice before, and both times they gladly supplied berries withOUT needing special permission from the powers that be for every night. That is not a special dietary need; it is a taste preference. Come on now, we are not talking of a diabetic or salt free diet, and it should not require two to three week notice. Also, I do not think Princess NOW, not matter what it has been in the past, is really a premium line. I think it is mainstream cruising. Their cruises are often less expensive than Royal Caribbean's comparable ones.

I did have a good cruise, mostly because the weather was unbelievable for May, sunny and crystal clear every day. However, as far as my comments on Royal Caribbean, I called it as I saw it, and I do say you seem a bit too defensive of the line to me.
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Old 05-28-2009, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
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.

Sorry, it was a little difficult to discern from the above statement that you were TOLD they discontinued or you assumed, they discontinued it because it wasn't at the front desk and they said look at it on the internet. That is why I made the suggestion that maybe you didn't know it might be in the library.

It isn't my assessment that Princess is a Premium line. The cruise industry places Princess as a premium line. That's a fact. Price isn't the only factor.

I agree berries and avacodos is a taste preference. But you were asking for something that isn't a standard on the nightly menu. I simply was suggesting you could have let the cruise line know 2-3 weeks ahead of time to avoid disappointment. You clearly were disappointed. You were disappointed enough to list it as a negative of your cruise.

Sorry you feel my response was defensive of the cruise line. It was not. I am not bias to any one cruise line. I respond to any post with unbiased factual information with the intent to educate people about cruising.
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Old 05-29-2009, 08:19 AM
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Welcome back, Ellie. So glad to hear the weather cooperated with you! Were you able to see any whales or bears? One of these days I'd like to try to do Alaska, but it's just that ice and snow aren't on my fun list

Thank you for taking the time to review your cruise. I hope your Thanksgiving cruise is above and beyond expectations! Best wishes!
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:12 AM
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I'd like to try to do Alaska, but it's just that ice and snow aren't on my fun list
Unless you "go to the snow" you won't see ice or snow in Alaska during the cruising season. If you choose certain shore excursions, like taking a helicopter to land on a glacier, you will, well, land on a glacier!

The last time I cruised to Alaska was July 2007. Juneau was close to 80 degrees, as was Ketchikan. It was warm in Skagway, too, but raining. The only cold weather we encountered was the day we spent next to a glacier.

I say go for it! You won't regret the Alaska experience.

Sandy
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:39 AM
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Many don't realize the Alaskan panhandle contains a rainforest, in addition to the glaciers and snow-capped mountains.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:05 AM
 
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We all set our own standards when it comes to cruising and cruise lines. I have found that RCI and Celebrity both do a great job when it comes to the dining experience and even though there have been some cuts, most of the time asking for something or additional food items has not been a problem and we just cruised in April and it met my standards just perfectly with off menu items gladly taken care of.

Peterl
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