Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas Review
Radiance of the Seas was good for both first-timers and veterans, but there were a few areas where the ship could have been better.
In 2001, Radiance of the Seas debuted as the inaugural vessel in Royal Caribbean’s eventual quartet of Radiance Class ships. Living up to its name, glass is a central design component, making Radiance of the Seas well suited for cruising through scenic regions such as Alaska (where it spends the summer) and the South Pacific (where Radiance sails most of the rest of the year). Although the ship was plenty large when it first came on the scene, carrying 2139 passengers at double occupancy, today Radiance seems refreshingly mid-sized, yet it possesses a surprising range of big-ship features.
But with all the amenities being added to Royal Caribbean’s fleet in the last few years a remodel was due, and in 2011 Radiance was taken in for an extensive dry dock overhaul—the dining options in particular were greatly expanded. We spent a week onboard to get a firsthand look.
About Our Cruise
Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas is an attractive and versatile ship, designed to cater to a wide variety of guests. Couples, families and seniors will all find their needs covered to a degree—it’s a fine vessel for multi-generational cruises, with lots of activities for young adults and kids, and good lounges and diversions for the older folks as well.
Although we liked most aspects of our cabin, the bathroom was unsatisfactory, primarily due to the problems we encountered with our shower, issues that were not resolved well by the cabin attendant. Although most of our crew interactions were positive, we felt that better training might have been in order for our cabin attendant. But in one area he went above and beyond the call of duty: Our clothes strewn on the couch were routinely folded and stacked for us, a nicety we had not previously encountered on any of the mainstream cruise lines.
The ship entertainment offerings were fairly good. The Black Pearl Strings—a piano-violin duo—was a great addition to the entertainment lineup, their spirited renditions of classical pieces and Broadway show-tunes ringing through the atrium.
Adding Up the Add-Ons
Radiance of the Seas has a bounty of restaurants. No cruiser will get bored with the variety of options—that is, as long as they don’t mind ponying up for the surcharges most of these venues carry. Fortunately the main dining room, Cascades, was mostly pretty good. The buffet venue, Windjammer Café was just fair. While most of the specialty venues were unexceptional, we really enjoyed our evening at the Brazilian churrascaria Samba Grill.
If the food was a bit more dynamic, we’d be less annoyed about paying extra. But except for Samba Grill and maybe Giovanni’s Table, we didn’t find the surcharge restaurants to be worth the add-on expenses. Further, staffing levels were usually insufficient, even when most tables were unoccupied. And some wait staff were minimally versed in their menus, especially wine lists. Only at the Chef’s Table did we find everyone on their game.
The add-ons can put a real damper on the cruise, especially at checkout. Want drinkable coffee, or real orange juice? These are about $3 a pop for the smallest sizes. Two of the ship’s restaurants carry a cover charge plus a per-item surcharge. And on the chilly morning Radiance of the Seas got up close and personal with a glacier, the coffee and hot chocolate drinks on observation decks were available only with shots of liquor, each triggering a bar tab; other ships we’ve been on in such locations made coffee and hot chocolate available gratis. These things can really add up, and by the end of our cruise we started to think of Royal Caribbean as the nickel and dime line.
Would we sail on Radiance of the Seas again? Probably—this is a smartly designed vessel in a manageable size; it has lots of windows allowing ample natural light into common areas. It’s good for first-time cruisers as well as veterans looking for lots of activities. We’d be more choosy about where we ate, contenting ourselves most nights at the main dining room. And we’d be more proactive about resolving cabin issues. But Radiance of the Seas ventures through some of the most beautiful sailing passages on the planet. We’d probably enjoy traveling a few more of them in her company.
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