When Royal Caribbean debuted its first-in-class Radiance of the Seas in 2001, passengers raved about the light that came streaming through the ship's glassy exterior. Ten years later, the line has put $20 million into giving the 90,090-ton, 2,139-passenger vessel something of a new identity. During a spring 2011 makeover, Radiance gained eight dining choices already found on (big) sisters Oasis and Allure of the Seas, including a Japanese restaurant and Brazilian churrascaria, as well as cabin upgrades throughout, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and a giant poolside movie screen.
Other additions from the 2011 refurb included a new nursery for kids ages six months to 36 months (also an Oasis-class staple), 12 new cabins, interactive flat-screen TV systems in all accommodations, as well as the installation of touch-screen "wayfinders" (again, Oasis) throughout the ship to make it easier to find out what's going on where, and how best to get there.
With all the new bells and whistles, there's definitely more to love about Radiance than ever before. But the main attraction is still the "mid-sized" ship's warm, light-loving design. With vast expanses of open space and floor-to-ceiling windows at every turn, you might even find yourself wearing sunglasses inside. In fact, half of the ship's exterior is glass -- and there are even outside elevators spanning 12 decks, an innovation first seen on sister line Celebrity Cruises' Millennium-class vessels.
And, even before the Oasis-style makeover, Radiance was known for incorporating the best features from other RCI ships: the variety of activity and entertainment options of the Voyager class (like rock-climbing), the sleek profile of the Sovereign class, and the global itineraries (the ship splits time between Alaska and Australia) and wealth of windows, glass doors and canopies of the Vision class.
Post-refurb, Radiance 2.0 offers even more diversity of choice, particularly in dining, while maintaining the intimate vibe afforded by its modest size. (In the Royal Caribbean fleet, only the line's 78,491-ton Vision-class ships are smaller.) It's a ship that will make Royal Caribbean loyalists feel right at home, yet happily up with the times, too.
During Radiance's 2011 makeover, the ship's onboard dining options received the greatest overhaul. Basically, Radiance was outfitted with nearly every signature dining experience that had debuted on Allure of the Seas -- effectively doubling passengers' culinary options. But bear in mind that the majority of the new venues require a supplemental fee.
The main dining room, Cascades, is an elegant, two-level restaurant featuring a grand staircase, columns, and, true to its name, a cascading waterfall. Service by the smiling international staff is attentive, and despite the massive space (with seating for 1,110 passengers), the dining experience still takes on an intimate feel, particularly at dinner. At dinner passengers can choose between assigned early (6:15 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining. Alternatively, you can opt for My Time Dining (RCI's flexible option), in which you pick a preferred mealtime (between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. Passengers who choose My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.
Expect the standard selection of red meat, poultry, seafood and international cuisine. Passengers in the dining room can also opt for Vitality menu selections (with less than 30 percent of calories derived from fat) and vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner.
Breakfast and lunch in Cascades are open seating.
A casual, no reservations, no-fee dinner alternative is served in the Windjammer Cafe where breakfast and lunch are also served buffet-style with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating.
The ship's former Seaview Cafe has been replaced with Samba Grill, aft on Deck 12. Open for dinner each evening, it's a Brazilian-style steakhouse with meat, chicken and seafood sliced directly onto your plate. The cover charge to dine at Samba Grill is $25 per person.
The new Chef's Table, another dining addition inspired by Allure, brings the private dining experience to Radiance passengers via a five-course feast with wine pairings. Each glass of wine and each course is introduced by a sommelier and top chef, respectively. The Chef's Table costs $95 per person.
Rita's Cantina, new on Deck 11 and open for lunch and dinner, does Mexican in a fiesta-style atmosphere (live music, dancing and margaritas flowing freely). The venue features indoor and outdoor seating. There's a $3 cover charge and a la carte menu pricing. Passengers should expect to spend $10 to $20 total (without alcohol).
For sushi fans, Izumi is another welcome addition. Aft on Deck 11, the pan-Asian restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. In addition to sushi, the venue also does hot-rock cooking (your meat and fish sizzles on a stone) for something interactive and different. There's a $3 cover charge for lunch and $5 for dinner, with a la carte menu pricing. Passengers should expect to spend $20 to $30 total (before paying for drinks).
What was Portofino's, which served heavy Northern Italian cuisine, has been replaced with a new trattoria-style Italian restaurant, Giovanni's. Traditional Italian food is served family-style (dig in and share alike). It's a $15 cover charge for lunch and $20 for dinner.
Royal Caribbean's room service options, available 24 hours a day, include a range of snacks, hot dishes and sandwiches. Breakfast offerings, including Continental dishes and a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders (from midnight to 5 a.m.) incur a $3.95 fee.
For all the onboard entertainment -- and, let's face it, gluttony -- beautiful views are as key to the cruise experience as anything. And with glassed in spaces everywhere welcoming in the natural light, Radiance of the Seas is an ideal ship for taking in the land and seascapes wherever you're sailing, whether Alaska on northern hemisphere summertime itineraries or Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii the rest of the year.
Glass is the dramatic, defining element of the elegant public rooms throughout the vessel, and floor-to-ceiling windows are found in the nine-deck Centrum, Radiance Day Spa and fitness center, Solarium, Park Cafe, Colony Club, Windjammer Cafe, Giovanni's Table, Samba Grill, Schooner Bar, Champagne Bar, Viking Crown Lounge, upper level of the Cascades dining room (the lower level has large windows) and Concierge Club. Whenever and wherever you happen to turn your head, you are very likely to see the sea. The heart of the vessel is the Centrum, a dramatic, airy atrium decorated in light tones of sand, coral and aqua, and spilling with greenery, a waterfall and a colossal abstract sculpture (part of the ship's $6 million-plus art collection).
Intimate spaces to seek out some peace and quiet include the library, reminiscent of a traditional English study. The Champagne Bar and Lobby Bar, both with a capacity of 50 passengers, are good destinations for a cocktail before dinner. Other public areas include Royal Caribbean Online (the Internet center with 12 stations) and the nautically inspired Schooner Bar. (And yes, that's the scent of real gunpowder in its antechamber, decorated with cannons and galleon art.)
The Viking Crown Lounge, another RCI hallmark, is perched 11 decks above the sea and features two nightclubs: the Starquest, a futuristic dance club with a revolving bar; and the Hollywood Odyssey, a more intimate lounge featuring Hollywood memorabilia -- including a Bob Hope commemorative plate and Lucille Ball's makeup mirror.
And for suite passengers and Crown & Anchor Society Diamond and Diamond-plus members, a new Concierge Lounge (Diamond-plus and suite) and Diamond Lounge were added during the 2011 upgrade.
As is the case on other RCI ships, there are no self-service launderettes; laundry/dry cleaning is available for an exorbitant fee.
Of the 1,071 cabins, 825 are outside and 577 of those have balconies. Only Oasis and Allure have a higher proportion of balcony accommodations.
Good middle-of-the-road choices in a balcony cabin are Categories E1, E2, and E3 measuring 179 square feet with a 41-square-foot balcony (though still on the small end of industry average). These are situated on Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10, with the ones on Deck 10 closest to the pools and other outdoor amenities.
Family cabins accommodate six people with twin beds that convert to a queen and additional bunk beds, plus a sofa bed in a separate area.
All cabins have wireless internet access and Internet ports, as well as interactive flat-screen TV's, complete with interactive technology that allows passengers to do things like order room service or book a shore excursion from their cabin (added during the 2011 refurb).
During the 2011 dry-dock, Radiance received 12 new accommodations -- the new cabins were constructed in spaces formerly used for room service staging and in former private dining areas. They include one new family suite, five interior and six exterior cabins.
The most lavish accommodation is the Royal Suite -- a palatial 1,034-square-foot suite with a 172-square-foot balcony and such amenities as a baby grand piano; wet bar; entertainment center with 42-inch flat screen TV, stereo and VCR; and bath with whirlpool, bidet and steam shower.
Wheelchair-accessible cabins are available in a variety of categories.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.
|Fitness and Recreation|
The African-themed Solarium is one of the most popular spots on the ship for hanging out. The space features three life-sized stone elephants, a waterfall, greenery, and stone relief art panels depicting gazelles and antelopes. The sound of ambient, if electronic, bird chirping floats on the air. The Solarium's raised pool (featuring a counter current), two whirlpools and relaxation areas are covered by a retractable glass roof. A bar, pizzeria and the Park Cafe are located within the Solarium.
The 15,500-square-foot Radiance Day Spa and Fitness Center is divided into three sections: a beauty and health center with 12 treatment rooms including a Rasul (scrub) and thermal suite; aerobics area with mirrored wall and wood-suspended aerobics floor; and a gym with 18 treadmills, 10 Reebok Recumbent Cycles, eight Reebok Body Peaks, four Reebok Ridge Rocker Cycles, four Reebok Body Treks, free weights and multiple benches. There is a stereo sound system and television monitors throughout.
An array of fitness activities including stretching and aerobics classes, aquadynamics, and sports tourneys are scheduled. Some classes, like cycling and Pilates, levy a fee.
Other challenges await at the rock-climbing wall, rising 200 feet above the sea with five separate climbing tracks, and the sports club has ping-pong, a basketball court, and deck games. There's also a 9-hole miniature golf course and a jogging track (6.3 times around equals one mile).
Free, supervised activities for children 3 to 17 years of age are featured by age group: 3 - 5, 6 - 8, 9 - 12, and 13 - 17. Facilities at Adventure Ocean, the kids' club, include a computer lab, outdoor area, video game consoles, a rock-climbing wall, and Adventure Beach with splash pools and a water slide. Kids earn coupons for participation in activities that can be redeemed for gifts. There's a nine-hole miniature golf course onboard, too.
A children's menu with games and crayons, not to mention kids' favorites like pizza, burgers and macaroni and cheese is available during meal times. And group babysitting in Adventure Ocean can be arranged for $6 per hour, per child (for kids ages 3 - 11 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.); in-stateroom sitting, booked through the Guest Relations Desk at least 24 hours in advance, is $19 per hour for up to three children in the same family. Teens have their own coffeehouse/disco with flat-screen televisions and soda bar.
And, in the "good news for parents of infants" department, the 2011 refurbishments saw the addition of the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery on Deck 12, next to Adventure Ocean. (It occupies the former video arcade space, which has been moved.) With a baby-to-staff ratio of 1:3, the nursery is available for children between the ages of 6 months and 36 months at a rate of $8 per hour (reservations are required).
Royal Caribbean typically appeals to couples and singles in their 30's to 50's, as well as multi-generational families. The median age is in the low 40's on seven-night cruises and in the 30's on three-and four-night cruises. Passengers on cruises ten days and longer tend to be 50-plus. Royal Caribbean attracts passengers that are looking for an affordable, active vacation. During the Alaska summer season, count on cruising with mostly Americans and Canadians. When the ship repositions Down Under, the Australians naturally come out in droves.
Two formal nights are scheduled on seven-day voyages. About half the men opt for dark suits instead of tuxedoes. Daytime wear is casual. Bring layers and rain gear (just in case) for Alaska.
The three-level Aurora Theatre has an Arctic theme, with sculptured balconies, sidewalls and parterre divisions resembling glacial landscapes. The stage curtain is inspired by the Aurora Borealis and nightly entertainment might include production shows with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers, or headline acts featuring vocalists, jugglers and musicians.
In the Hollywood Odyssey nightclub, comedians, jazz ensembles, pianists and vocalists take turns entertaining. Other evening pursuits include watching movies in the Cinema, or taking in an outdoor flick or whatever big game is screening on the new alfresco LED video wall on the main pool deck, dancing the night away in the Starquest disco; shooting pool in the Bombay Billiard Club (one of the lounges in The Colony Club, with its high-tech self-leveling pool tables); listening to the piano player in the Schooner Bar; or admiring the views from Singapore Slings, with its floor-to-ceiling windows delivering great views over the stern. There's also a small and elegant Champagne bar where you can raise a glass in a subdued setting.
And a new nightlife option introduced during the 2011 refurb is The Quill & Scroll Pub, forward on Deck 6, which replaced Scoreboard Sports Bar. With dark woods, cozy conversation nooks and international brews on taps, it's a great place to gather for an adult beverage.
For gamers, there's the Casino Royale, with a French Art Nouveau design, 211 slot machines and tables for blackjack, craps and roulette.
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