Royal Cruising on Radiance of the Seas
Cruise Specialist, Lauren Chaberka, recently experience a cruise on board the stunning Radiance of the Seas, and shares with us her impressions, memories and experiences.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to join the Radiance of the Seas for a sector of her circumnavigation of Australia and New Zealand. I joined the ship in Darwin on day 9 of her 34 night voyage that had commenced in Sydney.
When I first boarded I was immediately impressed by the sheer size of the ship and its main Centrum towering up 11 decks. A fantastic feature of the Radiance of Seas is the glass elevators running up through this Centrum, giving spectacular views out to sea. After walking myself around the ship and familiarising myself with the many dining venues, lounges, pool and sports deck and main theatre, to name just a few, I was amazed at all the ship had to offer its guests and was looking forward to the next 8 nights on board.
I had been allocated a oceanview cabin and was pleasantly surprised with the modern style and ample space in the cabin, complete with flat screen TV, which I found you could use to check your on board account balance, view shore excursions, check the weather forecast and hear from the cruise director about the daily activities of the ship or upcoming destination information. A very detailed Cruise Compass was also delivered nightly to our cabin containing important information and a comprehensive ships activities schedule for the following day.
Main Dining Venues:
I joined our group for our first dinner in the main dining room "Cascades", a very spacious restaurant spanning two levels with a grand staircase connecting the two, and of course as the name suggests, a cascading waterfall. Our waiter, Nikhin, was fantastic throughout the trip, always greeting us with a big smile and happy to talk about our days activities. He was extremely courteous and always knew off hand the specials and was happy to offer suggestions when we were so spoilt for choice. No request was ever a hassle, and he even encouraged us to order two helpings of dessert if we couldn't decide between two!
The meals on board were terrific, offering such a great variety. I was especially impressed with the high standard of the Windjammer Cafe buffet - it was huge! With endless choices it really was the perfect quick, self service eating venue. Water, iced tea and fresh lemonade, tea and coffee (orange and apple juice at breakfast) were also complimentary here. Another surprise was the Solarium cafe located in the adults-only Solarium, providing guests with healthy meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or snacks throughout the day - the quesadillas were a big hit and the Boardwalk Dog House offering American style hot dogs with all the extras were all included your fare.
There are 6 speciality restaurants on board and I had the chance to try out a couple. Rita's Cantina was a memorable experience. The staff were very lively, which created a fun and energetic atmosphere. We got there just in time for happy hour and enjoyed delicious frozen Margaritas. A $3 cover charge applies and then also a nominal charge for menu items. The chicken fajitas ($2) were really tasty and we couldn't get over the portion size - it could have fed all four of us. So overall, it was a fun evening experience in a quality restaurant for next to nothing.
We also tried Izumi, the Japanese restaurant ($5 cover charge). Again, it was a fun evening with all the popular Japanese selections available, and most of us tried out the hot rocks (approx $5), offering an interactive dining experience cooking our own meals at the table. Giovanni's, Chops Grille, Samba Grill and Chefs Table are also on board the Radiance of the Seas. Dining packages are available for purchase on board, offering a great discount for passengers wishing to try out a few of the speciality restaurants, and from the feedback from others who tried them all out it is well worth it, with Chops Grille and Chefs Table getting rave reviews.
Throughout the voyage we had 4 days at sea and this was a great chance to try out the activities on board. I played a round of 18 hole mini golf, watched my colleague attempt the rock climbing wall, had a basketball play-off between other cruisers, joined in "name that song", Trivia, and Battle of the Sexes, to name a few.
Every day there was something new we wanted to do but we always ensured a couple of hours in the sun by the pool to really make us feel like we were on holidays. The poolside big screen TV was always showing something entertaining, and poolside waiters were always in attendance to take our drink orders.
There was a mature clientele on board due to it being what is considered a longer cruise, and the entertainment was organised to suit. Live bands in the lounges played a range of music which often got couples up dancing, and the Quill and Compass often had an acoustic soloist in attendance. Aurora Theatre hosted a variety of shows each night from stand up comedy, The Radiance of the Seas Orchestra, Great Tenors of Rock 'n' Roll, Tango shows and ending with a fantastic Farewell Show Gala. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the shows and you had to get in early to get a seat.
Ports of call for us included Benoa Bali, Port Hedland and Geraldton in Western Australia. Disembarkation in each port was really well organised and managed. In Benoa, local tender ships (400 capacity) were hired to assist with getting people to shore as soon as possible so they could enjoy a full day exploring the area. Guests booked for on shore excursions were given priority disembarkation so as not be late to join their tours. Being an international port, our passports were collected and held by the cruise line while we were ashore so they could issue our tourist entry visas and charge our accounts accordingly. We were ashore by 9am and a group of us hired a driver for the day ($50) who took us into Kuta for some shopping, and Seminyak to enjoy an amazingly tasty and cheap lunch at an Italian restaurant. After lunch we went to a day spa to have a 45min back and neck massage for $10 then we had a couple of hours for some more shopping at the Matahari shopping centre before returning to the port for the last tender at 6.15pm.
Port Hedland was a very unique town to visit. Mining has become such a growing industry in Australia and it was interesting to see firsthand some of its operations. Our visit was a highlight for the towns people themselves who put on a small market, children organised a concert and we joined a free Rio Tinto tour. Our departure saw what seemed like the whole town came down to the harbour to see us off - a very memorable experience! Geraldton was our next stop and although it was a public holiday and most of the shops were shut we went for a walk around town and then up to the HMAS Sydney II memorial, a tribute to the 645 sailors that lost their lives in 1941 when their ship was attacked and its exact resting location only discovered in 2008.
Arriving in Perth many passengers were ending their holiday. We were given disembarkation information a couple of nights prior with instructions of when to leave our bags out for the porters and what time to meet in the Aurora Theatre for our groups disembarkation and settling my account by credit card meant my account would be settled automatically. It was a slow process due to the number of passengers disembarking, however staff kept us informed of what was happening and endeavoured to have us ashore as soon as possible. I then took the opportunity to extend my stay in Perth to explore the area in more depth.
Overall it was a great experience to cruise on board the Radiance of the Seas. She is a beautiful ship, full of glassed areas for great sea views, lots of public areas so you never feel cramped or claustrophobic and the staff on board are all so tentative to your needs and meal options were endless. There were plenty of activities on board, really something for everyone and the pool area was always a great place to relax. I would have no hesitation recommending a voyage on the Radiance of the Seas to anyone.
If you would like to get advice from Lauren on a cruise on board Radiance of the Seas, you can visit her in store at Cruiseabout Port Melbourne (157 Bay Street), call her on 1300 093 845, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.