This was a cruise we picked for our 30th anniversary. My wife wanted to see a volcano, I wanted to experience a longer cruise and we both wanted to see Hawaii. It was a perfect cruise for us!
For background, we are fairly recent cruisers with our first cruise being on the Monarch for our 25th anniversary. This Hawaiian cruise was our 8th cruise, all being with RCI except one with Disney.
We had cabin # 7658 which was a balcony cabin located in the aft quarter on the starboard side. The first thing that hit us was a sewage smell in the hallway to our room, which put us in a foul mood (we experienced this on Enchantment before as well). Once inside, the cabin didn’t feel as large as what we had on Freedom or Oasis but was probably larger than Enchantment. The balcony was funny. It was a double-deep balcony, being about 6’ deep. However, only about 3’ of it had a divider between our neighbors’ balconies, so any of our cruise mates could easily peak into our room. That we didn’t like at all. Also, this was an older ship and our balcony had parts of rusted metal visible and beat-up flooring. Our cabin did have lots of storage, which was a pleasant surprise. We found the bed to be very hard, the pillows flat and the refrigerator didn’t seem to work. The room was clean though and didn’t have that bad smell that was in the hallway.
After that we went to the Windjammer and were underwhelmed there. I think there was only one protein offered at the buffet, except for their always available hamburger and hotdogs. Selection was minimal we thought.
However, our impressions grew more positive after each day. The first 5 days of the cruise were port days and we had an excursion lined up on each of them. We had incredible times! On the ship, we had a great time with our table mates at the main dining room for suppers. The staff on the ship was great, and while the ship was showing its age, many of the public spaces had a very comfortable, warm feeling to them. Of the RCI ships we’ve been on, we like the Schooner Bar on Radiance the best. Also, the Colony Club was very nice and the Solarium and spa areas were top notch. Each day on the ship made it feel more like home to us.
While the strength of this ship for us were the staff, overall ship cleanliness and the ambiance of many of the public spaces, the negatives for us were the generally low food quality, the mediocre entertainment and the slightly beaten-up condition of the ship in various spots. By mid-cruise though we didn't think of the negatives and the positives really were in focus. It was a very comfortable cruise for us.
On cruises, we typically have dinner at the MDR and have most other meals at the buffet and this cruise was no different. What made our dinners at the Cascades dining room great was our tables mates, who we loved talking to (all are very experienced cruisers with a couple being on a back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back Radiance adventure). MDR food was fine, nothing top shelf but no duds either. The service was very good and the venue was beautiful. We had breakfast once at Cascades but the eggs were powdered and the toast was actually very crusty, like it was sitting out for more than a few days. We left and went up to Windjammer.
We only did one specialty dining and that was at the Samba Grill, which we have never experienced before. The food was very good but we wouldn’t call it a top shelf experience. The location is funny and the tables were very close together. Service was efficient but seemed a little scripted and impersonal. At Windjammer, the selection did develop over time. There were always Indian food and British food it seemed and I was very happy the day that BBQ chicken was offered. We really enjoyed the Park Café at the solarium as it offered a good assortment of sandwiches and treats in a very relaxing environment.
Entertainment is a hard thing to review because it is very subjective. I am not enthralled by song and dance shows and a majority of the evening events were just that. I saw 2 comedy shows and one was quite good but another fell very, very flat (at this show, the audience actually heckled the comedian, something I have never seen on a ship before). We like relaxing at poolside but on Radiance the poolside movie screen wasn’t working right (to compensate, they offered free in-room movies). Other entertainment was the Quest and the Love and Marriage show, both of which were great as always. Of course, there were various trivia contests on the ship and there were a few enrichment talks that reviewed Hawaiian history.
The Centrum is often the hub for activities like cake decorating, musical performances, lectures, dance events and so on. However, there is limited viewing space on the floor or on the decks above. Still, the staff does a great job utilizing this space and there is enhanced sound and lights that really help add excitement.
For us, we loved the first 5 port days as our “let’s explore Hawaii” time. The remaining sea days were our time to relax. It was a perfect vacation for us. Yes, we felt the age of the ship at times and, compared to Freedom or Oasis, the entertainment was very junior varsity, but as I mentioned the staff was super and many parts of the ship had a level of comfort that just can’t be easily explained.
Would we go again? That is a tough question. For the right price we would. We won't be able to afford another Hawaii trip and Alaska trips are even more, so I don't think we'll be on Radiance again. Still, we would love to go back on this thoroughly relaxing ship some day, but after its refurbishment.