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. Add this to a regular refurbishment program and it's no surprise Radiance of the Seas continues to retain loyal fans and win new ones, especially with the line's other ships increasing in size. With plenty of lounge areas and bars, this is a convivial ship that lends itself to socialising and good times, especially if you are up for a sing-along around the piano or a game of trivia in the Schooner Bar.
Radiance of the Seas is known as Royal Caribbean's "dining ship" in Australia as it has such a large number of free and for-a-fee dining options, especially given its modest size. With restaurants dedicated to juicy steaks, Italian, South American and Japanese cuisine -- and that's just the specialities -- it's the perfect ship for those who enjoy good food and cruising in equal measure.
However, the main attraction is still the midsized 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. With sea views from many bars and lounges, there are plenty of places to curl up with a good book during the day or enjoy the sunset with a refreshing drink in hand as the evening’s live entertainment kicks off.
With some of the best features from other Royal Caribbean ships, Radiance offers plenty of diversity while maintaining an intimate vibe afforded by its modest size.
If you prefer a mainstream cruise experience on a smaller ship and enjoy dining out, you will find plenty to enjoy onboard Radiance of the Seas.
For more details about cabins, dining and things to do, see the separate sections of this review.
Onboard the overall vibe is relaxed with cropped trousers, jeans, T-shirts, vest tops, swimsuits, cover-ups and sundresses for women and swimwear, shorts, jeans, collared shirts and T-shirts for men dominating during the day. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops/thongs are acceptable for lunch throughout the ship, but swimsuits, robes, bare feet, vest tops, baseball caps and pool wear are not permitted in the main restaurants or speciality restaurants at any time.
At dinner, the dress code is smart casual for women, which Royal Caribbean sets out as skirt or trousers (no holes, rips or tears) with a blouse. While jeans are perfectly acceptable, many women do opt for dresses and a smarter look. For men, the code is trousers (no holes, rips or tears) with a collared shirt. Two formal nights are typically scheduled on seven-day voyages, with the majority of men opting for a dark suit or sports jacket instead of a tuxedo.
The three-level Aurora Theatre spans Decks 4 to 6 and 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.
Make your own fun with a game of shuffleboard or join the staff for activities such as trivia (which is particularly well attended), towel-folding lessons or sports competitions. Around the ship you will find art auctions, popular wine and tequila tastings (for a fee), chefs demonstrating the art of carving fruit, health and well-being seminars and guest lecturers. You can also catch a movie in the cinema on Deck 6.
Radiance of the Seas offers an impressive number of bars, lounges and entertainment venues for a midsized ship, and they tend to attract a lively crowd. In the evening, much of the action takes place on Deck 6, which houses the majority of the ship's bars. Musical performances by cover bands, piano players, guitarists and other musical acts can be found in these throughout the night. This is also where you'll find the French art nouveau-inspired Casino Royale, with more than 200 slot machines and tables for blackjack, craps and roulette.
Lobby Bar (Deck 4): This bar, located directly opposite guest services and the shore excursions desk, is a top spot for people-watching throughout the day. The Lobby Bar opens bright and early at 9 a.m., the same time as the Pool Bar, if you fancy a morning refreshment.
Quill & Scroll Pub (Deck 6): With its dark woods, high wooden stools, cosy conversation nooks and international brews on taps, this pub is a great place to gather for an adult beverage and a chat.
Casino Bar (Deck 6): The casino has a small bar which is mainly used by those playing the pokies and tables. However, anyone is welcome to drop in here for a drink.
Champagne Bar (Deck 6): If you feel like raising a glass in a more subdued setting, the small and elegant Champagne Bar is the place to come. Sea views and lounge seating on different levels give this drinking spot a more intimate vibe. The Champagne Bar serves, not surprisingly, Champagne together with a selection of wine and cocktails.
Schooner Bar (Deck 6): Royal Caribbean's trademark Schooner Bar extends down one side of the ship and is decorated with cannons, cannonballs and other nautical memorabilia. You can sink into the comfy sofas or hang out at the bar, which draws a crowd from when it opens until late into the night. A piano player provides entertainment most nights and sing-alongs are popular.
The Colony Club (Deck 6): This is one of the largest bars on the ships and there are plenty of seats spread throughout the venue, including a selection around the dance floor. How much action the dance floor gets depends on whether there are ballroom dancers onboard and the type of music being played.
Bombay Billiard Club (Deck 6): Drinkers come here to stand and marvel at the two gyroscopic pool tables which use the same technology as remote-control helicopters to move around and keep each ball in place. It's free to play but there is often a wait at busy times.
Jakarta Lounge (Deck 6): Located towards the rear of the ship, the Jakarta Lounge seats just 45 passengers and has polished wood furniture, brass work and tables inlaid with chessboards. There is also a small bar with stools for those who enjoy sitting up at the bar.
Singapore Sling's (Deck 6): With floor-to-ceiling windows delivering great views over the stern, Singapore Sling's is a lovely spot to kick back and watch the ocean, especially at sunset and during sail-away.
Windjammer Bar (Deck 11): This small bar inside the ship's buffet restaurant is predominantly used by passengers dining indoors or outdoors at the Windjammer Cafe.
Pool Bar (Deck 11): If you're lying by the pool and feel like a drink, this bar has a selection of popular beverages. Bar seating is also available for those who feel like socialising.
Sky Bar (Deck 12): This outdoor bar is a nice spot to enjoy a drink when the weather is good, especially at sunset. It also has a good view of the big screen and the action on the pool deck.
Starquest Disco (Deck 13): Offering views from floor-to-ceiling windows, a large bar, dance floor and a resident DJ, you'll have to wait until after 10 p.m. to hit the floor at the Starquest Disco.
Radiance of the Seas has one outdoor pool with two whirlpools. Plentiful seating is available around the pool. A large movie screen shows movies and live music concerts throughout the day.
The African-themed Solarium is available to passengers aged 16 and above and features three life-sized stone elephants, a waterfall, greenery and stone relief art panels depicting gazelles and antelopes. The Solarium's raised pool, two whirlpools and relaxation areas are covered by a retractable glass roof. There's a whirlpool here, too. This area is looking somewhat dated, but it's still a lovely spot for a swim.
Active cruisers will enjoy the rock climbing wall, rising 200 feet above the sea with five separate climbing tracks, and the sports club which has Ping-Pong, a basketball court and deck games. There's also a nine-hole miniature golf course and a jogging track; six times around equals 1 mile.
On Deck 12, the children's water park is the ship's family hot spot with two kiddie slides that elicit squeals of delight from youngsters.
Most of the sun deck space can be found on Deck 11 around the pool, but peaceful sunning can also be had on the many deck chairs located on Deck 12.
Head to Deck 4 for guest services and the shore excursions desk. On Deck 5 there are shops selling logo merchandise, souvenirs and sundries. Duty-free items including jewellery, alcohol, fragrances, cosmetics, watches and sunglasses are also available. You will also find the ship's conference rooms, art gallery and photo shop here. Photographs are arranged by date for passengers to peruse, with a variety of packages available.
You will find the art gallery on this level as well, together with Royal Caribbean Online, the ship's internet centre with five stations. Seven additional computers for accessing the internet are available on Deck 7. Internet access is priced from US$12.99 per day, per device for a full-cruise package or a single day pass can be purchased for US$19.99.
The Next Cruise desk, for those looking to book their next cruise, is located directly across from the internet stations on Deck 5. Other facilities include a small library on Deck 9, a card room on Deck 10 and a Loyalty Desk on Deck 12.
A doctor is available in the Medical Centre on Deck 4. There are no self-service laundrettes onboard, but you can pay to have your clothing laundered.
The 15,500-square-foot Vitality Day Spa and Fitness Centre is divided into three sections: a beauty and health centre, aerobics area and fitness centre. The beauty centre has a dedicated salon for hair services and manicures and pedicures. The Day Spa has 12 treatment rooms including a Rasul (scrub) and thermal suite and offers treatments such as a 50-minute massage from US$159 and a facial from US$149. Medispa services, such as derma filler and Botox treatments, are also available. A separate relaxation area with lounges and complimentary chilled water and herbal tea can be enjoyed post-treatment. Massage and facial specials are sometimes available on port days.
The large onboard fitness centre has an aerobics area with mirrored wall and wood-suspended aerobics floor; and a gym with multiple treadmills, cycles, free weights, multiple benches and other fitness equipment. An array of fitness activities, such as stretching and aerobics classes, are scheduled. Many of these are complimentary but some classes, like yoga and Pilates, levy a fee and are priced from US$12. The fitness centre is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for passengers aged over 16.
Radiance of the Seas is home to nearly every signature dining experience the line offers -- effectively doubling passengers' culinary options. These are so varied, it's sometimes hard to decide which restaurant to visit for dinner, but the fees charged by many of the venues might help you sort that out. For many cruisers, the decision comes down to how much extra they want to spend onboard in addition to their cruise fare. However, given the quality of meals in the main dining room, there is no need to spend any extra if you don't wish to.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options are always available in the main dining rooms and identified on the dinner menu. Health-conscious passengers can also opt for Vitality selections, which are marked on the menu and have less than 30 percent of calories derived from fat. If you have specific dietary needs, discuss them with the maitre d' before your first meal, or ask specific questions about the items you select. In the specialty restaurants, dishes are not marked vegetarian or gluten-free so diners with dietary requirements need to ask their waiter.
Cascades Main Dining Rooms (Decks 4 and 5): 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, when many passengers skip the main dining room in favour of the buffet or speciality restaurants.
Breakfast is served daily from 7.30 to 9 a.m. (or 8 to 9.30 a.m. on sea days) and includes coffee and juice, fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt, pancakes, eggs a few ways, bacon, sausages and hash browns.
Lunch is available on sea days only from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a changing daily menu that includes dishes such as Vietnamese fried rice, BLT, tandoori chicken, or fish and chips. Burgers, soup and salad are also always available. Desserts range from Swiss plum tart or bread and butter pudding to ice cream, or sliced fruit.
At dinner, passengers can choose between assigned seating, early (5:30 p.m.) or late (8 p.m.) or My Time Dining 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. Dinner is a daily changing multi-course menu with starters such as crispy coconut shrimp, roasted beets and orange salad, or baked French onion soup. Main meals include braised Australian lamb shank, pappardelle carbonara, roast chicken or vegetable korma with desserts such as pavlova or creme brulee providing a sweet finish.
Windjammer Cafe (Deck 11): This casual restaurant serves buffet-style meals, with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It closes between meals (usually a half-hour between breakfast and lunch, and three hours between lunch and dinner). Breakfast includes options such as eggs, sausages, bacon, pastries, cereal and fruit. Lunch and dinner offerings are similar, with a choice of pizzas, pastas and stews. In the evening, there is always a themed food station such as Chinese or American, which changes daily. This buffet is popular throughout the day, including dinner when many passengers opt for a casual bite here instead of the more formal main dining room; a testament to the variety and quality of the meals on offer at the Windjammer.
The only downside is the popular restaurant can get a little crowded at breakfast, especially on port days when passengers are getting off the ship early to join excursions.
Park Cafe (Deck 11): Inside Radiance's solarium you will find Park Cafe, a pleasant alternative to the bustling Windjammer Cafe. Egg and bacon muffins, yoghurt cups, fruit salad and more are available for breakfast, while salads, panini sandwiches, soups and the like hit the spot from late morning to 6 p.m. Late-night snacks, such as pizza, are served here from 9 p.m. until midnight daily.
Boardwalk Doghouse (Deck 11): Grab a gourmet hot dog or burger to enjoy on the pool deck, with a choice of condiments, sides and salads.
Room Service: The only complimentary room service offered on Radiance of the Seas is a basic continental breakfast, which includes choices such as croissants, cereal, muffins, juice, and coffee or tea. Other options include a menu of sandwiches, burgers, soup, pizzas, salads and desserts such as New York cheesecake and chocolate cake. These don't cost anything but a delivery charge of US$7.95 applies to each order. Suite passengers are not required to pay the room service delivery fee.
Cafe Latte-tudes (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: This coffee bar serves up speciality a la carte coffees and sweet treats, like cookies and cakes. Coffees are priced from US$3 and the food is complimentary.
Chef's Table (Deck 6); US$100: This elegant affair takes place in a private dining room with a dozen other food lovers. If your group is large enough, there is no reason the Chef's Table cannot be yours alone. After a welcome glass of sparkling wine, diners are treated to a five-course meal with each dish personally presented by the chef and with wine matched by a sommelier. Expect a dish such as a confit of Atlantic salmon and poached lobster tail to be followed by a petite duo of soups, then seared diver scallops paired with an Italian pinot grigio. Any doubts you have about this experience being worth the additional charge will likely disappear more quickly than the culinary delights on your plate.
Giovanni's Table (Deck 6); US$35 per person for dinner; US$17 per person for lunch; US$10 per child for lunch and dinner: Traditional Italian food is served family-style at this speciality Italian restaurant which offers a traditional five-course menu. Of course, you aren't obliged to order every course but with dishes such as antipasti or a classic tomato and bocconcini salad, rich mushroom risotto, veal ossobuco and chicken breast filled with ricotta and mushroom and wrapped in prosciutto, it's a tempting prospect. With sharing encouraged by the friendly waiters, it is especially enjoyable to dine here as a group so everyone can try the different dishes. Desserts such as cannoli, tiramisu and rich chocolate cake arrive on a trolley, so passengers can choose the dish they like the look of best. Open on select sea days for lunch, and daily for dinner.
Chops Grille (Deck 6); US$41 per person for dinner; US$26 per person for lunch; US$10 per child for lunch and dinner: The dark woods and refined atmosphere at this impressive steak restaurant make it the perfect choice for a romantic night out. Start with a crispy goat cheese salad or pan-roasted jumbo scallops served with bacon, onion, apple and hot mustard jus. Main meals include a juicy filet mignon with your choice of sauce, or an Asian-inspired crusted tuna served with sauteed bok choy. Sides such as truffled corn and creamy mashed potato are a highlight. Leave room for one of the excellent desserts such as New York cheesecake or a lush red velvet cake. Chops Grille also offers a less extensive selection of starters, entrees and sides, as well as two dessert options for lunch. Open select sea days for lunch, and daily for dinner.
Izumi (Deck 11); a la carte: This Japanese restaurant is tucked away near the rear of the ship. The menu is split into starters, salads, carpaccio, soups and noodles, nigiri/sashimi, signature rolls, hot rock/ishiyaki and desserts. Prices range from US$2 for miso soup and US$9 for five pieces of sashimi, to US$18 for a mixed seafood hot rock platter. The wine list has different sake options plus a range of Asian beers. Open for lunch on sea days, and for dinner daily.
Samba Grill (Deck 12); US$30 for dinner; US$10 per child for dinner: Decked out in jaunty red, maroon and gold, Samba Grill attempts to bring the popular South American churrascaria concept to the high seas. This dining experience revolves around meat, and lots of it, plus a buffet of antipasto and salads where you can help yourself to appetizers. However, you're better off saving yourself for a couple of the cute little cheese breads, which are a much-loved traditional Brazilian snack. Throughout the meal, "gauchos" (servers) circulate with pre-sliced pieces of sirloin, filet mignon, ribs, sausages, pork loin, shrimp, salmon, and other meats and seafoods on a skewer and slide a piece onto your plate on request. Open for dinner only.
Ordering is handled by a red and green sign on the table. If you want more meat, switch this to green or you can leave it on red while you take a break. Unless you have a truly mighty appetite, there's usually way too much food on offer, even without the small side order of chips and grilled vegetables which is brought to the table. While there is no disputing the value, we would have preferred smaller portions sliced table-side so we could try a little of everything. Desserts include a small selection of delicious classics such as melting chocolate cake, but we challenge you to fit them in. Open for dinner daily for dinner.
Radiance of the Seas offers 1,071 stateroom accommodation in four general categories: inside, ocean view, balcony and suites. Of these, 825 offer outside views and 578 of those have balconies.
Cabins are decorated in tones of navy and taupe with blonde wood finishes and feature wireless internet access and flat-screen TVs with interactive technology that allows passengers to do things like order room service, check their account or book a shore excursion from their cabin. Storage space is plentiful with an abundance of drawers and shelves in the wardrobe. A curtain can be drawn to divide the main sleeping area from the foldout couch, a great feature for those sharing a cabin with children. Furnishings consist of a bed which can be configured as a "Royal King" or two singles, desk, chair, couch and coffee table and bathrooms come with a centre sink and shower with a shower curtain. A wall-mounted dispenser of combination shampoo/conditioner/body wash is provided but cruisers may prefer to bring their own products.
Inside: There are 246 inside cabins measuring 162 square feet (15 square metres). These have no natural light, making them a good choice for those who like to sleep in. Some have pull-down or foldout beds to accommodate third and fourth passengers. There are also three single occupancy inside cabins on Deck 4 measuring 96 square feet (9 square metres).
Oceanview: These 247 cabins have a porthole or picture window and are 164 square feet (15 square metres) to 319 square feet (29 square metres). Some accommodate third and fourth passengers on a foldout or pull-down bed.
The largest ocean-view stateroom, which is billed as a Family Oceanview, has two twin beds which convert to a Royal King, bunk beds, a separate sitting area with a sofa bed and a private bathroom with shower.
Balcony: There are 578 balcony cabins which range in size from 167 square feet (16 square metres) with a 24-square-foot (2-square-metre) balcony to 194 square feet (18 square metres) with a 45-square-feet (4-square-metre) balcony. Some balcony cabins can accommodate third and fourth passengers but the balcony is somewhat small and best suited to two people.
Suite: Radiance of the Seas has five different types of suites, all of which (except for those in the Junior Suite category) include concierge service, priority check-in, reserved show seating, priority tender tickets, free pressing service on formal nights and priority departure privileges.
Junior Suite: Located on Deck 10, these suites are 299 square feet (more than 27 square metres) with a 66-square-foot (6-metre-square) balcony. They have two twin beds that convert to a "Royal King," a private balcony, a sitting area with a sofa bed, and a bathroom with a tub.
Grand Suite: Grand Suites are located on Deck 10 and have a 387 square foot (36 square metre) cabin and 93 square foot (8 square foot) balcony with twin beds that convert to a "Royal King," a sitting area with a double sofa bed and a bathroom with twin sinks and a tub.
Owner's Suite: These suites are available in a one- or two-bedroom configuration and are identical in size with a 532-square-feet (49-square-metre) interior and a 68-square-foot (6-square-metre) balcony. One-bedroom Owner's Suites are located on Deck 10 and sleep up to four people on a queen bed and a double sofa bed, which is located in a separate living area. Bathrooms feature a whirlpool tub, twin sinks and a bidet. Two-bedroom Owner's Suites can be found on Decks 8, 9 and 10 and sleep up to eight people with one bedroom containing two twin beds that convert to a "Royal King," one bedroom with two pull-down beds, and a living area with a double sofa bed. Two-bedroom Owner's Suites have two bathrooms, one with a shower and the other with a bathtub.
Royal Suite: Coming in at a palatial 952 square feet (88 square metres) with a 283-square-foot (26-square-metre) balcony and amenities such as a baby grand piano, wet bar, entertainment centre with 42-inch flat-screen TV, stereo and VCR, and bath with whirlpool, bidet and steam shower, you will find the ship’s largest suite on Deck 10.
Wheelchair-accessible cabins are available in a variety of categories throughout the ship.