Friday, 22 December 2017

14 Day New Zealand Cruise Day 1

We love cruising and can do it more often now that we have the time to do it. We don't always have the money, but will always look for last minute deals and specials, that way we can pay it off and enjoy the cruise without owing anything. However, one issue we do have with Royal Caribbean is the booking process, both on line and on the phone. We have now had three cruises with RCI and each time the booking process has been less than impressive. The customer service staff are very pleasant and give one the impression of 'helping' but in reality they really don't care, and that is a shame because the experience on board their ships is wonderful. This cruise we booked via the phone and the very pleasant customer service, and booked the cheap airfare package. The lady on the phone told me what to do and said to put 'air2sea' in the voucher area to get the cheap fares. Well, I did this and nothing happened, no specials, no airfares, no customer service. After numerous emails and many, many phone calls nothing was resolved other than RCI wanting to charge us an extra $2000 for the 'cheap' airfares. The airfares ended up costing us $510 with baggage and meals. We probably would have booked this cruise anyway, as we had family and friends traveling on the same cruise, but the incompetence/incorrect information made for a bad experience prior to enjoying the cruise, and we did enjoy the cruise. We tried to link our reservations and wanted to stay in cabins nearby but that took months to do and even then we were one deck apart and at opposite ends of the ship. So with the that said, here we go. We fly down the day before the cruise and stayed with my sister in Sydney.
Day 1 - We caught ferry from Rose Bay to Circular Quay and took iconic photos. Here is our first sighting of the ship, Radiance of  the Seas.
We dropped the bags at bag drop off and joined the short queue to board the ship Radiance of the Seas. Once on board we headed to deck 11 and the Windjammer Cafe for lunch and our first drink of the cruise. Have to love drink packages. I ordered a mojito and asked not to have a frozen one and YAY a real mojito, the first real one on RCI. Windjammer on this ship has a similar food layout as Celebrity Solstice, but not so many seats, although there did seam to be more seats than RCI Voyager or Explorer. 
So lets talk about lunch outlets on the Radiance.
There are many lunch outlets on the ship, most at the stern (back) of the ship, including Windjammer on deck 11, which is by far the largest. Not only is there inside seating but outside seating as well. Some days it was a little too fresh to eat outside. The food was ordinary for lunch. A lot of curries and Asian food, which Jonnie enjoyed each day. Peter always found something to eat if we ate there for lunch, but I tried the pizza it was basic and sort of tasty. I did have beef and black bean one day which was lovely, but the rest was hit and miss. When in Windjammer I mostly had French fries and gravy and a Vegemite bread roll. The chips (fries) like the pizza were hit and miss. The bread rolls were always lovely and fresh. After previous trips on RCI I knew that Vegemite would run out by the end of the trip so on the first day I took an extra 3 sachets, just in case. Happily they didn't run out and the last two days I was using my stash. Vegemite is not offered in the continental breakfast, so Jonnie and I used my Vegemite stash and replaced it at 'real' breakfast.
The Dog House, deck 11, which serves gourmet hotdogs and has seating just outside the Windjammer was well patronised. Jonnie had 'second' lunch here, including the first day. It was good that there was this extra seating 'overflow', not only for the Windjammer but also for the pool area. This Dog House section, although open, is protected by windows on the side.
Also on deck 11 at the bow end of the ship was the Park Cafe. This is where I ate lunch, or late lunch most days. The Park Cafe is situated in the adults only pool area and serves mostly 'healthy' food, …. well it serves soup, salads (including fruit salad, which was yum), a choice of three sandwiches, and two pies. I love tuna salad sandwiches, so that's what I ate most afternoons.
Deck 5 had the Latitudes Cafe and also had the same sandwich selection as the Park Cafe, so depending where I was I would get my tuna sandwiches from either Deck 5 or Deck 11.
Deck 4 Cascades Restaurant also provided lunch between 11.30am and 1pm, and although we did plan to have lunch there to try it, we never had time to do it. Some specialty restaurants are also open for lunch for extra $$$.
After lunch and a few drinks we went to look at our cabin. We were on deck 7 aft. In a balcony cabin 7126. First impressions we were a little disappointed. The cabin appeared small for three, although it would be fine for two. The balcony overlooked the roof of deck 6, which meant that we couldn't look down. I would be most disappointed in this ship if we were doing the Alaska cruise, as many of the ice chunks would be missed from the cabin balcony. We wondered how Jonnie was going to fit in as the lounge was only a two seater and if it extended out to Jonnie's bed we would have to climb over it to get from one side to the other. Then we discovered the pull down bunk that was over our bed. That was a little strange, but worked well during the two weeks. Although other guests complained about the same set up, we thought it was a good way to accommodate three people. Most of the cabin was similar to other RCI ships. The fridge worked very well, still not cold, but much cooler than other fridges in either RCI ships we have been on. However, the bathroom was smaller and the shower curtain simply did not work. The floor was always soaked after a shower. Luckily we don't spend a lot of time in the cabin, and when we do it is for resting or sleeping. Overall at the end of the cruise we were happy with the cabin although the bed needs improvement. As in all cabins the bed is made up of two large singles. In our cabin the beds were of different sizes, which meant there was a large lump running down the middle of the bed, and the mattresses were so hard it made it difficult to sleep the whole night. Usually the mattresses are great on the ships, but not this time. If it happens again we will ask to get it changed, and hope the cabin attendant doesn't get into trouble as it is not his fault. Our cabin attendant was wonderful, always saying hello to us by name and making sure everything was good.
After the show one night I felt like a hot chocolate, but as it was after 11pm and most bars and facilities are closed, the only option was to go to the self serve drinks station on deck 11 or room service at a cost of $7.95US delivery charge, so I went without. If there was a small kettle in the cabin, like on Voyager, I would have been able to make my own.
Each cabin has a flat screen TV with many channels dedicated to the excursions offered on the ship and Royal Caribbean ships and shopping. Some channels show repeats of the same shows on a loop. However, the news channels were up to date with both local, Australian and US news. The channels changed depending on where we were. We would put on the position channel first thing each morning.
Anyway, first day always goes fast. Many cruisers head to the eateries as we did, many go to their cabins to unpack. We didn't have time to unpack until the morning of day 2. We walked around the ship, well some decks, as first day is always good to get photos as most people are either eating, drinking or in their cabins. Like the adults only swimming area, The Solarium....
...and the pool room in the Colony Club.
We went up to deck 12 for 'Sail Away' that was very low key on Radiance.
However, the view leaving Sydney is always spectacular.
By the time we were out of the heads it was 7.50pm and dinner was 8pm. Dinner in the Cascades Restaurant was always good. There were not many people there the first night, in fact we never saw it full on any of the nights and we went all but one night. That was strange considering we had great difficulty trying to get our family members to sit with us for dinner as we were told the 8pm sitting was full. Our dinner companions were a lovely family from Mackay – QUEENSLANDERS!!! - although they were originally from England.
I was determined this cruise to try the cold soups, which I did. I don't think I will be trying them again. I had them for 10 of the 14 nights, and except for the vichyssoise (which I have always liked), they all tasted like smoothies. Here is an example of the menu.
After dinner we went to the comedy show in the Aurora Theatre, Chris Radburn who was funny.  He followed the Cruise Director Rob McNally. As we were late getting to the theatre we sat at the back upstairs - a long way from the front. That gave us time to work out where we would sit other nights. We decided on the left hand side in the middle at the front. The Aurora theatre is large and very comfortable. The seats in the area we always sat were comfortable and placed so that it was easy to see over the person sitting in front. Drink service is also provided. Unlike other RCI ships we have been on there is only one bar in level 4 and 5 of the theatre.

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