Our Alaska Cruise


Here is a on-line scrapbook of our Alaska Cruise. Just a few details. The cruise was a 7-night cruise through the inside passage on the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. We left on June 29, 2002 and regretfully returned on July 6, 2002.

Click on the thumbnail to get a web viewable image.

Well the scrapbook is getting expanded. On October 11, 2002, we took a short little 3-day trip on the Radiance of the Seas through the Pacific Northwest (PNW); Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria. Updates resulting from this trip will be displayed on this page in this purple type font. I also want to point out that the Cruise Critic Messaga Boards and Cruise Mates on-line chat have been tremendous in giving me insight from seasoned cruisers or just cruisers with other perspectives. So please visit those links at the bottom of the page if you want more cruise information.

And so it gets expanded again. My husband and I returned from an 11-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on December 5, 2003. The cruise left from Miami and hit San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and Labadee. And we are already booked for 2004 in the Mexican Riveria on the Legend of the Seas. On this trip we will vist Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta. Anything I can think of to post in addition to the previous I will do in this blue font.


Welcome Aboard Formal Portrait Ketchikan Port dining

More pictures follow in the guide below.

First Time Cruisers Guide to Cruising

  Passports  
  Packing  
  Travel  
  Luggage 
  Embarking 
  Blue Card  
  Cabin  
  Lay of the Land 
  Food  
  Drinks  
  Entertainment 
  Activities  
  Bingo  
  Ports of Call 
  Phone Calls  
  Shopping 
  Pictures  
  Fitness  
  Spa  
  Pools  
  Tipping  
  End of Cruise  
  Final Bill  
  Cruise Critic  
  Accessibility  
  Links  
  Books  

We had a lot of unanswered questions when heading out to this cruise. Books helped fill in some holes, but so many small details go unanswered until you experience the ship itself. I hope this guide helps with some of this questions. These experiences are based solely on this first Alaska cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. How closely it might translate to your cruise experience is impossible to guess. But before I get started I just have to say that this was by far the best vacation ever. It took me a while to pinpoint why, but the truth is because it is like being a kid again. You sleep when you want, food is always waiting when you wake or are otherwise hungry, somebody makes your bed for you each day, there is nowhere you have to be (other than back on board before the ship departs) but there are plenty of things you want to do and see and life it just plain fun!


As I mentioned above, I will expand this guide to include information from our latest Caribbean cruise as appropriate.

Passports

Passports or not? We opted to get our passports for this cruise. The main reason for this decision is that my husband is a naturalized citizen who was born in Germany. It seemed easier to get the passport than to explain his German birth and carry around his naturalization certificate from when he was five years old. I do believe it made life easier, but at $65 each it may not be worth the cost. Also, make sure to apply for your passport at least five weeks in advance of your cruise. We cut the wire at four weeks. We then had a choice to take a gamble that the passports would show up in time (on time by their schedule being the day before we left for the cruise) or paying an additional $30 or $35 each for expedient processing. We opted for this choice and had our passports in about 10-days. Also, they take your proof of citizenship from you to send in with your application. This meant my birth certificate and my husband's naturalization certificate. However, these documents did safely return with our new passports. Our traveling partners also opted to get their passports just to make things easier. Plus if you pay the money for the passport, you have to plan some foreign vacations in the next ten years to make the expense worth it.

You can find more information on passports including the application to fill out ahead of time at Passport Services.

Jim West in The Essential Little Cruise Book: Secrets from a Cruise Director for a Perfect Cruise Vacation, had a really good tip on travel documents. His suggestion was to take two copies of your passport(s) and your cruise tickets. One copy is to keep with someone back home, the second copy is to keep in your safe on board the ship. A simple little suggestion that took some of the anxiety out of traveling by knowing it would be virtually impossible to lose all copies of my travel documents.

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Packing

West also says over and over "Don't Over Pack". Good advice, but what exactly is over packing? I think I did pretty good myself. I brought a different outfit for each dinner, two pairs of shorts, a few casual shirts, jeans (wore on), and of course enough socks and underwear. Shoes, one pair of walking shoes (wore on), one pair of formal shoes to match all of my formal outfits, one pair of casual sandals that went "well enough" with the rest of my dresses, two swim suits (although one would have been enough for me) and a workout outfit. For the Alaska cruise, I probably should have traded one or two t-shirts for a warmer shirt. But also remember, you will be shopping in port. Cheap souvenir shirts are plenty here, so maybe pack a few less then you think you need. My husband and I both had more shirts than we needed by the end of the cruise. If you are doing an Alaska cruise, beware it rained a lot the first week of July. Be prepared with a raincoat with a hood and a baseball cap. This will keep you dry and be much easier to deal with than an umbrella. Gloves and warm clothing is recommended for early morning whale or glacier watching on the open decks of the ship. Little extra's that West recommends and I found came in handy include; night light, travel alarm clock (battery or wind-up as outlets are not abundant in the cabin), and a highlighter. I would also recommend a few blank thank you notes to make tipping at the end a little more meaningful, as well as an extra bag that can lay flat in your luggage and then be used at the end when the shopping has gotten the better of you.

For a few ideas on items to pack, visit this The Ultimate Packing List. The only item I would add is some type of makeup remover. Cold cream works. Silly as it sounds, normally I do not need heavy duty makeup remover 16-hours after putting my makeup on. But putting on fresh makeup for dinner makes it a little tougher job at bedtime. Other than that, let the list give you ideas, but don't think you would need or use everything.

Based on suggestions I had seen on cruisecritic.com message boards, we brought an over-the-door shoe holder this cruise. It has clear pockets and pretty much fit on the inside of the closet door. The one I bought cost about $5. It was a great junk catcher for us. We kept sunglasses, glasses, sunscreen, film, nicknacks, curling irons, etc. in here. It was easy to see what we had where to grab and saved me from cluttering up the vanity. If you are a very neat person, it might not provide that much of an advantage as there is truly a lot of storage in the cabins. But for slobs like me it was a great alternative to tossing everything on the vanity or loveseat.

I took an inventory on the shape of our clothes as I unpacked the first day. Items that needed pressing I sent to the laundry making sure to make the laundry order form as "PRESS ONLY" as this is half the cost of laundering. The bill for this batch was about $12 and worth every penny. It included one of my formals with I think about 5 items total.

Travel

This is the first cruise we had to fly to. We originally did Alaska has a money saver to avoid airfare. But when I look back now, the bargains that can be found to cruise the Caribbean can make up for the airfare. I think all in all both vacations were comparable in total cost even though the Caribbean cruise was four days longer.

Since we have family in Florida we flew in a few days early and rented a car to do some family visits. But even if we had not had family in the area I would definitely fly in a day early. There are a couple of reasons I say this. One is that I am an extremely paranoid traveler. I'd be sick to my stomache with worry if I had to worry about connecting flights, snow storms, or other. One couple we met on-line pre-cruise had such problems and just barely made the cruise ship in Miami. That couple was one bundle of nerves and I can't even imagine the stress they faced with two separate delays trying to fly in the day of. Another reason is that I like showing up at the pier at 10:00a. Yes, I have to wait to get on board, but its so much more relaxing than the cattle call of my first cruise where we showed up at 2:00p. Lunch at the Windjammer at noon the first day cannot be beat. I would have a hear time finding flights that would get me to the pier in time for that early boarding.

Luggage

We ended up with one largish suitcase and a stuffed garment bag for check in, as well as a gym bag, backpack, and camera bag for carry on. The checked bags were handled by our Park and Ride service. Once we loaded it on the shuttle, that was it. Oh, we had put on RCCL luggage tags that were provide with our cruise tickets. The ship's crew has over 4,000 pieces of bags to distribute. We got on the ship at about 3:30p. My second piece of luggage did not find us until somewhere between 8:00p and 8:45p. Given that half of the outfit I planned on wearing for dinner the first night was in there, I had a brief moment of panic. But hey, if wearing jeans to the first dinner was the worst that was going to happen on the trip, I could handle that. Anyhow, the lesson learned was wear or carry-on what you plan on wearing to dinner the first night. This would be especially important if you have first seating. Not that anybody would sneeze at your wearing jeans or shorts. The luggage was left outside of our door and was left without notice. Everything was fine with this, but just know to look for it, it may not be announced.

We boarded the PNW cruise much earlier than the Alaska cruise. In this case we had our luggage about 3:00p. More about earlier boarding under Embarkation.

For traveling across country...we had 3 checked bags and 3 carryons. Marc carried a gym bag and backpack, while I carried an oversized purse. Add one to each of those numbers for the return home.

This time we bought an expandable duffle bag from Walmart for $10. This was a great investment. I was really large when expanded and full but very flat collasped. At the end of the cruise I opened it up and threw all our souvenirs in it. To deal with the breakables (i.e., 5th of rum) I stuff a plastic bag with dirty laundry around the breakables.

Embarking

Getting on the ship itself was a four-step process. The cruise line did little things to make the process seem less "cattle-call" like, but there are a few moments of herding.

Line 1 - We got a number to designate our boarding group number. We then sat in a waiting area with our group to wait for a crewmember to come around to give us a debriefing. Our group somehow missed the debriefing due being called to Line 2 prematurely, but everything worked out fine.

Line 2 - Security check. This is just like at the airport, except maybe a little more lenient. One of our travel partners had a small pocket knife. It got her an extra search, but in the end they let her keep the knife.

Line 3 - Check in. They took our tickets, swiped our credit card, and gave us our "blue card". The blue card serves as the room key, identification, and as a "smart card" for payment of services. We then went to a new waiting area and waited for our group number to be called so we could advance to the next line.

Line 4 - Customs. This was a simple process of check ing our passports and asking basic kind of questions.

Once we made it through customs we started up the gangway. We were stopped twice. Once for the boarding picture (see above) and the second time for their security check computer to take a really bad picture of us. This isn't put on the "blue card" as I thought it would be, instead, as you board and depart the ship, your "blue card" gets scanned and the security person's kiosk bring up the really bad picture taken when originally boarding. From there we were own our own.

When we did the Alaska cruise I followed the boarding time as listed in the documents of 2:00p. However, since reading Cruise Critic boards I've discovered that the ships begin boarding as soon as they clear customs, as early as 11:00a. We arrived at the pier in Seattle at 11:00. There were people there, but no lines built up yet. The sequence of events was different at this port. We checked our luggage, checked in (no line at this point), and waited for our group to be called. Our number was 4. Apparently 1 and 2 are reserved for priority boarding. When boarding began at about noon, they called for 1's and 2's, but there were not that many. They then called 3, and about 10 minutes later called 4. We went through a security screening getting on board the ship itself. Customs was handed upon exiting the ship in Vancouver and was quick and painless. So we were boarded about 12:15p. After dumping our carry-on's in the cabin, we went straight to the Windjammer (buffet) and found it ready to go, but virtually empty. It was fully worth getting to the pier at 11:00a for our 5:00p sailing time. It was great to get to explore the ship before it was full as well.

We arrived at the port about 10:15a having taken a cab from the hotel. For nearly an hour we set in a waiting area prior to any pre-board stuff until they were ready. Once they were ready to begin processing, we went through a security check, then were sent to lines to begin the check in. Since our first two ports were US territories, we did not go through customs (that I can remember anyway). We were on board just before noon and proceeded to our cabin. Our cabin attendant was still making up the room so we dumped off our stuff and headed for the Windjammer. We got to the Windjammer about 12:05 and it wasn't quite open yet, although it was scheduled to open at noon. By 12:10 the doors opened and the cruise experience began.

Blue Card and Guest Relations

I mentioned the "Blue Card" briefly in the embarking section, but wanted to provide a little more information on this magic piece of plastic. It is the size of a credit card (or hotel room key) but it flat, not embossed, and has a magnetic strip on the back. The card serves as the room key (room number is not noted on the card for security purposes). It is also your "Super Charge" card. every time you purchase something on board the ship, the card is swiped and the "Super Charge" account is charged. The interactive television lets you look up your Super Charge account and breaks out purchases by location and whose card it was purchased with. A final bill arrives at your cabin the last night of the cruise and the total charges charged to the credit card used at check in. I believe, you could also give a cash deposit at check in and an appropriate limit would be set on the card. All shipboard purchases go on the "Blue Card" including bingo. The only place the "Blue Card" is not accepted is the casino. The "Blue Card's" final purpose is for security checks. Your card is scanned each time you leave the ship in port and scanned again when you return. When you return, the card is scanned again and the security person's kiosk brings up the really bad picture taken when you embarked on the ship. This allows them to verify who you are. I suspect is also acts to let the crew know when all passengers are accounted for.

Guest Relations is a counter found on Deck 4. It looks and acts much like a hotel check-in desk, except you are already checked in. But if you need information about anything, have questions on your "Super Charge" account, or ruin your "Blue Card" wringing it out with your swim suit, they are there to help.

Update, the blue card was now beige.

The Cabin

One of the biggest decisions we had to make on this cruise was what type of cabin to book. I decided to take the cheap route and booked an inside cabin. I once read (although I don't remember where) that you should book an outside cabin with a view for your first cruise. I'm not sorry we didn't do this. We spent so little time in the cabin that additional cost for a window would have been wasted. Our window was channel 29 on the cruise TV with a bridge camera view. In addition to the lack of time spent in the cabin, the inside cabin had the advantage of no natural light...perfect for sleeping in or long afternoon naps. My own opinion is that a room with a porthole is probably not worth extra dollars although a cabin with a private patio may be if going to a warm weather destination and quiet seclusion is your plan for the perfect vacation.

Once on board, a crewmember helped direct us to our cabin. The cabin itself was very nice. It was small, but probably not as small as I psyched myself out for it to be. There was a bunch of storage with a decent sized closet, a side closet with shelves, six drawers in the vanity, and an additional cupboard with extra space where the safe was. There was also a lot of cubby space behind the mirrors in the bathroom and the mirrors on the vanity. In addition to the king size bed (actually two twins pushed together) there was a love seat and a very small table. The two beds pushed together did not pose a problem. It was extremely comfortable with the split being barely noticeable and only if lying right on it. The way the room was set up we did not feel cramped with the exception of when one was trying to get in the closet while the other was headed for the bathroom.

The safe was really cool. At first I was looking through all our documentation trying to determine what told me what our combination on the digital lock would be. When I didn't find one, I decided to play. Turns out you set the combination. The combination you close it with is the combination that will open it. This made it easy to pick a code both my husband and I were familiar with. Punch in any four-digit code, it locks...punch in the same four-digit code, it opens.

Our cabin #8515, mess and all PNW Cruise, #8027, another view

Notice the towels on our bed; we had a new critter each night when we returned from dinner. This was a nice touch go the whole cruise experience. I had ordered the decorations in honor of our anniversary prior to the cruise.

Lay of the Land

We spent a bit of time reading the information found in our cabin. This helped to orient ourselves on the schedule and provides some very basic information on what is aboard and what deck you may find major ship attractions. From here we began the seeing of sights on the ship. There are two things to remember in getting around the ship; deck number and forward or aft. Signage keeps you informed in relation to these matters. It also helps to know which side of the ship your room is on, port (left Note: four letters in PORT and four letters in LEFT) or starboard (right). The next thing to learn is the location of lobbies and their respective elevators. This will help as a clue on whether you are forward, aft, or center. Once I had this figured out I only got confused when the ship was docked and I wasn't near a central elevator or staircase. The cabin halls all look identical. We found most of the action on the Radiance of the Seas was on a few number of decks. Dining room and guest services on 4; shopping, pictures, Colony Club, and theater on 5; theater and casino on 6; pools, spa, and Windjammer Cafe on 11; Gym on 12; and disco and lounge on 13. It also helped that the elevators had lit boards that described what was on what deck and lit that deck as it approached. Since our cabin was on 8, we were just a couple of decks away from anything. Also, our cabin was forward which was where the less used bank of elevators and staircase were. This made for a little easier navigation amongst the floors. One final note, about 1/2 way through the cruise I discovered that on deck 5, I could walk around the entire ship in relative seclusion. The route took me up to the helicopter pad (BY FAR THE BEST VIEW) and in my opinion a better leisurely walk path then the track provided on deck 12.

Centrum Elevators Centrum Lobby looking down to deck 4 from deck 5 Cabin hall-they all look just like this

The Food

The food, oh the food. My, oh my...what can I say about the food. The food started the second we got on board upon the discovery that the Windjammer Cafe was open with a Welcome Aboard menu. From the pictures and the descriptions I had read, I wasn't sure what to expect of the Windjammer, but it far surpassed my expectation. It was a buffet with two of every type station; salads/fruits/breads, hot entrees, sandwiches/snacks, grilled foods, and of course deserts. The selection was amazing and everything we tried was excellent. There were plenty of options for full fattening delight to sensible hot entrees to low-fat and vegetarian fare. In short, something for everybody. One thing I really like was that food was well marked. If there was a salad, there was a short list of what was included in the salad. One thing I didn't particularly like was the option of plate sizes. At the sandwich bar they had little tiny salad plates and everywhere else they had these gigantic almost school lunchroom tray size plates. I rely on a normal plate clueing me into a reasonable serving size. My cue and subsequent portion control were lost. There was a bunch of seating indoors, or in what was like a covered patio. Tea, juice, water, coffee, and milk were free. Royal Caribbean charges for soda, but I opted for the $33 (plus gratuity) soda card that allowed me all the soda I could drink for the entire cruise. This is probably only viable if you really drink a lot of soda like I do. The Windjammer was typically open from 6:30a until 9:30p with a break to set up for dinner.

We skipped the soda cards this time. Our total soda bill for individual cans bought was about $50. The cards would have cost would have been $50 each AND the fountain soda was hit or miss on quality. I did get one fountain soda when our assistant waitress was working in the Windjammer and it was pretty bad. I would have been disappointed if that is what I got the entire cruise.

The Windjammer

Our next experience was in the formal dining room. We opted for late seating. Having been through the cruise I'm glad we did. This allowed for more time in ports or doing other activities before needing get ready for dinner. We also opted for seating at a table of 10. This was absolutely wonderful. I cannot imagine cruising without the experience of getting to know other people from other regions and getting the cruise perspective through their eyes as well. The first night only 1/2 our table was there, others were recovering from travel. But it was a party happening the remaining nights. The place setting seemed quite ominous with a bazillion pieces of silverware. But in fact, I found myself using most of it. It was kind of nice to not have to hold back a knife for the next course. The drill was the waiter would welcome us to the table, take each person's napkin and place it in their lap, then take the empty plate away. The look on our friend's face was priceless the first night when the waiter put the napkin in his lap. It was like "where the hell is that man reaching?!" The waiter (Ashwin) took care of taking orders and making runs to the galley, while the assistant waiter (Veronica) was at our side. Veronica was great in that I'd only have to glance her way, she'd make eye contact, then rush right over to see what I needed. I never had instant service at the glance before. Anyway, each night we got a new menu. Each menu consisted of an appetizer, salad, and entree. There was also a "Ship Shape" section that had listed one of each of the above that was a low-fat alternative as well as a low-fat desert, vegetarian selections (more than one and not always pasta). In addition to the chef features of the day, everyday had the alternative of steak, chicken, Ceasar salad, and other standards.

Our dining group

Here is a sampling of just one of the nights (happened to be the 4th of July, hence the cutesy names):

APPETIZERS

ENTREES

DESERTS

Even the deserts always had a good variety of options with multiple sugar-free and least one low fat option. The desert menu typically came after the entree was completed. We'd sit for dinner at 8:30p and not leave the table until about 10:15p.

I almost forgot to mention the Marky Special. My husband only likes salad with lettuce (preferably romaine) and 1000 Island dressing. The first night he went without salad, the second night he ordered the mixed greens salad but asked for 1000, and on the third night he went for broke and asked for just romaine lettuce with 1000 Island. After he did this on night four, he never had to ask again. Ash was ready with the "Marky Special" each night then. This is just one example of the exemplary service we received.

The 3-night PNW cruise didn't give us the same opportunity to grow attached to our servers. Monika was excellent. She was able to brought us the Marky special each night and the assistant waiter was good, although not as good as Veronica. He didn't have that instant service at a glance thing going on. We saw Ashwin a few times and said "hi". He always took a minute to talk to us and seemed to appreciate we remembered him so fondly. If I had to do it again, I would have probably tried to arrange to sit at Ashwin's table. Not because of any disappointment in Monika, she was great, only because what a way to say "we remember and appreciate your service". He was so courteous this second trip, but he never served us. Well there was one difference between Monika and Ashwin, Monika called me Vicki, Ashwin called me Mrs. It's so rare I'm called Mrs. that this was really a nice touch from Ashwin.

We had a great table for the 11-night cruise. The waitress was pretty good. She was a little "formal" although she tried to be "fun". I have to give her credit for trying and occasionally we got a laugh. Our assistant waitress was lovely. She had a boyfriend on board and we caught a rumor that they were talking marriage. We had great fun in teasing the both of them after that. I have my fingers crossed for a double Chilean wedding with her sister in February. I almost forgot, we saw Veronica a lot on this cruise. She was the assistant waitress just tables away from us and we saw her in the Windjammer everyday. She was has charming as ever and will remain one of our favorites.

We had a fun group of tablesmates. I click with one lady in particular while two of the other couples became best drinking buds. There was one couple that only showed up to dinner for two nights. We were disappointed they chose not to join us for dinner. Another couple I had met online were at a table for 10, but at least 1/2 the time they had the table to themselves, and the rest of the time only one other couple was with them. I wish that the couple that ditched us would have made it official early on so our lonely friends could jump ship and join our table. If you are not going to eat in the dining room, let the Maitre D' know so they can assign somebody else your seats. Let your tablemates know so that they don't wait on ordering and dinner for you.

One of the big questions on cruising evolves around attire for dining. Anything except shorts and jeans is acceptable for casual night in the dining room. In the Windjammer or other casual spots, anything except swimwear goes. For formal nights, I'd say refer to the picture above. You will see there was a wide range of dress at our table alone.

Ashwin, Veronica, Marc & Myself The Waitstaff Group

The dining room was also open for breakfast and lunch for open seating a couple of hours each. I did have one breakfast there and at the time thought I'd prefer the Windjammer. Looking back, maybe I should have had breakfast and lunch in the main dining room. At least I would have had portion control on my side. Lessons learned for next time.

Three other options exists for free food. The Seaview Cafe was a smaller cafe with burgers, sandwiches, fried food, nachos, chicken wings, etc. This was open from about 2:00p to 2:00a as far as I can tell. The sandwiches were huge. Room service was also available 24 hours a day, but the menu was limited. Each lounge would serve some kind of hot snack, but this was never anything too exciting to me.

We did experience the dining room for breakfast a couple of days and I went to lunch there by myself one day. The pros are fresh food with portion control. The con is the time it takes to get through. Also, the one time I went to lunch there I was sat at a table with an older bunch from Jersey who had few nice things to say.

I'm not sure if I previously mentioned the Seaview Cafe (I'm sure I did somewhere). Anyway, in my opinion this is the best free dining option. The food is cooked to order nearby so hot and fresh. The selection is kind of limited but good choices. I will say it would be hard to eat light in the Seaview except for the salads. Many items are fried.

There were two additional restaurants on board for an additional cost. For $10 each for lunch or $20 each for dinner, guest could eat at either the Chops Grille or Portofino. My husband had lunch at the Chops Grille. He said the food and service were excellent, but still would not pay the additional charge again.

There was a midnight "Gala" buffet one night. The buffet was set up and time for a walk through scheduled from 11:30p - 12:15a. At this time no food was taken from the tables or eaten, rather it was an opportunity for picture taking. There was plenty to shoot. Ice sculpture, chocolate sculptures, even a bread sculpture, not to mention the general presentation. We didn't actually attend for late night dining when it opened at 12:30a, but can only guess it must have been wonderful.

No Gala Buffet on the 3-Night PNW Cruise.

There were three midnight buffets this cruise. One chocolate, the gala buffet, and a Caribbean pool party that included a lot of food.

Midnight Buffet Gala Midnight Buffet Gala It's chocolate!

Drinks

Drink prices on-board were extremely reasonable and drinks poured were GOOD! I bought a drink card for $45 (plus gratuity) that was good for 12 standard drinks. But even the prices for special drinks were equal to or below the standard restaurant price. Juice, non-bottled water, coffee, tea, and iced tea were available without additional charge. Beverage stations were set up in the Windjammer where the free beverages were set out for people to grab and attendants serviced other requests. There were various bars throughout the ship including in the theater, the lobby, by the pools, general lobby. This is in addition to the Viking Crown Lounge and Starquest Disco, the Schooner Bar, the Colony Club, the Champagne Bar, and the Scoreboard Sports Bar. More information on some of these bars can be found under Entertainment. At dinner, the assistant waiter provided the basic beverages and wine while a bartender came by to take orders for the bar.

Royal Caribbean has done away with the drink cards but that is fine. The drink prices are comparable to home ($5 for an Absolut drink) and I've learned through Cruise Critic that you often get better drinks when you don't use the card. Another thing I did was buy a litre of Absolut from the shops on board. The price was $9.95 but they charge a $9.50 consumption fee to allow you to bring it back to your room. I'm not sure if this is standard all the time, but they did give me a free bottle of cheap rum in exchange for the consumption fee. I will say the $19.95 total for a litre of Absolut was still a third cheaper than I would pay at home.

Fitness and Facilities

One thing that was very important to me on this cruise was that I not gain a ton of weight. Having recently lost 65 pounds with another 25 to go, I didn't want do undo all my hard work. The meal options helped, but as I stated earlier, I would probably opt to eat more meals in the dining room where food was served with controlled portions. I was extremely impressed with the fitness activities available on board.

The most obvious was the gym itself. There were a bunch of treadmills equipped with little TVs with the same options found in our cabin, low seated bikes, high seated bikes, and "free-runner" style machines for cardio work. They also had a complete set of resinstance training machines such as a leg press, arm curl, lat pull, hip abductor, etc. In the center of the room was a workout floor where classes were held, or if no class was going on folks could grab an exercise mat and make themselves at home. The gym always seemed to be busy in the morning when I went about 8:00 or 9:00a, but not so busy that you could not get a workout in. Classes held included yoga, kickboxing, step aerobics, "Spin" (intense exercise bike), etc. Some classes came with a $10 fee to participate. In addition to these gym classes, there were other activities such as line dance classes, group walks, basketball free throw tournament, rock wall climbing, etc. that also held fitness benefits. In fact, in looking at the daily schedule, many items were denoted with a little jogging figure to indicate "Ship Shape" activities. You would receive a "Ship Shape" dollar for each "Ship Shape" activity attended. The purpose was to turn in all "Ship Shape" dollars on the last day of the cruise in exchange for goodies (I didn't turn mine in).

Fitness Center Schedule & Pricing

Rockwall Basketball Court

The Spa

One thing I was looking forward to on this cruise was getting a wonderful spa massage. I panicked when I first saw the price list thinking for $99 maybe I'd skip that. But one thing I did discover was that each day they published a spa special in the Compass. I did end up booking a 1/2 hour facial with a 1/2 back massage for $69. My preconceived notion was correct, it was wonderful. If you don't mind taking a gamble, hold out for one of these specials vs. an early booking. However, be prepared to call first thing when the special is announced. I called at about 10:00a and the first opening was 5:30p. The day before I couldn't get in at all. Spa prices do not include gratuity, so be prepared to tack a little extra on for this.

Prices seemed to have gone up on average $10 per service.

Spa Pricing-Updated 10/2002

Pools

There were several options for pools on board. The Solarium was in glass covered pool and lounge area with a medium sized saltwater pool and a hot tub. The pool was supposed to be heated, but it was pretty cold the one time I tried it out. There was also an outdoor pool area with two hot tub's, but these were not used much on the Alaska cruise (but they were used) and one final outdoor kid pool complete with water slide. My husband is a big hot tub fan and spent much of his time in the Solarium hot tub. He made quite a few friends in there as well and it seemed folks used the time to compare shore excursions and talk about life back home. There were designated times for adults only.

The outdoor pool was definitely used in the Caribbean. They had a poolside calypso band that played much of the time as well.

Solarium Solarium from a different angle Outdoor Pool Marc relaxing-at least I always knew where to find him

Entertainment

Each night there was a show MC'd by the Cruise Director, Gordon Whatcom. The shows were about 45 minutes in length. The only act I had every heard of prior to the cruise was the Coasters. But even given the lack of household name acts, the shows were definitely worth attending. A few nights cruise staff did a song or two for us as well. There were a couple of comedians (T.J. McCormack, David Morgan & Chucky, Neal Austin) who were great, a couple of singers (Joni Butler and Bobby Avron), and one night a spectacular Vegas style show put on the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. By spectacular I mean, ariel acrobatics, dancing, pyrotechnics, etc. The final night was more of a debriefing by the cruise director, information on disembarking the following day, a brief comedy sketch (Neal Austin), and a showing of the Cruise Memories video. The video was a montage of filmed activities on board during the week set to music. Since I was included in this montage, I, of course had to buy a copy for $24.95.

Also along the entertainment line were three major bars, a disco, a more all purpose club (The Colony Club) with a live band, and the Schooner bar which has a piano entertainer in the evenings. What I did find was that unless a specific activity was planned, there were not a great number of people to be found in the disco or the Colony Club. But a planned activity brought the crowds on. activities included a Western night, 70's Night, Sock Hop, etc. The Cruise Director staff was always on hand at the beginning of such events to get the party started, usually by teaching an appropriate line dance. There was a cinema on board that I was never inclined to step into, movies broadcast in the cabins of the TV (which I never managed to be in my cabin long enough to finish). There was a casino, but I only hear about how tight the ship casinos are so I "tried" to avoid the place. A couple of nights there was karaoke in one of the lounges. The karaoke would only last an hour. The same cruise staff that get up to start activities before 8:00a are in charge of this activity as well, so it is not an all night hangout. Most singers were pretty good (if I do say so myself ;-) Yes I sang.

I also found it was pretty easy to make my own entertainment. One day my husband was in the hot tub and I didn't want to bother with changing and showering again. So, I had a bit of time to burn before dinner and opted to check out the disco lounge. There were not many people in there, but I crawled up on to a stool next to two friendly looking guys and it didn't take long before we were in full conversation (and I had a drink bought for me :-) It all felt very safe and friendly and since my wedding ring is hard to miss, I never suspected foul play. Anyway, since it was slow, the bartender got in on the conversation and the experience reminded me of a "Cheers" type setting. So I got to know by new Texas buddies Tex and Bill, and my two favorite bartenders in the world, Stephen and Earl. One really cool thing about hanging out here when it was slow, was getting to know the crew. They were not reserved and freely talked about life working on a ship. The conversation started with Drew (the DJ) asking Earl what time he got to bed (6:30a). Upon inquiry I found out the crew was having quite the Canada Day party below deck, and when the disco closed my new little gang had some catching up to do. Apparently Drew had some hard cider waiting for him when he got in at 2:30a. I just found it nice to get to know these people as real people. They kind of reminded me of me when I was twenty-one. If I had known this career existed when I was twenty-one, free and single, I probably would have applied! For the rest of the cruise, Stephen and Earl really took care of me. Earl even made a point to say hi when he saw us ashore on a port day. Although he was hard to recognize out of uniform.

I'm sure you are dying to know. No, Earl and Stephen were both not there for the 2nd cruise. I looked high and low and eventually broke down and asked another bartender who said they were both signed off the ship. BUMMER! Well, again, in 3-days there was not enought time to grow attached to any bartenders. Actaully, I really didn't drink this trip. One stop at the Champagne Bar, but found the bartender to be too talkative so avoided it and wine with dinner was it.

We only went to the first show on this 2nd trip. I mainly wanted to checkout the new Cruise Director, Keith Williams. He was okay but seemed a little green at this experience. The only negative was that he used some of the same corny jokes Gordon had used. I expect the same person to use the same corny joke in the same situation, but a new person should have original material. We stopped into the show the 2nd night for a minute, but was not impressed. We heard later from someone who attended that the man had a beautiful singing voice, but talked too much. We caught him in a moment of talking ourselves. The 3rd night show was the same Vegas style production called "Rockin in Paradise" we had seen previously, so we skipped it.

Stephen, Earl and Myself - if you see them, say 'Hi' for me

We went to more shows this trip. The only two we did not attend were nights it conflicted with Karaoke. The biggest headliners were John Davidson and the Diamonds. They had three Royal Caribbean production shows which were all fairly good and worth going to. One realization was that most of the time we didn't know the names of entertainers, they are all indeed very good. I won't be as likely to blow off a show because I don't recognize the name in the future.

On a semi-related front, I did the Guest Talent Show this cruise. I was scared to death but it really turned out to be a good experience. Mainly because the sound system was so good it was a pleasure performing on the stage. I get nervous that I won't be able to hear myself and in turn will sound bad, but the monitors sounded so good on that stage I had the most confidence I had ever had singing. I will definitely do this again.

Activities

There were many scheduled activities throughout the day. Each night a "Compass" (daily newsletter) was left in our cabin to describe the specials of the next day as well as provide a schedule of activities. I mentioned a highlighter in my packing section. This is where the highlighter comes in. This was another suggestion from West's book that I found very useful. Anyway, the Compass had two sections. A four page full newsletter that gave descriptions of some highlights, daily specials, etc. and a second "daily planner" that was simply calendar listing of the events and their times and locations. I would highlight the activities that interested me and keep the small daily planner in my pocket. I could then easily refer to it throughout the day to see where I wanted to go next. Click on the two images below to see bigger sample versions of the Compass and the Compass Daily Planner.

Day 1 Compass Day 2 Compass Daily Planner Day 3 Compass Day 3 Compass Daily Planner Day 4 Compass Day 4 Compass Daily Planner Day 5 Compass Day 5 Compass Daily Planner Day 6 Compass Day 7 Compass Day 7 Compass Daily Planner Compass for Disembark

One thing I discovered late in the cruise was that the activities were often fun whether attending with my husband and/or our friends or if I went it alone. At every activity there was a large group of friendly people more than happy to invite another guest to join in. My favorite were the Trivia Challenges. Everyone would gather in the Colony Club and groups of up to six would form. Then about twenty questions would be asked on the advertised topic such as TV Tune Trivia, Movie Trivia, Music Trivia. In some cases it was questions, in other cases it would be audio clues. The questions were diverse in which demographic may get the answer and there was always one or two really hard ones. In this case it was to your advantage to join another group especially if they were of a different generation than you. The team with the most correct answers would get the prize(s). We won Royal Caribbean key chains, nice writing pens, and baseball caps as a result of joining another group of four.

In another case I was interested in attending the Merengue dance lesson. I knew my husband wouldn't go with me, and I wasn't sure what my friend was up to so I went it alone. I got there a few minutes early and there was a gal sitting by herself. Rather than getting a different table by myself I asked if she wanted company, which she did. Then when it came time for the dance lesson, our leader, Candace, was trying to get people to join in and yelling out, "come on in, you don't need a partner". Then once we really started found out yes we did need partners. Becky (my new buddy) and I partnered up. She got to play the man and we Merengued. Okay, I was a little self-conscious, but it was fun. The point in the long story is fun can be found no matter if your traveling partners are interested in the same activities or not. Of course, it was better when my husband and I did things together in that we could share the memory.

A couple of activities (or are they entertainment?) not to miss. The Quest and the Love and Marriage Show. I won't go into detail, because the element of surprise will make it all that much better. Just GO!!!

All 3-days of the PNW cruise were port days so there was not as much going on in terms of activities. There was only one trivia, one dance class, and a few bingo sessions in the three-days. Also, there was no Quest or Love and Marriage Show. Oh well.

I was a bit lazier this trip. I did make a few events such as a cooking a demonstration and towel folding demonstration which were fun. My laziness may have been a result of the port intensive itinerary of this trip. I attended one trivia session, but they seemed to have developed quite the clique of trivia players by that time. I dared to sit with the wrong group. Oh no! Whatever.

Bingo

Bingo was offered about twice a day. The cost was $20 for 3 cards or $35 for 6 cards all for five games. Each of the five games would be a different Bingo pattern with the fifth game always being a blackout. They would designate a number of calls to try to get the 5th game blackout in. If no one won in that number of calls (say 64, and the number declined as the week progressed), then the jackpot would grow and a lesser prize would be won by the first blackout. Nobody had won a jackpot up until the last game of the cruise. At this point the jackpot was $9,050. They have to give the money away at the last bingo so they call until the first blackout, and that winner gets the prize. Other prizes ranged from $100 to $600. You could buy additional fifth game cards for $10 for 3 cards or $16 for 6. I would be inclined to save my money until the last game of the cruise next time around. It's gambling that the jackpot will not be won, but then you'd have just as much chance as anybody playing the last game only.

We did wait until the last bingo to play this time. I think the prices went up. But with the short cruise, one thing they did was condense the bingo buy only playing the jackpot game in some instance, like the last one. The Jackpot total at the end of day three was $2,800.

No bingo for us this trip. It must be a trend tho. I was surprised to hear that the final jackpot was only about $7,000. I thought for 4-extra days the prize should have been at least a grand more than the Alaska trip. But then again, maybe bingo players were too busy on the port intensive itinerary as well.

Ports of Call

One of my big questions before departing on our cruise was what should I plan on port days. Some of my questions were answered by Larry H. Ludmer's, Cruising Alaska: A Traveler's Guide to Cruising Alaskan Waters & Discovering the Interior. My travel agent helped shed some light on this as well. My initial concern was that in order to get off the ship (or for it to be worthwhile to) I would have to book an excursion at each port. My travel agent's response was "....check the internet for descriptions and prices www.royalcaribbean.com but there are always other options. In Juneau you could rent a car for the four of you and drive to the Mendenhall glacier as opposed to taking the tour. Or hang out in town its up to you. Skagway and Ketchikan have some good choices for shore excursions". The guide book was extremely helpful in that it pointed out that an alternative existed to a popular Skagway excursion (White Pass and Yukon Railroad). This excursion runs $78 per person, but per Ludmer's suggestion, we rented a car for a grand total of $70. Three of the four of us road the White Pass Highway and were able to see the same sights plus go farther. As a result we had lunch in Carcross, Yukon, Canada. What an absolutely beautiful drive through the Canadian Yukon. Of course, we made sure to take our passports with us. A side benefit was no waste of an excursion ticket when our fourth traveler wasn't feeling well. My advice to those trying to determine their own Ports of Call plans would be to book a shore excursion if the description truly excites you, but don't hesitate to do some exploring on your own. And it will definitely be worth your time and money to check out a guide book for the area.

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Carcross, Yukon, Canada View from White Pass Highway

All of the port piers were well within walking dinstance of the major shopping areas of each port. Many tour buses and taxis were on the pier ready to whisk people away either on booked excursions or more ad hoc sightseeing. Shopping was extremely affordable for souvenirs in all ports.

Ketchikan Ketchikan

Just yesterday I saw a special on Alaska on the Travel Channel. They were interviewing a ship's cruise director who stated she felt bad for folks who never left the port city for they were missing so much. Having gone for our little (4 hour) drive, I can understand her point. It may be too exhausting to take long trips at every port, but it would be a shame to not take advantage of the opportunity to really see the part of the world that the cruise has brought you to. There are purple mountains in the Yukon!

Purple Mountains of the Yukon

We only did two formal excursions this trip. The first one was booked privately on-line. Godfrey is a tour guide on St. Thomas who offers for $20 per person, to pick you up at your ship and take you in to town for shopping until noon. Its your choice to be picked up at 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00. From there he takes you on a two hour tour of the island, and finally drops you off at a beach of our choice from three (Sapphire, Magen's Bay, or Coki) for two hours and then picks you up and takes you back to the ship. This was an awesome deal and one I'd highly recommend. You can get more information and reserve with Godfrey on-line at http://www.godfreytoursvi.com.

View of Magen's Bay from Drake's Seat in St. Thomas

The second trip we did was a cruise line excursion called Caribbean Pirates Extravaganza. This was a great excursion out of St. Lucia aboard the Brig Unicorn. This ship was featured in the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean as the Henrietta. We took an hour sail (with Rum Punch or soda being served) to Pigeon Island were we had an hour to either enjoy one of two small beaches, participate in a treasure hunt, or hike up the high peaks and explore the old fort ruins. On the trip back they served finger foods and kept the Rum Punch flowing freely and they had planned a little line type dance, but the CD player died. So instead, one of the "pirates" yelled out "DAY-O" and everybody on board started singing the DAY-O chorus while the pirate made up versus fitting to the occasion. It really was great fun. On the treasure hunt, there were 6-keys hidden around Pigeon Island. One of the keys opened a treasure chest on board the Brig Unicorn which contained a gift certificate to Diamonds International. You can see a lot more pictures from this excursion if you choose to view the slide show listed in "Links" below.

The Brig Unicorn - view from Ft. Rodney on Pigeon Island

We also visited Royal Caribbean's Private Island (or piece of an island, Hispanola) for a day. They gave us a great little info sheet that could explain it all to you better than I could, so here it is in 3-pages:


Telephone Calls

The ship does offer ship to shore calls from the privacy of your cabin for a mere $7.95 per minute. A more feasible option is to use your existing calling card, or purchase a pre-paid calling card prior to leaving for the cruise, and call from payphones at ports. Every port seemed to have large banks of telephone booths, probably for this very reason. I will say that the in-room commercials trying to get you to use the ship phone for $7.95 a minute were extremely cute, but not cute enough.

Shopping

If there was one thing I could do over on the cruise it would be to attend the shopping seminar provided by cruise staff. I caught portions of this on the TV (many ships activities were re-broadcast via the ship's interactive television system), but I think I truly would have gotten some good insights by attending the talk. Julie talked about unique items that could be found and where, mentioned which stores were privately owned and may be open to negotiation, as well as said hands down where to buy the cheapest smoked salmon. She gave a lot of goodies away at this seminar as well. I probably also would have discovered that the Alaska packet we received while in line for embarking contained some good coupons (a fact I discovered the last day in the last port). While I feel I may have had better deals by attending this seminar, I did do something right in talking to a friend prior to leaving for the cruise who had done the same a year earlier. She provided insight on the best port overall to shop in (Ketchikan). She gave me the example of Eskimo dolls she bought in Juneau for $5 that should found for $0.99 in Ketchikan.

There were three basic classes of shops; souvenir shops, jewelry stores, and exclusive type galleries. For the most part the souvenir shops were extremely affordable with t-shirts as little as $5, nick nacks for about $5, and costume jewelry for as low as $2. One thing I saw everywhere in Alaska was the Ulu knife and bowl. My husband bought me a set and I love it. Probably the most "Alaska" thing purchased while we were there.

Jewelers seemed to have reasonable deals and were always anxious to bargain with us. Unfortunately my husband is not into buying jewelry so I went without. A couple of the offers made were hard to turn down though. Then there were always the "exclusive" stores that had statues or other goodies in excess of $5,000. We didn't spend much time in there ourselves.

Shopping in the Caribbean was similar to shopping in Alaska only Caribbean souvenirs instead of Alaska. My favorite port for shopping was St. Maarten mainly due to the sheer number of diverse shops in a small walkable area.

The ship itself had a number of small shops which sold everything from booze and perfume, books and souvenirs, to clothing and other necessities. Shopping on board was fairly reasonable for standard items and extremely cheap for items such as liquor, cigarettes, and perfume. They had a little bit of everything, with not a huge selection. It seems they know what items people forget to bring, and have an option of each of these on board. For instance, I forgot to pack a tie clip for my husband. They one had one to choose from, but for $10 I got a tie clip and matching cuff links. They also had a good variety of costume jewelry. I also picked up a necklace and matching earrings also for $10.

Each day a new item would be featured in the corridor of the "Shops of the Centrum" at reduced prices. One day was a Russian theme, another day watches, etc. These items were usually 50% off.

Pictures

From the minute you go to board the ship, there is always somebody taking your picture. Let's see if I can name all the times; boarding, dinner, each port, dinner, Hubbard Glacier watching day, dinner (oh I already said that). In addition, they set up stations on formal nights where you can have your picture taken. Each station is a different background from an eery backdrop of the Titanic's Grand Staircase to coming down the lit, glass stairs of the Centrum lobby and various phony and true ship backgrounds. We took full advantage of having our pictures taken so we could have a good variety to choose from.

Within a few hours of the picture being taken, it is displayed in the Photo Gallery. They are grouped by background with everyone's picture showing. We would have to search and search for ourselves in the group, and then there would be a few copies with maybe different poses behind each. My advice is to wait until the last day, spend some time in the gallery and then choose carefully. It is worth it to have your picture taken at each opportunity, but they are pricey to buy. We spent $70 in pictures, which are all displayed at the top of this page.

Tipping

Tipping seems to be the biggest question of the cruise. The cruise line will provide a lot of information on suggested tips. But, everything I read indicated that I needed cash to tip. My travel agent also said cash was the way to go. I was surprised to find that I could have charged tips to my "Blue Card", but cash was just as well as it seemed more personal. The last day of the cruise there were three envelopes left in our room marked "Cabin Attendant", "Waiter", and "Assistant Waiter". Put the cash in the envelope and then on the last evening pass them out. At dinner we were all holding out trying to figure out when the polite time to pass on the tip was. Finally somebody asked our waiter as it was time to get up and he was ready to take it then. We all took our turn to thank Ash and Veronica for their service and present them with our envelopes.

I did do one thing that might be kind of corny, is I wrote thank you notes to each person we tipped and included a specific action they did that made their service so great. Also, I wanted to show some appreciation for my favorite bartenders, Stephen and Earl. Lucky for me I had seen somebody do this that morning, so I followed suite and simply went to their lounge at a quieter time, said thank you, and passed them $10 each. I don't know how $10 rates on a generosity scale, but I always have to remind myself they already got 15% from the bar sale. They seemed appreciative.

Theron Keller on the Cruise Critic Message Boards just developed this little web-based Tip Calculator to easily determine what the tipping needs may be depending on cruise line and length of cruise. Check it out!

End of Cruise

This is the only negative part of the cruise. You have to leave someday. I will mention here that the 7-day cruise felt entirely too short. In part because it wasn't until about day 4 that I really started getting into the activities and having fun. I robbed myself of some pleasant experiences. A friend of mine had taken a back-to-back, one-way turned round trip, cruise that lasted 14 days. Her comment was at the end of day 7 they were not ready to leave, but by day 14 it was okay.

The first task at hand is to pack the day before you arrive back in port. They give you luggage tags based on your post cruise plans. There are several groups of tags that are color coded so that they can get the most time critical luggage out of the way first (early flights). Be sure to save out cloths and hygiene items you'll need the next day. They ask that you put your bags outside your door between 8:00p and 12:00a with luggage tags in place. We put our out at 8:00p to get it out of the way before dinner. But they sat there until at least mid-night. I'd probably just assume wait until the last minute then have my bags hanging out in a hall for four hours. They had also left a customer evaluation survey and customs questionnaire to be filled out before we left.

We were to be out of the cabin the next morning by 8:00a but could not leave the ship until our tag color and group number was called. Many options exist on where to hangout and the Windjammer Cafe was open. One option that I would not have minded checking out was going to the theater to let the Cruise Director entertain us until we were called. I've read other reviews that said this was a great way to pass the time. We instead hung out with our friends just relaxing on the pool deck. Our group was called about 9:30a. We then disembarked the ship. The only screening we went through leaving was a lady standing at the end of the gangway who asked to have our customs questionnaire. She took these, asked about two questions, did not ask to see passports, and that was it. Our luggage was in a corner of the building with the rest of the purple 10's. The park and ride service had booth outside the door, we picked up our keys and our car was about 50 feet away. So that was it.

The Post Cruise show was not offered this time. We opted to sit way back in the Colony Club at the stern of the ship. I would recommend waiting somewhere away from the Centrum. People seemed to be tripping over themselves here where the crowds thinned out as you moved away from the center. I think the trick is to prepare with a book or cards or something. You have the choice to be anxious and crowd in with the herd, or find a relaxing activity to entertain yourself while patiently waiting.

Debarkation began at 7:00a, an hour earlier than we had previously experienced. We had what I thought was an early flight (noon) so I asked for and received early departure tags. We got off the ship about 7:45a and made it to our gate at the Ft. Lauderdale airport by 8:45a. The cab from Miami to Ft Lauderdale cost us $63.50. I'd opt for a later flight out and a more economical transporation method in the future. I've since read that some companies offer Share-A-Ride for $15pp or we could have taken a ship transfer for $16 per person. I elected to not do the ship transfer because I had heard horror stories about the bus waiting until its full to leave and folks barely making their flights due to waiting. I still would not take a flight before noon because just one hold up with customs or traffic problems could cause you to miss a flight. One couple from our area was booked on a 2:00p flight, but got to airport very early. The airline offered them seats on our noon flight. My opinion is it is better to arrive early and hope you can get on a earlier flight than to miss your flight and be on standby for who knows how long.

The Final Bill

I heard many comments before my cruise regarding sticker shock at the final bill. The bill showed up on our door the morning we were to leave the ship (just to add insult to injury I'm sure). Well I did experience a little sticker shock. The first couple of days I kept track via the Interactive Television system, but stopped paying as close of attention near the end. I was benefitted by my gang at work buying $125 shipboard credit as a graduation present before we left. The final due was $593 after the credit, so $718 total spent, two people, seven days. I share this with you to help you budget your trip. The breakdown was:

Something close to that anyway. Our traveling partners spent about $630, but the breakdown was very different for these two.

The second time, 3-night, $260.

The third time, 11-night, $855.

I decided I was curious regarding averages, so I posted a poll question on cruisecritic.com. To see what other people say about their average bill view the POLL RESULTS and ensuing discussion.

Cruise Critic

One thing made this cruise remarkably better. We met so many people on-line prior to our cruise through CruiseCritic.com. One couple was from our own area and there was a group of us that posted on a daily basis. We had met prior the night prior to the cruise for dinner. By the time we were onboard on participating in activities, we knew people everywhere. The slide show presented under LINKS is a tribute to my Cruise Critic group. I hope to meet such a great group prior to every cruise from now on.

Accessibility

I wanted to make a few comments regarding accessibility on the ship. Overall the Radiance of the Seas is accessible to those with disabilities. There are a few suggestions I'd make to folks who might have extra challenges in getting around. While you can get around the ship, there are some events that you may want to ask for additional assistance with. Embarking and disembarking would be greatly simplified for you if you opted for extra assistance such as a wheelchair. The lifeboat drill would be another thing to pay close attention to as the elevators cannot be used for this. You will know when the drill is and where you assembly area is prior to the actual drill (this was at 10:00a on the first morning for us). 30-15 minutes before the drill, get your lifejacket and head to some central location near your actual assembly area. It amazed me the number of people I say mulling around with life jackets prior to the drill, but this is one case where I think it would be desirable. The only location I saw that was accessible only by stairs, was the helicopter pad. I did read an online review where a wheelchair passenger said the casino was not accessible. Although there was a 1-step level in the middle, I think I recall a ramp for this little incline. Perhaps I remember correctly but the ramp was not easy to maneuver, or perhaps I remember wrong. I saw several people with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs and didn't hear any complaints. One of my traveling companions has knee problems so avoided stairs most of the time and she got around okay, although I think she was a little more tired and sore than the rest of us. Ports may be the most difficult obstacles. Again, asking for additional assistance to get on and off the ship would be recommended, especially if you must tender off the ship in any port. If wandering around town browsing at gift shops doesn't sound feasible for an entire afternoon, plan alternatives such as specialized tours or renting a car and doing things at your own pace.

I checked and there is a ramp to get up the level in the casino. I think the ordeal is it is hard to manuever through the crowds given this one ramp.

Accessibility review of the Brilliance by Jerry, Mr. Wheels.

Links

Here are a few links that you will definitely find useful in planning your cruise. Unfortunately, I discovered these after I returned.

A few book recommendations Yes, I own and have read each of these books

I'm sure I've missed something here, but will update the page as things come up.

E-mail with additional information or questions.




9/26/2004 Legend of the Seas - Mexican Riviera

6/5/2005 Mediterranean on the Brilliance of the Seas

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