Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas Review – First Impressions

Unlike the previous summer, in 2019 I ventured further into Alaska aboard a cross-gulf cruise. Instead of boarding in Seattle, embarkation for Radiance of the Seas was in Vancouver, Canada. Destination:  Seward, Alaska and beyond.

Radiance of the Seas Review

Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas docked in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Radiance of the Seas docked at Berth 4 in downtown Ketchikan.

Getting to Vancouver without flying

My trip to Alaska from Florida involved four bone-jarring Amtrak trains across the most breathtaking parts of America just to reach Vancouver. I was ready to relax aboard Radiance of the Seas. This is the perfect ship for an Alaska cruise; huge expanses of glass windows let in sunshine and provide stunning vistas all around. 

The seven-day northbound, cross-gulf voyage would be a new experience for me. It was also my transportation to Seward; the doorway into the heart of Alaska and two weeks to explore from Seward to the Arctic Circle and back.

Ship Facts

Year Built:  2001
Passengers:  2,501
Crew:  859
Weight:  90,090
Dining Hours:  5:30PM and 8:00PM
Self-Service Launderette:  No
Outdoor Movies:  Yes

First impressions:  Welcome Aboard Radiance of the Seas

I knew when I booked that this ship was nearly 20 years old. Launched in 2001 and with barely 2,500 passengers, Radiance of the Seas is a smaller cruise ship by today’s standards. When I set foot onto the deck and walked into the Centrum (not Atrium) as it’s called on Radiance Class ships, there was an instant wave of nostalgia. Sister ship to Jewel of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas, I was familiar with the layout and decor.

Radiance of the Seas Centrum Lobby.
Caught a quick moment before the Centrum Bar became crowded.

My first impression of Radiance of the Seas‘ Centrum was…wow. Still as pretty as ever. A terrific gathering place throughout the day and night, with live music or cruise director-led fun and games.

Radiance of the Seas is a very elegant ship. Back in 2001, this was more the standard than the deviation. Sure, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas were still years away to launch, but this ship was a game-changer when it debuted. Beautifully polished hard woods accented by shiny brass railings and fixtures. Multi-colored glass art installations grace the stairwells. Designed for cruising Alaska, the use of glass and open space is significant.

I don’t know if most passengers take the time to note the attention to detail that was put into this ship.

Radiance of the Seas Review: The Fabulous Aft Balcony Stateroom

Finding my way to my stateroom was pretty easy. It was all the way at the very end of the ship so as long as I knew which way was forward and aft, all was good.

It doesn’t get much better than this, unless you have a suite. Even then, it’s not aft. Aft staterooms are amazing.

Radiance of the Seas Aft Balcony Stateroom.
Love love love this stateroom. Closet and bathroom…meh. But the room and balcony are wonderful.


Radiance of the Seas aft balcony.
I plan to spend as much time as possible here, just looking out at the world. Balcony is enormous!

A quick glance outside and I had my bearings on which way to walk. I squeezed past all the people asking directions and blocking the Centrum entrance, and over to the main elevator bank. Up to Deck 10 and I just kept on walking.

I booked this cruise nearly seven months ago as an inside guarantee. When I received my stateroom  confirmation I was shocked. Whomever was in charge of stateroom assignments put me into an aft-facing balcony stateroom.

Maybe my being a Diamond Plus member in Royal Caribbean’s Loyalty Club helped or maybe someone was having a good day. What ever the reason, I was so excited to finally experience what so many cruisers rave about with this type of stateroom.

Lunch in Windjammer Buffet

On my early morning train to Vancouver from Everett, WA, I had coffee and a slice of banana bread so I really didn’t need lunch. But I wanted to see how well Windjammer did on embarkation day. Only one flight up and I was there.

Radiance of the Seas Windjammer Vegetarian Buffet.
Something for everyone at the Windjammer Buffet.

Some things never change and Royal Caribbean’s embarkation lunch is one of them. I used to work at Port Canaveral for embarkation on the old Sovereign of the Seas. One of the perks was a 20-minute lunch break onboard.

Though the selections these days are vastly wider, the smells and elbow-to-elbow commotion are the same. My first impression of Radiance of the Seas buffet wasn’t a surprise. To find a good selection at the Vegetarian Station was an improvement.

It was tricky juggling a full plate of salad, iced tea, iPhone and wallet while trying to find a table. Finally, I heli-hovered nearby a table for two that was clearing and all was fine.

READ MORE: Eight Tips to Booking Your Own Shore Excursions

Cruise Maven Solo Traveler Tip:

Remember, if you cruise solo, always bring something to leave on the table. Then, if you should want return to the buffet mid-meal, the wait staff will know not to clear your plates.

Radiance Outdoor Areas

Royal Caribbean muster drill on the promenade deck of Radiance of the Seas.
I arrived at muster a little too early…

I had a little time to walk around the outdoor areas before muster. Radiance of the Seas arrived into Vancouver at dawn, after cruising from Australia. Maybe that was the reason for the outdoor recreation areas to look so worn down and downright dirty. The kid pools, splash areas and almost all outdoor spaces desperately needed scrubbing.

Radiance of the Seas deck chairs tied together at the railing.

Best Feature on the Radiance of the Seas

This Radiance of the Seas review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the best spot on the ship:  the Heli-Deck. There’s nothing much better than to be able to park yourself in one of the two benches and gaze out at the sea and scenery.

Believe it or not, except for sailaways and glacier-viewing, this area is usually empty. The wind can turn incredibly fierce and most guests don’t want to get battered about while the ship is underway.

Sailing away from Vancouver, Canada heading into the open ocean.

Sailaway was beautiful on this sunny Vancouver afternoon. The Heli-Deck was a popular vantage point, as you can see from the photo. As we turned into the channel and the wind picked up, the crowd quickly dispersed.

First Impression: Dinner in the Main Dining Room

Because I chose My Time Dining, I could in theory have dinner any time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly work that way. Royal Caribbean highly recommends that My Time Dining people call ahead and book a particular time, each day.

When I read this, I immediately called the four-digit phone number and placed on hold for 24-minutes. Luckily, as a solo, you can fit into just about any timetable. My dinner reservation was at 7:30pm. There were two lines at the Deck 4 entrance;  one for those with reservations and the other for walk-ups.

The procedure was very smooth and I asked for the largest available table, with other solo passengers. I was seated at a table for ten…already occupied by four couples.

Here’s a brief run-down on my meal:

Royal Caribbean escargot appetizer looks very greasy.
Probably the grossest escargot I’ve ever ordered. Greasy, milky, lukewarm and totally lacking garlic. The snails were ok.


Prime Rib dinner with a baked potato on the first night.
The potato was pretty good. Still lukewarm. Prime rib was also sub-par, over-cooked and fatty.

Overall, I’d give the welcome aboard dinner a C- grade. Some of the people at my table finished every morsel while a couple of others, like me, left most of it. There’s a pizza counter in the Solarium that I planned to visit. If it would be anything like Sorrento’s on Majesty, I’d have a tasty late-night snack.

Wrapping Up the First Night

The evening consisted of the usual Welcome Aboard show in the Aurora Theater, which I chose not to attend. I had been up and running since 6 a.m. and by 10 p.m. I was slowing down. Plus, with this stupendous balcony and fabulous stateroom, I really just wanted to enjoy the space and the clear, cool night air.

Radiance of the Seas Review in a Nutshell

  • Beautiful ship on the indoors
  • Outdoor areas are dirty
  • Wood railings on the outside in desperate need of varnish. Avoid getting splinters.
  • Aft balcony is enormous
  • Blanket is the perfect weight; doesn’t crush your feet
  • Crew is very helpful and friendly
  • Main dining room food gets a failing grade, in my opinion
  • Solarium is a very nice place to relax (if you don’t mind the pervasive chlorine smell)
  • Windjammer Lido buffet offers good vegetarian and wide selection of gluten-free options
  • TV programming is mostly Royal Caribbean sales pitches. No free movies.

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Collage of Radiance of the Seas interior photos. Text over image.

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  1. Hi Cher,
    Thanks for reading my article and taking the time to comment. I think you’re on the right track. From my galley tours I’ve learned that dinner orders are prepared individually and not pre-lined up under a heat lamp. However, a dish may sit under a heat lamp for too long if the waiter falls behind schedule or there’s some other interference. Or an item (in my case the baked potato) may just not be cooked enough because they’re rushing to plate everything. From past experiences, that’s what I think happened in my experience when it was served lukewarm. But who really knows what goes on during the dinner rush?

    Thanks again and happy cruising!

  2. Do you think food from MDR was lukewarm due to not having traditional dining time? Makes me wonder if your food was was “on schedule” to be served 1st seating and put in a warmer.

  3. Hi John,
    Thank you for reading my Radiance article. Odd…Royal Caribbean’s website states that Radiance has a Sorrento’s. I do not recall anything except for a very small area near the solarium that cooked pizzas to order late at night. There have been some small dining changes since I was on the ship right before the pandemic started. Hopefully, your kids will find late night pizza! Have a wonderful cruise and thank you again for stopping by to read and leave your comment.

  4. So, how was that late night pizza? We are going on the Radiance in December and we had only been on bigger ships with Sorrento’s. I am hoping my kids will still have a late night pizza option.

  5. Hi Liza,
    You will be in for a really fabulous experience. I think that in a couple of weeks, a lot of the hiccups will have been smoothed out. Cleaning on the exterior has begun and I’ve seen some fresh varnish on the railings, so not to worry about splinters. Good idea, too, for you to purchase the specialty dining package. Less crowds, better service. The ship is one of my favorites. It’s smaller, very spacious, beautiful, and slightly outdated, which I like! Have a wonderful cruise.

  6. Thank you, Sherry, for posting. We will be on the southbound Radiance in mid-July, so following along for comparison and we just can’t wait! Hopefully, the meals will rebound for you. We selected the Ultimate (now Unlimited) Dining Package and I’m thinking that was the right choice. Have a fantastic trip!

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