Marching off! (would have been a better title if the month was called "Cruise")
If you stop and look at your calendar (which is really a silly thing to do) you will see it’s now mid-March. How is that possible? 2.5 months into 2018 already. Less than 10 months till Christmas! Jeez!
Well now that I have gotten temporal shock out of my system and probably transmitted it to you, I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath, maybe get a cup of tea or coffee ☕️ or do you need something stronger 🍻 🍹 🥃.
As for me, I have just left Picton, 🇳🇿; which is, for many, the starting point after arriving on the south island of New Zealand, but for me it’s basically my finish point (with just Wellington left tomorrow). Then I will be crossing the ditch back to Sydney. Which pretty much brings a close to my adventures cruising in the Southern Hemisphere .
Back in Sydney I will disembark the Radiance. It’s been my home for 61 nights so far in 2018. Which, at years end, will make it my longest place of residence for the year. For the rest of the year, I will be on the move every few weeks. Either changing ships, or changing cities. wow
The Radiance of the Seas is definitely a favourite for myself and with many old hands to Royal Caribbean. If you spend any time talking with the long time cruisers they love the size and intimacy of this of ship and its sisters. (The Radiance is the namesake for the class, which includes Brilliance, Serenade, and Jewel). Even for many of the crew, these ships are some of the most preferred in Royal Caribbean fleet.
The lack (and that's a relative term when compared to the biggest ships in the fleet) of facilities is easily trumped by it’s intimacy and the breathtaking vistas that can taken in from many points of the ship. With guest numbers around 2000 and staff around 800 you really begin to get to know each other (especially after 2 months on board).
But time is running out for these ships, Radiance is 17 years old, and beginning to show her age. She is in need of some TLC. With her last refurbishment in 2016 (it’s hard to believe that was only 2 years ago) she is need a decent update and some repairs.
But of all the ships I have been on the Radiance class is definitely one of my favourites, I would love to see a Radiance v2 come online, but RCI is moving to bigger ships, with all current builds catering to 4000 or more guests. (2 Quantum, 1 Oasis, and 2 (completely mysterious) Icon class)
Anyway I digress; this season I have completed; 9 cruises, on board 4 ships, visited 7 countries (🇳🇿, 🇳🇨, 🇻🇺, 🇫🇯, 🇦🇺, 🇹🇴, & 🇮🇩), and around 22 ports. And I am now just over ½ way to the Pinnacle Club, RCI’s top tier in the Crown and Anchor Society (the loyalty program). That 700 points required is a LONG journey!
The one main observation I have taken away from this season, covers all ports, and countries. Is the inadequate facilities, tour operators (ranging from disreputable to just none); and poor (or costly) transport options. (My pick of transport would be Adelaide who have a cruise ship transport card for $10 which covers all transport in city, but it can still take over an hour to get to town with trains running every ½ hour, if you just miss one, make sure you have a book, or a device to kill time with). Pretty much every port needs to up its game, with deep water facilities for the bigger ships, better (faster) transport to town, and tour operators willing to work around the strict schedules that cruise lines have. I would also like to see ships spend more time in ports, especially places like Cairns, or other ports where the key attractions are a decent journey away,
Personally the biggest disappointment, has been the lack of scuba diving, how can you spend so much time on the water, and so little time in it? With the only dive happening in Vanuatu, and even then it was only a single dive (where’s the scuba emoji? Huh unicode?) With most ports being tender ports the whole process of disembarking and getting anywhere punctually is near impossible. The dive boats have already left, and very few operators cater to the cruise ship crowd. I am sure there are an opportunities for these operators to start catering to cruise ships (whether it be scuba or other active excursions), if not today with the older cruisers, certainly in the not too distant future with many younger folk getting into cruising.
The real surprise this season has been New Zealand. I have loved almost every port we have sailed to, my only disappointment (again), we didn’t stay longer in several places. Picton, Tauranga, and the Bay of Islands been my pick for an extended stay.
The South Pacific Islands have their charm, but I am in no rush to re-visit them on a cruise ship, (trans-Pacific crossings excluded).
I would definitely be interested in more Australian cruises! How is it an island continent, where 85% of the population live within 50km of the ocean doesn’t have more ports and facilities to appeal to cruise ships? Or why aren’t the cruise lines going there? My guess, is a lack of government planning in these places.
I am very lucky to have gotten in on the circumnavigation of Australia this year, as the Radiance (or any other RCI ship) is not scheduled to do it next season. I hope that it is added to future ship schedules, possibly with alternating ports every season. This is something I want to do again (with scuba dives in the appropriate places)
So that’s it, next up is the Ovation of the Seas, which will take me to Singapore 🇸🇬 and my adventures for the Northern Hemisphere begin.