Posts tagged radiance
Grandeur of the Seas

With my cruise to Cuba 🇨🇺 behind me it is now time to add one more country to my list of visited countries, and possibly it will be the last addition for a while, Bermuda 🇧🇲. It’s a short cruise, only 5 nights, but I’m doing back to back this time round, with 9 nights to New England and Canada 🇨🇦 (where I’m hoping to get some relief from the relentless tropical 🌴 Caribbean sun). 

The sailaway from Baltimore was a long one, but with a sunset at around 20:30, it meant we could enjoy the views around the Chesapeake Bay for quite some time. 

It was near sunset when I was sitting in the Centrum, watching the cruise director staff and guests participate in games, I glanced over at the windows to see many guests gathering to enjoy the final solar performance for the day. And what a spectacular sunset 🌅 it was. 

Can’t do this on  Quantum  or  Oasis  class

Can’t do this on Quantum or Oasis class

The Grandeur of the Seas may be old, but like the other Vision class and Radiance class ships 🛳 you can really take in the views from many places from within the ship. You know you are at sea. 

Another benefit of these smaller ships, within the first few hours of the cruise, I had found 4 staff whom I had met from different ships on previous cruises. And for me that is a true highlight. 

I was on the Harmony for 3 weeks when I finally ran into one of my favourite bar lasses from my time on the Explorer. I had no idea she was onboard, and I didn’t see here again.  

The more I cruise, i increasingly find myself attracted to the smaller ships. And it concerns me that Royal Caribbean haven’t  announced anything to replace Vision or Radiance class vessels. 

(My Majesty of the Seas post is written, I just need to proof read it some more and make those final touches before I can get it posted). 

Bigger and better? Or Practical and Soulless?

My friend sent this article from Bloomberg to me, highlighting the changes in the cruise industry in its efforts to modernise and attract a younger market.

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Gone are the days when entertainment at sea consisted of a lounge act near the mini casino and shuffleboard on the lido deck. As Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. build ever larger vessels and try to lure younger guests, they’re unleashing an arms race to deliver ever more-elaborate onboard activities.

BLOOMBERG - BILLION-DOLLAR CRUISE SHIP BRINGS GO-KARTS AND LASER TAG TO THE HIGH SEAS

In addition we see cruise lines moving away from all inclusive packages, and start charging for various activities and dining. Royal Caribbean has a few specialty restaurants requiring payment (and I can't help but feel that Harmony of the Seas has been designed to really push guests to specialty dining, the Windjammer buffet is one of the most limited I have encountered).  They are also charging guests on some cruises to use features like the North Star

As one of the officers confessed to me the other day, one of the problems with the larger ships is "throughput". How can RCI give all guests a chance to experience all the features onboard.  Norwegian has addressed this by introducing fees.

“What they’re trying to do is minimize the crowds,” said Stewart Chiron, who runs the online travel site cruiseguy.com. The cost “is not going to dissuade you from going. It may dissuade you from doing it 20 times.”
— Bloomberg - Billion-Dollar Cruise Ship Brings Go-Karts and Laser Tag to the High Seas
The  North Star  viewing platform over Auckland Harbour. On some cruises it costs money.

The North Star viewing platform over Auckland Harbour. On some cruises it costs money.

To long time cruisers this feels like (to borrow the American phrase) "nickel and diming". But how else do you provide everyone a chance to use the facilities? One option could be coupons; Royal Caribbean's Seapass already comes pre-loaded with the "coupons" for food and drink available to that guest, there is no reason it couldn't be extended to the activities and shows on board. But of course coupons don't increase revenue, and at heart every cruise line is a business with shareholders, revenue is what they do this for. 

My concern is that in search of the "wow" Royal Caribbean (and the other cruise lines) are losing the romance. Go-Karts and Laser Tag, how often do you want to do that? How often can you go down the same water slide? How many times can you ride the Flow Rider before you are asked to get off to allow other guests a chance? How many times can you escape the same Escape Room? Not only is throughput limited, the law of diminishing returns  begins to apply. Then ships with the "Wow" become ships with the "been there! done that!" And the arms race of developing attractions and excitement just gets taken to the next level. All at the cost of what was at the core of cruising, personal relationships.

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The smaller ships, limited by physical capacity, rely on the emotional experience to generate great memories. The physical rush of laser tag, go karts, or big water slides is so temporary. But emotional connections are longer lasting, richer and more meaningful.

The romance and character of smaller ships is getting lost in this new age. I wonder if there will be space in the future for a cruise line dedicated to some of the old experiences of cruising, with less emphasis on the superficial and more on the heart and soul. I can only hope, but I am not holding my breath. 

To Davy Jones Locker with Oasis Class
Doesn't matter what ship you are on, sunset at sea is awesome.

Doesn't matter what ship you are on, sunset at sea is awesome.

Any reader of my blog will know that the Oasis of the Seas was the ship that inspired me to cruise with Royal Caribbean. When it was launched in 2009 I was completely taken by the sheer size of the ship. The number of guests, the gross tonnage, the activities, and the facilities were all incredibly amazing. Jump forward nine years, and five cruises on board three Oasis class ships (Oasis, Allure, and, Harmony), I can safely say that I am done with this class of ship.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and there are many people who love these ships, I just happen to be one that doesn't. The ships are just too big, they are impersonal, lack intimacy, character and charm. All the activities require reservations, and if you're late, too bad, so sad bye-bye, you aren't getting in. With the exceptions of Ocean view, and Ocean balcony rooms, the deck five running track, and decks 15 through to 17, you would never know you are on a ship. And one of the reasons I like to cruise, love to cruise it Is to be on a ship. 

I love sitting in the Schooner Bar watching the ocean as I have a whisky, or play trivia or both. I love getting to know the crew and my fellow passengers, I love walking up to the evenings entertainment and finding a seat, I love sitting out on the helipad with a  cup of coffee watching the stars at night. 

Wooden shutters on the  Enchantment of the Seas , so much more charm than the grills used on  Oasis  class.

Wooden shutters on the Enchantment of the Seas, so much more charm than the grills used on Oasis class.

Sitting in the Schooner Bar on an Oasis class ship, is like being in a bar, next to a food court, in a shopping mall. With activities occurring there often interrupted by the events happening on the Promenade, and for the more popular activities seating can be very limited. The lido deck, is a mass of melanoma seeking, speedo wearing hordes. The Promenade Deck is the smallest shopping mall in the world, with all the commercialised hum, and none of the benefits. The outdoor movie theatre is for those who like watching things from an alternative angle, you sit in a seat with your body facing one direction and your head turned slightly a different direction. Who designed this mess?

The Oasis class is a ship for people who actually don't like cruising, they don't like the movement of the sea, they just want to drink, be entertained, and see some new places. It's a big floating hotel, it's an amazing feat of engineering, the logistics of feeding, and supplying the ship mind-blowing, but it's just not for me.

Personally I'd love to see them sunk and turned into  artificial reefs and wreck dives, they would be the most amazing wreck dives in the world. Currently Royal Caribbean have no plans to build smaller ships, nothing has been announced to replace Vision or Radiance class, and they are definitely two of Royal Caribbean's best sized ships. Vision Mk2 or Radiance Mk 2, that would be some exciting news. 

I have 1 more cruise on Harmony, then 2 on Oasis at the end of July, and that's the end of Oasis class for me. I will make exceptions, somebody buys me a ticket, I win a cruise, or an amazing itinerary, so never say never, but still no more future Oasis class bookings for me.

Radiance of the Seas  one of my favourite ships, even though it's old and has shwoer 

Radiance of the Seas one of my favourite ships, even though it's old and has shwoer 

Marching off! (would have been a better title if the month was called "Cruise")
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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

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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)

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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.

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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.