We left Weeki Wachee the morning of Sail Away Day in a torrent of rain. The drive to the pier in Tampa was nothing short of harrowing and I'm not being dramatic here! We took one of the toll roads which meant it wasn't as crowded as the interstate would have been but there were still plenty of idiots going way too fast given the poor visibility and very slick roads. Not to mention, I had to use the facilities 1/2 hour into the trip. Why does this ALWAYS happen? Mr. B finally pulled off a few exits before we got to the pier; I didn't want to get dropped off at the terminal building and stand there with my legs pressed tightly together lugging our bags, waiting for a porter, etc.
Ok, so, when we did get to the pier (very easy to find), we were relieved to see the ship towering over the terminal building. As some of you know, there had been an outbreak of "something" on the ship several cruises before ours. Over 100 people were reported ill, they completely bleached and disinfected the ship before allowing it to sail again (which meant the people on the following cruise didn't get to board until 6:00 pm and the ship didn't sail until after 10:00 pm). There were reports from that cruise of no one being able to serve themselves (e.g., at buffets) or even hold their own menus in the dining rooms. Also, no salt and pepper shakers, no dishes of butter. Even though there had been zero reports about issues on the following cruise (the one just before ours), we were still a bit anxious about another outbreak. I had come prepared; tons and tons of antibacterial wipes and several bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer.
Anyway, the ship was there. Mr. B pulled up to the curb and a porter immediately materialized to whisk away our bags. Mr. B went to park the car across the street while I stood there watching a large crowd of seniors get off a bus and the chaotic process of them finding porters for their luggage.
Mr. B came back within 10 minutes and we went inside the terminal building. We were so pleased with the process at Tampa! So much more organized than in Norfolk. We breezed through security, filled out our health forms, and were immediately checked in by a friendly Royal Caribbean employee. A few minutes after, we were on the ship (after stopping to take the obligatory "Welcome Aboard" picture (which we didn't buy because I didn't like the way I looked)).
We come onto the ship on Deck 5. My general impression of Radiance was that she was a bit larger than Enchantment (several decks taller) and there seemed to be a lot more glass and chrome. Over the course of the cruise, we learned she had several more restaurants/bars than Enchantment and some really cool elevators that were designed to appear as if they were out over the ocean. I'd read quite a bit on the message boards prior to sailing about there being some issues with plumbing and that she was going into dry dock in May; after which, she'd come out an entirely different ship (different restaurants, updated carpet, new furnishings in the staterooms, flat screened TVs, some rooms made over to single traveler rooms (an interesting concept), etc.)) We'd been lucky enough to go on Enchantment a few weeks AFTER she'd come out of dry dock so I was a bit worried that Radiance would be on her last legs or something. Not true; we never saw anything that was not perfectly elegant.
So, we wandered around a bit, getting our bearings, but, it wasn't long before we were in The Schooner Bar ordering our first drink of the cruise; Mr. B was pleased that Radiance had draft beer (Enchantment did not) and I, of course, was overjoyed to be reunited with Royal Caribbeans famous frozen mojitos!
After checking out a few more public places, we headed to the main dining room, Cascades (yes, there was a cascading waterfall near the entrance) to find our table.
I'll say this upfront and get it out of the way. The dining room situation was the fly in the ointment on this cruise. Everything else, for the most part, was fine; but, this really irritated me. From the get-go, when I made the RSVP, I was clear that we needed a quiet table because Mr. B is hard of hearing in one ear. Seriously, if there is too much clatter and din, he really cannot hear. I noticed on our invoice/ticket it said "Request quiet table near window; one passenger deaf in one ear". Ok, not exactly true, but close enough.
We found our table; yes, it was a window table sure enough but it also was a table for 10. Seriously, what's the likelihood we'd be able to snag the two chairs by the window every night? And, frankly, neither one of us were thrilled with the prospect of sharing our meals with eight other people we didn't know. So, off to find the Maitre d' to see about getting the table changed. We'd had to do this on Enchantment, too, so were not overly surprised. However, we lucked out then and were moved to a lovely, quiet table for two by the window. Not so this time; we got the run-around about there being a waiting list for tables for two. Mr. B mentioned the deafness; after some shuffling, we did get a table for two except it was right by the entrance to the dining room and behind a waiter's station. On top of it, the table behind Mr. B was full of loud people who seemed to like to shout at one another and the tables next to us had several small children who didn't stay in their seats. Not quiet at all. We tried several more times to get a better table and our head waiter said he kept trying for us, but, suffice it to say, we were stuck there.
I found it extremely interesting that Royal Caribbean took the deafness seriously enough to put this weird vibrating/flashing light device in our stateroom (for emergencies, I guess) but yet we couldn't get a decent table. Of course, I'm thinking had Mr. B slipped the Maitre d' a $20, we may have had our table! This is something I'll have to figure out before we cruise again; how to get the table we want so we don't have to mess around with it/be dissatisfied. I know one way; get a few other people to go on a cruise with us and then we'd have our own table. Any takers?
We had lunch our first day in the Windjammer up on Deck 11; this is the buffet for those of you not familiar with Royal Caribbean. This was the first and only time we ate there for the entire cruise. Nothing was wrong with it, but, I was just sorta paranoid about another outbreak and by the time we cruised, they'd stopped serving everyone. I saw enough that afternoon of people pawing at the food that grossed me out sufficiently to steer clear. I know there are a lot of people who cruise in order to stuff themselves silly at the buffets and all the other free food stations, but, the B's are not included in that crowd.
Around 1:00 pm, we were able to get into our stateroom and start the unpacking process. As others had mentioned, it was quite a haul to our stateroom at the very back of the ship from the nearest bank of elevators/stairs. Heck, at least we'd be ensured some exercise (this and climbing up and down the stairs; something we did almost all the time unless I was wearing high heels). In general, we were pleased with #1104 on Deck 10 (do not ask me why it wasn't #1004!) especially the huge balcony. The room itself was somewhat smaller than the one we had on Enchantment and the bathroom, well, it was downright dinky and I don't think a large person would be very comfy in the tiny little stall shower (with the butt-crack attacking shower curtain) but since it was a five night cruise, we had figured we could make do with the smaller quarters. Plus, we wanted to try an aft balcony. Having said all of this, we've decided we'll always go for a junior suite or larger, mostly because the bathroom is fairly sizable and the attention from the stateroom attendant is much more personal. Our stateroom attendant this cruise was just okay. He kept the room clean; that's about it.
The bed was very comfy and right by the door leading out to the balcony. Nice to wake up every morning to a lovely view of the ocean.
Our luggage hadn't arrived yet but our Champagne had! Despite it being rainy and icky outside, we ventured out to enjoy a flute of Champagne out on the balcony, toast, and wish ourselves a Merry (belated) Christmas (the cruise was our Christmas present to each other). After the bags arrived, Mr. B unpacked (he's much better at finding the perfect spot for everything than I am) while I took pictures and shot the video of the stateroom. This I do to post on-line; you'd be amazed how many people are looking for pictures/videos of "the" stateroom they'll be staying in.
Mr. B checking out the view.
The large balcony.
Final picture with the cell phone before turning it off!
Relaxing after unpacking. Note the weird vibrating/flashing device on the night stand underneath the phone.
Around 3:30 pm, we headed down to Deck 5 for the mandatory muster. Nothing exciting to report about that.
Finally, sail away at 4:30 pm. Another drink in hand, we stood on top of Deck 12 and watched Tampa slip away. Well, not really; the way it's situated in amongst all the channels, it took over three hours to actually get out of there onto the open sea. By that time, we'd of course gone inside to find some place warmer to watch the lovely sunset. We choose the Viking Crown Lounge up on Deck 13, just about the highest vantage point on the ship.
Sailing away with a frozen mojito and hoping the weather improves (it did).
The terminal building in Tampa.
Dinner that evening was fine (although we were both still a bit miffed about the table situation). One very nice thing about the food in the main dinning room is that the portions are just right and there is plenty of variety. As on Enchantment, we'd prepaid for the wine package and there was a fairly decent selection.
The evening ended relatively early for us; by the time we'd finished dinner it was after 10:00 pm and we were both exhausted and ready for sweet dreams on the high seas!