Overall Rating: Very Good
|# of Nights:||11-14 Nights|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
This was an 11-day cruise to Hawaii from Vancouver that we had also done in 2004 on the Radiance of the Seas. Having also done Hawaii on a different cruise line, we went back to this itinerary because of the number of ports and days actually spent in Hawaii: 2 days in Maui (Lahaina) plus a day each in Hilo and Kona on the Big Island plus a day in Kaui before ending in Honolulu. We love the Radiance class of ships on RCI and this latest cruise did not disappoint. Yes, there is wear and tear - this is an older ship - but overall everything is kept very clean and well-maintained. We flew into Vancouver a day early, which I highly recommend due to possible long lines through Customs and baggage clearance. Vancouver is such a wonderful city and there are great hotels right at the port area that will take your luggage from room to ship - easy peasy! And that is what we did, so thankfully we did not have to mess with luggage dropoff at the port....which leads to the one low rating of our cruise. There were two ships boarding, both owned by RCI, both sailing to Hawaii (Radiance and Silhouette.) Finding the right lines to go through each section of the boarding process was a nightmare....sometimes the lines were joined together; sometimes they separated them out; there were no signs and several times if we had not asked, we would have been waiting in the wrong line! We were both relieved and frustrated by the time we got to the gangway and finally KNEW FOR SURE that we were getting on the right ship! And the people dropping off luggage had even more confusion. Whether all this is due to RCI or the Port or either/both....they need to figure "it" out.
Once on board, though, most everything was terrific. The staff were friendly and helpful wherever we were. We especially liked our waitstaff in the MDR. We were Anytime diners but did make reservations ahead and after experiencing the wonderful service and friendliness of a particular waitstaff crew, we requested seating in their section each evening. The hostess was most gracious in accommodating our request, even if it meant seating the two of us at a table for four. As for the food, we found it vastly improved over our last few times on different RCI ships. Great variety, well-prepared, tasty food - simple as that. Another favorite spot was the Champagne Bar. The bartenders were very friendly and "our guy" would see us coming and get started on our perfectly-made dirty gin martinis. Great guys at the Champagne Bar. We like to play a few slots sometimes in the evenings and for a small casino, I think they did an excellent job of separating out the smoking side from the non-smoking side. Never did I feel like I had to move away, or leave due to the smoke or even the smell, as I have had to do on other ships/lines. I had read negative comments beforehand about the variety of slot machines, but we thought they were great. They had the latest themes, and a good assortment of penny, quarter and dollar machines.
This cruise had 5 days at sea as we sailed down from Vancouver, so plenty of time to relax, tour the ship, and enjoy some of the daytime activities. The weather was fairly chilly the first two days out but then warmed up nicely, which is where we encountered our other disappointment. There was a serious lack of deck chairs for the pool and open deck areas. We have recently cruised on other ships in this class and know that there is room for lots of deck chairs just about everywhere...but very few were to be found on this ship, and when we inquired, as did others, we were told that they were not on the ship at all...that they would be loading on more in Hawaii for their next run to Australia. I know they were ending their Alaska season, but it seems to me they could have chairs stored in Vancouver to load on as they head out with 5 days at sea, to a tropical destination. Needless to say, we made do, and it would not be a dealbreaker as far as going again, but a needless annoyance none the less.
Ports were wonderful and even though some excursions had to be cancelled due to flooding from the two recent hurricanes that skirted the islands, Royal did try to accommodate everyone on alternate excursions. Our Road to Hana tour was cancelled on Maui so we opted in to a sunset catamaran cruise, which was absolutely wonderful! We had to tender in two ports: Lahaina and Kona. The operation in Lahaina had a few glitches and some people (including us) waited 3-4 hours to get off the ship. Luckily we had two days in port, so still got a fairly good visit in. As we were leaving for the next port, the Captain apologized for the lack of organization and promised that the Kona stop would be greatly improved and that tendering would begin an hour earlier than planned so that we could make the most of our day. And, as promised, tendering did go very smoothly in Kona, despite pretty big sea swells. The captain gave us one other surprise, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the cruise: Instead of sailing from Hilo to Kona via the Northern route, he took us around the south so that we could see the active lava flow into the ocean from the Kilauea volcano! It was fabulous; as we drew near you could see this red glow in the distance and as we approached you saw the lava flow down the mountain and hear the hiss as it hit the water. In the water it glowed like a ring of fire, growing and dying out as the flow dictated. He actually idled, and turned the ship 360 degrees like they do for the glaciers in Alaska so that all sides could get a good view. It was wonderful!
Disembarkation in Honolulu went very smoothly and as we had tacked on 3 days there, we took a taxi to our hotel: The Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki. I worried a little bit about how huge this place is, and whether the service would be able to keep up, etc. and when I first encountered the registration line, I feared I had been right. BUT.....once you got through that process you had nothing else to worry about. The rooms, the grounds, the facilities, the service - all are top notch. We had booked into the Rainbow Tower, which is oceanfront/oceanview. We requested an oceanfront room, and when we opened our door to the view - breathtaking! There was, of course, the beautiful beach that the Hilton fronts, but also Diamondhead. We spent much time just sitting on our balcony, soaking up that view! You could stay there and never leave the grounds because everything you could want is right there....the beautiful beach, multiple pools, scads of shopping, great restaurants, a toprated Hawaiian show... it has it all. But if you do want to get out and about, the hotel is in a great location; the full stretch of Waikiki is walkable (we did it several times to various attractions,) and the bus stop is right across from the lobby. You can take the bus just about anywhere you want to go: Downtown, Pearl Harbor, Diamondhead, etc. This resort is especially perfect for multigenerational families because there is so much that appeals to all ages.
The extra days were a nice way to end a wonderful cruise, one that I highly recommend to anyone considering a cruise to Hawaii. Whereas the ship is older and does not have all the bells and whistles, the officers and crew provide guests with wonderful service, good food, and a pleasant "home" for 11 days. Feel free to ask further questions or private message me and I'll be happy to provide more details.