I was on the Royal Caribbean cruise cancelled after we boarded. I was disappointed, but I’m grateful for the memories

03 May 2024
Kayla Hildebrandt

A propulsion issue forced Royal Caribbean to cancel an Alaska cruise after guests boarded, including Kayla Hildebrandt.

Kayla was on the cancelled Alaska cruise

The April 26 sailing of Radiance of the Seas was scheduled to sail a 7-night Alaska cruise, but an issue with the ship's propulsion caused initially a delay of departure, and then a full cancellation.

The last-minute cancellation disrupted the well laid out plans of those booked on the cruise, but it's difficult to fathom the impact unless you were directly affected.

Kayla shared her perspective of the experience, as well as what to consider for anyone else in the future who might experience something like this.

When a Cruise Gets Cancelled – Making the Best of It


As the years have gone on, there are two main times of year I tend to cruise: 

  1. in late April/early May for my birthday 
  2. in late September/early October, for our anniversary. 

This year – I decided I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous – a cruise to Alaska on a Radiance class ship, which is my favorite class.

Little did I know at the time – but this would truly become a bit of a roller coaster adventure. 

Spoiler alert: It turned out fun anyway.



Due to a bit of hectic work travel, I wound up heading out to Vancouver about 12 hours after arriving home to Cincinnati from Halifax on a business trip. This resulted in both severe overpacking and a significant loss of sense of the current time. Nonetheless, we made it out to Vancouver without issue. 

I had seen the emails from Royal Caribbean indicating that Radiance of the Seas had been having issues, but I thought nothing of it at the time. Ship issues aren’t super uncommon, and in more than 25 cruises, I’d never had one actually cancel over simply changing the itinerary. 


My husband and I agreed to go along with it and see what happened. We enjoyed an incredible pre-embarkation meal at Elisa in downtown Vancouver and our stay at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver.

Embarkation Day


We boarded during our 10 AM boarding window as scheduled, and again, without much concern. We made our way through the pin-ball boarding process that seems to be Canada Place in Vancouver and sat in the rows with the rest of our excited cruisers.

While we were waiting, one of the managers announced in the rundown about boarding that he expected that the required repairs wouldn’t be completed today – but he hadn’t received anything official yet. This is the first point that I started to think, “we’ll be seeing changes.” 

I’ll also admit, with all the work travel, I hadn’t thought to check online (as I normally would have) to see what had happened on the previous sailing. Either way – we agreed: just go with the flow and got on board.

On the Ship

Radiance of the Seas

For this cruise, we booked into cabin 3500, an ocean view cabin all the way forward on the starboard side of the ship. 

While not quite a balcony like I constantly hear recommended for Alaska sailings, we had a huge bright window that allowed us to check out what was going on directly outside and get some sunlight in the room. 

The room had tons of space – even with the amount I had overpacked, I had no issue unloading and finding space for all our things. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of clever storage on the Radiance class. I’d happily book this category again to save a few dollars to put towards fun excursions.

Onboard Radiance of the Seas

Once we had a quick chance to explore the ship and sit down to grab lunch at the Windjammer, we finally got word that we’d be missing Juneau and staying in Vancouver an extra two days.

While my initial thought was to spend some time exploring Vancouver, the staff quickly clarified that we would all need to stay on board due to customs regulations. 

Again, no problem. This was also our first cruise that we had not done a drink package of any kind and having given up alcohol a few years ago, we were pretty happy about the option for Pellegrino and Diet Coke while enjoying our stationary time on board. 


We proceeded to enjoy the rest of our first day by getting a deep tissue massage, grabbing dinner in the dining room, and heading to bed early. After coast-to-coast travel, I was very tired.

We knew that we’d be shifting a bit down the coast to a quiet cargo port overnight but waking up to the misty and rainy mountain views that surround Vancouver still made for quite a sight. 

After some breakfast and coffee in the Crown Lounge, we settled in for a movie day: back-to-back viewings of Dune 1 and 2, with a break in between for lunch and a nice walk around deck 5. Even when stationary on a ship that is undergoing repairs, it still makes for a relaxing afternoon. 

Radiance of the Seas ready to resume cruises

During our lunch walk, they announced that Wi-Fi would be free for the next two days. This is when it hit me something big was about to change.

It was halfway through Dune 2 that the captain finally announced that the cruise was cancelled. 

I’ll admit, I felt very sad at that moment. This was my birthday cruise, and a trip I had been looking forward to through months of work stress. 

Radiance of the Seas letter

In that announcement, the Captain included all the important details: we’d need to disembark the following morning, and Royal Caribbean would be issuing a letter to all cabins very shortly with details (we saw that letter on our door within the hour). 

The very first thing I did was to book a hotel for the next night and change our flights around to get back home.

After some processing time, I realized it was a reminder that things aren’t always going to go to plan, and things like this aren’t in our control. The only choice we get is how we react to it. 

So, after chatting in the Centrum over Heineken 0.0s, we made a couple decisions:

  • We’re going to stay in Vancouver for an extra 2 days to explore the city.
  • We’re going to use our FCC to book a New Year’s Eve cruise – something else we’ve always wanted to do, and something to look forward to on my first winter break of graduate school.

By the time we talked through our plans for Vancouver and for our new sailing, we were giddy and wanted to spend the rest of our time on board the ship to the fullest. 

We wound up having an insanely fun dinner at Izumi (big shout out to Ronald, Jelly, and Adonis!) and set to enjoy the rest of our time in Vancouver, a city we wound up absolutely loving.

Final Thoughts

Radiance of the Seas docked in Vancouver

If I could go back in time and have a do-over, I don’t think there’s much that I would change. 

While I’m still very sad I didn’t get to see Alaska this year, I believe I’ll have another opportunity to go, and this cancellation provided an additional opportunity to get to know Vancouver, which is truly a very cool city.

Additionally, I would gladly book Radiance or one of her sister ships again.

The experience provided was my own and while I felt that we handled it well in the circumstances we had, I felt bad for others that traveled in from Europe or Australia for the experience. That’s a lot of travel time sunk into an experience that you didn’t expect to have changed so significantly. 

Radiance pool deck in Alaska

Most others we encountered onboard carried a positive attitude around the experience, which also impacted our attitude on how we moved forward. Passengers I encountered discussed their alternate plans with us almost happily, though based on the constant line at Guest Services and other voices overheard in the Crown Lounge, I don’t expect that that was everyone’s experience. 

Similarly, the crew being in limbo and the uncertainty of when they’d be able to work with incoming passengers again was a bit sad to see.

Radiance of the Seas docked in Vancouver

I feel that the compensation provided by Royal Caribbean was fair. While we haven’t had the refunds hit our credit card yet, nor have I gone through submitting our hotel and taxi receipts quite yet (not to mention the travel insurance aspect), I do know there’s a lot to process and that this will likely take some time. 

I’m grateful for the promise of a full refund, the paid hotel for the couple of days in Vancouver, as well as the future cruise credit. It took a lot of the sting out of a significant change of plans. 

While onboard, I really do think the ‘open bar’ policy made a difference, even for us as non-drinkers. Since we weren’t at sea, the casino and shops remained closed and the number of bars available were limited, but it was still fun to see people making the best of their vacation together.

Vancouver Recommendations

Vancouver aerial

If you ever find yourself with a few extra days in Vancouver, here’s some suggestions:

  • Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
  • Explore the sights on foot or on bike around Stanley Park
  • Check out Granville Island Public Market
  • Take a food tour around Gastown
  • Book some local dining – Elisa and Nightengale both offered incredible meals

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