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Adam23

Radiance Of The Seas Southbound - July 19-July 26

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Greetings Royal Caribbean Blog. My name is Adam and I am from Ohio. This is my first ever post on the forum and I am excited to start contributing. I have been ghost reading the blog and forums for a over a year now. It has immensely helped my girlfriend and I book and plan our first Royal Caribbean cruise in the March of 2018 as well as planning our upcoming Alaska Adventure. We depart in 11 days! Below is a summary and kind of a play by play on how our vacation has come together. I hope to provide daily updates during the cruise. I am not to sure if the photos will upload or not so that may be a bit delayed.

 

My girlfriend and I started planning our 2019 summer adventure back on our Freedom of the Seas cruise in March of 2018 while on board. We visited the Next Cruise and gathered ideas on future cruise options. We both love traveling and seeking out new places in the world to visit and explore. There are so many cruise destinations, however, Alaska Cruises really intrigued us. We didn’t book any cruises while board. Mainly because we were blown way by the cruise price at first and the thought of airfare to Alaska. Since we are in our early to mid-20’s and are not too established in our careers yet, planning our vacations thoroughly is a must so we can find the most cost-effective option.

 

About 10 months or a so ago, after deciding what summer vacation to pursue we settled on an Alaska cruise leaving from Seward, AK (Fly in Anchorage). The two options we looked at was either a week-long or so western US National Park Adventure (Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton) or an Alaska cruise. Our National Park Adventure will have to wait till next year…

 

After lots of debate on which Alaskan itinerary, cruise line and what month to travel we finally chose the Radiance of the Seas Southbound leaving July 19th. We explored all the other cruise lines and ports of departure just to make sure we were making the best possible financial and itinerary decision. Itinerary was a must for us, our focus was for port heavy cruises. I went as far as looking into what ships are in each port for the months of June, July and August in Alaska. It appears the sailing we selected has one of the best days in each port this summer in terms of lack of other cruise ships in port.

 

Radiance of the Seas cruise pricing for the most part seemed less expensive for cruise fare than for cruises leaving Seattle or Vancouver, however, airfare to Anchorage was a bit steep as well. It took a few months of watching airfare to finally jump on it when pricing appeared to be as low as it was going to go for a decent flight. We plan on arriving a full day early in case of any flight delays and to explore Anchorage some. Because the cruise leaves on a Friday, it would have been a bit difficult to take off more than 7 business days in a row. Therefore, cutting down on pre-cruise time in Anchorage.

 

Below is a more in depth look of the cruise, our plans beforehand, on-board and excursions (Thank you Twangster for the live blog format):

 

Itinerary

Day              Port of Call                                        Arrive       Depart

1                   Seward                                                                  8pm

2                   Hubbard Glacier (At Sea)                 3pm            5pm

3                   Juneau                                                9am            9pm

4                   Skagway                                             7am           830pm

5                   Icy Strait Point                                   630am       3pm

6                   Ketchikan                                            9am           6pm

7                   Inside Passage (At Sea)                                          

8                   Vancouver                                           7am

 

 

The Ship and Cabin

After doing my daily research of potential future cruise ships to cruise on, it appears Radiance of the Seas is a wonderful mid-size ship with many areas to soak in the Alaska landscape. Having sailed on the Freedom of the Seas last year we got started off on the larger end of the ship spectrum with RCL. I am excited to see what the Radiance class has to offer.

I believe I saw a quote somewhere calling Radiance the “Dining” ship in Australia. That’s perfect for me, I’m always thinking about my next meal while consuming my current meal. The indoor Solarium and abundance of food options will be clutch during our time on sea days and in the evening time prior to dinner on some port days.

We originally booked a Guarantee Inside stateroom. Shortly after booking we were placed on deck two. We were not too bummed by the selection. Closer to the entrance and exit to get on and off the ship and likely pretty quiet at night. And pretty smooth down on deck two. Someone correct me if I am wrong on the smoothness the lower you go. If I remember correctly on Freedom, deck two was actually a little spooky.

A month ago, I was sent a Royal Up email for Ocean View and two Balcony options. I bid slightly over the minimum. I actually forgot about it till about a week ago when I got an email saying we were upgraded to an Oceanview! Hooray! Not a balcony, but at least we can possibly spot some sea life through our port hole when we wake in the mornings.

 

Pre-Cruise Plans

We fly to Anchorage with a connection in Seattle arriving at noon thirty the day before the cruise departs in Seward.

We looked at either an Air bnb or a hotel depending on price and location. Ultimately it made more sense to book somewhere pretty close to the train station since we depart at 645am the following morning. The Voyager Inn in the heart of the city caught our attention and we booked it at a reasonable rate compared to other Anchorage hotels.

Since we are arriving a full day early, it is a must we do some hiking in Chugach State Park (right outside Anchorage) and then some eating and drinking in Anchorage. Our plan, if the weather is in our favor is to pick up the rental car near our hotel, hopefully check in to the hotel and drive about an hour south to Girdwood and drive up to the Crow Pass Trail head. The Crow Pass Trail is a 23 mile or trail from Girdwood area all the way to Eagle River. We will likely only hike about 4 miles in and 4 miles out. I’ve heard this is one of the best hikes in the park so fingers cross weather is solid. Then we drive back to Anchorage to eat and drink good food and beer.

At 645am ish the next morning (Cruise Day!) our train from Anchorage to Seward departs. I’ve heard this is an amazing train ride and has me excited. We’ll get in around 11am. Instead of following RC Blog protocol and board the ship as soon as possible we will actually take a shuttle to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center in Kenai National Park just outside Seward. Looking to be there a few hours and hope to be on the ship by 5or 6pm. I believe technically we don’t need to be on till 630pm.

 

Specialty Dining and Drink/ Internet Package

Purchased the three-night dinning package and Ultimate Drink Package for me and UDP w/ Internet for my GF. YOLO

We had a bad experience in Chop’s on Freedom. May skip Chop’s this cruise.

For sure will hit up Izumi and Giovanni’s. Debating if Samba will be worth it or go to Izumi twice.

I did a simple price comparison between drinks on our own (guessing the amount of drinks we would buy on average per day) or buying the package. Made sense to get the package since the price was solid. Also, no stress purchasing drinks on-board is a plus.

 

Excursions

The top reason for this cruise was the ports of call. My girlfriend and I went all out on excursions. We also went against RC Blog protocol and did not book any excursion through Royal. We felt we could get a better experience with smaller groups and highly rated tour companies. Since we are in port longer, we feel we could take the risk to go with third-party tours.

I’ll post a quick summary of what each excursion entails. If anyone wants more info on the excursion or company please let me know and I will provide!

 

Juneau

We are hiking a glacier! We are going on a trek to the Mendenhall Glacier and then hiking up on top of the glacier. The tour starts at 930am and is completed by 530pm or so. All transportation and most of the gear is provided. Should provide us with a couple of hours to eat some dinner or a snack and check out Juneau a bit after the excursion.

 

Skagway

Heading over to Haines on the fast ferry and doing some kayaking at Chilkoot Lake. Hope we see some great wildlife while on the lake. Our excursion starts at 930am and arrives back to Skagway at 345pm. This was the only timeslot left. Consumes most of the day but will totally be worth it.

After the kayaking we will explore Skagway a bit and hopefully have some time to explore some of the local trails. I don’t think we will have much time to hike. Which is a bit of a bummer since I have heard there are some great places to hike nearby.

 

Icy Strait Point (ISP)

Since it appeared the best places to whale watch in our ports of call are either Juneau or ISP, ISP became the official whale watching stop since the glacier trek will be an all-day excursion in Juneau.

I googled the best whale watching companies and I believe I booked with the top-rated company. Now I’m going to assume that doesn’t guarantee we will see whales; but it is going to be a lot nicer to be on a boat with 4 or 5 other folks and not 50.

 

Ketchikan

This is the grand finale excursion. One of the top reasons my girlfriend and I wanted to go to Alaska. To see wildlife! Well it doesn’t get much better than this. We are taking a float plane trip to Anan Creek to see the bears feast on salmon in their natural habitat! I believe this is one of the few places in the world where brown and black bears eat in the same location. The feeding period is only July through August and I believe we will be there at peak time. The National forest service which operates Anan Creek only allows a certain number of permits given out every single day. There is an observational platform near the creek where you can watch the bears gorge themselves with salmon.

There is a lottery system that decides who gets them on what days. The lottery occurred back in November but I reached out to a few companies in September so they could put us on their list if they got permits. In order for us to increase our chances of selecting the company that got permits we chose a cruise date with no other cruise ship in port. It happens this sailing, there are not other cruise ships in port this day. While we were able to get permits very easily, it was nice knowing for sure we will be basically guaranteed permits since no other ships are in port.

 

 

Let me know if you have any questions about our upcoming trip! I can’t wait to share with y’all.

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16 minutes ago, SolariumSnoozer said:

I will be following along, I have this same itinerary booked for next summer.  You have some great excursions book, can't wait to hear about them.  Enjoy your cruise. 

I just wanted to tell you I love your user name!!!!   Awesome!!! Jane

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@Adam23 we were in freedom in March 2018!  And before I commented on Alaska, definitely go on the land trip to those national parks.  We went about 6 years ago and spent a week in glacier before going down to Yellowstone and one day at Grand Teton (wish we'd done another day there... Beautiful and way less crowded than Yellowstone).  Glacier I believe is the most beautiful Park we have been to and so not crowded.  I can't wait to go back someday for sure.

   So happy to read your post!!!  Your trip sounds amazing.  Alaska is definitely a bucket list trip for me.... Someday!!!   I will hit you up tour companies at some point.  I think a lot of people here like the smaller independent companies...I think I will regret not doing more of them in Europe this year but it was just easier to do the ship ones.  

   Your hikes sound absolutely amazing!  What a great way to start your trip with an 8 mile beautiful hike...I'm jealous lol!!!   

   I think your dining and drink pkg sound like good choices .. You will appreciate the bottled water too I would think and the prepaying always helps budget.  I would think about giving chops another chance... Every once in a while you get a bad specialty experience.  Izumi has been amazing both times I have been to it!  

   Looking forward to your updates.  I hear amazing things about radiance!!  Have an amazing trip!  Jane

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Following! Sounds like you've got a fantastic set of excursions planned out, and really did your homework on scheduling this all out.

Definitely don't feel like you "went against RCBlog protocol" with booking all 3rd-party excursions, you totally made the right call with the amount of time you're in port each day. Those are exactly the right conditions to go with third-party excursions and save yourself some $$$ or get the smaller groups you're looking for.

May want to double-check what time muster drill will be on embarkation day. With the ship not leaving until 8 you should be OK with your plan to board around 6:30 PM, but it would be good to have that time confirmed if possible.

Have a great trip, and just post when / as you're able to. We'll be here whenever it comes out. 😊

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Sounds like an amazing itinerary!  And excellent job on the ISP choice..that was the best place for seeing whales.  We went on a small boat with 5 passengers and the captain and got to beat the larger excursions.  It was an amazing experience!

My Alaskan cruise on Radiance has been, by far, my favorite cruise ever.

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3 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

@Adam23 we were in freedom in March 2018!  And before I commented on Alaska, definitely go on the land trip to those national parks.  We went about 6 years ago and spent a week in glacier before going down to Yellowstone and one day at Grand Teton (wish we'd done another day there... Beautiful and way less crowded than Yellowstone).  Glacier I believe is the most beautiful Park we have been to and so not crowded.  I can't wait to go back someday for sure.

   So happy to read your post!!!  Your trip sounds amazing.  Alaska is definitely a bucket list trip for me.... Someday!!!   I will hit you up tour companies at some point.  I think a lot of people here like the smaller independent companies...I think I will regret not doing more of them in Europe this year but it was just easier to do the ship ones.  

   Your hikes sound absolutely amazing!  What a great way to start your trip with an 8 mile beautiful hike...I'm jealous lol!!!   

   I think your dining and drink pkg sound like good choices .. You will appreciate the bottled water too I would think and the prepaying always helps budget.  I would think about giving chops another chance... Every once in a while you get a bad specialty experience.  Izumi has been amazing both times I have been to it!  

   Looking forward to your updates.  I hear amazing things about radiance!!  Have an amazing trip!  Jane

Thank you!

Did you happen to be on the 6 night western Caribbean cruise, i think it left March 22? Was a great time besides getting severe food poisoning the first night and two of our three excursions being cancelled due to the windy conditions.

A week long in Glacier sounds like a dream. Do you have any tips when going there?

Yes, we will see how far of that 8 miles we actually make. Our flight leaves at 6am Eastern time and arrives 1230pm Alaska time. Over 10 hours of being on a plane or in the airport. But I am willing to sacrifice my sanity to experience the beauty of Alaska.

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3 hours ago, JLMoran said:

Following! Sounds like you've got a fantastic set of excursions planned out, and really did your homework on scheduling this all out.

Definitely don't feel like you "went against RCBlog protocol" with booking all 3rd-party excursions, you totally made the right call with the amount of time you're in port each day. Those are exactly the right conditions to go with third-party excursions and save yourself some $$$ or get the smaller groups you're looking for.

May want to double-check what time muster drill will be on embarkation day. With the ship not leaving until 8 you should be OK with your plan to board around 6:30 PM, but it would be good to have that time confirmed if possible.

Have a great trip, and just post when / as you're able to. We'll be here whenever it comes out. 😊

Thank you! I have a feeling we will board the ship a lot sooner. Being on Eastern time we will be starving by 4PM! So may get on then to eat dinner.

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5 hours ago, LandstromCruise said:

My wife and I are on this cruise with you!  Very excited as our first time to Alaska as well. We are doing a pre-tour at Denali national park as well. Enjoy your trip! 

Awesome! I wish we were able to make it up to Denali. Getting in only a day prior it's hard to justify a 4 hour trip north to Denali for just part of the day.

I believe there are several other RC Blog folks on this cruise?

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3 hours ago, Adam23 said:

Awesome! I wish we were able to make it up to Denali. Getting in only a day prior it's hard to justify a 4 hour trip north to Denali for just part of the day.

I believe there are several other RC Blog folks on this cruise?

Maybe we can make it a mini RCBlog group cruise. Just without @Matt and @twangster lol. 

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11 hours ago, Adam23 said:

Thank you!

Did you happen to be on the 6 night western Caribbean cruise, i think it left March 22? Was a great time besides getting severe food poisoning the first night and two of our three excursions being cancelled due to the windy conditions.

A week long in Glacier sounds like a dream. Do you have any tips when going there?

Yes, we will see how far of that 8 miles we actually make. Our flight leaves at 6am Eastern time and arrives 1230pm Alaska time. Over 10 hours of being on a plane or in the airport. But I am willing to sacrifice my sanity to experience the beauty of Alaska.

Oh my gosh... Yep... That is the one we were on..... Always that week for spring break and that one was the 6 day btw the 8 days!  Oh no on the food poisoning.  I forgot about the wind, but yeah, we were supposed to swim with the sting rays in Grand Cayman and it cancelled!  

   We camped in glacier the whole week in the West end, with just an overnight on the east... It turns into a lot of driving.  I suggest staying on inner end, explore and then move to the other side.  Both ends are amazing and you also have to take the shuttle bus and go on the going to the sun road. Try lots of different hikes... The glaciers are beautiful and the lake the prettiest shade of blue ever.  Many of the trails might be closed... It is the most crowded in July and August, but this is when all the trails are open too.  By far my favorite national Park.... Always places to get away from people and just enjoy the mountain 🐐 s and the big horned sheep!  Jane

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Question for anyone who has ever done this itinerary.

While in Seward on cruise departure day, have you done any of the wildlife day cruises offered by Major Marine or Kenai Fjords tours? I am trying to decide if they are worth it and if we will have time  for a 6 hour tour and not miss the ship.

 

Thanks

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It’s’ cruise day! Currently on the train from Anchorage to Seward. I had a detailed post from yesterday however, it wouldn’t let me post and I didn’t save my post. I realized because I wasn’t entering my email address.

 

I think we were awake for almost 24 hours yesterday. Spent half the day traveling and half the day exploring the Anchorage area. The Crow Pass Trail to Crystal Lake was absolutely stunning. Took about 4 hours round trip. Took great photos and even saw a Dal Sheep.

 

So excited for our day. The train ride is stunning so far. Doing a 6 hour wildlife cruise when we arrive in Seward and then starting our cruise.

 

I will attempt to post photos on my phone. May need to wait till laptop access

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Made it on-board the cruise and finally unpacked!

Arrived to Seward shortly after 11am and took a shuttle ride over to the small boat dock where we boarded a boat for the National Park Tour. The tour was breaktaking and we witnessed so much sea life! We even saw Sea Lions fighting on the rocks. We also visited a glacier incredible how close we got.

Time for muster drill.

 

below are some iPhone photos from the day.

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