Radiance of the Seas: Royal Advantage Makeover, Part I

Radiance of the Seas at the Esquimalt Graving Dock in Victoria, BC, Canada. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

When you’re a cruise line that has built a solid reputation upon designing and constructing ships that represent “the next big thing,” it’s inevitable that some features won’t be available on all ships in the fleet. But Miami-based Royal Caribbean is mindful of this fact, and its solution is a simple one: Give the people what they want. To do that, the line began what may be its most ambitious refurbishment program to date: the Royal Advantage.

Radiance of the Seas will be in drydock for 21 days before re-entering service from Vancouver on June 10th. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Radiance of the Seas is currently undergoing a major 21-day refit at the Victoria Shipyard’s Esquimalt Graving Dock, located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. One of the largest drydocks on the West Coast, the Esquimalt Graving Dock has been used by a number of cruise lines over the years for refits, and it’s a tradition the Province of British Columbia would like to see continue. British Columbia’s Attorney General, Barry Penner, was on-hand aboard Radiance to speak to the importance of Royal Caribbean’s decision to perform such an extensive drydock operation in the capital city.

Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations summed up the decision to extensively refit Radiance of the Seas by saying that every new addition to the ship had been heavily influenced not only by passenger comments but also by the line’s dedication to providing passengers with a high quality onboard experience consistent throughout the fleet.

Radiance’s Royal Advantage makeover includes several additions for the ship, including single-occupancy staterooms, several new dining venues, an authentic English Pub, a large outdoor movie screen, enhanced Diamond and Concierge lounges, a new Royal Babies & Tots Nursery, and digital wayfinding signage.

Many areas of the ship are being refreshed with new carpeting and soft furnishings. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Additionally, the vessel is getting a top-to-bottom refurbishment on her “soft” furnishings, like new carpeting and upholstery.  Even though we saw the ship during the initial phases of the drydock, we could already see the careful planning and well-timed execution coming together to make an already fantastic ship even better.

The magnificent atrium, adorned with temporary scaffolding. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

So what’s happening to this 2001-built ship?  Let’s take a look at the enhancements in store for passengers when she sets sail from Vancouver on Friday, June 10. Keep in mind: these are shipyard photos. A bit of imagination may be required to fully visualize how these spaces will look the day she leaves drydock, but we thought you’d like to see the workmanship being put into the Royal Advantage refurbishment.

Samba Grill

Outside the future home of the Samba Grill, Deck 12. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The Samba Grill under construction. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Though it’s hard to tell now, in just a few days the former Seaview Grill on Deck 12 aft will become a feisty steakhouse experience called the Samba Grill, first introduced aboard Allure of the Seas. Main courses at the Samba Grill will include a choice of thirteen different meats, all of which are carved tableside.  Specialty caipirinhas, fine wines and desserts are also on offer.  Open each evening, the Samba Grill can be pre-reserved online or onboard the ship for a cover charge of $25 per guest.

The Chef’s Table

With seating for just 14 people, the intimate Chef's Table begins to take shape. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

On Deck 6, next to the beautifully wood-panelled Colony Club lies the future home of the most intimate dining option aboard Radiance of the Seas: the Chef’s Table.  Seating just 14 guests, the Chef’s Table serves up a sumptuous five-course dining experience, complete with fine wine pairings.

Though covered in protective plastic, you can get a glimpse of the cutlery-inspired light fixtures here. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The room boasts the same elegant ambiance as the nearby Colony Club, and the knife-and-fork chandeliers are some of the most interesting we’ve seen in a long time.  The cover charge is set at $95 per person, but before you balk at the price, consider this: the experience here, particularly in Alaska, looks like it will be as stunning as the scenery passing by the enormous windows in this special room.

Work continues just outside the Chef's Table. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Rita’s Cantina

Installing new flooring just outside Rita's Cantina. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Not all venues being added to Radiance of the Seas boast cover charges, and Rita’s Cantina is just one example of the new complimentary dining options available to passengers.  Seating 83 guests and occupying the  starboard side of the Windjammer Café on Deck 11, Rita’s Cantina will be open for lunch and dinner in a walk-up, no-reservations required format.  Sumptuous Mexican cuisine and a wide selection of Margaritas are available here.  Rita’s will cater to families by day while turning into a more adult-themed venue at night.

Izumi

Protected windows inside Izumi. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Also located in the Windjammer on Deck 11 is Izumi, an a la carte dining option that can be reserved online pre-cruise.  Izumi specialises in traditional Japanese fare, like sashimi, sushi, and a variety of sukiyaki dishes.  The focus here will be as much about the incredible variety of food and its presentation along with the stunning ocean views offered from this key Deck 11 vantage point.

The future home of Izumi. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Giovanni’s Table

Fine Italian dining (and great views) will be had at Giovanni's Table. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Designed to pay homage to the rich heritage and cuisine of the Tuscany region of Italy, Giovanni’s Table is located in the spot formerly occupied by Portofino’s on Deck 6.  This new Italian Trattoria is open for both lunch ($15 per guest) and dinner ($20 per guest.)  You can see the basic outline of the room coming into shape: new light fixtures are being hung, walls installed, and new flooring is being laid down.  With floor-to-ceiling windows, expect the views here to be fantastic.

Detailed plans are posted throughout the ship, ensuring that every new feature is constructed to-spec. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Giovanni's Table begins to take shape. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Quill & Compass Pub

Even in its unfinished state, I can tell this is going to be one of my personal favourite additions to this ship.  Replacing the Scoreboard Sports Bar on Deck 6 forward, the Quill & Compass Pub was designed to appeal to cruisers around the world with its warm, inviting atmosphere that mimics your favourite local.  With its dark wood panelling and sleek, long bar, expect this to be a very popular hangout into the wee hours.  Live music and an extensive list of imported beers and ales make this an area fitting of its English Pub designation.

The Quill & Compass will serve up ice-cold pints in a mere week. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Park Café

Located inside the Solarium on Deck 11, the Park Café is the perfect place to grab a quick bite to eat, all without leaving the comfort of the beautiful poolside, glass-domed enclave that is the Solarium.  Originally implemented on both Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the Park Café has proven to be an incredible hit with passengers, and it’s no stretch to imagine that same success happening in its new incarnation aboard Radiance of the Seas.

Sun-seekers and pool-loungers have been replaced with saws and hammers as the Park Cafe is constructed. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Boardwalk Dog House

Located on Deck 11 on the port side of the Windjammer café is honestly one of my favourite additions to Radiance of the Seas: the Boardwalk Dog House.  Open daily and with no additional charge, the Dog House serves up Hot Dogs, brats and sausages and most importantly, it’s fun!

The Boardwalk Dog House was such a runaway hit aboard Allure that it has been added to Radiance of the Seas. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

First introduced onboard Allure of the Seas, this venue has become such a favourite that plans are in the works to also add the Dog House to Splendour of the Seas when she undergoes her own Royal Advantage refit later this November (more on that to come!).

Tomorrow we’ll continue our incredible shipyard tour of Radiance of the Seas to discover the other aspects of her Royal Advantage refit, including details about the new Royal Babies & Tots Nursery, the new technology enhancements (including those very-cool Digital Wayfinder screens), and of course, the new pool-deck mounted outdoor movie screen!

Until tomorrow, why not check out our Radiance of the Seas ship review right here on The Avid Cruiser?

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