Radiance of the Seas: Royal Advantage Makeover, Part II

Work continues at the Victoria Shipards in Victoria, BC as Radiance of the Seas undergoes her Royal Advantage makeover. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Yesterday, we showed you some of the incredible new dining venues that are being added to Radiance of the Seas during her 21-day Royal Advantage makeover; one of the most ambitious drydocks that Royal Caribbean has ever performed.

Not everything that’s changing aboard Radiance involves food, however: the line has unleashed a whole host of minor and major additions designed to improve the overall passenger experience.  They’ve also taken this rare, three-week opportunity to enhance and upgrade Radiance’s technical and seafaring capabilities. In addition to performing routine maintenance, these new behind-the-scenes additions will make her one of the most technologically advanced and up-to-date vessels afloat.

Next week, the photo gallery will resume its intended purpose. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Here’s a look at what passengers embarking on Radiance’s June 10th cruise from Vancouver can expect:

Royal Babies & Tots Nursery

Hard at work: the future Royal Babies & Tots Nursery is constructed in place of the old video arcade. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Located on Deck 12 aft in the space formerly occupied by the video arcade (don’t worry kids, it’s just moving!), the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery is another innovation born from Oasis and her sister Allure.  In fact, the concept was wildly successful, so much that its addition aboard Radiance of the Seas was a no-brainer.  Designed specifically for babies aged 6-months to 36-months, the Nursery will feature special Fisher-Price developmental toys and a staff ratio of 1:3, ensuring that children are extremely well cared for.  The cost of this widely used service is $8 per hour, and reservations are required.  The nursery is staffed for most of the day, and occasionally up to and including midnight.

Technology Enhancements

Flat-panel televisions in every stateroom replace the older, bulky CRT-based ones. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

If there’s one feature guests aboard Oasis and Allure of the Seas fell in love with, it was the multi-language digital wayfinding signage – so much so that passengers took to specifically mentioning it on their end-of-cruise comment cards as if it were a performer in a lounge.  With that in mind, taking this opportunity to install this digital signage on Radiance of the Seas was a no-brainer.

Guests will also find a new feature that isn’t so readily visible: stem-to-stern WiFi connectivity.  With more people using Wi-Fi friendly devices like iPods and laptops, this is another enhancement that came about as a direct result of customer feedback.

The final technological improvement is likely to be welcomed by passengers and crew alike: the old CRT-based stateroom televisions are gone, replaced with larger, modern flat-panel displays.  Why do the crew like it? These televisions weigh less than half of what their older counterparts did, and lighter loads translate into better fuel economy.

Outdoor Movie Screen

The frame for the new Poolside Outdoor Movie screen is already in place. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Oasis had it.  Then so did Allure.  Now, Radiance of the Seas joins her larger fleetmates in offering movies, music and sporting events presented poolside.  Expect this feature to be very popular!

Single Occupancy Staterooms

A future inside stateroom designed specifically for solo cruisers. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

While several new staterooms are being added to Radiance of the Seas, the real feature to write home about is the line’s decision to construct a handful of Single-occupancy staterooms.  We had the opportunity to check out an under-construction single occupancy inside stateroom during our visit, and it looked to be the perfect size for a solo cruiser.  As someone who enjoys solo cruising from time to time, I’m excited to see how these perform for the line.

One of the new double-occupancy outside staterooms being added to Radiance of the Seas. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Behind the Scenes: Navigation and Technical

The drydock was the perfect opportunity to perform routine maintenance on the often-used tenders. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Not all the enhancements to Radiance of the Seas occur in the passenger spaces: the ship’s technical and marine capabilities also received an upgrade.

One such enhancement included routine azipod propulsion maintenance, coupled with a brand-new design that aims to improve fuel economy.  In place of the standard, squared-off fin found on many azipods, Radiance of the Seas sports a waving, slightly twisted fin mounted to the bottom of the pod.  The direction and angle of both pods can now be optimized directly from the bridge to provide maximum fuel efficiency in a variety of working conditions.

Built by manufacturer ABB, this new pod design is estimated to improve fuel economy up to 3.5% over the previous, standard azipods.  Workers have also taken particular strides to ensure that seams around the azipod mounts are as flush with the hull as possible, and the hull has been painted (at a previous drydock) with the newest, silicone-based antifouling paint designed to offer less resistance as the vessel moves through the water.  If you look at Radiance’s stern, you can pick out this new paint: it’s the brighter blue color, and it was added to the bottom of the transom beneath Radiance’s stern.

View from the starboard side of the navigation bridge aboard Radiance of the Seas. Note the work underway on the bow helipad. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

High up on the ship’s navigation bridge, a refit of similar scope is also underway to install a completely new Voyage Management System (VMS).  Unlike upgrading your personal computer, this requires just a little more time and effort.  There isn’t a single panel on the bridge that hasn’t been pulled up and set aside.  Wires stream out of navigation consoles like runaway spaghetti.  Floor tiles are pulled up, revealing thick bands of cabling running in every direction; the same is true of the ceiling.  And yet, in the midst of this controlled chaos, the familiar hi-lo chime of the public address system sounds; the cruise director gives his most excited hello and updates the workers aboard Radiance of the Seas with the current weather and any other need-to-know information.

Can someone call IT? Upgrades to the Voyage Management System are well underway. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders
Outside the starboard bridge wing, work continues on the exterior of the ship, ensuring it sparkles on sailing day. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

But there was still magic as I stood on the starboard side bridge wing, looking down through the glass panels beneath my feet at the hull tied to the dock some 100-plus feet below me.  Throughout each and every deck of the ship, along her entire 965-foot length, workers buzzed like honeybees performing their tasks at hand, all united by a common goal: to have this impressive ship completed and ready to set sail from Vancouver on Friday, June 10th.

When the first passengers step aboard, chances are they’ll never know the true story behind all the hard work, the long hours, and the sweat and maybe even tears that went into Radiance of the Seas’ Royal Advantage refit; the first such program to be performed on any Radiance-class vessel.

With the exception of the protective plastic covering, this forward stairwell looks much like it will on June 10th when Radiance resumes her Alaska schedule. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

With the end in sight, Royal Caribbean shows no sign of slowing down: Splendour of the Seas will enter drydock this November for an even more ambitious upgrade that will see each and every stateroom rebuilt from the ground up, including brand-new bathrooms for every cabin.  100 additional balcony staterooms will be added, along with an outdoor movie screen, upgrades to all public areas, the popular digital signage, the Park Café, Giovanni’s Table, Chef’s Table, Izumi and the BRITTO Gallery.

With this to look forward to, 2011 is shaping up to be a very exciting year in The Nation of Why Not.

Stay tuned to The Avid Cruiser – we’ll have a complete “before and after” photo-tour of Radiance of the Seas coming later this month!

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