Back in the 1970s, well before cruising was travel’s growth area, I took a Sitmar voyage from Sydney to Wellington on the Fairsky. Of the 461 cabins, only seven had private bathrooms (I guess The Seekers didn’t have those when they worked their fare to the UK onboard the ship in 1964).
That was a world away from modern cruising as epitomised by Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas that has been a regular feature in Australian waters over the past few summers. Its 2500 passengers appreciate the stunning Centrum area amidships: soaring seven storeys high, the exterior walls are clear glass so from the lounges and bars you are constantly looking at the sea and sky.
The walls of the elevators are glass, too, so as you ascend you are either looking down to the central Deck 4 bar or out over an ocean panorama. Radiance OTS (as fans write it) is a big ship, but you can never forget you are at sea.
Watch a movie whilst relaxing in the spa!
This summer, Radiance will be based in Sydney and will undertake several return voyages to New Zealand. Cruising at 25 knots, it takes just two sea days to cross the Tasman and, starting at the top, you explore the delights of our neighbour from the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Akaroa (for Christchurch) and Dunedin before exploring Dusky and Milford sounds and returning to Sydney.
The 13-night cruise departing on March 28, for example is a great mix of excursion days and sea days. Modern ships provide so much in entertainment and facilities that you feel short changed if there aren’t a few sea days to simply explore and appreciate the ship.
The last time I sailed on Radiance was through the Panama Canal before the newly expanded canal was opened. It was a tight fit; indeed sailing into Gatun Locks was rather like putting a cork back in a bottle. The canal locks designed by the US for the 1914 opening are all the same size: 110 feet wide by 1050 feet long. In similar imperial terms, Radiance is 105.6 feet wide and 962 feet long so we fitted, but only just, and we left some paint behind. Radiance of the Seas displaces 90,090 tons and, over its 12 passenger decks, carries 2114 passengers in double cabins or a maximum of 2501 served by more than 850 crew.
Enjoy dining in style at Chef's Table onboard the Radiance of the Seas
There’s a wide range of dining options on board from a Brazilian steakhouse to the Italian cuisine of Giovanni’s Table. Besides an English pub, there’s the enjoyable and rather eccentric Schooner Bar and Colony Club that you enter past old canon and gunpowder kegs. It has gyroscopic self-levelling billiard tables, using technology created for North Sea oil platforms.
Of course there’s a day spa, casino, gym, nightclub and theatre, but there’s also a giant outdoor movie screen, a climbing wall up the funnel, golf simulator, mini-golf and a basketball/volleyball court. On cold days, the jungle-like African-themed glassed solarium and pool is a delight. If you are making an intergenerational voyage, you’ll be happy to see that kids of all ages are catered for. Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6 to 36 months) have combined with Fisher-Price to create interactive activities.
Make a splash up on the pool deck
There are two divisions of Adventure Ocean: the youth program (3 to 11 years) offers everything from scavenger hunts to science experiments while the teen program (12 to 17 years) offers a teen space, parties, separate dinners and an elaborate water slide at their pool.
It’s no wonder that cruises from Australia to New Zealand are rapidly increasing in popularity. Not only is NZ delightfully close, but it’s packed with a wide range of scenery and activities – from the warm beauty of the Bay of Islands to the wilds of the southern fiords. And there’s no better way to explore the maritime highlights than by ship.
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What has been your favourite cruising experience?