“When you come on board, you can feel at home and be yourself. You have a strong LGBTI ally in Royal Caribbean.” Grant Van Ulbrich, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Royal Caribbean Cruises.
With so many recent awards and accolades as a world leader in diversity and inclusion, particularly for LGBTI passengers, we wanted to ‘test the waters’ and see how a cruise with Royal Caribbean compared to other lines.
We chose Radiance of the Seas for its re-positioning cruise. What is a repositioning cruise you might ask? It may sound like something a little kinky but it’s merely when a ship moves operations, for example, from the Southern Hemisphere (Sydney) to the Northern Hemisphere for summer cruising around Alaska.
Our 18 night cruise departed from stunning Sydney Harbour and included the ports of Picton and Wellington in New Zealand, stops in Tahiti’s Papeete, Moorea, Bora Bora and finally dropping anchor in tropical Honolulu, Hawaii. This itinerary included a large number of sea days which, for some passengers, posed a challenge.
In preparation we organised a wifi package and downloaded a few good books on our iPads before leaving home. We also anticipated that daily onboard activities like movies, nightly shows, speciality dinners, seminars, sunning ourselves by one of the pools and talking with new friends would provide us with plenty of distractions between morning sleep ins and lazy afternoon naps.
On our second night aboard the daily news bulletin informed us an LGBTI meet up was scheduled at 7.30pm in the Quill and Compass Pub. We were excited and just a little nervous to be meeting some new mates and perhaps sharing this journey with like-minded travellers. The meet up was a great success. Two of the group decided to join us for dinner that night and we shared our dining table with them every night to follow. Delicious food, attentive service and delightful company, all the necessary ingredients for a fabulous cruise.
The spectacular evening shows in the Aurora Theatre were the highlights and included the very skilled singers and dancers from the ship’s cast, as well as feature artists like super singers Chris Powley, Monique Montez, electric violin virtuoso Yoomia and two fabulous Aussies called Comtempo.
Extremely talented comedians, hypnotists, acrobats and magicians also took to the stage on other nights to provide variety, thrills and a load of laughs.
We chose the early show before dinner most evenings and it became a regular meeting point for our growing group of new buddies from the LGBTI meet ups. At the end of the show we chatted about where to meet after dinner to enjoy even more of the entertainment on offer.
Every day we worked out in the well equipped gym, occasionally while departing at sunset from some of our exotic ports of call. The romanesque wet and dry saunas were the perfect recovery spaces from a ‘strenuous’ day of activities. Naturally there are always the options of a deep tissue massage, a relaxing facial or manicure and perhaps a new hairstyle which can all be part of the ‘me time’ makeover possible at the Vitality Day Spa during a day at sea.
Besides bumping into members of our new group here, the singers and dancers were always limbering up for their next performance and provided some great ‘eye-candy’ and very friendly banter. The gym, spa and sauna became our afternoon oasis and a necessary part of our daily routine to keep bulging waistlines in check.
On our tour of the kitchens we discovered that food preparation on board this giant floating hotel is a gargantuan task and one which requires so many skilled and dedicated people. (see our Behind The Scenes Interview with Executive Chef, Viktor Schmidt) During the day we chose to eat in the Windjammer Café which offered an ever changing buffet of seasonal delights.
For dinner we requested a permanent table in the main restaurant, Cascades Dining Room, where the service and food standards were exceptional. Our waiters were charming, entertaining and provided that delightful combination of familiar hospitality measured with professional competence. They ensured our dining experience was a total pleasure and treated our group with the utmost courtesy and respect.
After dinner we often met up with some of our new friends at the Schooner Bar to have a nightcap and enjoy the talents of Jam the Piano Man who performed requests from his adoring audience. Some then headed back to their cabins for an early night or opted for the casino to ‘make their donation’ or chose the cinema to catch the late night movie session.
The young at heart still had energy to dance the night away with the DJ in the Starquest Nightclub. Our fabulous Cruise Director Steve Davis programmed various game shows and late night comedy spots and made sure we were always spoilt for choice.
There were so many options for entertainment every day. We considered the climbing wall, the mini golf course, the table tennis competition and whirlpools but in the end we settled for a sushi making class which was not only a lot of fun but gave us a real insight into this creative culinary art.
Master Sushi Chef Jerome and his team from Izumi Restaurant led us through the step by step process and to finish we ate our delicious masterpieces for lunch and received a certificate of competency for all our hard work.
Another totally enjoyable choice was our mystery dinner. On selected days at sea you can book to be part of a murder mystery to be solved at dinnertime. The scene is set with multiple villains, screaming slapstick and a single gunshot. Guests piece together the clues while enjoying gourmet food and wine pairing. Of course it is the jealous wife, but the whole experience is a tantalising specialty theatre restaurant on the high seas.
At each port of call we chose excursions which highlighted the best that location had to offer. In Picton we toured the famous Marlborough region and sampled a variety of local wineries. In Moorea we organised a jet ski tour with our new mates. The stunning landscapes, fluorescent aquamarine waters and prolific marine life made this the pick of all our destinations.
Although there were only 5 ports in total before arriving at our final stop in Honolulu, each had its unique attraction and provided opportunities to experience some of the true gems of the Pacific.
But most of all it was the staff and the officers who made this cruise one of the best we have done. Their attention to detail, friendly smiles, inclusiveness and endless patience created a sanctuary from the outside world which enveloped us for 18 delightful days and welcomed us back at the end of each onshore adventure.
During our time on board we interviewed a number of the Executive staff and it became clear to us this overwhelming joy filtered down from a remarkable and committed Captain through his senior officers and onto every staff member. It is for this reason more than any other we can honestly say our cruise on The Radiance Of The Seas was a total winner and we look forward to trying more Royal Caribbean Cruises in the future.
Captain Trym Selvag : “The best part of my job is working with so many diverse people. You quickly learn to become a people person.”
Robert Taggart, Hotel Director : “We have an open and evolved attitude to LGBTI guests. We want to give genuine experiences which reflect a genuine interaction with guests. Staff are like a family, a unique petri dish. We also have a fleet-wide, broad-based approach to diversity training which includes LGBTI issues. We want LGBTI customers to know they are welcomed and valued.”
Elton Viana Dos Santos, Human Resources Manager : “Respect is really important. Everybody is treated equally and all are welcome, whether they are single, traditional families or new style families.”
So, whether it be self-indulgent sea days, picturesque ports of call, delectable dining experiences, sensational shows or simply lying on the deck and gazing out on an endless ocean, there really is something for everyone on Radiance of the Seas.