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Friday, October 8, 2010

Radiance of the Seas Arrives to Sail from Tampa!

AS A FLORIDA RESIDENT, I CAN RECALL the not so distant past when sailing on a cruise ship from the Port of Tampa offered limited cruise ship options, and was not exactly the most popular idea. Over the last few years and into the not so distant future, Tampa is being truly transformed into a formidable cruise vacation embarkation point for a number of annual and seasonal cruises.

Tampa is counting down to the arrival of the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas October 9th, 2010. When the Radiance of the Seas squeaks under the Skyway Bridge, it will become the largest (and in my humble opinion, the best thus far) cruise ship to have regularly scheduled departures from the Channelside cruise terminals in Downtown Tampa.

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas was the first ship in the aptly named "Radiance Class." If you have not had the opportunity to sail this class of ships, you are in for a treat, especially if you have an aversion to the mega cruise ships built over the past decade. The Radiance of the Seas provides you the feel of a luxury yacht, with all the amenities and excitement of a modern, mainstream cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas offers the ultimate "at sea" experience by combining speed, added comfort, greater open spaces, sweeping ocean vistas and an exceptional cruise staff committed to serving your every whim. Among her spectacular features are the 10-story glass-constructed Centrum, glass elevators facing the sea, and the highest percentage of outside cabins in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Like most modern cruise ships, the Radiance of the Seas has the full complement of bars and entertainment venues.

From a food and beverage perspective, a favorite locale of mine is the Schooner Bar (a signature nautical themed bar found on all of Royal Caribbean's ships) and the neighboring Chop's Grille. There is no better place on the ship to enjoy a great cocktail, either before or after dinner, while enjoying the nightly entertainment. Chops Grille, the adjacent specialty restaurant, is well worth the nominal fee for dining. While there are plenty of free dining options onboard, including the Windjammer Cafe (casual buffet), the Cascades Dining Room (main dining room), and the Seaview Cafe (casual fare on deck 12), your dinner at Chops will stand out as one of the culinary highlights of your cruise. With fine food, excellent service, sinful desserts and the intimacy of a small dining room, this is truly an unforgettable experience. Make your reservations early; with this dinner experience taking nearly 2 hours to complete, the limited seating in Chops Grille fills up fast.

Beyond the food and beverage, Radiance of the Seas offers many other fine amenities you would expect of a ship sailing the Caribbean, and more. On deck 11, you will find the main pool, as well as the African themed Solarium, an adults only escape. Each pool area has its complement of relaxing hot tubs and bar servers willing to attend to your "hydration" needs. Radiance also boasts a well-equipped fitness center, a spa offering a full menu of services, a casino, a basketball sports court, a kids pool area and Royal Caribbean's signature rock climbing wall. Finally, like the other Radiance Class vessels, Radiance of the Seas offers self-leveling pool (billiards) tables. Just beyond the Schooner Bar on deck 6, you will find the Bombay Billiards Club. Here you can play a game of pool, where the "motion of ocean" cannot be blamed for your bad shot. The pool tables are equipped with a gyroscope that maintains a level playing surface in any weather condition. Personally, while I am not a pool shark, these tables offered the best views of any pool table I have ever played on.

The Port of Tampa is conveniently located in downtown Tampa. Residents of Orlando, Lakeland, Ocala, Gainesville, Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice and the surrounding areas will find the drive to be no more than 90 minutes. For those coming from more distant locales, Tampa International Airport, just 15 minutes from the port, offers a large number of flights from Southwest Airlines, USAir, Delta, AirTran and others.

Radiance of the Seas will be sailing mostly 4-Night and 5-Night cruises from Tampa from October 2010 to April 2011. Whether it is short getaway or a longer escape, the Radiance of the Seas will be an exciting addition to the cruise offerings from the Port of Tampa. With cruise prices at these low levels, there is no better time to book a cruise.

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Kerry & Nancylee Stange, MCC/ACC
Kerry & Nancylee are Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) Master & Accredited Cruise Counsellors and business owners of Xpertise Cruise Travel in Trinity, FL.  With over 25 years of experience, specializing in cruise travel; they offer the perfect mix of knowledge, customer service and Xpertise necessary to plan cruise vacation experiences of a lifetime based on customer lifestyles and personal preferences.

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