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I expect there are people who walk on to a ship for the first time with a deck plan etched into their brains. Not me – I read the reviews and get a feeling for the ship but I love the joy of discovering things for myself. It’s even better if the journey of discovery finds enough hidden nooks and crannies that it continues for a few days.

That’s certainly been the case here on Radiance. It’s Day 3 and I can get to the breakfast buffet, my dinner table and the pool deck (where the resident band seems determined to infuse the spirit of Bob Marley into inappropriate songs). Beyond that, most of the ship is a mystery to me. But that will all change as I set out with notepad and pen in hand. May I say that this state of ignorance has nothing to do with Royal Caribbean. At each lift foyer there’s a model of the ship with the main features clearly marked. They are listed above the door in each lift, too.

Besides Deck 3, where my cabin lies, Deck 11 is most important. This is where Windjammers Café is found – the source of buffet breakfasts and lunches. And they can be taken outside where tables in the stern are well protected from the warm wind. Forward lies the densely foliated jungle of the Solarium and its pool, which is populated by the same passengers every day perhaps, like Livingstone, awaiting rescue by their own Stanley. The spa further forward offers a wide range of mysterious treatments behind doors that are decorated in an Aztec theme.

Above this deck there’s a nightclub that offers great ocean views by day, the sports area featuring a climbing wall up the funnel, the gym, the Adventure Ocean kid’s area, Crown and Anchor bar, golf course and jogging track.

For the next few decks down, the public areas are around the Centrum. So on Deck 10 there’s a small, quiet lounge area and the Concierge Club for Royal Caribbean’s best passengers. Here, you are likely to find out about the joys of taking 100 ­– or even 200 – voyages as several of them have. Deck 9 has the small library and Deck 7 has the Internet area. All of these are open areas offering views over the Centrum with its impressive, if indecipherable, hanging sculpture.

By Deck 6 the public areas extend from bow to stern. The Aurora Theatre, where the entertainment is surprising good – from funny comedians to exceptional musicians – fills the bow on Decks 5 and 6; Cascades Restaurant fills the stern on Decks 4 and 5. The rest of Deck 6 holds the Casino and the specialty restaurants Portofino for Italian and Chops for steaks. It also has the quirky Schooners Bar (now there’s a name that will be popular in NSW) that you enter through a galleon-styled corridor decorated with old cannons and gunpowder kegs. Rather alarmingly, it always smells slightly of gunpowder (or perhaps it’s because I watched Pirates of the Caribbean on our first night at sea). The middle of Deck 5 is occupied with a range of shops where everything appears to be constantly on sale. There are even Pringles and the like available in case the 11 meals offered each day aren’t sufficient.

Of course, for readers who, like me, don’t hold ship details in their memories, the past four paragraphs are really just white space. However, you’ll probably know more than at least one of my fellow passengers. I was in the elevator today, heading for an upstairs bar. A middle-aged man got in the lift and asked me “what’s the top floor of this ship?” We both looked at the buttons where the numbers were logically set out from Decks 2 to 13 and I said, “It’s Deck 13, would you like me to press it for you?” He thanked me and added, “I’m normally with my wife and she takes care of those things.” Whether that was the onerous task of pushing buttons or ensuring that he didn’t reach the outer deck of Deck 13 and continue, absentmindedly, to climb to the heavens in a quest for Deck 14 he never elaborated.

Words: David McGonigal.

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