the story so far Id like to preface my whole review with the fact that Iam a 15 year old boy and therefore my review may not always answer the questions that many of you are dying to no such as â€śwhat is the name of the concierge?â€? but I will do my best.
Pre cruise stay (if you will) in the south of France near Cannes Iam not going to talk about Cannes because this is a cruise message board but I will talk about the cruising side of the south of France. On many occasions early evening or late afternoon we would see cruise ships leaving the port of Cannes where the had tendered my impressions of the ships were as follows
Queen Elizabeth 2- quite an old fashioned cruise ship but very traditional
MSC Monterey- prior to this Id never heard of MSC according to there website Monterey is one of there smallest ship although unlike QE2 it didnâ€™t look like an old fashioned cruise ship it looked more like just a old fashioned ship
Aurora- very very nice ship surprised slightly by the size it what in royal Caribbean terms would be called a â€śmid sized shipâ€?
Carnival Liberty- wow I have been on bigger ships then this (see signature) but having seen these previous ships this one looked like Godzilla. I have seen other carnival ships before like inspiration in the Caribbean, and I wonâ€™t hold back in saying I thought they were tacky but this ship looked very sleek and class.
Easy cruise one- was supposed to have been in Cannes but we never got to see it
Brilliance of the seas- it had been in Villefranche and heading towards Barcelona we saw it along the coast line and Aim glad we got on it the next day because any more waiting would have been excruciating.
It was a regular occurrence to see cruise ships on the horizon leaving various French ports. What was great about seeing the cruise ships leave was that you always knew that when you left there you would be going on a cruise so it was ok. But I do not think I could stand leaving there permanently seeing all those cruise ships, it would be hell. The wonderful thing about seeing the cruise ships leave the port was: they never seemed to produce a wake and they did not look like they were moving, you would look at the ship look at the something else and then look at the ship again and it had moved but it looked like it was completely still.
When we arrived in Barcelona and we made the short 20 minute journey to the ship in a cab (24 euros for three of us for those who care) are taxi driver informed us that Barcelona is the second busiest port in the Mediterranean (I think) I was surprised by that piece of information, sadly we didnâ€™t get to see the real Barcelona but hopefully one day Ill return there. The port was very busy with ferries and tankers coming in and out regularly.
When I checked on www.cruisecal.com
and found out that Queen Mary two was going to be in port in Barcelona next to the Brilliance, I felt two emotions the first was of happiness of the fact that I was going to see what was the biggest cruise ship in the world (until freedom of the seas) and the second emotion I felt was of bitterness, of all the cruise ships to be in port on the same day as ours it would have to be one that is almost 60,000 gross tonnage bigger then ours and would tower over brilliance with ease. In fact it didnâ€™t tower over brilliance but, it seemed substantially taller, thicker and longer. When I was on the brilliance I thought about which ship Id rather be on, and I wanted to be on the brilliance, for the one reason that I thought it would have much more stuff for people my age to do.
Was fairly smooth as we didnâ€™t have to cue because we are platinum members there were people holding trays of glasses of orange juice and cookies but even for people who didnâ€™t have a suite or platinum or above membership, they didnâ€™t seem to have to cue that long anyway
The QM2 left the port before us and it was great to see it leave as I mentioned before the sips seem to glide out of the port. Ports probably have a 5 knot speed limit for the port area but for cruise ships its probably near 3/2 or 1 knot inside the port as I suppose any sort of wake from a ship this sized would produce large waves inside the port.
The ship is magnificent, Iam in a good position to judge and compare the size and the magnitude of the ship having been on both voyager class (voyager, Navigator) and vision class (Grandeur). Apart from the promenade and fuel I missed nothing from Navigator of the seas in fact, I wouldnâ€™t say in terms of things to do Brilliance is above Navigator but Id certainly say that there are things on the Brilliance that I would transfer to the voyager and maybe even the Freedom sized ships. For example the seaview cafĂ©, I have seen a few complaints on this board about how the brilliance adapts an Italian menu of pizza, pasta and panins instead of the more traditional curly fries, hamburgers and hotdogs but the seaview cafĂ© is truly great but I wonâ€™t comment on the foot just yet. Also the bridge connecting the mini golf and the rock climbing wall is great you can watch what is going on in the sports court and watch people coming down the slide on the kids pool (another great addition, from navigator). The gulf between brilliance and Grandeur is actually larger then expected on paper Grandeur is just 16,000 gross tonnage lighter then Brilliance but for your 1,000 you sure get your moneys worth. The one thing I would say the Brilliance lacks is probably a proper Viking crown lounge, donâ€™t get me wrong the Brilliance has one, but it is used sparingly during the day time and in the evening is only busy because Dj max is spinning the decks. Personally I think the Viking crown lounge is great, but this is only a point Im making its barely even a gripe, although having found out that Bar men and women work only off the gratuity added to the price of a drink they sell the ones working in the Viking Crown Lounge in the daytime wouldnâ€™t have been making much money.
The ships design is very classy although I would very much question some of the art on show, for example there were large frames with only a small stamp sized â€śpiece of art â€ś in that you could barely make out, and there are other pieces of â€śartâ€? that you could barely call art. The glass lifts were great being able to see the sea as you went up and down was great on the outside lifts. I think the solarium could have been more tastefully designed, but having said that, as you walk into the solarium it just feels different and is a very nice place to sit. The pool tables are great but I was slightly frustrated by the fact that some people hogged the tables, and I had to have an adult get the balls so I could play.
Food and Drink
I will start by saying that my parents bought me the â€śsoda packageâ€? so I could receive unlimited amounts of fizzy drinks throught the cruise, but there is a longstanding problem with the â€śsoda packageâ€? that has existed as long as I have been cruising and that is the fact that every time you walk up to a bar, the barman knows you will have the soda package and because he knows he will get no profit from you he put you to the back of the to do pile and will always look to the adults for business before you. Once I was standing at the bar waiting to ask for a drink when a women appeared behind me the bar man came over and instead of serving me first he asked the man what he would like, this wasnâ€™t a simple misunderstanding of who was there first it was, who was going to earn him money, I can understand a bar man not wanting to lose business and trying to maximise his wage but my parents have paid for this soda package so I have as much right as that man to be served. The funny part to the story is that the man flashed his coke sticker to the bar man and asked for a coke!
Food in the dining room in my opinion is slipping, a first time cruiser would by no means complain about the food as it is, is still to a very high standard but that high standard is slipping, often the food was Luke warm when it reached us, and I believe the meat to be of poor quality. I actually thought the desserts were very nice in the minstrel Dining room. The standard of the food in the Windjammer in my opinion has not dropped and the soft serve ice cream is still delicious! Now onto the Sea view cafĂ©! The food in here is first-class the pizzas are very cheesy and you can have virtually all the toppings under the sun such as cranberry sauce (how crazy is that?) the paninas were great although on the menu there was nothing that appealed to me, each time I just asked for tomato and cheese and I got it, the pasta also was top notch. Do not get me wrong I love junk food such as burgers and chips but whets the use in serving these in the seaview cafĂ© if they can be obtained quite easily from the windjammer? The seaview is unusually unpopular for two reasons I concluded, the opening hours are strange and differ day to day, and the seaview cafĂ© is in a secluded part of the ship. The one thing that I loved about the sea view cafĂ© was after I went in there a few times mainly to get drinks everybody knew my name and welcomed me in with open arms the bartender in the seaview is called Jose and he is an absolute legend so are Jose, nishe and andray who work in the seaview. The only criticism I would make is it can actually be quite intimidating when you go into the seaview cafĂ© for the first time, as there can be up to 5 or 6 staff just standing around talking if there are no customers.
We were staying in a d1 balcony stateroom on deck 9 I shared it with my two brothers and although it was a bit of a squeeze because we are all so badly organised and left our stuff lying around everywhere but it was good to have our own room and independence and our parents and sisters were only a phone call or a holler from our balcony away. My parents prefer the Royal family suite setup better for our family of seven, but I preferred this setup up better as we werenâ€™t always standing on each others feet.
This is one of the areas were having not attended any of the shows doesnâ€™t help, but I cannot comment on certain things. Personally I found the cruise director thuraly uninspiring, from what I saw of him on televised shows such as the love and marriage game show he wasnâ€™t the same as some of the cruise directors we have had in the past in that he wasnâ€™t a born entertainer, his name was Mike Hunnerup and he was from Australia. My mother has given me information about the shows, or which she attended all 12 of them. The welcome aboard show she informs me was an exact replica of the welcome aboard show from last year. The two separate violinist aboard were unnecessary and unspectacular. The royal Caribbean singers and dancers were ok. I can understand that when you are on a cruise in the Caribbean often the acts change cruise ships, so you see a much more wide variety of acts and that this is not really possible in the med but the shows according to my mum were not of the highest quality. Also once again this cruise did not have a comedian onboard, this annoyed me as on one of are previous cruises there was a comedian onboard who I think did two main shows and a adult show, two violinists and no comedian, sort it out royal Caribbean. It does involve entertaining so I will include the fact that the waiters in the minstrel dining perform two songs on the cruise the Italian national anthem and a tribute to the nations (or something along these lines), both of these songs we heard on are last cruise from the waiters, how hard is it to teach them new songs yearly? Films were shown in the 48 seated onboard cinema in intervals of roughly 3 or 4 hours through the day. The films show during the cruise included spanglish, Charlie and the chocolate factory, staring Johnny Depp and David Kelly and shall we dance. I watched xxx 2 in the cinema on the first night when we were suffering from hurricane 1 force winds and although it was rocky and the quality of the film was not the greatest it was very enjoyable to watch the film in a decent sized cinema whilst on a cruise ship, all the experienced lacked was popcorn!
Fitness and recreation
There seemed to be at least one walk a mile a day and on some occasions two a day, I actually cannot comment on anything like yoga. The gym seemed to have many different types of machines and a fair few televisions, although youâ€™re not allowed in until youâ€™re sixteen so I couldnâ€™t take a further look. The half basketball court is great! There were regular dodge ball, basketball and volleyball matches (they were friendly to a point. I even participated in the volleyball on the last at sea day it was great fun! The basketball court always had 2 or 3 basketballs on it at a time for free play, and sometimes there was a football (soccer ball) I wish there was a permanent football as I love football, there was also a goal. The mini golf was also great and especially fun to play when there were force 1 standard hurricane winds!!
The brilliance is great for families, to put it simply. Im not going to go into details about the actual childrenâ€™s program, but feel free to ask if you have any questions. Whereas on the navigator there where two dedicated rooms for teenagers, the 2nd room was not missed on this cruise, neither was the teen tanning area, which was used sparingly and mostly by adults.
The cruise director said that there were 800 or so people from North America, 500 or so people from the U.K. and 300 or so passengers from Spain. A great mix of old and young and I was informed that there were 300 12-17 year olds onboard, so also plenty of children.
Villefranche â€“ I did not get off as I had only just come from there, and have been there more times then I can count. There is a lot to explore in a day in the south of France especially if you have never been there before, a shore excursion idea that I have just thought of is if you rent a Ferrari for the day and head to Monte Carlo like you are a billionaire, no expenses spared.
Livorno â€“ We rented a car in Livorno and headed first to Pisa if you were a local you could probably reach Pisa in twenty minutes from the port but the fact that we were on unfamiliar roads meant it took us 45 minutes to reach pisa, pisa struck me as your typical spanish town, some very intresting buildings. But from my point of view, I was only there for one reason, to see the leaning tower and we couldnâ€™t find it. This is when are good luck began we stopped to ask a motorcyclist for directions and he offered to guide us there so we followed him and he even showed us into a car park, a very kind man. As you go towards the leaning tower there is a great mix of people, there are locals trying to sell you fake watches and sunglasses and tourists trying to get pictures of themselves as if they are holding up the tower, this is a very strenuous process and has to be exactly right for it to look good. There are two large churchâ€™s near the tower buit the people going in needed towers so we couldnâ€™t go in. I bought a leaning tower from the gift ship and then we left to make our way to Florence, this is when we had a second stroke of luck, we were on our way to Florence when we missed a turning, and we attempted to turn around and to the the side of the road there was something of a ditch which we ended up reversing into, we could not get out, within a few minutes of getting stuck two Italian men stopped there pick up truck and offered to help us out, and that they did. It took just over an hour to get to Florence. We parked in the car park under the main train station, and took an hour tour on an open top sightseeing bus with English audio, this was very helpful and although it began to rain in the middle of the tour I enjoyed it immensely, and you were even allowed to keep the headphones! We then walked around the city for another hour and then headed back to the ship.
Naples â€“ It seemed like us and Msc melody arrived at Barcelona at the same time and it was for that reason that we were around an hour late to dock, we waited in a stationary position for half an hour before we began to move again. Once again I did not get off at this particular port as I have been there before, many people who returned to the ship raved about how aesthetically pleasing the amalfi coast was. But with these stories also came the stories about beggers following people in Naples and Naples being a vile and dirty place. The port of Naples is a extremely busy port very similar to Barcelona and has quite a lot of ferries running to various parts of the med and especially Sardinia.
Venice â€“ you dock in Venice at one but I would advice finding a nice spot on deck from around 10.30 to see the entrance into Venice. It starts with the dramatic change of the colour of the water to a much lighter shade. By this point you can see the beach in the distance and then you enter Venice there are so many different shaped buildings and you get your first view of the world famous gondolas they seem like mere ants as you stand on this 13 deck high â€śmid-sized shipâ€?. When we got off at Venice instead of taking the water taxi provided by royal Caribbean for a minimal fee we decided to take the sticky twenty five minute walk to the water (train) station where we boarded and got off at the station nearest the famous bridge we walked up, frankly it was packed and you could not enjoy it at all. So we got back on the water and headed for central Venice, the next event made my day, the pigeons. We bought like seed from sellers 1 euro a bag and put it on our hand head and shoulders and waited for the pigeons, the most I had on me at once was 5 two on each hand and one on my head, this was truly class! For those who do not like pigeons this is not the place to go, there are hundreds of them and it is a great sight, to see them when they all decided to start flying around the air. Beware things in Venice are very expensive, a glass of coke 5 euros. After having a drink we went up a tower and saw some cruise ships leave including Thomson emerald (makes you glad to be on brilliance seeing this). We then took a gondola ride for forty minutes it was quite peaceful but also boring, the only thing entertaining about it was our gondolier Mario, he seemed to no all the other Gondoliers. Although it was good to experience a gondola ride I donâ€™t think it is all that it is hacked up to be although Iâ€™m sure at night it is very romantic. Then we headed back to the ship via the water train. My impressions of Venice, quite boring actually maybe I had built it up too much inside my head but I left thinking if I never go there again I wont mind, although Iâ€™m sure it is a perfect destinantion for a romantic weekend away. Hence the reason why I did not get off on the second day in Venice. The entering and leaving Venice for me were two of the most powerful parts of the entire cruise, and ones which I will not forget in a hurry.
Dubrovnik â€“ Croatia was something of unknown quantity before the cruise, and it turned out we were tendering there, when I could swear we were supposed to be along side, there were 3 other ships in that day including Thomson emerald (does this ship have any cabins with balconies?). We tendered off, whereas most people chose to use the Royal Caribbean shuttles for a minimal charge we chose to walk out of the port ourselves (5 minute walk, you need your passport) I looked around the port at some of the yachts, some of them were a good sized and I discussed them with my sister. My mum and my sisters had gone of in search of transport to old Dubrovnik, my two brothers were wondering around talking, and my dad had found English newspapers so he was sitting on a bench reading them. My mum bought bus tickets and within minutes we were on the short (15 minute) bus journey into Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik was very busy. We headed for the castle, the heart of the town. There is a small entrance into the main castle and there was a very large crowd trying to get in and trying to get out it involved a looking of pushing and elbowing, back on the ship someone had said that a fight had broken out at one point between tourists and locals. There are steps that you can walk up for a small price to stand on the top of the wall and look out. When we were inside we walked around for a short while, looking in shops and the like, then we stopped for a drink. Remember before you get off the ship to get some kn. the currency in Dubrovnik. After are drink we walked around a bit more and then went into a church, which we looked around then left. We then found ourselves with money and we couldnâ€™t find anywhere to exchange it so we bought a few bits, and then jumped on a shuttle bus back to the ship were we cued for around 15 minutes before we could tender back. Dubrovnik I didnâ€™t think was particularly out of the ordinary there seemed like there wasnâ€™t much to do there, and this is for sure one of the places were I would have hated a 8 hour tour. It reminded me of Tallinn, Estonia although Tallinn was better.