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Kuki March 13th, 2007 01:34 PM

CruiseMates Virtual Cruise- Daily LIVE from the Brilliance
Brilliant Cruising
March 25/07
Due to a business meeting in Miami scheduled for last Thursday, Mrs. Kuki and I had 5 pre-cruise nights in Florida.

Normally, for Miami hotel stays I swear by Priceline, and can generally score a terrific downtown hotel like the InterContinental or the Hyatt for between $60 and $100. For this trip, with it being spring break in some parts of the country, and a number of major events going on in Miami (PGA tournament, Tennis tournament, music festivals, etc. I had no luck at all. As we were flying into Ft. Lauderdale, we settled on the Embassy Suites Hotel on 17St. If we were going to be overpaying for a hotel we thought we may as well get the complimentary breakfast, and complimentary afternoon happy hour as well.

The extended stay in Florida was good in that we got to visit, and have dinner with several of our friends whom we’ve met via CruiseMates. We also got to visit some of our favorite restaurants, and a few uncalled for shopping trips. Even though both of us swore there was nothing we needed, we somehow seemed to return to the hotel each day with shopping bags.

Though the temperatures were pleasant, we encountered a fair bit of rain during our stay. If the weather had been better, I’d have taken the opportunity to get in a couple of golf games. But with the rainy days, and knowing my favorite activity-- cruising-- was coming up, I admit to getting a bit antsy.

Now, with only one more sleep before we get to board the Brilliance, I am READY to GO!

We have a car that we rented when we arrived. In the morning we’ll be loading the luggage, and driving to Miami. The plan is for me to drop Mrs. Kuki and the luggage at the pier, then I’ll be returning the rental car to the Hertz drop off at the Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel (this was pre-arranged, and there’s no extra drop off charge). From the Marriott it will be about a $10 taxi ride to get me back to the ship, and the start of our latest cruise adventure.

We'll be reporting daily along with pictures, and if possible, video. Hope you enjoy cruising with us. Any questions, just post them!

san4u2 March 26th, 2007 05:56 AM

Can't wail to hear your first report. I will be passing you as you get off our party will be getting on. 8) Thanks ahead of time.

ready2gonow March 26th, 2007 11:41 AM

8) 8) O.K. Kuki, I have my shades on! Let's set sail!

Jiffymom March 26th, 2007 12:21 PM

I am curious about the weather as we will be going on FOS the exact same time next year. Forgot about Spring Break I should make hotel reservations real early.

msblackjack March 26th, 2007 12:25 PM


Originally Posted by Jiffymom
I am curious about the weather as we will be going on FOS the exact same time next year. Forgot about Spring Break I should make hotel reservations real early.

I would also suggest booking at non-beach hotels.... it can get pretty crazy.

msblackjack March 26th, 2007 04:24 PM

lifeboat drill time? about now....

mehawk March 26th, 2007 04:34 PM

Thanks again for sharing with us. :D

fllady March 26th, 2007 05:44 PM

Hi Kuki, Looking forward to your report on the Brilliance, my favorite ship of RCI.

ready2gonow March 26th, 2007 06:01 PM

Life boat drill is finished. How is our cabin? Are we on the port or starboard side of the ship?

Phyllbo March 26th, 2007 06:55 PM

Okay, I'm ready for you to take me on board for the virtual cruise. Hope the ride out isn't too rough tonight. The winds have settled down a bit around here, but it's still breezy.


MaryLou March 26th, 2007 08:07 PM

Let the cruise begin! I need this cruise very badly!!!!!!

RCscoop March 26th, 2007 11:33 PM

Me too! We've set a record rainfall for March in the Pacific NW. I'm soggy and cold and would love to be on the Brilliance right now...hey Kuki.

You there? Let us know how warm and sunny it is will you please? Even though you're there, and we're here. Oh well.

And will you do your best to not let any drunks fall off the ship? There seems to be more of this happening lately, and it's bringing the wrong spotlight on cruising.

Keep your feet on the deck, Steve

msblackjack March 27th, 2007 08:31 AM

oh no! houston we have a problem - no live reports..... help with have CM's with PCD and lack of cruise depression; where is our fix? :wink:

Kuki March 27th, 2007 10:09 AM

Brilliant Cruising
Mar. 26, Day 1

We left the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale just after 10 A.M. and drove to the port of Miami. I was dropping Mrs. Kuki and the luggage at the pier by 11 A.M.
I returned our Hertz rental car to the outlet at the Marriott Biscayne Bay, and returned to the pier by taxi (fare $8.50 + tip). I met up with Mrs. Kuki outside of the terminal by 11:30 A.M.

The embarkation process was a breeze, made even smoother by the fact we are Diamond level members in RCI’s Crown and Anchor Society. (as an aside - whatever your highest level in either the RCI or Celebrity cruise lines repeaters clubs, you are granted the equivalent level in the other’s program). On occasion, on previous cruises, the lines at the Diamond check in desk have been longer than the “regular? lines, but that was not the case today.

Having filled out our guest registration online, we presented our completed “Sea Pass? to the pleasant check in agent, and were crossing the gangway within minutes. By 11:45 A.M. I was already checking out the offerings at the buffet, and had to try everything in sight because we were informed the guest’s cabins wouldn’t be available until 1 P.M. So… what else would one do to occupy their time… EAT!! Well, I did take a break long enough to take a picture or two.

In the past, the cruise lines wouldn’t even begin the embarkation process until the entire ship had been readied, including cabins. This normally meant Noon, at the very earliest, and even though guests were checked in, they could be made to wait in the embarkation building for some time until they were allowed to board the ship.

To be honest, I don’t remember which cruise line was the first to move to allowing passengers to board the ship earlier, and enjoy the public areas until the cabins were prepared - but it certainly was a great idea! No doubt it has made it much easier for the cruise line in many ways as well, spreading the process of boarding thousands of passengers over a longer period of time, rather than having 3 or 4 hours to process and board everyone. Of course, it’s amazing how quickly the onboard staff and crew get the ship looking so clean and “spiffy“, when the final guests from the previous sailing may have just left the ship an hour or so earlier.

I got a few of the housekeeping items out of the way pretty quickly; got my soda card ($6/day per adult + 15% gratuity - $4/day for children + gratuity) (and yes you do have to drink a lot of soda to make this worthwhile, but I qualify), and I got my CyberCabin connections chords ( $120 for unlimited dial up access from the cabin using your own laptop). The ship does have Wi Fi hotspots in several public areas, as well as an Internet Café. I’ll collect information on pricing and available packages for that at a later date, but after a quick glance the best deal did seem to be the CyberCabin if you don’t mind dragging along your own laptop. I also signed us for the Murder Mystery Dinner in Portofinos. They hold it twice during this cruise, on Day 4 and Day 8. We chose Day 8 to make certain our minds would be “cruise mush? by then.

The dining times on the Brilliance are 5:30 for main seating, and 8:00 P.M. for late seating. Though Mrs. Kuki and I normally prefer main/early seating, thankfully we have late seating on this cruise. 5:30 is just much too early for dinner.

The Minstrel Dining Room is located amidships on Decks 4 and 5. Our assigned table for eight is on Deck 4, just two tables in from the doorway, so it feels a bit like it’s not in the dining room. But then I’m somewhat used to being hidden from the view of other passengers. LOL

It’s only night one, so we’ll have to see how things unfold but the luck of the draw for tablemates seems to have also drawn us a bit of an odd combination as well. It’s either going to turn around and evolve, or it could make for some entertaining stories for me to share here with you. Stay tuned ….

As is the case on the first night of most cruises there was one show in the theater for guests of both dinner seatings. A young lady by the name of Ashley Kerr is the Cruise Director onboard. She’s very pretty, and seemed very personable, and comfortable on stage. She must also be very bright because she’s from my hometown, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Royal Caribbean has more female Cruise Directors than any other line I can think of. And if you hadn’t heard it also now has a female Captain, though not on this ship. So, in this regard, for young women thinking of heading out to sea, it seems Royal Caribbean is a fairly forward thinking company.

During the show tonight, I also heard a title that was new to me. Ashley introduced the “Activities Manager?. From the description of the job it sounded to me be very similar to what you’d think a Cruise Director, or Ass’t Cruise Director would do, but now it has a more sophisticated sounding title. Tonight’s show was completed with the comedy of Phil Tag, who I found to be quite entertaining. He has an adult comedy show tomorrow evening at Midnight, and I’ll make a point of being there.

Apparently his luggage was lost today and did not make it to Miami by the time the ship sailed. His “line? was he flew Delta, and he shouldn’t have expected it because their name says it all: Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive. I liked it!

The same thing must have happened to a great many passengers because I’ve never seen so many people wearing shorts in the dining room. LOL
On the subject of dress - I noticed in the Cruise Compass (the ship’s daily newsletter) that on this 11 night cruise there are only 2 formal nights. Either they changed it this morning when they saw the way this week’s crowd was dressed at boarding, or this is another signal of a move to more relaxed dress codes.

We’re encountering some fairly heavy winds tonight, so a bit of movement to get used to. Tomorrow is a relaxing sea day as we make our way towards Labadee, Haiti. I know I’m going to really enjoy sleeping in, and not driving on the I 95.

Kuki March 27th, 2007 10:25 AM

Have to apologize about the delay in yesterday's report. Last night the Cyber Cabin hook up was just not cooperating. It was Cyber Cabin hang up.

Trip March 27th, 2007 10:28 AM

Loving it so far! When you feel someone whisper in your ear at dinner, asking for a shrimp cocktail, that will be me, wishing very hard, I was able to ask in person:):) Cruise on!:):)

wayward_bob March 27th, 2007 02:02 PM

Great report Kuki, keep em comming!

Luanne Russo March 27th, 2007 04:35 PM

I almost forgot you were doing this. Glad I haven't missed much. LOL

More,more,more Please!!!

Phyllbo March 27th, 2007 06:06 PM

Good to hear from you, and get this cruise underway. Hopefully the seas have calmed down for you.

I'm looking forward to hearing some stories from the dining room experience. :-)


Donna March 27th, 2007 09:52 PM

Great hearing from you Moose Man, HI to Geela. Keep the reports coming, always very interesting. Hope you do well in the Casino.

Dave the Wave March 27th, 2007 10:06 PM

Will you be participating in the belly Flop contest? :shock:

Kuki March 28th, 2007 09:29 AM

Brilliant Cruiser
March 27 - Day at Sea

I’d ended up coming back to our cabin quite late last night; the casino had been treating me reasonably well, so I’d stayed on to play and meet some of the staff. Oddly, at least as yet, I haven’t come across any casino staff I know from previous RCI cruises. It’s usually one department where I know someone from the other RCI ships I’ve sailed. But, even if there aren’t any old “friends? onboard, those I met last night seemed very pleasant, and friendly.

My routine for writing these Virtual Cruise Reports is to make notes (both mental and written) during the course of the day, then write the report late at night before retiring to bed. So, that will help explain some of the bad grammar, and demented sentence structure you’re going to encounter over the next 11 days.

Last night the satellite connection was simply not cooperating, and after several attempts to send in my report failed I gave up and went to sleep.

The program for replacing/upgrading the beds on the Brilliance is now complete. The new beds are much better than the old cot style beds that were replaced. Though fairly comfortable they don’t compare to some of the other lines Euro-top mattresses. Nor have they yet moved to using the higher quality linens and duvets that are becoming common place in the industry. The bed do have the curved edges at the foot of the mattress, which opens up more space in the cabin, but they are a bit of a challenge for those, like me, who are over 6 ft. tall; my legs just run out bed.

That said, after going to bed after 2 A.M. I was going to sleep in late, and enjoy the blank schedule I had for this first sea day. Just prior to 10 A.M. Ashley, the CD began a set of morning announcements. They didn’t come on the in cabin speakers, but were loud enough in the hallway to wake us. It was probably time to get out of bed anyway… at least Ashley thought it was. \

The look of despair in my face must have become obvious to Mrs. Kuki when it became clear I’d already missed the adult shuffleboard tournament, the Pathway to Yoga, and the Burn Fat Fast Seminar. In reality I was ever so slightly disappointed I’d missed the Gourmet Cooking demonstration in the Centrum.

As I was browsing the Cruise Compass, both yesterday and today, I noticed meetings posted for the First Time Cruiser’s Club. I don’t recall seeing this on previous cruises (though it could be my lack of observatory power, rather than something new). At any rate, I think it’s a wonderful idea to get first time cruisers together, and give them a bit of informative assistance as to what they can expect onboard. I’ll have to attend a session to see that that’s what it is, instead of a sales pitch of some sort (sorry for the skepticism).

Once we did get dressed and made it out to the pool deck, I was surprised by the apparent large number of children onboard. It is spring break in some areas of the country, and approaching Easter as well, but the “normal expectation? is longer cruises attract less children. With this being an 11 night cruise, the large numbers of kids onboard certainly seems to buck that trend.

The main pool on Lido Deck was occupied mostly be children, as were the two hot tubs. After a bit of time I did notice a staff member approach the hot tubs to check with the kids on the whereabouts of their parents; and several were asked to leave the hot tub.

On the subject of kids… there’s a notice in the Cruise Compass announcing that there’s a 1 A.M. curfew in place; “All guests under the age of 18 years must be clear of all public areas“. Considering this ship does not have a teen dedicated disco, and considering Royal Caribbean’s recent marketing campaigns are geared so heavily towards attracting families, I’m a bit surprised by the policy. For safety purposes I don’t think it’s a bad idea, just a surprising one. But now Mrs. Kuki and I have an excuse for being in bed early, other than being boring people; we can simply say we’re not old enough to be out by ourselves.

Another policy point, and one I’d never thought I’d encounter on a cruise ship; in the Cruise Compass, where it lists the evening’s showroom entertainment, it notes “Please refrain from using cell phones during the performances?. Could this possibly mean that soon we’re going to see passengers in the dining rooms with their cell phones lying on the tables waiting for that all important call?

How grand technology can be to allow me to report back to CruiseMates on a daily basis from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and how bad can it get that we can’t be away from our voice mail even in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m a huge fan of the Radiance Class ships (Radiance, Brilliance, Jewel, Serenade). They are particularly beautiful ships, and large enough to allow most of the amenities we passengers expect on today’s cruise ships, yet not so large you get entirely lost in the crowd. There are a couple of what I consider to be design flaws on the Lido deck, most probably caused by trying to fit so much onto this deck. For a ship carrying as many passengers as this ship does the outdoor, central pool and sun lounger area is quite small. There’s a large area, on the stern, outside of the Windjammer for al fresco dining. However there’s none out by the pool. A prefect spot for these would be an overhang area in front of the Sky Bar on Deck 12, but this area is filled with loungers. No doubt people will think I’m being picky, and they are absolutely correct. I personally enjoy sitting out a table in the sunshine, with drinks or food in front of me, people watching. The one other thing I miss is a pool side grill. One of the stations inside the Windjammer Café is a grill area, but both days I’ve gone by the hamburgers and hot dogs have been sitting in warming trays looking dried out, as opposed to being reasonably freshly made.

Of note, is something I haven’t seen before. In the dining room at lunch they are offering lunch they’ve dubbed Brasserie 30, promising a sit down lunch in 30 minutes. We didn’t try it yet, but I’m going to have to make a point of trying it for lunch one day.

As we were having lunch today outdoors on the stern, aft of the Windjammer we noticed our assistant waiter, Rolando, from the dining room, working the area. We had a moment to chat and learned that last night was his first shift working the dining room. He had just been promoted to ass‘t waiter, having previously been training by working in the SeaView Café, on Deck 12. It was a bit obvious last night that he was nervous, so I suspected he was relatively new, but he’s a nice fellow and very enthusiastic, so with time I’m sure he’ll be just fine at his job. By Day 2, tonight, he was already much more relaxed, and doing a better job.

This evening was Formal night in the dining room, and a nice variety of offerings on the menu to chose from. I’m enjoying the reasonably sized portions of the meals on the ship. After 5 days eating in U.S. restaurants where portions always seem gigantic, it’s rather nice to not be intimidated by the amount of food on my plate (even if you can eat 16 times in one day on the ship).

I didn’t make tonight’s headliner act in the act in the showroom, Renato Pagliari, “International Singing Star?, but Mrs. Kuki did go, and she didn’t know he was either. The two of us did meet up afterwards to attend Phil Tags midnight adult comedy show. We enjoyed the act, and enjoyed it even more because he was able to be funny without ever having to rely on the “F word?.

Tomorrow is our first port of call, RCI’s private stop at Labadee, Haiti. The forecast is for a high of 90 degrees, so we’ll be doing a bit of baking on the beach.

Note : I had intended on posting lots of pictures as well along with the daily reports, but to this point the Internet connection is simply not allowing that to be possible. I began a gallery to load them to, but gave up after the first picture I tried to upload failed after a 20 minute wait. I will add pictures as soon as it becomes possible.

tropical-cowgirl March 28th, 2007 11:07 AM

Thanks for the report Kuki,
I check back everyday looking for it, just so you know that I do appreiciate the report and the time you take to post it for everyone.
Can't wait to hear about Labadee. I will be going there in Oct.
Have fun. Get a tan for me too!

Donna March 28th, 2007 11:18 AM

Wow, enjoy the day in Labadee, one of my favorite stops. Did the wave runners the last time, great fun. Watch that sun though, its mighty intense there.

Have fun and hope to see some pics soon.

cruisingalong March 28th, 2007 12:09 PM

Kuki, Thanks for taking your time for the reports. It's a great way to start my day!


Royal March 28th, 2007 12:20 PM

Yes Kuki,

Thanks so very much for posting your trip thus far. It is a treat to read. By the way, what were you playing in the casino? Also, are the slots worth playing.......or are they tight on a ship?

Enjoy Labadee.....and be very carful of the sun there. Lucky you to be there. I'm sailing on a 10 cruise in August and it's not going to to Labadee....will be my first time no docking there.

MaryLou March 28th, 2007 12:54 PM

Awwww, I love Brilliance of the Seas and am enjoying the cruise with you. One comment I must make, last year I attended a seminar at sea with RCCL and the annoucement was made that passengers would soon be able to use cell phones throughout the cruise. I understand how this may or may not be appealing to business folks (cruiselines are doing their best to get business conferences, etc. onboard), but I HATE the idea of seeing people with a cell phone stuck to their ear while cruising. It sure defeats the purpose of a relaxed vacation atmosphere, IMHO.
Kuki, please be sure to have the crab salad at the Sea View Cafe for me, okay?

Phyllbo March 28th, 2007 03:30 PM

Thanks Kuki. You write better in the middle of the night than I could in the middle of the day. I enjoy reading your reports.


Luanne Russo March 28th, 2007 03:35 PM

I was thinking the same thing Phyll.

Great report Kuki!!!

Brian J March 28th, 2007 06:59 PM

Thanks for the great info!!

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