Ok, I promised by Saturday...here is my Brilliance Review. And it is hella-long, but keep in mind it was a 12 day trip!
ON OUR WAY
We left a day early to fly overnight to Barcelona. I am so disappointed I didn't think to go a day earlier or stay a day or two later to see Barcelona, because we didn't get to... I was sure our bags would never make it from Philadelphia to Barcelona since we nearly didn’t, but thankfully, there were no problems. We got to the port bright and early and were on board by noon.
I was super excited to be cruising a Royal Caribbean ship as I had always heard great things about them and they always looked so luxurious. The Centrum on the Brilliance is amazing. All the glass and lights and décor is beautiful. I thought there was a Royal Promenade and was looking forward to a parade, but found out quickly I was wrong. The movie theatre was awesome. The shops were set up nicely, and I loved the photo gallery area-so organized. I loved the pool area and deck space, and the Solarium pool area was wonderful. Even the children’s pool area with the slide was super nice. The rock climbing wall is a nice touch, I climbed it twice and even got a gold medal! The lounges and clubs were set up nicely as well. What I did not like about the ship was that it was not always easily accessible. There seemed to be crew only doors every door I tried to go in. After I spent a few days on it, it was easier to navigate. All in all the ship is really nice and well kept.
I loved our stateroom. We had a two beds, a pull down bunk, and a giant round window I could sit in! The beds were comfortable. We had plenty of closet and dresser space, and I brought an over the door shoe hanger with plastic pockets to put our toiletries in so it wasn’t cluttered. All the navy and white made nice touch.
Dining was decent. I think the Windjammer should have better hours, as well as ice cream/frozen yogurt 24 hours a day… The pizza was wonderful on board, and the Windjammer has an awesome set up. Going into the second week they had to serve us due to GI illness, which slowed service quite a bit, but let up on it halfway through the week. I never got to try Portofino’s or Chops, or the Seaview or Solarium Café’s. We ate Windjammer food during the day and ate in the main dining room @ 8:30 every night.
Service excelled in some areas, and in others not so much. One Explorations desk girl helped me tremendously. Our assistant waiter in the dining room was exceptional. He catered more to us and seemed to enjoy our company moreso than our headwaiter, therefore earning a bigger tip. We absolutely loved him. Our headwaiter did not seem to like our table, and his service was so poor on the last night we didn’t even order desert. We enjoyed our cruise director, Bill, and his staff were phenomenal in attempting to assure a good time aboard such a busy cruise. We had a few bar waiters in the disco and clubs that we became friends with that always took care of us when we were there. Our stateroom attendant was pretty good as well.
I have already decided I will be back to Europe within two years. We went and did and seen so much, and yet didn’t see nearly enough.
Villefrance, France. Here we got off the ship and taxied to Monaco/Monte Carlo and walked around. It was nice but really commercial. We saw the Castle and the Gand Casino. Then we bused back to Nice and went to the Stone Beach, which was peaceful and beautiful. Super nice, but I’m not dying to go back.
Florence/Pisa, Italy. Florence is incredible. Everything is marble/bronze/gold plated, and the giant church and bell tower and basilica there are so incredibly detailed with carved marble and the colors are beautiful. There were statues, churches, and fountains galore. We spent a good part of the day on the guided tour and then had some free time. After lunch, we went to Pisa. I was speechless as we walked up and saw the basilica and the tower hanging there. I told the girls “You know, it hasn’t hit me that we are 6,000 miles from home seeing something that most people only read about.” I’m not sure that even at this point it’s totally sunk in…
Rome, Italy. Rome was one of my favorites. We went to the Vatican Museum, which the detail of the carvings/tapestries/paintings cannot be adequately described in words. The Sistine Chapel was a totally emotional experience for me, being in what I have always thought to be one of the most holy places in the world (I’m not Catholic, but a Christian, but have always had a revered respect for Vatican City). Every panel is a different story. The Last Judgment was not what I expected but better. I wished we had more time in there, because that is somewhere I could spend all day. We went over to St. Peter’s Basilica and that is somewhere I could spend three days in. Again, the detail and architecture are amazing. We saw where the Pope comes to Mass and the giant altar. There is a dead Pope in a glass case, which is kind of creepy… They had a mass going on in one of the smaller chapels in the Basilica. The dome is gorgeous. I could go on and on… President Bush was in Rome the day we were…if he had messed up my tour I was going to be so mad…happily that didn’t happen and we got to see what we came to see. After lunch, which was fabulous, we went to the Coliseum. We got to go inside and walk around and see where all the gladiators came in and the emperors sat. They were also setting up a stage for a ballet to take place that night inside. Driving from place to place we saw great parts of the city. We did not get to see the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps (because the tour I wanted sold out), which I was so disappointed about I wanted to cry! But what we did see was well worth it and I am so ready to go back!
Saturday was a cruise day. I spent the day outside on deck and playing with some little girls (ages 10-11) that were cousins of a guy (Jose) I had met the day before, and then he joined us. After playing in the hot tubs/children’s pools I went to get ready for dinner as that night was the Captain’s night and I had to get all dressed up to the nine’s. The Captain’s party was ok-I was hoping for better drinks. On to a fun night at dinner and later dancing in the disco.
Mykonos, Greece. The tour I wanted had sold out, so we just tendered off the ship and walked around. Tendering was a total mess, incredibly disorganized and not planned out well at all. It took us an hour and a half to get off. I thought Mykonos was really pretty, with all the white and villa style buildings. We made it up to the windmills, which are impressive. It was so hot that after a few hours we called it a day and took naps. The girls stayed asleep but I got up and got to spend a couple of hours by the pool again with my new friends (Jose and his cousins).
Ephesus, Turkey. We had booked the Ephesus, Didyma, and Miletus tour. Ephesus was great. So many ruins and we walked the length of Ephesus, walked around in the Library, saw the baths and toilets, the giant stadium, and saw an interactive show. In Miletus we walked around the stadium there and saw some more of the baths. After a buffett Turkish lunch, which was pretty good, we went to Didyma where the Temple of Apollo is, which was incredible. We walked all over and inside that temple. From there we went to a carpet demonstration and I so want a Turkish rug…however, my bank account says no. We walked around the Grand Bazaar and many streets in Turkey before returning to the ship, where I spent a good amount outside at the pool area before getting ready for dinner.
. Santorini, Greece. Beautiful. We visited Oia and went to a winery, where I found a wine I actually like and promptly bought (I don’t like wine in general.) I loved the village. We went back to the city area where we could take cable cars back to the tenders and walk around a bit, seeing a Greek orthodox church and then cable car-ring it back down, because there wasn’t much else to see. I went to the pool and hung out with my friend Jose and his cousins while my girls slept or found something else to do…
Athens, Greece. We hiked up the hill to the Parthenon/Acropolis and had lots of free time to walk around. You can’t walk through any of the temples but you can see straight through them. The architecture/detail is incredible. The Parthenon is amazing, and the most amazing thing about it is that it‘s not remotely duplicated any where in the world. The guards there are very strict about not crossing the boundaries to take pics and will take your camera and delete the picture if you do (I saw this happen to a guy.) It was so hot that day… After visiting we went back to the ship, then walking around Piraeus for some shopping.
Another cruise day. I spent this cruise day partly by myself, then going around with my friend Jose to an art show, spending some time in the Concierge club, seeing the Turkish rug he had bought (I am so jealous…) playing out at the pool, and just being lazy. It was great.
Naples, Italy. While we did not see any of Naples except from our ship, we did go to Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii. Capri is now one of my most favorite places in the whole world. It’s gorgeous and their gelato is really good. We did not have nearly enough time there or in Sorrento. Sorrento is nice too. And Pompeii blew me away. That buried city they have dug out is so big that I swear if you ever went in at night by yourself without a guide you’d never find your way out. The city walls are still intact for the most part, the brothel rooms restored, and the courtyards with the temples are amazing. We saw the buried people of Pompeii behind the wrought iron cages, and the words from Titanic kept repeating in my head “Waiting to live, waiting to die, waiting for an absolution that would never come.” After a stop at the Cameo shell necklace place, to watch how/where they make the beautiful Cameo necklaces, we went back to the ship.
Cruise day. My girls wouldn’t get up, so I went out again by myself. I spent the day with my friend Jose and his family, eating breakfast, playing ping pong, going to a movie and to bingo (where at bingo I found my girls, who wanted to play but decided it was too expensive and a couple from our table bought them bingo cards), then going off by myself for a bit. After Jose’s bridge tour we jumped in the pool and hung out til time to get ready for the pre-dinner show/dinner.
We met some awesome people. Our dinner table was amazing. There were two couples from Brazil, who did not know each other, and only one of them could speak English. Another couple from Maryland, and another from California. Dinner was one of our favorite times because we enjoyed the company so much. We all got along, and were even able to make ourselves understood between us and the Brazilians who couldn’t speak English.
I met two guys, Jose from Miami whom I met on our tour in Rome and he was super nice and his family was awesome. His cousins, whom were 10 and 11 and one boy cousin who was 13, were a lot of fun to be around. And he had an aunt who was totally fun loving and made everyone around her have a good time. We spent quite a bit of time together on the ship, and it was nice having someone to hang out with because my girls were always napping in free time or not wanting to do much. The other one was Julio from the Dominican Republic. We met up because my sister’s friend, Sarah, asked him one night in the Colony club what time it was in Spanish, and when he told her, she said “What?” He repeated in perfect English. It was hilarious. He ended up on our tour in Athens and I went to one show with him. We hung out a bit on the ship together, and I exchanged numbers and email with both.
Our bar waiters in the Colony Club and the Disco were great. Maria from Naples was in the Colony Club and she was witty and always ready to please. Roberto in the Disco bought us drinks one night because someone stole our seats, and after asking for ice water the first night he always brought it as soon as we walked in.
Our assistant waiter Joseph in the dining room rocked. He did so much more than the main waiter. We loved him.
Sarah and Crystal made some new friends as well, but not anyone I think they are keeping in touch with.
Shows. The shows that the Royal Caribbean singers and dancer put on were so so, although parts of “Now and Forever“ were really good. Duggie Brown, the comedian, had some jokes that were great, others not so much. Tango Buenos Aires was incredible. Jonathan Kane as Elton John was so good you would have sworn it was Elton John sitting right there. The Abba tribute group wasn’t that great, so I didn’t stay for the whole thing. Nestor Torres, a man whom played the flute as well as other instruments, was quite entertaining. The juggler was hilarious, as well as very talented.
On Board Activities. The disco was dead nearly every night, except a few. The Latin Fiesta Night was a big hit, and we were happy not to be the only people dancing. The 70s party also did well, and the male cruise staff dressed up to a T as the Village people. I went to Mariachi Music one night with Jose and his family, then to the 50s party. Another night, Crystal and Sarah learned to line dance at the Western Party in the Colony Club. Karaoke in the Colony Club was always fun. We attended salsa class one day. The Toga Party the staff had one night was great-they wrapped anyone willing up in Togas and we looked great! We attempted Greek dancing but they got going so fast we almost fell, so we just watched… The piano guy at the Schooner Bar was pretty good. The pool was almost always an option, except it was closed a few times. We had plenty to choose from…there just wasn’t always others wanting to join in. Not a lot of 18-35 year on board, more of an older crowd, which really had Crystal and Sarah disappointed.
Debarkation was the easiest I’ve ever been through. I loved the fact that we came off the ship without wait, walked in the terminal, and our luggage came out on conveyor belts like at the airport. I think that idea is phenomenal. There is no trip and try to grab bags over everyone else doing the same thing. We got out taxi and headed to the airport.
Leaving Barcelona was not an issue. Leaving Ireland was quite another. The plane that was suppose to take us from Ireland to Philadelphia decided it was going to leave the runway 30 minutes early. Soooo….there were about 30 of us (from the Brilliance and the Norweigan Jewel, and these were only whom we could find to count, there were probably more) stranded. Luckily, Aer Lingus, the company we flew in on, put us all up in a super nice hotel, fed us gourmet food, and got us transportation to/from the airport. Not a bad place to be stuck in. We did get home the 23rd about 5ish in one piece with all our luggage.
The trip was amazing and I did like Royal Caribbean. There are things they can improve on, such as food, tendering, Royal excels in their pool area and the way they enforce the chair policy, debarkation, and cruise director’s staff, as well as the itinerary choice. The places we saw and the things we did are beyond words. I got to spend that time with my sister Crystal on the trip of a lifetime, which I can never get back and will never forget. I hope she enjoyed it as much as she seemed to. I think Sarah had a good time too, and I’m glad my sister got to share it with her best friend. I will be going back. And I will cruise Royal again.
I think that covers it…Hope you enjoy!