Hi everyone, first time critic here so apologies if I miss anything out! We just returned last night from our cruise on Brilliance of the Seas, which left from Dubai on March 25 and sailed to India (Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin) and Muscat before returning to Dubai.
This was our first cruise on Royal Caribbean, but it definitely wont be the last. Most of our cruising has been with NCL. We initially booked with NCL because we like to be casual and Freestyle seemed to fit our needs, and then we didnt want to stray from NCL because we didnt want to be disappointed...however we then tried P&O which we liked very much, and now Royal Caribbean, which we absolutely adored.
Embarkation was super fast and super easy. The only hold up was the endless red tape and forms we had to fill out to get into India, but thats down to the Indian government rather than Royal Caribbean.
Brilliance of the Seas was a great ship. It could probably use a little refurbishment in certain areas, plus I tend to prefer a larger ship (my favourite until now being Norwegian Jade), but overall it was great. The food was the best we've had on any ship (we've sailed on NCL Jade, Gem, Jewel, Dawn, Epic and Sun, P&O Ventura and Carnival somethingorother - we hated it so I've mentally blocked the name of the ship out). The cabin on Brilliance (8172) was at the extreme rear of the ship with a massive balcony. The cabin itself was great - extremely clean and well kept, although the furniture on the balcony had definitely seen better days and probably could do with being replaced.
Im the worlds most fussy eater ever, plus I'm a little on the shy side, so the thought of sharing a table with total strangers really isnt up my alley (hence always having gone for the NCL freestyle option), so most of our meals were taken in the Windjammer Cafe, however the food was definitely top notch, always hot, always fresh, the selection of different foods was immense and I found nothing to complain about. Even though we had to get our own food, it didnt feel like a buffet somehow.
Service by all the staff we encountered was fabulous. Marcelo, our cabin steward, couldnt do enough for us, and Paul and Cuddy (cruise director and activities manager) were extremely entertaining.
The only problem we encountered (and it wasnt a massive problem) was that one day during the cruise, there was a very nasty looking brown liquid floating on the top of the pool. It actually turned my swimming trunks brown. I mentioned this to guest services who said it was probably suntan lotion (although for there to be THAT much brown liquid in the pool, someone would have had to have used gallons of suntan lotion...), however that night they completely drained the pool and washed it out, and we didnt have a problem after that.
Entertainment (shows, etc) on the ship was ok but nothing to really write home about. It was quite amateurish but watchable. Most of it was geared to the English guests, which was fine because the majority of guests were from the UK, but there wasnt much for other Europeans or Americans (etc) onboard. I'm British so I enjoyed the stand-up late night adult comedy but it wasnt to everyones taste. The casino is very small with (in my opinion) a poor selection of slot machines, but there were quite a few gaming tables which seemed popular.
The ports of call I visited were amazing - Mumbai was completely mind-blowing, as was Cochin. I didnt get off in Goa or New Mangalore. Muscat was great (I'd been there several times before), and the ship overnighted in Dubai at the end of the cruise and Dubai was as great and as glitzy as ever (I used to work there so I know Dubai very well).
Disembarkation was very simple. We waited in the Colony Club until our luggage tag number was called at 8.30am, and by 9.00am we were in our hotel in Dubai, near Mall of the Emirates, wishing we were still on the ship.
It really was a fantastically memorable cruise and I'd have no hesitation recommending either Royal Caribbean or Brilliance of the Seas. Ideally I do prefer a larger ship, but the effort RC staff put into their work was immense and all in all we had an absolutely fantastic holiday. While on the ship, we also booked a back to back cruise on Independence of the Seas for next year (Caribbean and then Transatlantic), and I think our NCL days are behind us. There's only so much cheap pizza and frozen chips a man can eat just for the sake of eating 'casually'...