Embarkation: After a quick breakfast down the street from the hotel, we set out for the pier. We arrived at the pier about 10:30. They were just staring to collect the luggage but there probably only about 50 people in front of us. We waited about in line for about 5 minutes before being able to drop our bags and head inside. There were no lines for check-in and as we were finishing up our paperwork, they were allowing people to start boarding the ship. We were on board by 10:45.
We carried on 2 bottles of wine per cabin, all packed in our carry-on luggage. There was no extra screening or any noticeable attempt to make sure we only had 2 per cabin. There is a duty-free shop in the terminal but we bought our wine at the grocery store near our hotel.
General Observations: While Brilliance is an older ship, she is aging well and is well maintained. During the week they replaced the carpet in the dining room and the turf around the pool. For the most part the carpet replacement in the dining room had little impact on passengers but the pool turf was poorly executed. They started the project while we were in Barbados (last port). All week the weather had been calling for rain that day and we had showers nearly hourly all day. This meant the project would have to spill over into the sea day making half the pool deck unusable until mid-afternoon. Needless to say, chair hogs were out in force and the pool staff didn't seem to care at all.
The only other problem that occurred during the week was with the lack of respect for other cruisers. People consistently broke in lines as if everyone else wasn't there. Also, by the end of the week roving bands of teenagers were all over the ship running and yelling down halls. Although this isn't a Royal Caribbean thing, it's more of a lack of parenting in today's society.
Cabin: As mentioned earlier, we had three cabins (one for each couple). All three were balcony cabins, located on Deck 9. My wife and I had 9256, the coveted corner aft while our parents had regular balconies located along the port side of the ship. Each balcony had two chairs and a small table, with our aft balcony also having a second table and two loungers. Even with the two tables and four chairs, there was still plenty of room to move. The two regular cabins had flat screen TV's but the aft cabin still had the old tube TV. The TV was starting to have some color issues around the edges. All cabins had the old, "friendly" shower curtains.
The seas were much more rough than it has been in my previous cruises. After spending time in several cabins, I can definitely say that there is much more motion in the back than near the center of the ship. The motion of the ocean will cause some funny things to happen in a cabin but, thanks to Cruise Critic, we were prepared. On the way to our last port, we had especially rough water and, as we were going to bed, the TV started sliding in and out on it's rails. After watching for a few minutes in amazement, I used a few small pieces of duct tape (a must on the numerous packing guides on this site) to secure it into position.
Our cabin steward, Hilario, was very good. He kept everything tidy and left towel animals three nights. We had pre-dinner get-togethers each night prior to dinner and Hilario would provide ice to keep the partial bottles cold and clean wine glasses each day.
I didn't notice any long-term/overwhelming sewer sells anywhere around the boat.
Dining/Food: We ate breakfast and had a mid-afternoon snack in Windjammer each day. It was almost always very crowded and by the end of the week we had started to call it the feeding trough. It almost always had a good selection of food but you did have to fight to get to it because no one seemed to understand the concept of lining up for a buffet.
We had My Time Dining and ate in the dining room each night. The first night was a little rough, our waiter wasn't the best and they had seated us right next to the food prep table. After we finished, I confirmed our reservation for the following night and made a request to be moved to a different table and waiter and I'm glad I did. For the remaining nights, we had a table along the balcony and were waited on by Peter and Elden. Peter, main waiter, had nightly recommendations and would push us to try new things and most nights would bring out an additional dish even if we had just mentioned amongst ourselves that we might be interested in it. By the end of the week, we were convinced that our table was bugged. After the first night, Elden had our drinks memorized and kept the bread coming. Both of these guys were amazing and made dinner the highlight of the day. Finally, the head waiter was also excellent. Most of the time, they'll make a brief appearance adjust to insure they get their tip but our head waiter would come by nightly to chat and/or remove shells from seafood for the ladies. Overall, the dining room staff was by far one of the best I've seen.
The new menu had been on Brilliance for a few weeks and they seemed to have worked out the bugs. I'm a fairly picky eater but there was always something I found that I liked.
Entertainment: We went to a couple of the shows as well as Love & Marriage and Quest. The majority of the shows were geared towards the older crowd so our parents went nightly but my wife and I only went the first two nights. The cruise director, Paul Lancaster, was excellent. He was entertaining and really funny. I believe he's going to be on the ship until dry-dock but I'm not 100% sure.
They had a few Christmas related activities including carols in the centrum on the final night.
Sea Day: By the time the sea day rolled around, I think everyone was ready to relax. With the pool turf still under construction, only half of the loungers were available. We were able to secure three sets of two chairs but by 10AM all the chairs were occupied or hogged.
Debarkation: On the morning of debarkation, the cruise terminal was experiencing power issues. It seemed as if RCI had no backup plans and their normally smooth schedule kind of fell apart. After waiting in our designated area for an extra hour, we went down to the gangway location. After getting there we found out that they were letting US Citizens exit but non-US had to wait. We exited the ship, collected our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were in a taxi on the way to the airport.