Departed Old San Juan on the Brilliance after spending one pre-cruise night in the Milano hotel, where our room cost $150 and was no bigger than our cabin on the ship. Yes, and an inside room, with no window, 50-year-old furniture and mushroom carpet. The hotel was okay because right in the heart of the old city. All we did was sleep there, plus have the breakfast for $5.50 per person on the rooftop the day of departure - excellent, almost cancelled out the mushroom carpet.
This was a sentimental cruise for me (my fist ship was the Radiance) as I wanted to sail again on this beautiful class of ship before the re-fit/expansion. And, it was my hubby's fist cruise ever, as I had press-ganged him into taking one (just one, you never have to do it again if you don't like it) cruise with me. The cruise hit a home run for both of us.
Can't cover it all, but here are the highlights, with a couple lowlights at the end. We did DIY at all ports, and that worked for us, cuz we don't like lots of people around us and we do like to walk the road less-traveled. Loved Magan's Bay in St Thomas - been on many Caribbean beaches, but this one deserves its rep as one of the ten best. I hate swimming if I think my feet are going to touch something sharp or mucky. Win! I loved swimming there. Hubby had a great time walking the whole beach end-to-end with the binocs, watching the waterfowl.
I had been to St Lucia 20 years ago on a land vacation. Very sorry to see the St Lucian tourist industry now incorporates people aggressively flogging their tacky souvenirs and not taking no graciously as an answer. Plus at every stop, charging a dollar to use the potty??? I did dip myself in the mud at the volcano, and it was a hoot. However, it took me two days afterward (and a brush purchased in Guadeloupe) to scrub that volcanic grit put of all my crevices.
Guadeloupe was the unexpected surprise hit of the vacation for us. We just did DIY in Pointe a Pitre, and loved every minute of it. We found this port interesting, clean, safe, and sophisticated (see wassup's posts in the community threads for details). Antigua - meh. You have to walk two blocks away from the pier before the people stop pestering you to take their taxi or tour. We took the local #17 bus to and from Nelson's Dockyards, pretty good excursion for less than $30 for two people. Glad we didn't spend more.
We loved St Croix. Small, clean, lovely, historic, straight ahead as you walk off the ship. And if that isn't enough, there's a fine beach within view and to the left of the pier, no cost, rentals available, food shacks with WIFI, tide pools, and a laid-back groove.
As for the Brilliance, yes, she needs to go in for a refresh, but it was great to sail on her the way she is, before that. Never had the potty smell in the cabin before, but we did on this one in our aft cabin 9260, mostly in the bathroom. The steward did his best, but could only subdue it. Otherwise, she is a little worn at some edges, but truly we weren't looking at that, because with this ship it's all about looking outside all the time. This class of ships' great genius is bringing the outside in.
Final word: Marcelo the classical guitarist is a genius. The Starlight trio can play music from any century and make it sound amazing.
Final final word. The hubby, the reluctant cruiser, beat a path to the ship's onboard sign-up for a next cruise. Sold!!!!!