This was our eighth cruise, the fourth time with RCI. We had a very relaxed journey from start to finish. We are from Sullivan County (NY). Due to the late departure of the Brilliance and the fact that we had vacationed in Puerto Rico previously, we over nighted at the airport (EWR). We stayed in the Newark Airport Hampton Inn. We had a 9:30 Jet Blue flight and found not having to drive (a two hour journey),then fly and transfer to the port all in the same day a more relaxed and less tense way to approach the travel from home to ship. If you seek additional information re the hotel,I have a review of the hotel and park/fly option of the Hampton Inn on Trip Advisor. Briefly,the Hampton Inn is not a "posh" hotel but the staff is helpful and I find their parking facility and use of their "courtesy van" most convenient. It will meet or exceed your expectations.
Our Jet Blue flight the next day was on time. We found the seats comfortable, and their service, although limited, was sufficient for this four hour flight. The crew was most hospitable.
For those of you who have never made the airport to cruise ship transfer before (like us),it is a snap. Just exit the baggage area and the cabs are lined up to take you to your ship.The base price is $21.00 (for two people)plus $1.00 per suitcase. For peace of mind, it is always best to ask what the fare will be prior to getting into the cab. We did not hear a peep about anyone getting ripped off by a cab driver. Your trip (depending on traffic) should take about twenty minutes.
If you follow the on-line check-in list pre-boarding paper processing will go very smoothly. Don't forget to print out or request your ship luggage tags before you leave for the cruise. Put them on your luggage when you get to the cruise line terminal. All you will have to do is leave them with a baggage handler just prior to entering the terminal. If you arrive without your luggage tags, the baggage handler will print them up for you. It is best to have whatever you will need to enjoy the time between boarding the ship and the time you get your luggage (by 7:00PM). You will have access to your room so you can change into the shorts, workout clothing, or the ensemble that you have in the separate bag you boarded with. We did not get our baggage until 7:00 and we had early dining, so we were verrrrry casual for our dinner the first night (but so was everyone else).
The pre-boarding and boarding processes were very easy. We landed at 1:30PM and by 3:00PM we were exploring the ship. It only took two seconds to explore the stateroom. Our "large", ocean-view stateroom was a bit of a disappointment. It is nice to have a "window", but one had to contort on the bed to peek out of the port hole. We will experience a balcony the next time. The price difference from an inside room to this "large" ocean-view stateroom was not warranted. Aside from the porthole view disappointment, there was ample room to hang and store our clothing and put our luggage under the comfortable bed.
All of the public rooms (not speaking about bathrooms here) were always in guest ready condition. After every event the staff swoops in and in moments it is as though nothing happened and if you wanted a quiet retreat at least one lounge was available to read, chat quietly, or practice your dance moves (like we did).
I was a frequent user of the fitness center. I found it an an adequate substitute for my usual fitness regimen. Never had to wait for a free elliptical or fitness station. Yoga classes and spinning classes were also available.
The entertainment on board was better than we had expected. We particularly enjoyed the murder mystery dinner provided by Portofinos, one of the specialty restaurants on board. We ate there twice and totally enjoyed the food and service. We went to the theater twice. The variety shows presented were enjoyable, consisting of singing and dancing, acrobatics, and a comedian.
The food and service in the dinning room was excellent. If you even hinted that you were torn between entrees or desserts there was no need for any consternation, all of your culinary wants would appear. The food in the buffet was average fare. A large variety of food offerings were always available breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eggs, waffles, french toast, sausage, beacon,salmon, cereal,oatmeal, muffins tarts, cookies, fruits for breakfast.
Lunch and dinner also provided myriad choices to satisfy the palate.
Paul and Ken the cruise director and the activity director had a very good chemistry and provided a morning show (taped the night before and ran all day) that contained light hearted banter and useful information.
We found our way around each port city on our own and also ventured to beaches. We did do one snorkeling trip that was booked through the ship's excursion office.
We have come to the conclusion that at this time in our lives cruising offers you the most value for the money.
If there was one area in which we found some disappointment it was the lack of ballroom dancing opportunities. There was a "Big Band" performance in which the opportunity to allow for dancing i.e. swing, foxtrot, waltz was absent. It was designed for listening pleasure but not so much as for dancing. We did very much enjoy the Latin Trio and the music they provided for dancing salsa, cha cha, bachata, merengue, samba, cumbia, and rhumba. The silent dance in the disco lounge was unique. Dancers wore headsets to dance to the music of two deejays. Dancers heard the music through their headset while spectators watched them dance and could converse with each other without having to shout over the music. At times it seemed dance partners were dancing to two different songs.
Lastly the Meet and Greet that we went to was very nice. We made new friends, had some appetizers and even won a raffle prize.
All in all, we liked this RCI cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas. Departing Puerto Rico cuts down the sea days and puts you in a different port each day.