Before I start on the long list of the bad stuff that happened to us, let me first list the good stuff.
1) Almost every employee on the ship is helpful, friendly and hardworking.
2) Although I had read that the Brilliance is showing its age, we saw no wrinkles in the public areas.(note that I said "public areas" not cabins...because that's a totally different story)
3) Lots of activities for every taste.
4) Lots of food everywhere, although one particular area is not easily accessible to one and all (more about that in the list below)
5) Captain Henrick has a great sense of humor. I laughed at all his announcements that I managed to hear.
6) Entertainment was good. The shows, we took in 4 during the 10 night cruise, and thought they were pretty good. According to my daughter, Marcello at the guitar was excellent and she sat through his renditions on several occasions. Both of us also thought the Latin band from the Dominican Republic was great. All in all, the entertainment on the Brilliance is pretty brilliant if you are into music and the arts.
Now, here comes the nasty part which has put both of us off the RCCL for now and maybe forever. It's a shame because we were seriously looking at cruising with RCCL on an Australia/NZ cruise late this year or early next.
The Cabin from Hell:
Our seaview cabin on deck 3 was the smallest cabin we have ever had the misfortune to be in. This was our 7th cruise but our first with RCCL. The closet was so dark I kept wishing we had packed a searchlight to find our things. Not one light in the cabin found its way into the dark dungeon of that closet. Not one !! The arrangement of the closet and other furniture in the cabin is so haphazardly placed that one feels one is in a storeroom full of junk furniture. Moreover, the air in the cabin felt stagnant but the first couple of days it didn't affect us.
From day one of our cruise, April 13, the toilet flush would either not work or when it did the water refused to drain and any subsequent press of the flush threatened to overflow over the bowl. One had to wait for several minutes to try again (after saying a prayer) and if the guy up there heard our prayers, it worked or if God was busy and didn't, it didn't and so we had to wait yet several more minutes to try again.
The next day, we told our lovely and helpful stewardess Merle about the temperamental flush. According to her we should have been keeping the flush button pressed for a longer time. Rest of the day and way into the 3rd day, lo and behold, Merle's strategy worked.
The 3rd night I woke up with a choking coughing fit that brought on an asthma attack. I am mildly asthmatic and the attacks only come if I am at high altitudes or when I don't get clean air. I grabbed my inhaler and set up in bed trying to breathe normally for the rest of the night. I knew then that the air in the cabin, or the lack of it, had made me ill.
In the meantime, the toilet flush went back to its tricks.
We rang up Customer Relations who told us to call Maintenance and a plumber came and did something somewhere outside the cabin and the suction worked and drained the accumulated water in the bowl.
The 4th morning the toilet acted up again and instead of waiting for several minutes to try again we let the undrained water sit in the bowl so Merle could see how her trick didn't work for long and escaped the air-less, toilet-less cabin for the public areas.
On our return we met Merle and had a conversation with her about not only the toilet but also the air quality in the room. She saw how ill and tired I looked. I got a feeling she thought I might have come down with the dreaded noro-virus or something lethal or maybe she relayed the trouble we were having with the toilet to those who needed to be informed because someone from Customer Relations called us and wanted to know if everything was alright. Fool that I am, always looking to not look like a whiner, I said everything was okay. Maybe, if I had mentioned the flush, we might have been allocated another room but would have had to go to the trouble of repacking everything to make the move.
Meanwhile, my asthma attacks kept coming. It was a good thing I had packed two aerosols thinking I might need the medication during the planned high altitude tour in Tenerife.
The next couple of days we both used the public restrooms more than the toilet in the cabin for obvious reasons.
Again, towards the tail end of the cruise the plumber had to be called again. Not only was the flush not working there was no water in it. This time the man also entered the cabin and said something about bunched up toilet paper or facial tissues maybe causing the problem !!!! Yup right! Believe it folks. Bunched up toilet paper and maybe a facial tissue can clog up a toilet on the RCCL's Brilliance of the Seas.
To add insult to the injury we suffered from day one of this cruise, after the encounter with the plumber, (this was on the 9th day) we find a notification at our cabin door which stated :
"The toilet system is very sensitive; please do not dispose of anything other than toilet paper into the toilet. This includes items such as feminine hygiene products, babies' diapers and other non-biodegradable products. This will avoid clogging of the toilet systems affecting several staterooms and public restrooms. We thank you for your cooperation."
At reading this, my daughter who is normally a very easy-going person, lost her cool. She showed the note to Merle and said she wanted to speak to her Manager. Merle got her supervisor Aida to come to talk to us. Aida definitely needs a refresher course in Customer Relations ...enough said. After that, Merle's manager Benjamin Sulcer paid us a visit and tried to make amends but the harm was already done. Instead of going through the complaints on a case by case basis, Aida had thought it was right to send us the "form" letter about the "sensitive toilet system". Merle's manager tried to bribe us with an upgrade to a balcony or even a suite for that one last day or at least a dinner at Chops or a basket of something to make amends ... but we are not into that kind of thing and told him so. I told him I would write a nasty review and didn't want to have even an iota of a mellow feeling because we availed of his bribe/generous gesture.
The Guest Services Manager, Julie Sherrington, bless her heart, rang up and had a long talk with my daughter and sent us a savings certificate of "40% based on the cruise fare paid for the current sailing" but I doubt we will ever make use of it. Our very first experience with RCCL has left a bad taste in our mouths in spite of all the good food we consumed on board.
Before I forget, the other things wrong in the cabin besides the toilet and the air quality was the cooler. It didn't cool. Also, what kind of a designer would recommend that the beds are shaped at a rounded angle at the foot? We are both pretty short so it didn't really matter but I couldn't help thinking about how tall people managed on those beds. I am sure their feet dangled over the edge.
Have you ever cruised in a cabin where you couldn't even find a notepad and pen like the kind kept for your use by other cruise lines. On RCCL ships ... the people in cabins way down on the lowest level on their ships don't get the writing pad or pen because, don't you know it ... apparently they don't know how to use toilets leave alone read or write.
Okay, enough with the cabin. Let me move to other things. Yes, there is more.
Hands up everybody who's been to the Seaview Cafe on Deck 12. Not a big show of hands, I bet. Know why? Know why many of you didn't get to snack on the yummy chicken wings, the tuna sandwiches, the burgers and fries and other stuff offered in this area? It's because it's hidden in an area which is not easily accessible, especially if you are in a wheelie or not an agile senior. Amazing that a cruise line that depends on 80% of their revenue coming from the older generation would place one of their eating places in a remote corner that makes it difficult for the older generation to get to it.
If reviews were open to comments then I bet all the cheerleaders and groupies of RCCL would lash away at me with the sharpest tongues possible. You can still do it at the Roll Call for this cruise. It's still alive and I might find the time to go and read your hate. Before you do that try to recall the name of the website at which you are reading this review.
Lesson from our experience to those who might face a similar situation? Don't unpack your stuff entirely for the first couple of days if you are on a long cruise. Check everything properly and if anything is amiss, complain about it within the first 48 hours and insist on being allocated to a properly functioning cabin. You have paid for it, even if it was at a bargain price.