Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by Photofinish4: Baltic Russia cruise
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Baltic Russia cruise
My wife and I booked this cruise on Black Friday to take advantage of the deal which gave a Balcony for the same price as an outside cabin price. We booked with 3 elderly friends. We used a travel agent as they were offering prepaid gratuities and $75 ship board credit plus the base price was listed as about $300 lower than Royal Caribbean’s starting price. All that sounded like a tremendous savings but after it was all over it turns out that the TA has an additional tax that they add to the bill which eats up the difference in the basic listing price. Obviously a gimmick to sway the bookings their way, but we still got the ship board credits and prepaid gratuities. Also a $75 fee each if you decide to cancel your booking. So there was a slight savings but not what it initially appeared to be.
We booked our airfare through Royal Caribbean’s Choice Air program as they insure that if there are any travel glitches they will see to it that you get to the ship More (eventually). They offered several flight options and we chose an option that would get us to London at 7:30 am. We booked their airport to pier transportation from Heathrow to Harwich for $101 each, each way. First transport leaves at 9 am which put us on board by noon for lunch. Around April we were sent an email advising that our air itinerary has been changed with no explanation as to why. So much for choosing your itinerary, this did not have a major impact on us it just changed our route home. Also around April we checked on line and RCCL had a drop in price for the cruise. We contacted the ta to try to get an adjustment but they advised that no adjustment could be made after final payment. They have a 50% fee for cancelation at that point which made canceling and rebooking a mote point. We had taken out the travel insurance but it would have required a medical reason for canceling to get a full refund plus the hassle and appropriateness of rebooking the same cruise. Now the savings of black Friday booking and other perks turned out to be about even. We did receive an upgrade to a suite for an additional $70.00 which was money well spent.
June 7th the trip begins, our prime Time Shuttle picked us up on time and we arrived at LAX the required 3 hrs, in advance for international flights. We were resting comfortably at the Gate an hour prior to our boarding time. Our boarding time came and we were advised that President Obama was landing and everything was placed on hold for about an hour and a half. First problem, we only had 1 ½ hrs between connecting flight out of San Francisco. I checked with the gate attendant at United Airlines and he assured me that we would have no problem making the connection as the arrival and departure gates were close. After boarding I presented my concern to the steward. He advised me that there was no way we were going to make that connection. A young lady sitting behind me obviously an experienced United traveler handed me her cell phone and said its ringing the United ticket desk. (first mistake, should have called Choice air to arrange the transfer ) Now keep in mind that they had already made the announcement to turn off all electronic devices. I had visions of ALEC BALDWIN. I explained to the ticket agent about my possibility of the missed connection, but before she could help me I had to disconnect or risk getting thrown off the flight. By this time my 4 other traveling companions were getting pretty nervous. Mid flight to San Francisco the Steward brings me a teletype that the cockpit received advising that all 5 of us were rebooked on to another flight and to report directly to another gate upon arrival. Well upon arrival there is no getting off early as everyone is dealing with their own schedules and could give a rats about anyone else’s. Needless to say we are in row 33 on a 40 row airplane. We get off the plane and hoped to find a transport for the 3 elderly travelers , no such luck. We hot foot it through the airport. As we are racing past our original gate I see our original flight still boarding. We report to the gate per the in flight teletype and advised them that our original flight was still there. They told us to report to the original gate. We ran to the gate to find that they had just pulled the gate way away from the aircraft and we could not board. So back to the previously assigned gate, by this time there are 10 people in line in front of us filling up the flight. We get on the flight but in a middle seat for a 12 hr flight was not my idea of assigned seating. As it turned that this flight took us to Frankfurt Germany and then back to London. Problem is that the connecting flight to London did not land until 2:30 which was to late to catch the ship out of Harwich. I contacted the Steward in flight to advise of the conflict. He did some checking on his laptop and advised me that there was an earlier connecting flight out of Frankfurt but he could not tell if it was full or not. Upon landing it was another race to ticket counter to see if we could get on the earlier flight. I was advised that there were only 2 seats left on that flight and seeing as there were 5 of us we did not choose to separate. The 4 hr layover in Frankfurt was filled with unsuccessful attempts to get a hold of an RCCL representative. After the 2nd credit card call from Germany my credit card was blocked, as I had told my credit card company that I was traveling and where I would be going and Germany was not on my scheduled itinerary. I tried to make collect calls to RCCL but all the numbers I had would not except collect calls. I finally got Intercruise agency on the line which is a catch all agency for stranded travelers. I tell her my dilemma and she asked me WHAT DO I WANT TO DO? At that point the flight desk advised that there are 20 seats left on the earlier flight and they are boarding at the far end of the airport. They will wait if we hurry. Intercruise agent heard that and told me to hangup and attempt to catch that flight. I asked for a shuttle for the elderly travelers but found that that would take too long. So it’s a mad dash to the extreme other end of the airport. I get there well ahead of the rest of them and attempt to make boarding arrangements. We were ready to board when they find out that our luggage is on the other plane. The gate personnel advise that they cannot let us board if we have luggage on another flight. So it’s off to the original gate at the other end of the airport. We get there to find out they changed the gate of that flight. GUESS WHERE? The other end of the airport again. By this time we have qualified for THE AMAZING RACE TV reality show. We finally get to London but it’s too late to catch the ship. Now that we are no longer on a time schedule of catching the ship I had time to unblock my credit cards and finally make contact with RCCL in Miami. After I got a hold of them they gave me a phone number that would except collect calls. It would have been nice to have that number in the first place. They arranged for a hotel in London, a flight to Copenhagen and a hotel in Copenhagen as the ship had a day at sea before reaching Copenhagen. We missed 2 days of the cruise. We toured Copenhagen the day before our ship arrived which worked out ok for us but the Hotel we were booked in was about 5 miles out away from town. Nice hotel but being out so far we were forced to eat there. I have come to realize that I could not afford to tour these counties if I had to pay land prices for everything instead of cruising. Two hamburgers and an order of fries with tap water cost us $85. Five dollars each for tap water, it was a shock and a real eye opener. We were transferred to the ship the next morning and really enjoyed the rest of the cruise.
We cannot comment on the boarding process in Harwich as we did not make it there. The boarding in Copenhagen was very smooth and quick. We spent the rest of the day relaxing around the ship with a short walk to the little mermaid.
NOW ABOUT THE CRUISE
Cabin: We were advised on cruise critic that they were doing upgrades for this cruise. We called and were able to get an upgrade to a JR Suite for $70.00. Now we are spoiled. Large room walkin closet, tub and Shower, double balcony. We will be looking for upgrades in the future. Thanks to Cruise Critic blogs for the heads up.
FOOD: We are Diamond plus members so we have a few cruises with RCCL. We have seen cut backs over the years, but this time we really noticed the difference. The big change was in the main menu. We were on this ship in October and there were no noticeable changes but now after the ship was remodeled they changed the menus. They took Lobster off the main menu and now charge an additional $35.00 if you care to order it. One of our table mates did order it and it was not worth the additional charge. The portion of lobster served was small and not up to par for RCCL. The main menu items that were repeated frequently which lacked the variety that we have been accustom to on RCCL. The dessert menu also lacked variety. The old standard apple pie alamode, my favorite, was completely removed and the Baileys’ banana crème Brule left you wishing for just the plain with no banana flavoring. The Baileys’ flavor was weak or nonexistent. They have taken Blue cheese dressing off the menu and blue cheese crumbles are gone, even on the fancy salad bar luncheon in the dining room. They are slowly taking away the reasons that made cruising so popular. Don’t get me wrong it was still a great cruise but the cut backs were extreme and should be reconsidered.
Entertainment: The headliner shows were very good as usual; however the RCCL singers and dancers were merely OK. The entertainment around the ship was very god also although we did not frequent the lounges and bars much.
Cruise Personal: We found that the ship’s crew were very helpful and friendly and up to par for RCCL. Everyone was so easy to talk to and assessable. Some of the crew even remembered us from the October sailing.
All in all we had a great cruise even though it started so hectic.
Gothenburg was not an option to review on this page but we did port there: NO WAY TO SEE THIS BY WALKING. You are docked too far out of town. It would take you too long to get into town and you do not have enough time in port. We took the old tram tour of the HAGA District. It was interesting for what they had to offer. We took the tour because it was going to cost $15.00 a piece just to get into town and back so the ships tour was not that much more and it was guided. Less
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Cabin review: JS1592 Junior Suite
We were on deck 10 right below the windjammer. Room #1592 We did hear some nightly furniture rearranging but it did not bother us. the room was very spacious and a large balcony. walk in closet, tub and shower.
Port and Shore Excursions
Copenhagen we actually toured the day before the ship arrived and that worked well for us. There is a lot to see in the city and we took advantage of the full day. We toured the downtown area on foot and topped it off with a canal cruise which we highly recommend. We would have been hard pressed to take it all in if we only had the limited port time. We saved the little Mermaid for the short walk after we boarded. We really enjoyed the sand castle display that was in the city until mid august. They were remarkable. I like to take sunset picture as well as sunrise. The problem with this cruise is that sunset and sunrise are too close together. Sunset 11:30 sunrise 3:00.
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