We were very happy with this entire cruise experience. The Brilliance of the Seas is smaller than other ships that we have traveled on. I thought the food was better on this ship than on the Mariner of the Seas, which we traveled on at Christmastime. However, I liked the larger Centrum on Mariner and the larger Solarium, especially the hottub. So be prepared for some things to just be on a smaller scale.
The Solarium area on Brilliance seemed a lot more hectic, with the Park Cafe in one corner. It got really busy and noisy here on occasion, and I don't think they were really fussy about enforcing the adults only policy.
There are lots of beautiful common areas, though, to listen to music, read, or just watch the ocean go by. The Schooner Bar was one of my favorites. The elevators that look out over the water are also great. And speaking of bars, the view from Starquest is also wonderful, and John from Columbia was a super attentive waiter and an oragami wizard.
We liked the location of our cabin. It is a little forward of midship, and we really didn't feel any motion. Our cabin steward, Moses, was great. He made sure we had anything we requested, including packing tape to mend our garment bag long enough to make it back home. He was also able to get us bathrobes to use during our stay. I think it is important to let the staff know what you need and they will do their best to accomodate.
We took advantage of all the specialty dining venues. There was a package deal for, I think, $118 per person. It was well worth it. I would recommend any of the specialty dining options, but the Chef's Table might have been the most fun. There are only 16 people at a long table and you really get to know some of your cruisemates during the evening. Some people say you used to get this food without paying extra, and I have two thoughts on this. It's not necessarily about the food. The specialty dining rooms are smaller and quieter, and the wait staff is able to give you a little extra attention. My other thought is that cruising is still such a good deal. Transportation, lodging, entertainment, dining; I just don't see anything to grumble about.
Our main dining room experience was equally enjoyable. Our waiter and assistant waiter were attentive. I also like eating lunch in the dining room as opposed to the buffet, because you get to sit with people you might not get to meet otherwise.
We enjoyed all the ports. If you do this cruise in June or July, be prepared for the white nights, because it is really different to realize it is one in the morning and still as light as day. Make sure your curtains are shut tight so that you can get some sleep, or opt for an inside cabin. You move your clocks ahead three times from England to Russia, and I accidentally moved my clock ahead one day early. It took me a while to realize I was wandering around at four a.m. because it was so light out!
I talked about most of the ports below, except Gothenburg, which wasn't listed. It is a big city with lots of shops, a pretty park, and just a few historical sights to see. We purchased shuttle tickets to and from the city, but I wonder how much it would have cost to take a cab instead, especially when there were six of us and we could have split the cost six ways. Otherwise the shuttle is pretty busy first thing and we had to wait a bit.
We used Royal Caribbean transfers both ways. We went to London a few days early and booked at the Doubletree Hilton Westminster. (We hired a cab from the airport into London). You have to book the pre-cruise night directly through Royal Caribbean, but the hotel linked our reservations and it was a seamless stay. They pick up your luggage from outside your room the morning of departure and the next time you see it, it is outside your stateroom door. If you do go early, this hotel is very conveniently located, and many major sights are within walking distance (one or two miles). On the way back, we booked the transfer with the tour of Windsor. We loved the town of Windsor, opted not to tour the castle because we only had a couple hours, and then had the privilege of waving to the Queen as she drove herself to church.
The ship-board entertainment was fine. The four singers were wonderful, as was the orchestra. Rachael from the orchestra also entertained in the Schooner Bar a few nights and we really liked her. A Russian Folkloric troupe came on board in St. Petersburg and they were also great. A few of the variety acts were nothing out of the ordinary, just okay, but there is plenty more to do.
The gym was large, clean, and rarely crowded. My only suggestion here would be to open the steam room and showers to coincide with the gym, not wait until 8:00 a.m. when the spa opens.
I really can't think of any negatives on this entire cruise experience. Happy cruising!