Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by SJDMD: Great Ports, Good Ship
Overall Member Rating
Great Ports, Good Ship
Destination: Baltic Sea
We booked this cruise for it's ports, sailing dates, past experience with RC and cost. We were not disappointed but I do have a few thoughts to share. Our past RC cruise was on it's twin the Serenade in 2006. This was a 7 day Western Caribbean with one sea day and we loved everything about it. I think I just tired a bit of the Brilliance after 13 nights with 4 sea days.
The Brilliance is in overall nice condition after her recent dry dock. The added outside movie screen was not a big hit because it was never that warm (think Alaska cruising). The staff was fantastic in every venue. The shows were a mix, some great, some so-so but we were disappointed they only had one "Broadway" type show in 13 nights. The on ship activities (which we enjoy) did get old near the end and you would think RC could spring for more than a pen as a prize (every time).
We have always done (late) seated dining and opted for the "My Time" dining this cruise. It is not called "Anytime Dining" More for a reason. Unless you want to wait or chance eating at 9:00, you need to make a reservation for 6:30 or 8:00 (the only 2 reservation times). We made reservations for every evening a month before we departed, guessing whether or not we thought we'd like to eat early or late which worked out ok. I'd recommend going to the dining room the first day and picking out a table you like. They can assign you to that table for the rest of your reservations if it's available. Because we didn't pick a table and often came 15 min late for our 6:30 reservation we ended up by the kitchen more than once. The food ranged from ok to excellent in the dining room. I think the food was better in 2006 (and they gave you lobster then). We almost never ate in the Windjammer which was a free-for-all most of the time. We usually ate breakfast in the dining room and lunch was either on the excursion or at the Park Cafe.
I don't like that there are now only 3 venues to eat with out additional charge (Dining Room, Windjammer buffet or Park Cafe). They've taken out the Skyview Cafe and it's a bar only. The Park Cafe was good but usually very crowded. Rita's Cantina was only a minimal surcharge but service was very slow on 2 occasions.
During our past cruises our children enjoyed the kids club or the teen clubs. This trip 2 of them were too old (21 and 19) for the clubs and it would have been nice to have more specific activities for this age group, especially early in the cruise. They only had a late night "get together" in the bar on a few occasions for "18 - 21+" The 16 year old wouldn't venture into the teen club on his own. This forced them to hang around with us more which was actually nice.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will lose 3 hours on 3 different evenings during the first 5 days on your way to St. Petersburg and if you flew in on the day of the cruise and lost 6 hours going to England (like we did), the jet lag can be significant. Less
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Cabin review: E19500 Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony
9500 - quiet location at the very end of the hall. Balcony slightly bigger because it juts out a bit. Cabin is small but adequate. Our kids were in the inside cabin directly across from us (9501) which was convenient. Because we were the last rooms in the hallway, we felt comfortable leaving our doors slightly ajar to go back and forth. The officers cabins were beyond the door at the end of the hallway but only occasionally would people come and go from this door.Read All Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (E1) Reviews >>
Port and Shore Excursions
We did an excursion through the ship which included a canal ride. It was enjoyable and the guide informative. Copenhagen is a cute little city but I expected more. I didn't leave wishing I could have more time there.
Comfortable bikes (no gears but not really needed) and a great city to bike around (flat and good bike lanes). The guide was helpful but didn't always have too much to say about the sites we saw. We really enjoyed Helsinki and recommend seeing it from bicycle.
You have to get to the visitors center to meet the guide and then walk back from the bike shop (8 blocks further away) after the tour so taking a taxi would make more sense than the boat shuttle which was expensive, not that convenient and had a long line going back.
Great way to see the city and great guide but the bikes were not that comfortable. They are new 21 gear bikes but have a hard racing seat and low handle bars. The "ladies" bikes with the cushion seats were already rented so I'd recommend reserving one if you do this tour.
Great van, Great guide, saw every major site and had a nice sit-down lunch both days. Only complaint was some confusion on the 1st day in organizing the groups on to the buses which didn't make sense because we had pre-arranged our groups on cruise critic before the trip. Anyway, I'd highly recommend this tour and Masha our guide.
Great tour of a great city. Wished they would have given us more free time in "old town" to shop.
Old Town of Tallinn
You can certainly do Tallin on your own but for the minimal additional cost, it's a worthwhile add-on with SPB tours.
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Vacation of a Lifetime
Lacked the wow factor.
A huge disappointment.