The following are some comments about our recent Maine/Canada cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas sailing from Boston. This is the first sailing to this destination after re-positioning.
Pre-cruise: We stayed at the Seaport Hotel at the harbor; this is a very nice, centrally located hotel with beautiful, clean rooms and great views of the harbor. The staff is friendly and eager to please; the food in the bar included $6 lobster claws and "out of this world" lobster sliders. The hotel may provide a complimentary shuttle to the port if their driver is available. Boston is a great walking city; we did the "ghost tour" which leaves from "old town trolley stop number one"; about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. We were pretty beat after a long day of travelling and sightseeing and decided to take a "pedi-cab" back to the hotel. There are no fees for this service but a tip is certainly in order; in our case, for about a 10 minute ride, we gave our rider $15.
Boston Port: friendly and simple to maneuver; arrival at the port to walking onto the ship was under 10 minutes. Disembarkation was equally efficient; 30 minutes from the start to arrival at the airport.
Cabin: We booked a Grand Suite (number 1550) on deck 10. The cabin was a very nice size, plenty of drawers and excellent storage space in the bathroom for my wife's cosmetics and toiletries. The cabin was very clean, quiet and nicely appointed. It is convenient to the elevators and the balcony is under a pretty sizeable over-hang as most of the 10th floor rooms. Except for access to the Concierge Club (free drinks from 5 to 8 PM) and the cabin size, there aren't a whole lot of enticing amenities that come with this category of cabin on RCL. But for us, still worth the money but Celebrity does way more with their version (CS) of this suite category. Our attendant was cheerful, did a good job and attended to our modest needs all week. We were very pleased.
Ship: We previously sailed on the Serenade and really like the layout of the Radiance class ships. They are big enough for exploring but still have lots of cool, intimate places for privacy and enjoying the cruise experience. The Centrum is the main focal point of the ship and is such a great venue for a drink (R-Bar) and making new friends. The several terrific, exciting production shows and dance parties that are held in the Centrum are loads of fun and for us, they were the highlight of the entertainment onboard. We also enjoyed the other acts that performed in the Centrum, the Pub, Schooner's Bar and during the day, on the pool deck. The Pub doubles as a sports bar and even if a performer is playing, there will be sporting events shown the all of the TV's in the venue. Live entertainment is still an important aspect of the RCL cruise experience; fortunately they don't rely on DJ's and Karaoke as the primary source of entertainment like some other cruise lines so intent on cost-cutting. We passed on the big evening production shows and comedians.
The casino has the traditional, multi-denominational slots and video poker machines and plenty of table games attended by well trained staff. For anyone who thinks ship casinos don't have big machine payouts, 45 minutes after the casino opened, I witnessed a slot player win over a $13k payout on a dollar machine; I assume it was some type of progressive machine. Unfortunately the casino reeks of cigarette smoke, which is also still allowed on balconies. This itinerary can be delightful to leave the door open for some fresh, cool air but unfortunately, we had a smoker next door and could smell it most of the time we tried that.
Food: We chose My Time Dining and it worked well - never an excessive wait. Always a subjective topic, but we found the MDR dining ranged from good to excellent most days. MDR featured escargot every evening for those who like this appetizer (as I do) and "lobster night" was really good, although it is hard to compete with the lobster available in every port on this particular itinerary. The salad bar in the MDR at lunchtime is outstanding; each salad is prepared and tossed for you by a "salad team" and there are lots of yummy ingredients to choose from.
Although the service was very good, we were disappointed with Giovanni's. We thought that the food was mediocre and not even close to the special dining experience offered just a few years ago at the Portofino's venue.
Ports: This was our first cruise to this region and it is just so lovely and memorable. Obviously good weather is the key for this itinerary and we were fortunate that every day of our cruise was sunny with temps in the mid to high 60's. All the ports are so scenic and historic; all offer great lunch options for local beers, super fresh seafood and blueberry pie. We had lunch at Gilberts (Portland), Galyn's (Bar Harbor), Grannan's (Saint John), Bicycle Thief and McKelvie's (Halifax) and all were exactly what I imagined for local dinning when I booked this cruise way back in January. There are many equally good options I'm sure, but we were very pleased with our choices. Tours may sell out depending on how many ships are in port that day but there is still plenty to do in each port just walking from the pier.
General: There were very few children on this cruise and a great mix of all ages on board. This is a beautiful, scenic part of North America. While it is by no means perfect, RCL continues to offer a consistently solid, quality product. Their ships are staffed with friendly, motivated personnel and they offer good entertainment, great service and many dining choices. They clearly convey a commitment to providing their customers a great vacation experience. It is why we continue to cruise with RCL and avoid the low cost lines. The Brilliance is an excellent ship and this itinerary is fantastic - enjoy!