My husband and I, together with our friends, just returned from the 12 night Mediterranean Venice Cruise on the wonderful Brilliance of the Seas. The trip was to celebrate our 25th anniversary and we were not disappointed. This was our 5th cruise, but the first one to Europe.
We began our trip by flying into Barcelona the day before sailing and we stayed at the Hesperia Del Port Hotel close to the pier. Not first class accommodations, but clean and it was adequate for one night.
We took a van taxi from the hotel to the pier and the cost was approx. 35 Euros for the four of us and all of our luggage. When we arrived at the pier, check-in was fast and easy. We did on-line check in prior to leaving home to save time. Our cabins were ready as we came aboard and luggage was delivered quickly. We had a junior suite that was clean and spacious. Jose, our cabin stewart, was friendly and prompt when we called him. We had a problem with the safe in the cabin and Jose called and had the service man there within minutes. The battery was replaced on the safe and things were good to go.
The food was excellent in the Windjammer and in the dining room. I read previous reviews saying the food was not the best; however, rest assured, this is not the case. The Windjammer food was consistent in quality from day one to day 12. We never ate anything there that wasn't fresh. We were told that the food can only remain out a maximum of four hours before being thrown out, and I believe it.
The food and service in the dining room was the best. Only complaint (if you can call it that) was the steak from the alternate menu; it was a little dry and tough. Other than that, all the food was fantastic. Our waiter, Francisco and his assistant, Dejan looked after our every need - sometimes even giving us extra desserts!!! These guys bent over backwards to make sure we were happy and satisfied. We were even impressed that the headwaiter made a point to stop by our table every evening to ask us how our dinner was. This is something new to us; this being our 5th cruise, it's the first time a headwaiter has taken the time to do this.
We didn't see all of the shows, but the ones we did were entertaining, but not always great. We enjoyed the acrobats, the Beatles, Crystal Craig Halliday the electric violinist, and the Eastcoast Boys (tribute to Frankie Vallie). The comedy juggler was mediocre, and the Voice was good, but way too loud. The Caribbean Singers and Dancers were okay. The cruise director, Gordon, is a fantastic guy with a great sense of humour and singing voice to boot! You could tell he really enjoys his job. The Love & Marriage Show was the best, we laughed until we cried!
We were very impressed with the size and layout of the Brilliance. We have sailed on the Voyager and Navigator of the Seas and prefer the Brilliance due to its smaller size and friendly atmosphere.
Excursions: We pre-arranged our excursions through Royal Caribbean rather than planning our own this time as we wanted to be sure we would not have a problem with communication or with getting back to the ship on time since this was our first time to Europe. Typically we do our own excursions when we go to the Caribbean and would probably arrange to do this next time we cruise to the Mediterranean.