This was our first cruise. I booked this cruise as a Christmas present for my wife via a local travel agent. I originally booked a Junior Suite, but the we got upgraded to an Owner Suite.
We flew Palanga Lithuania to Copenhagen, wondered around in the cold and had a good meal before catching the SAS overnight to Dubai. SAS, even in economy provide much more leg room than Airbaltic, the only other option from here. Add to that the free meal, drinks and entertainment, well worth the little extra it costs for SAS.
We arrived 06.30 hours in Dubai, fairly quick immigration although my wife's Lithuanian passport (despite Visa) meant an eye scan and a lot of tutting.
We had booked a car through Alma to take us to Metropolitan Deira hotel for breakfast and a quick sleep. That hotel was not the best, breakfast very simple, hotel room smelt of cigarette smoke and it was noisey. Having said that we ere so tired we slept well.
At 14.00 caught a taxi to the Cruise Terminal. As it was our first cruise we did not know the format and got in the wrong queue, probably as a result of still being a little tired and not seeing signs. They were there for Owner suites, we just did not see them until too late.
The Andromeda suite was just fantastic..much larger than we thought it would be, extremely comfortable and tastefully decorated. We couldnt stop smiling.The Went to the Wind Jammer for late lunch..buffet style but of surprisingly good quality for mass feeding.
First dinner was a mess..a lot of confusion on tables, ours had other people sitting at it and it took the head waiter half an hour to sort it out, depsite his assurances that it would take only a couple of minutes. One man was getting really angry with the mess and was escorted away by security, but frankly he deserved it, he was pushing staff around.Once we sat, our waiter Ivan and his assistant gave us wonderful service and again a surprisingly good quality meal with lots of choice. I really was surprised, feeding 1000+ people in a sitting is a tough job to do well.
Second day in Fujeirah, as with many we did not get off, not a lot to see there according to all reports. Spent the day sunning ourselves, relaxing and finding our way around this wonderful piece of engineering. Brilliance really is a phenominal ship. This evening we found out that our gold cards entitled us to free drinks in the concierge club..given the price of wine in the bars, that was a real bonus! And everyone in the club so friendly and relaxed..in fact same applied to whole ship.
3rd/4th Day in Muscat Oman..a wonderful town with friendly people. We took shuttle bus to Port gates and had decided to walk into town as lots of taxi drivers being quite pushy for their services..however once we got past that a very pleasant and friendly, not pushy at all young man approached us and in very reasonable terms offered us the two hour drive around to all the sites. We agreed USD60 for this service. His name is Hamed email@example.com and would recommend him thoroughly. He took us everywhere in town and out, to the palaces, Mosques, out to the magnificent 5 star hotel along the beach and then out to the hotels where beaches were. He stopped everywhere for photo opportunities and worked hard to tell us all details..but he applied no pressure to do anything, just what ever we wantd to do..we were impressed. Once Hamed took us back we walked down the Corniche near the port. That was not so impressive, but the souk was interesting. The cafes were a little grubby but staff and the fresh juices were pleasant enough.
5th Day Abu Dhabi--a mini Dubai, with lots of impressive things to be seen and obviously it will become bigger as lots of construction going on. We went to the USD3bn hotel where all the Sultans/Sheiks of UAE stay, very impressive, the Marina mall, and a few other places in downtown area...really enjoyed it and would go back for closer exploration.
6/7th Days..Back to Dubai..a city we love. Lots has been written here on Dubai and I dont need to add a lot. After the cruise we had an extra 2 nights at Atlantis the Palm, and what a real treat that was too! Highly recommend it, so much to see and do there that you wont want to go into town. SLightly spolied by a sand storm but not so bad that we could venture onto the beach.
As for Brilliance of the Seas..following summary
Service-very good, from the lads who did the room (and amused us greatly with their towel sculptures) to our waiters in the restaurant, to The Concierge club staff, to the bar staff and entertainment staff. All very service orientated, except for the head waiter (of entire restaurant) who ran around a lot making lots of noise but didnt seem to achieve much. Thankfully Ivan and his assistant more than made up for that.
Route-very interesting, but maybe another day in Abu Dhabi rather than Fujeirah would be more interesting.
Entertainment-Generally very good, we enjoyed it.We did try a murder mystery dinner in Portofino restaurant one night..that cost more and was not very good, the only disappointing meal.
Food- excellent considering the numbers they have to cook for
Drawback-the only thing that really irritated me was the tipping system. Not only is 15% added to every bar bill for service (including the mini-bar) but then you are expected to tip the waiters, room staff and all others at the end of the week..double tipping and at not small percentages! I had no qualms about tipping the staff who looked after us well at the end of the week, but 15% on each bar bill is way over the top and unecessary. And beware, prices shown on the menu are before the service charge, so a USD40 bottle of wine actually costs USD46.
If Royal Carribean could get that right, they would have a real winner, but for us, it was excellent and much better than we had dreamed. We will definitely go again.