Brilliance of the Seas Middle East Cruise Feb. 2011
Dubai to Dubai
As it has been six years since I cruised with Royal Caribbean International I was kind of anxious if I would be disappointed after so many cruises with Celebrity.
Since I started cruising on board big ships with RCI and loved every single cruise I took with them, they have still lot´s of "bonus points ".
What I love most about the RCI fleet ( well at least up to their Radiance Class of ships) is the big amount of glass they use for building their ships . So with every turn you take , one is kind of connected with the sea- the ocean, which in my opinion is what cruising is all about.
Considering the great success they have with their newest offspring, the Oasis Class I suppose the majority of cruisers don´t care about seeing or feeling the sea. That exactly is one of the reasons I never would set a foot on a deck of one of those behemoths.
We were looking for a short early " spring break" , so when we found RCI ´s Brilliance of the Seas doing the middle east - the itinerary just appealed to us.
I knew Brilliance already from a Transatlantic back in 2002, so I did not expect any surprises there. We took the night flight into Dubai, with a three hour lay over in Istanbul. The flights were perfect- enough room for our legs, food okay. ( Turkish Airlines) It was just tiring us up- so we would prefer a Nonstop - Flight from Germany to Dubai! First of all we had to kill almost 5 hours until we could board the ship, which we did early anyway at about 11 am. We were among the very first to be on board. The embarkation - Lunch buffet was not open yet- the cabins not yet done- which was expected.
It was nice to come back to a ship, which I knew so well. I found the Brilliance to be in excellent condition. Very well maintained and spotless clean- for which Royal is known for. In fact I found her to be in better condition as the Millenium- Class of ships and they are equal in the time they entered service- well that goes just for the signs of wear and tear. X- ships are also spotless clean.
We found the food to be good in either the Windjammer ( casual dinning spot) or in the Main Dinning room, even so the service in both locations.
What we found a little annoying was the new " towel custom" they must have installed since my last RCI - cruise. One has to show the cruise card to get a towel for the Pool Deck ( as many as wanted or needed though) - no problem at all and it saves Energy and is therefore environment friendly. So this new installment quite suited us! BUT- it is just an absolutely " NO GO " that they run of towels in the afternoon. What is more intolerable is the fact the service person behind the " towel- desk" was extremely unfriendly to say the least- I even would go so fare to call her downright rude. ( We were just told that towels are not be expected until the next day) Nothing to say when they run out for half an hour or something like this.
Not nice to feel as if one has to get down to ones knees in order to get a towel!
Besides that little weak point the service in either the dinning room both Main and Casual, in the bars or in the stateroom were outstanding. Comparable to Celebrity.
The Ports of Calls were interesting and not one to be missed. We always organize our own shore excursions so we can not rate those are provided by Royal.
The highlight for us was Abu Dhabi.
In Abu Dhabi we recommend a nice stroll along the Croniche ( promenade) , shopping or window- shopping in the Marina Mall and a visit in this seven Star Hotel Emirates Palace- if there is enough time- High Tea there is a really great experience, which we enjoyed immensely.
Fujairah, not much to be seen but interesting anyway, we just had a little walk there and did some shopping in the market.
Muskat/ Sultanat Oman was a great stop- we stayed there overnight- which I do not really get- because one day would have been enough there- I rather would opt for an additional sea- day instead. Great Souks and old streets to explore. The people in the Souks were in opposition to those in Egypt last year not pushy or rude. So we could enjoy their little shops and the stuff the offered. Here we also enjoyed the walk back to ship along the Croniche with it´s great view out to Gulf!
Dubai itself- well one day is just to short there so a pre or past cruise stay there is absolutely the thing to do. Since we booked four additional nights in Dubai we stayed on board the Brilliance during the last day of our cruise, when we were docked in Dubai- as kind of a extra sea day without being out at sea.
Royal compared with X:
Food- here wins Celebrity hands down
Entertainment- much more lively with Royal- if one cares- we could do very well with the more
" calm, relaxed" evenings on board X- ships.
Service: a close call- but we´d prefer X over Royal
Maintenance and Appearing of the ships interior: Compared with the Millenium Class of ships which are about the same time in service ( 2000 until 2003) the Radiance Class shps of RCI are the winners here. ( Except the Connstellation, of course, since she got a refit last year!
Cabins/ Balconies about the same, smoke sensible non-smokers should be aware of the fact that Royal still allows smoking on the balcony, while X banned smoking there completely.
All in all we would sail with both lines again. Hard to say which we would prefer. One can not go wrong with either Celerity or Royal!
Michael Bayer, March 2011