We embarked on the beautiful Brilliance of the seas at Dubai for a one week cruise and had a great experience from start to finish. Our check in was brilliant - we were in our stateroom barely half an hour after arriving at the terminal, everyone seemed courteous and helpful, and soon the children were enjoying their lunch in Windjammers, the casual buffet restaurant. On a previous cruise, this process took over two hours and when we did get to go on board our stateroom was not yet ready.
The only thing that did not seem right on embarkation day was the lacklustre emergency drill. No life jackets were used and I doubt the information given would have been useful in a real emergency.
The Brilliance of the seas is indeed a beautiful ship with lots of space and activities, and although we liked the kids' programmes on offer, we found there were enough activities to enable us stay and play together. We enjoyed table tennis especially and our adolescent played this as well as football with the other children. The mini golf was another option our younger son particularly liked. There were many areas to sit or lie to relax and several nice places to take family photos. Sometimes we simply went for a walk around the ship and enjoyed the views. There were other activities going on such as swimming, rock climbing, jogging and basketball in a relaxed atmosphere.
Despite the holiday season and many people on board, it did not feel crowded, even on the sea day. There was always somewhere to sit on deck and in the restaurants. We loved the international ambience and hearing many languages being spoken apart from English.
Our accommodation was slightly smaller than on a previous cruise, but it was faultlessly clean and our stateroom attendant Nikki gave us a really personal service, by the time we were leaving we felt we had known her for ages. She was very helpful and friendly and could do any thing with her amazing towel animal displays.
The most touching display was her heart shaped towels and pillows display with real red rose petals on our wedding anniversary. We had decided to keep this quiet but she saw a card in the room and decided to give us a truly lovely surprise, which we appreciated very much. She also brought in a vase of red roses.
Now food. We had my time dining at the minstrel restaurant. The food was very good and there variety was impressive. Ferdi and Rigo, our waiters, were excellent and polite and anticipated our every need, making suggestions without any pressure. Windjammers gave us the casual option for breakfast, lunch and snacks, offering a wide variety of choices. Even though it is a buffet restaurant, the waiters were very friendly and would stop for a chat and offer to bring drinks. This friendliness seemed to the norm with all the staff we came into contact with. Even those who simply passed by us would smile and greet us. We could not help but feel special. The only thing I would wish for in addition to all this would be a dedicated 24/7 pizzeria. My children would have loved this. Back to food, room service is of an excellent quality and can be conveniently ordered on the interactive TV in the stateroom.
Ports of call were interesting. This was our first visit to the Middle East and I was a bit concerned to read the ports were all cargo ports, but I was pleasantly surprised. Cargo ports indeed they were, but they were so beautiful. With the other ships and dhows and cranes and absolutely gorgeous mountainous backdrop in Muscat, for example, the views in the setting sun were stunning.
Also, the port views from the balcony as we arrived at Abu Dhabi in the morning were beautiful. And Dubai...what can I say?
We liked the free shuttle services provided out of the ports and sometimes into the cities and the malls. This was very welcome in Fujeirah especially where we were not exactly sure what to do, being the first port of call. We also used the taxis and the big red sightseeing buses. We did not do any of the suggested excursions but we enjoyed going about on our own.
Back on board, the entertainment was very good, especially the evening shows and poolside parties. I think the timing of the first show at 7:30pm was not quite suitable for families with children who did not take part in the kids' clubs. The earliest we could get my time dining was 6:30pm and we had to rush on a couple of evenings to take them to the show they wanted to see at 7:30pm.
The shopping seemed a little bit limited, in our opinion, and the photographers were very enthusiastic. We did find, though, that a few of the photos showed subjects out of proportion to the beautiful backgrounds, but we still managed to get some good ones to bring home, although those had all been taken by one photographer. Perhaps he could help the others...
All in all, it was a delightful cruise. I nearly forgot to mention the library where I could get away now and then, and the well organised disembarkation process. We are very eager to cruise with Royal Caribbean again and are already making plans for our next experience with them.