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Well, After 3 days in London and 2 days in Barcelona, we finally made it to the port for embarkation. Of course the tears started flowing on my first site of Brilliance and again as we went up the escalator to board her. This was a fabulous way to start our first time to Europe. Experiencing European cultures and their people was very exciting and eye opening for me. EMBARKATION- We arrived at the port check-in building around 12:30-1:00. After giving them our checked bags outside, we proceeded to check-in. We actually entered the wrong line. When the RC representative noticed we had our set-sail passes and passports in hand, she kindly opened the rope so we could enter the correct line. After a 5 minute wait in this line, we were able to check-in and get our seapasses. 15 minutes later we were boarding this beautiful ship. They did not offer this when we sailed in Feb. to Nassau. Even though we were one of the first people to the holding area, it took a total of 1 1/2 to get seapasses and board once they started allowing the embarkation process. We truly enjoyed the new process, as it was very convenient and efficient. I would recommend that anyone able to use this process, to do so. BOARDING- Once we boarded Brilliance, we went directly to our stateroom. We were delighted when we opened the door and got our first look. None of us had ever had an oceanview room. We were surprised at how much more room there was than our previous inside stateroom. I was so much in shock, that I didn't even notice the bottle of rum with beautiful rose attached, was sitting on the vanity. I had pre-ordered this before we left for Europe. Afterwards, we went to explore our new home for the next 11 days and get a bite to eat. THE SHIP- We were amazed at Brilliance and her beautifully appointed furnishings. From the inlaid tiles everywhere, gorgeous woodwork, lighting and many sculptures throughout. Brilliance was definitely everything we expected and more. My travel companions immediately started taking pictures of everything of interest to them. My roommate/partner, especially liked the lighted glass stairs in the centrum. All of us had seen pictures of Brilliance before our cruise, but nothing could have prepared us for what we were seeing with our own eyes. Brilliance was, from what we could tell, very clean and had been upkeep to her standards from birth. The staff was friendly and professional. SAIL AWAY- Of course we had to have our muster drill. This was absolutely the funniest muster I had ever experienced. There was another ship docked directly behind us in Barcelona. The Blackwatch, started playing the theme song from Titanic on their loudspeaker 15 minutes into our muster. It was so loud, we could barely hear the announcement from the captain. Everyone, including the staff, were laughing while they tried to give us info on emergency procedures. Afterward, we went to the Starquest to order a drink and meet some of our internet friends from CC. We had planned a pre-meeting, because our Meet & Mingle was not to be held until our first sea day. My partner had made up name badges and I had made up info packets for our ports of call. We had name badges to recognize each other for our pre-meeting. I handed out my info packets to those who were there and later delivered the rest to individuals staterooms who were not. We also had extra name badges for those who could not print them out at home. Some of our new friends lived in areas in Florida ravaged by hurricanes. We found out later, some had to pack in the dark, as they still had no power. All-in-all, we made some great friends and truly enjoyed sailing with these people. All of them, enhanced our experience throughout the cruise. FOOD VENUES- Some, more experienced cruisers than I, sometimes criticize the food more than others. I have had nothing but good experiences, with all venues offered on the ships I have sailed. Main Dining- The main dining was usually very good, with good choices and excellent service. However, I did notice the variety of choices declined throughout the cruise. Some being repeated but, always some type of choice. Usually they had about 5-7 choices of appetizers, 3 salad, 4 entrees, and 3 main desserts with alternatives that were sugar free. Windjammer- I enjoyed this venue because of the variety of choices you have. Breakfast always had a wide variety of foods plus the fact of being able to get omelettes or eggs made to order. I especially enjoyed the fresh pineapple and little potato rounds they offered. The pineapple chunks were the most succulent and sweet I have ever had. The potato rounds(though only offered twice that I saw) were crunchy on the outside and had like mashed potatoes inside. I truly enjoyed both of these foods. Lunch and afternoon snacks usually had good choices too. From handmade sandwiches to hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, with stirfrys and meats/with vegetables always. All were enjoyed. Seaview Cafe- We went to the seaview cafe on the first day they were open. They had a good choice of foods from hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries to pizzas and handmade sandwiches. All were made to order and were no extra cost. You simply order when you arrive and they bring it to you after it is prepared. However, if you wanted drinks other than water, you had to purchase them from the bar in the restaurant. I just brought lemonade or tea from the windjammer with me. Also, even though not necessary, usually tipped the waiter before leaving. We ended up eating here several times throughout our cruise. The food was great! Chops- The food and service here went above and beyond our expectations. My partner and I booked Chops 2 days from the end of our cruise. We took the earliest seating they offered and were the only ones, other than a couple of ladies who were in front of us, in the restaurant. Later, at 6:30, there was a party of eight that came and were seated. We were seated next to the window which looked out over the beautiful atlantic ocean. Our waitress and her asst. catered to our every need. First they offered their wine list(which we do not drink wine) and then brought us a delicious loaf of fresh baked sourdough bread with two choices of butter. One regular and the other a blend of spicy butter with red peppers. Then we ordered our appetizers and main entree and vegetables. I ordered the portabello mushroom and my partner the crab cakes. My mushroom was great and decorated to look like a starburst with slivers of carrots shooting out from 4 sides and a piece of melba toast with feta on top. The crab cakes to were beautifully decorated in the same way. Both looked like a piece of art we did not want to destroy. We both ordered the 10 oz. filet mignon and vegetables of our choice. When they brought them out, we were surprised at the size of these cuts of meat. The vegetables were put on a platter, in separate dishes between us, for both to enjoy. We had ordered the sauteed mushrooms, fried potatoes w/sauteed onions, mashed potatoes, and onion rings. All were very good, but the mashed potatoes were the creamiest and the onion rings (though barely battered, if battered at all) the best we have ever had. After finishing this wonderful dinner, there was still dessert to go. I don't see how anyone could eat dessert after all this wonderful food. We ordered them to go. I ordered the Mississippi mud pie and he the apple pie a la mode - the a la mode. I ate the mud pie the next day. I don't know if he ever ate the pie. I was unable to finish mine. It was soooo rich, that I actually started feeling kind of sick. Like you did as a child when eating to much candy. This venue, even with its surcharge of 20 dollars, was a step above the main dining. We also left a little bit of a tip for the wait staff, for their wonderful service. As you can tell from my description of this meal, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We will definitely try this venue along with Portifino on our next sailing. It was a treat that either of us had never experienced. PORTS OF CALL: Alicante, Spain -- Even though we missed 5 hours of our port time here, due to my travel companions, we really enjoyed this port. We were under the impression our first 2 ports were not going to be that interesting. We were very surprised that we had no idea of how wonderful they were going to be. With all of their beautiful buildings, fountains, tiled walkways and buildings. The people were very friendly and welcoming to us. I'm sure they deal with this all of the time. We went to the central market here and enjoyed it a lot. Upstairs was the fresh meat section(which was nauseating after a few minutes). Downstairs, underground, was the fish market and on the other side the fruit and vegetable area. I noticed a stand with glowing type rocks in the back corner of the fruit market. I stopped my friends and we proceeded to check it out. It was a herbal remedy stand that had these salt crystal lamps for sale. I had to have one. One of my friends, more Spanish speaking, asked if they took cc's and how much they were. They did not take credit, so I ended up with the smallest one they had at 25 euros. It had a european plug, but was easily remedied when we got home. It is on and glowing as I speak. We left the market and shot many pictures of this port city. Before we returned to the shuttle bus, all of us went down to the beach and touched the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. A port that provided us a great experience and glad we didn't miss. Malaga, Spain -- Another port that we missed 5 hours of our port time. This city was also beautiful with all of its buildings and neat little parks. When we departed the shuttle, we walked across the street to investigate this city. There were horse and buggies lined up and down the street for tours. Also a park that was positioned between the opposing streets, like the Ramblas in Barcelona. There were street vendors all around the perimeter of this park at one end. I picked up some post cards at a news stand. Once we found out how to get to the Gibraltar Castle overlooking the city, we caught the tourist bus. After hearing some of the history of this city and some of its highlights, we arrived at this wonderful fortress. As I said, overlooking the city and the port docks. We took many pictures from above and were amazed at the spectacular views. After arrival to the castle, I proceeded to purchase tickets for entry. One of the women that was collecting tickets, kindly told us that after 2:00 entry was free. So, I got my money back from the machine and we left to eat our sandwiches, which we had brought with us. They had a little stand with drinks and souvenirs just outside. I bought sodas and a keychain, and we waited for the free entry which was only 10 or 15 minutes away. After touring the grounds we hopped back on the bus to the downtown area. On the way there we passed the home of the artist Picasso. It was told that he and his family lived here for 14 years before moving to Barcelona. Also where he discovered his love and passion for painting. After a couple of more stops, we got off at the cathedral(still undergoing some renovations), to return to the ship. We enjoyed this port just as much as Alicante. On our way to Lisbon we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar. My partner was amazed that we were this close to the northern coast of Africa. With Morocco on one side and Gibraltar on the other. He actually left our second seating dinner, to get some pictures of this. Lisbon, Portugal -- My cruising companions had it together by the time we docked here. Our approach into Lisbon was absolutely breathtaking. We were one of the first group of people off the ship. We took the shuttle from the port to the central square in the shopping district, Praca do Comercio. A huge square right in the center of this beautiful city. Also, right there was the Arco da Vitoria. A huge arch in front of their main shopping district. A sidewalk avenue with many street vendors and stores all along the way. The people were just as friendly and welcoming as our first 2 ports. However we also had some trying to sell us sunglasses and drugs along the way. We simply declined their offers with a no, and walked away. We ran across one of our CC friends at the square and was surprised to find he had made it quicker than we did. He had used the info provided in my packet to do so. He simply got off the ship, walked to the street and caught the appropriate tram to the square. Being this was our first time here, we did not know this could be accomplished. We definitely will keep it in mind on our next visit here. We could have saved 8 bucks a piece by doing so. May not sound like a lot but, could have been spent on souvenirs. We asked the tourist info stand where we could purchase our 1 day travel passes and were pointed in the right direction by the kind and friendly, English speaking woman there. We arrived at the Elevator Santa Justa a few blocks later, to find the ticket office below to be closed for lunch. In the meanwhile, we went into a cafe to get a soda and use their restroom. One of my friends had a cup of coffee and one of their many pastries they had. He indulged in many throughout the day. Afterwards we left and walked within the area taking pictures of everything in site. We returned to the ticket office and purchased our passes. By the way, they offer 1 day and multible day passes that cover all buses, metro, and trams. The 1 day pass was 3.40 euros for each of us. They also offer a discount shopping card(obtained at the info booth) for around 3-or 4 euros, that gave you anywhere from 5-20 percent off at any of there 200 hundred member shops. I actually wasted my money on this, as we ran out of time to do much of any shopping. We proceeded to the tram and made our way to the Castle of St. George(Sou Jorge). Unfortunately, we went way past our stop and ended up a little lost. We did have a laminated map, and also stopped in another cafe to ask for directions and use the restroom. Bet you can't guess what my friend got. LOL! Anyway we found our way to the Castle and bought our tickets for entry. This castle gave us another wonderful overview of the city. After touring this site and taking many pics we left. While waiting for the bus, my partner and I went into a hand painted tile store to find something for our sisters. I purchased a tray w/2 tiles in it for mine and one tile for his(she was watching our home and cat while we were gone). We returned to the square, to catch the appropriate tram, to go to the Tower of Belem. Unfortunately we never made it, because we got off the tram a few stops too early. We really wanted pictures of the Tower and Jeronimos. We ended up getting some pics of a beautiful park with statues throughout. On our way back to catch the tram to the square, my friend stopped for even more pastries. We started getting a little paranoid we were going to miss our shuttle back to the ship. It was 6:00 and we had to be back to the square by 7:00 for the last shuttle. We arrived at the square at 6:30 and had 30 minutes to scramble for some last minute shopping. Overall, Lisbon, was very exciting with all of their history and beautiful architecture. We definitely want to return here, because we did not get to see and do all that was planned. The information and experience of ground transport, will definitely help for our next visit. Now onto our 7 sea days to relax and unwind from all of our travels prior and during our cruise. Sea Days(7)- We truly enjoyed all of our sea days. With all of the activities and food offered, we had no choice but to enjoy. Anyone, wanting the true experience of cruising, needs to plan an itinerary lasting 10 days or more. We were delighted with our choice of this one. Our Meet & Mingle was held the following day in the Hollywood Odyssey Lounge. Meet & Mingle- We had the pleasure of meeting all of our CC friends and also the ones we met at our sail away meeting. What a great experience! Meeting all of these people from all walks of life and parts of the world was magnificent. They truly enhanced our cruising experience. Luckily we had made up the name badges, as Royal Caribbean had run out of the lanyards and name tags they usually give out. We had made up plenty of extras. This was a nice party with the usual hors d'oeuvres and drinks, and raffle prizes. We got to meet all of our internet friends and put names with faces. About an hour or so after our meeting, I went to the first of many art auctions. They offered free champagne and piece of art just for attending. Also, raffle tickets and a coupon for more, at the end. I ended up winning a piece of art from the raffle. I was thrilled and found it to be quite lucky. Quest- They had the notorious Quest at some point during our cruise. I had never participated in this game, but found it was a lot of fun. A few of our CC friends, my friend and myself, made up a team. We played and did all the silly little things you do to get points. They kept telling us we were competing for a keychain. When they got ready to announce the winners and runner-ups, they said the prizes had been upgraded to a Brilliance ball cap and one of those RC over the shoulder packs. As the runner-ups, we got the shoulder packs. I thought these were actually better than the ballcap. We all had a great time and of course they video taped this event to put on the cruise CD. I was the early riser of us, and caught all of the sunrises on this cruise. My partner would take over when he got up and found me. We captured most every sunrise and sunset there was. Some of the most spectacular I have ever experienced in my 38 years. On November 22nd we finally reached Miami for our disembarkation from the ship. ENTERTAINMENT- I enjoy the entertainment offered in the main theatre. I have not had enough experience to rate it as it should be. I think, for what they are, they are pretty good. A very talented group of singers, dancers, musicians and various acts that are accustomed to performing night after night. Also a variety of guest performers throughout the cruise. I liked all of them, I attended. We also went to the movie theatre and saw Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn't know that the late HH had so much to do with aviation. The next day we saw Alexander in the main theatre and enjoyed it too. On sunday, 2 days before the end, I also played a round of put put and climb the rock wall. Both were enjoyable, but the wall left me somewhat out of breath. Guess I'm not in as good of shape as I thought. Overall, all the activities offered were good. DISEMBARKMENT- Unfortunately we had the last color tag to be called for this process. We enjoyed our last meal and went to the Colony Club to await our color to be called. We sat and visited with one of our tablemates, from Amsterdam, for the few hours it took. Finally, after 10:00 they called our color out. We got off the ship and had to wait again in line to go through Customs. On the way off the ship, I handed out thank you notes I had prepared for our staff tip envelopes, to other staff we encountered. I had several left and found this appropriate to do. We experienced nothing but good from all of the staff on Brilliance. Staff- From our stateroom attendant to our waitstaff, they provided professionalism and courtesy throughout our cruise. Elena(Slovakia) and her asst. Ralph took care of our every need at dinner. Remembering ordering preferences after the first couple of days. They definitely did a great job and were rewarded in their tip envelopes. All of the staff aboard Brilliance treated us with the utmost respect and dignity we have become accustomed to. Our overall experience on Brilliance for this Transatlantic itinerary, was truly enjoyed. Even though we experienced some rough seas at the beginning of our cruise, we had a great time. I had never experienced this and was awakened by the ships movement and slight creaking. I had to get up and see what was going on. I was thrilled by this. My partner, after a little while, came to find me. I was up on the pool deck enjoying a cup of coffee and cigarette. My usual morning ritual. He was afraid that I would get near a rail somewhere and be thrown overboard. I laughed at this thought, as I would never put myself in that type of position. The first night we experienced 15-25 foot swells that tapered off in a couple of days to calm seas. I jokingly said that most roller coaster rides only last about 45 seconds, that we were in for a 11 day roller coaster ride. I love roller coasters! After leaving Lisbon, we had some more swells, but only 10-15 foot ones. Captain Michael actually took us about 300 NM south of our original course to avoid rough seas and bad weather. Everyday closer to Miami we got, the temperature got warmer. Ending up around 80 degrees one day out from Miami. This was a great ship and itinerary. We are already planning our next transatlantic, so that we can visit Rome upon disembarkment and then onto Athens before returning to the states. All of my planning and expenses for this trip really paid off. Most everything went off with a hitch. Something I'm quite proud of. We took well over 3000 pics during this vacation and will have them posted shortly. Until we sail again.

Brilliance of the Seas - Trans-Atlantic

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by Andros

Trip Details
Well, After 3 days in London and 2 days in Barcelona, we finally made it to the port for embarkation. Of course the tears started flowing on my first site of Brilliance and again as we went up the escalator to board her. This was a fabulous way to start our first time to Europe. Experiencing European cultures and their people was very exciting and eye opening for me.
EMBARKATION- We arrived at the port check-in building around 12:30-1:00. After giving them our checked bags outside, we proceeded to check-in. We actually entered the wrong line. When the RC representative noticed we had our set-sail passes and passports in hand, she kindly opened the rope so we could enter the correct line. After a 5 minute wait in this line, we were able to check-in and get our seapasses. 15 minutes later we were boarding this beautiful ship. They did not offer this when we sailed in Feb. to Nassau. Even though we were one of the first people to the holding area, it took a total of 1 1/2 to get seapasses and board once they started allowing the embarkation process. We truly enjoyed the new process, as it was very convenient and efficient. I would recommend that anyone able to use this process, to do so.
BOARDING- Once we boarded Brilliance, we went directly to our stateroom. We were delighted when we opened the door and got our first look. None of us had ever had an oceanview room. We were surprised at how much more room there was than our previous inside stateroom. I was so much in shock, that I didn't even notice the bottle of rum with beautiful rose attached, was sitting on the vanity. I had pre-ordered this before we left for Europe. Afterwards, we went to explore our new home for the next 11 days and get a bite to eat.
THE SHIP- We were amazed at Brilliance and her beautifully appointed furnishings. From the inlaid tiles everywhere, gorgeous woodwork, lighting and many sculptures throughout. Brilliance was definitely everything we expected and more. My travel companions immediately started taking pictures of everything of interest to them. My roommate/partner, especially liked the lighted glass stairs in the centrum. All of us had seen pictures of Brilliance before our cruise, but nothing could have prepared us for what we were seeing with our own eyes. Brilliance was, from what we could tell, very clean and had been upkeep to her standards from birth. The staff was friendly and professional.
SAIL AWAY- Of course we had to have our muster drill. This was absolutely the funniest muster I had ever experienced. There was another ship docked directly behind us in Barcelona. The Blackwatch, started playing the theme song from Titanic on their loudspeaker 15 minutes into our muster. It was so loud, we could barely hear the announcement from the captain. Everyone, including the staff, were laughing while they tried to give us info on emergency procedures.
Afterward, we went to the Starquest to order a drink and meet some of our internet friends from CC. We had planned a pre-meeting, because our Meet & Mingle was not to be held until our first sea day. My partner had made up name badges and I had made up info packets for our ports of call. We had name badges to recognize each other for our pre-meeting. I handed out my info packets to those who were there and later delivered the rest to individuals staterooms who were not. We also had extra name badges for those who could not print them out at home. Some of our new friends lived in areas in Florida ravaged by hurricanes. We found out later, some had to pack in the dark, as they still had no power. All-in-all, we made some great friends and truly enjoyed sailing with these people. All of them, enhanced our experience throughout the cruise. FOOD VENUES- Some, more experienced cruisers than I, sometimes criticize the food more than others. I have had nothing but good experiences, with all venues offered on the ships I have sailed.
Main Dining- The main dining was usually very good, with good choices and excellent service. However, I did notice the variety of choices declined throughout the cruise. Some being repeated but, always some type of choice. Usually they had about 5-7 choices of appetizers, 3 salad, 4 entrees, and 3 main desserts with alternatives that were sugar free.
Windjammer- I enjoyed this venue because of the variety of choices you have. Breakfast always had a wide variety of foods plus the fact of being able to get omelettes or eggs made to order. I especially enjoyed the fresh pineapple and little potato rounds they offered. The pineapple chunks were the most succulent and sweet I have ever had. The potato rounds(though only offered twice that I saw) were crunchy on the outside and had like mashed potatoes inside. I truly enjoyed both of these foods. Lunch and afternoon snacks usually had good choices too. From handmade sandwiches to hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, with stirfrys and meats/with vegetables always. All were enjoyed.
Seaview Cafe- We went to the seaview cafe on the first day they were open. They had a good choice of foods from hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries to pizzas and handmade sandwiches. All were made to order and were no extra cost. You simply order when you arrive and they bring it to you after it is prepared. However, if you wanted drinks other than water, you had to purchase them from the bar in the restaurant. I just brought lemonade or tea from the windjammer with me. Also, even though not necessary, usually tipped the waiter before leaving. We ended up eating here several times throughout our cruise. The food was great!
Chops- The food and service here went above and beyond our expectations. My partner and I booked Chops 2 days from the end of our cruise. We took the earliest seating they offered and were the only ones, other than a couple of ladies who were in front of us, in the restaurant. Later, at 6:30, there was a party of eight that came and were seated. We were seated next to the window which looked out over the beautiful atlantic ocean. Our waitress and her asst. catered to our every need. First they offered their wine list(which we do not drink wine) and then brought us a delicious loaf of fresh baked sourdough bread with two choices of butter. One regular and the other a blend of spicy butter with red peppers. Then we ordered our appetizers and main entree and vegetables. I ordered the portabello mushroom and my partner the crab cakes. My mushroom was great and decorated to look like a starburst with slivers of carrots shooting out from 4 sides and a piece of melba toast with feta on top. The crab cakes to were beautifully decorated in the same way. Both looked like a piece of art we did not want to destroy. We both ordered the 10 oz. filet mignon and vegetables of our choice. When they brought them out, we were surprised at the size of these cuts of meat. The vegetables were put on a platter, in separate dishes between us, for both to enjoy. We had ordered the sauteed mushrooms, fried potatoes w/sauteed onions, mashed potatoes, and onion rings. All were very good, but the mashed potatoes were the creamiest and the onion rings (though barely battered, if battered at all) the best we have ever had. After finishing this wonderful dinner, there was still dessert to go. I don't see how anyone could eat dessert after all this wonderful food. We ordered them to go. I ordered the Mississippi mud pie and he the apple pie a la mode - the a la mode. I ate the mud pie the next day. I don't know if he ever ate the pie. I was unable to finish mine. It was soooo rich, that I actually started feeling kind of sick. Like you did as a child when eating to much candy. This venue, even with its surcharge of 20 dollars, was a step above the main dining. We also left a little bit of a tip for the wait staff, for their wonderful service. As you can tell from my description of this meal, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We will definitely try this venue along with Portifino on our next sailing. It was a treat that either of us had never experienced.
PORTS OF CALL:
Alicante, Spain -- Even though we missed 5 hours of our port time here, due to my travel companions, we really enjoyed this port. We were under the impression our first 2 ports were not going to be that interesting. We were very surprised that we had no idea of how wonderful they were going to be. With all of their beautiful buildings, fountains, tiled walkways and buildings. The people were very friendly and welcoming to us. I'm sure they deal with this all of the time. We went to the central market here and enjoyed it a lot. Upstairs was the fresh meat section(which was nauseating after a few minutes). Downstairs, underground, was the fish market and on the other side the fruit and vegetable area. I noticed a stand with glowing type rocks in the back corner of the fruit market. I stopped my friends and we proceeded to check it out. It was a herbal remedy stand that had these salt crystal lamps for sale. I had to have one. One of my friends, more Spanish speaking, asked if they took cc's and how much they were. They did not take credit, so I ended up with the smallest one they had at 25 euros. It had a european plug, but was easily remedied when we got home. It is on and glowing as I speak. We left the market and shot many pictures of this port city. Before we returned to the shuttle bus, all of us went down to the beach and touched the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. A port that provided us a great experience and glad we didn't miss.
Malaga, Spain -- Another port that we missed 5 hours of our port time. This city was also beautiful with all of its buildings and neat little parks. When we departed the shuttle, we walked across the street to investigate this city. There were horse and buggies lined up and down the street for tours. Also a park that was positioned between the opposing streets, like the Ramblas in Barcelona. There were street vendors all around the perimeter of this park at one end. I picked up some post cards at a news stand. Once we found out how to get to the Gibraltar Castle overlooking the city, we caught the tourist bus. After hearing some of the history of this city and some of its highlights, we arrived at this wonderful fortress. As I said, overlooking the city and the port docks. We took many pictures from above and were amazed at the spectacular views. After arrival to the castle, I proceeded to purchase tickets for entry. One of the women that was collecting tickets, kindly told us that after 2:00 entry was free. So, I got my money back from the machine and we left to eat our sandwiches, which we had brought with us. They had a little stand with drinks and souvenirs just outside. I bought sodas and a keychain, and we waited for the free entry which was only 10 or 15 minutes away. After touring the grounds we hopped back on the bus to the downtown area. On the way there we passed the home of the artist Picasso. It was told that he and his family lived here for 14 years before moving to Barcelona. Also where he discovered his love and passion for painting. After a couple of more stops, we got off at the cathedral(still undergoing some renovations), to return to the ship. We enjoyed this port just as much as Alicante.
On our way to Lisbon we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar. My partner was amazed that we were this close to the northern coast of Africa. With Morocco on one side and Gibraltar on the other. He actually left our second seating dinner, to get some pictures of this.
Lisbon, Portugal -- My cruising companions had it together by the time we docked here. Our approach into Lisbon was absolutely breathtaking. We were one of the first group of people off the ship. We took the shuttle from the port to the central square in the shopping district, Praca do Comercio. A huge square right in the center of this beautiful city. Also, right there was the Arco da Vitoria. A huge arch in front of their main shopping district. A sidewalk avenue with many street vendors and stores all along the way. The people were just as friendly and welcoming as our first 2 ports. However we also had some trying to sell us sunglasses and drugs along the way. We simply declined their offers with a no, and walked away. We ran across one of our CC friends at the square and was surprised to find he had made it quicker than we did. He had used the info provided in my packet to do so. He simply got off the ship, walked to the street and caught the appropriate tram to the square. Being this was our first time here, we did not know this could be accomplished. We definitely will keep it in mind on our next visit here. We could have saved 8 bucks a piece by doing so. May not sound like a lot but, could have been spent on souvenirs. We asked the tourist info stand where we could purchase our 1 day travel passes and were pointed in the right direction by the kind and friendly, English speaking woman there.
We arrived at the Elevator Santa Justa a few blocks later, to find the ticket office below to be closed for lunch. In the meanwhile, we went into a cafe to get a soda and use their restroom. One of my friends had a cup of coffee and one of their many pastries they had. He indulged in many throughout the day. Afterwards we left and walked within the area taking pictures of everything in site. We returned to the ticket office and purchased our passes. By the way, they offer 1 day and multible day passes that cover all buses, metro, and trams. The 1 day pass was 3.40 euros for each of us. They also offer a discount shopping card(obtained at the info booth) for around 3-or 4 euros, that gave you anywhere from 5-20 percent off at any of there 200 hundred member shops. I actually wasted my money on this, as we ran out of time to do much of any shopping.
We proceeded to the tram and made our way to the Castle of St. George(Sou Jorge). Unfortunately, we went way past our stop and ended up a little lost. We did have a laminated map, and also stopped in another cafe to ask for directions and use the restroom. Bet you can't guess what my friend got. LOL! Anyway we found our way to the Castle and bought our tickets for entry. This castle gave us another wonderful overview of the city. After touring this site and taking many pics we left. While waiting for the bus, my partner and I went into a hand painted tile store to find something for our sisters. I purchased a tray w/2 tiles in it for mine and one tile for his(she was watching our home and cat while we were gone). We returned to the square, to catch the appropriate tram, to go to the Tower of Belem. Unfortunately we never made it, because we got off the tram a few stops too early. We really wanted pictures of the Tower and Jeronimos. We ended up getting some pics of a beautiful park with statues throughout. On our way back to catch the tram to the square, my friend stopped for even more pastries. We started getting a little paranoid we were going to miss our shuttle back to the ship. It was 6:00 and we had to be back to the square by 7:00 for the last shuttle. We arrived at the square at 6:30 and had 30 minutes to scramble for some last minute shopping. Overall, Lisbon, was very exciting with all of their history and beautiful architecture. We definitely want to return here, because we did not get to see and do all that was planned. The information and experience of ground transport, will definitely help for our next visit.
Now onto our 7 sea days to relax and unwind from all of our travels prior and during our cruise.
Sea Days(7)- We truly enjoyed all of our sea days. With all of the activities and food offered, we had no choice but to enjoy. Anyone, wanting the true experience of cruising, needs to plan an itinerary lasting 10 days or more. We were delighted with our choice of this one. Our Meet & Mingle was held the following day in the Hollywood Odyssey Lounge.
Meet & Mingle- We had the pleasure of meeting all of our CC friends and also the ones we met at our sail away meeting. What a great experience! Meeting all of these people from all walks of life and parts of the world was magnificent. They truly enhanced our cruising experience. Luckily we had made up the name badges, as Royal Caribbean had run out of the lanyards and name tags they usually give out. We had made up plenty of extras. This was a nice party with the usual hors d'oeuvres and drinks, and raffle prizes. We got to meet all of our internet friends and put names with faces.
About an hour or so after our meeting, I went to the first of many art auctions. They offered free champagne and piece of art just for attending. Also, raffle tickets and a coupon for more, at the end. I ended up winning a piece of art from the raffle. I was thrilled and found it to be quite lucky. Quest- They had the notorious Quest at some point during our cruise. I had never participated in this game, but found it was a lot of fun. A few of our CC friends, my friend and myself, made up a team. We played and did all the silly little things you do to get points. They kept telling us we were competing for a keychain. When they got ready to announce the winners and runner-ups, they said the prizes had been upgraded to a Brilliance ball cap and one of those RC over the shoulder packs. As the runner-ups, we got the shoulder packs. I thought these were actually better than the ballcap. We all had a great time and of course they video taped this event to put on the cruise CD. I was the early riser of us, and caught all of the sunrises on this cruise. My partner would take over when he got up and found me. We captured most every sunrise and sunset there was. Some of the most spectacular I have ever experienced in my 38 years. On November 22nd we finally reached Miami for our disembarkation from the ship. ENTERTAINMENT- I enjoy the entertainment offered in the main theatre. I have not had enough experience to rate it as it should be. I think, for what they are, they are pretty good. A very talented group of singers, dancers, musicians and various acts that are accustomed to performing night after night. Also a variety of guest performers throughout the cruise. I liked all of them, I attended. We also went to the movie theatre and saw Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn't know that the late HH had so much to do with aviation. The next day we saw Alexander in the main theatre and enjoyed it too. On sunday, 2 days before the end, I also played a round of put put and climb the rock wall. Both were enjoyable, but the wall left me somewhat out of breath. Guess I'm not in as good of shape as I thought. Overall, all the activities offered were good.
DISEMBARKMENT- Unfortunately we had the last color tag to be called for this process. We enjoyed our last meal and went to the Colony Club to await our color to be called. We sat and visited with one of our tablemates, from Amsterdam, for the few hours it took. Finally, after 10:00 they called our color out. We got off the ship and had to wait again in line to go through Customs. On the way off the ship, I handed out thank you notes I had prepared for our staff tip envelopes, to other staff we encountered. I had several left and found this appropriate to do. We experienced nothing but good from all of the staff on Brilliance. Staff- From our stateroom attendant to our waitstaff, they provided professionalism and courtesy throughout our cruise. Elena(Slovakia) and her asst. Ralph took care of our every need at dinner. Remembering ordering preferences after the first couple of days. They definitely did a great job and were rewarded in their tip envelopes. All of the staff aboard Brilliance treated us with the utmost respect and dignity we have become accustomed to.
Our overall experience on Brilliance for this Transatlantic itinerary, was truly enjoyed. Even though we experienced some rough seas at the beginning of our cruise, we had a great time. I had never experienced this and was awakened by the ships movement and slight creaking. I had to get up and see what was going on. I was thrilled by this. My partner, after a little while, came to find me. I was up on the pool deck enjoying a cup of coffee and cigarette. My usual morning ritual. He was afraid that I would get near a rail somewhere and be thrown overboard. I laughed at this thought, as I would never put myself in that type of position. The first night we experienced 15-25 foot swells that tapered off in a couple of days to calm seas. I jokingly said that most roller coaster rides only last about 45 seconds, that we were in for a 11 day roller coaster ride. I love roller coasters! After leaving Lisbon, we had some more swells, but only 10-15 foot ones. Captain Michael actually took us about 300 NM south of our original course to avoid rough seas and bad weather. Everyday closer to Miami we got, the temperature got warmer. Ending up around 80 degrees one day out from Miami. This was a great ship and itinerary. We are already planning our next transatlantic, so that we can visit Rome upon disembarkment and then onto Athens before returning to the states. All of my planning and expenses for this trip really paid off. Most everything went off with a hitch. Something I'm quite proud of. We took well over 3000 pics during this vacation and will have them posted shortly. Until we sail again.
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