Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by AquaAdventurer
- Sail Date: October 2014
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
Just so happens we live a half hour’s drive away from the Black Falcon Terminal in Boston, another factor in our decision. We arrived at the pier just after 11 a.m.. We pack fairly light as a rule, so we often just carry our baggage onboard. Surprisingly there was a little confusion trying to figure out where to check our baggage in. Some folks were handing their luggage to a few teamsters with the customary carts, but the ‘official’ line was a bit of a walk from our arrival point. Wanting to be sure our bags were treated appropriately we queued in one of two receiving lines where we were being directed by Royal Caribbean personnel. In a matter of ten minutes we were waltzing around a ribboned maze to the documents counters and a string of smiling faces waiting to issue our sea passes. A couple of minutes, a brief walk to and through security, and we entered the ship. There was no mandatory picture taking session, only those desiring a picture need stop. In fact, the photographers were surprisingly considerate of guests feelings and exerted little to no pressure during the whole cruise.
Riding the elevator to deck eleven we sauntered into the required and desired buffet lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. Instead of a long and crowded school cafeteria type layout of food choices, the Windjammer featured food islands (very appropriate to the itinerary). We found this an efficient and tantalizing alternative, though at times I felt like I was navigating through a bumper car ride. This feeling occurs only during particularly crowded times, usually there was plenty of personal space moving among the food islands. The food variety at the Windjammer was adequate but not long on choices. The staff made sure nothing ran out. Finding a seat was not a problem, one could head to open air areas near the main outdoor pool or, our preference, to the stern with its panoramic views.
Time to explore the Brilliance of the Seas. We were impressed by the public areas. For some reason I was quicker to become acquainted with the basic layout of the ship than on most previous cruises. There are two main elevator clusters, forward and aft. The aft cluster enfolds the main Atrium and lobby (deck four). The glass enclosed elevators provide views of either the towering Atrium area or port and starboard outside views. But you have to be on your toes, push the up or down button and be prepared to listen carefully and scan for the elevator going in your direction, then its a sprint to get (read squeeze) into the cubicle. Often, elevators going in your direction just kept going (?).
The Starquest lounge, on deck 13 at the ship’s center, once allowed quests a 270 degree view. Now, about half the area was converted to an exclusive function room. But the area still available provides great viewing of the pool and forward area and a lovely place to scan the waters on the starboard side of the ship. About the only forward viewing area is the exercise room and even there you need to be riding a treadmill for the view (get a chair and unplug the treadmill?). This is a general gripe about modern cruise ships, why have they decided to steal what is for me the most coveted and enjoyable area on a ship - providing a crow’s nest view!
The Solarium, deck 11, was one of my favorite areas. Discounting the plastic greenery, I enjoyed the indoor pool and whirlpools, the comfortable seating, the great views port and starboard, the and the Park Cafe with its wide variety of offerings. Boo to those chair hogs who count on the courtesy of others for their own selfish requirements - Karma will get you, if someone with little patience with this insensitivity doesn’t.
Another of my favorite places on the ship was the promenade on deck five. The joggers can have the track above but the romantics and leisurely set have dominion here. Walk a few stairs and you find yourself on the helipad at the very bow of the ship - in a nod to the movie Titanic there’s a sign there that warns guests not to stand on the restraining bars. Passing across the stern provides a view of the power of the ships propulsion azipods. Lounge chairs on the Promenade allowed guests yet another quiet place to peer out to sea, read their books or Kindles, or sleep. The wide space insured that there was plenty of room for loungers and walkers.
When it was time to get acquainted with our stateroom we were pleased. Located on the port side with a balcony it suffered a minor obstruction caused by the roof covering the promenade deck and lifeboats below - hardly a problem. Smallish but efficiently set up. Plenty of drawers, adequate closet space, good size bathroom with shower and lots of mirrors - not necessarily a good thing. Interesting how flat screen TVs have opened up a tad more arm swinging room. Timely arrival of luggage reduced the stress level - all arrived in good order. We were content.
One of the great pleasures of a cruise ship experience for me is good music. The pure tones of an appealing guitar soloist, Pedro Espedido, drew my attention very quickly. There, on deck 4 of the Centrum, the diminutive middle aged fellow sat strumming contentedly on his guitar. Watching his finger work on the six string instrument and listening to his musical interpretations of popular tunes was a pleasure indeed. We were to become part of a group of folks who would cluster wherever Pedro might be playing.
We and our friends made early reservations at the main dining hall, The Minstrel. As one of the first to arrive we were rewarded with a port side table by the window from which we were able to view a week of sunsets on the southerly portion of our itinerary. Just prior to sunset we were treated to a ritual we’ve never seen before. Just outside the window, on the Promenade deck, several of the chef’s (or so I assume) entered into a Tai Chi form that, we were told, was in honor of the setting sun. We were to return to that table for all but a few of the dinners.
The variety of meal choices, both nightly and over the course of this thirteen night cruise, was good; the portions adequate - anyone desiring more just had to ask. There was also a small grouping of entrees that were always available. Several times I didn’t finish the meal or passed on the desert, the wait staff seemed almost alarmed - what was wrong with the food. Nothing, of course, but I felt I had to explain why I didn’t finish everything or opt for desert!
The dining room staff were some of the most pleasant and solicitous crew members. At times my water glass was refilled after I had taken but a sip. Our waiter was professional but his assistant was more friendly and very charming with the ladies, always ready with a compliment and willing to spend a few moments just talking. How he managed to balance his duties, which seemed endless and frenetic, with his conversational nature escapes me. In response to one question he said that in order to qualify for his position he had to have a business degree and have served several years at a four star hotel. He was from India and explained that there were some 59 nationalities represented in the crew.
The first night’s show was a single performance by the regular ship’s entourage. For the remainder of the cruise there were two shows, one at 7 and the other at 9. The Pacifica Theater had comfortable seating and its overall floor plan was well suited for good viewing overall, with a minimum of obstructions. Most folks attending the shows seemed very satisfied with the quality and variety. My favorites included Glenn Smith, Donovan & Rebecca, and Greg London.
Another activity we enjoy is trivia and there was plenty of that, in various forms, on this cruise. There were as many as four trivia sessions a day. The Progressive Trivia in particular was most entertaining. The cruise director herself, veteran Clodagh O’Connor (HelloClo) moderated, with the able assistance of Sarah. Sarah actually researched the answers to trivia questions and placed expanded answers on the large display screen in the Odyssey Lounge. Clo began each session with an effort to keep things light. Trivia can often degenerate into close to a contact sport for participants. Clo would emphasize that the prizes just weren’t worth the frustration or umbrage some people might feel. What I’m sure she understood but tried not to address was the issue of pride and status that some folks take into these ‘contests.’ One particular story she told stays with me; she mentioned that several activities personal have come to her in the past, close to tears, begging her to give them any job, “just don’t make me do any more trivia sessions!”
Clodagh O’Connor has been Cruise Director for many seasons but is still sharp as a pin, full of fun, and a consummate professional. She may have a stock of well worn stories and phrases but her delivery is still fresh and sharp. Her team works hard and seem to give their best efforts.
After the last island port-of-call we were still discovering new things to occupy us. Occasionally we would eye the rock wall on deck 13. As seniors over 65 was this too much of a challenge, was fear to win out over curiosity? NO! Three of us decided to throw caution to the winds. I say it was a 30 foot wall, my friend insisted 100 feet. We were indeed up to the challenge, all three of us got to ring the bell at the top of the wall!
I suppose I should express my frustration at the expensive and slow Internet connect, certainly not unique to Royal Caribbean. Also, the ‘Library’ was just a couple of shelves on a wall and the Card Room came up short in the variety and number of games for guests to use - and they were not supposed to be taken out of the room.
In summary, I will recall this cruise with delight and “warmth.” I’d go again but the cost seems to have almost doubled for next year - and we have some other things in mind.
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