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DW and I cruised on a wonderful choice Brilliance over the Thanksgiving holiday. We made a wonderful choice. We left ORD 10 minutes early and thanks to AA and Mother Nature we arrived in Tampa 20 minutes early...a great way to start a vacation! We did a great deal of research on a pre-cruise hotel and we selected the Epicurean hotel. It is a great boutique hotel and we were very satisfied with our selection. The rooms are spacious and nicely furnished with great bedroom and bathroom amenities. The neighborhood is safe and includes shopping, restaurants and nightlife. We walked to the Tampa Bay shore which was only 5 blocks away. We also walked to several upscale restaurants for drinks and dinner the night before our cruise. The hotel has a great wine shop on the first level. However, we found a small food store 3 blocks away from the hotel that had a more reasonably priced selection of wines. We had a very enjoyable mid-afternoon lunch at Carmines in Ybor City. We walked the neighborhood after lunch and shopped in between a few stops for beers. We wanted to have dinner at the famous and iconic Berns Steakhouse (which is across the street from the hotel and shares ownership) but we learned that reservations fill up 3 months in advance for Friday and Saturday nights. The hotel concierge recommended the Copper Fish. This recommendation turned into an exceptional evening. The Copper Fish is a 2.5 block walk from the hotel. The food, the service and the specialty cocktails were all outstanding, and I rarely use that word describing restaurants. Most of the seafood selections are "day boat" fresh caught and you can tell. We highly recommend the Copper Fish. We arranged a taxi through the hotel front desk. We departed the Epicurean Hotel at 10:45 am. The cab ride was 15 minutes. We entered the cruise terminal at 11 am and we were through security in 5 minutes. We were in the check-in serpentine for 10 minutes and checked in in under 10 minutes. We were on Brilliance by 11:30 am. RCCL knows how to process crowds and we applaud their efficiency and customer service (unlike some other cruiselines we have been on). We had lunch in the Windjammer and toured the Brilliance.Our D1 balcony room was ready by 1:30 and we went to the room to unload our carry-on bags. The room was a typical D1 with plenty of drawer, closet,shelf, and counter space. The bathroom is typically small with virtually no vanity counter space. This was problematic throughout the cruise. The bathroom also had the dreaded too-short shower curtain which resulted in flooded floors constantly when the shower was used. The balcony was standard size and adequate for our needs. Although we had cruised out of Tampa before we had never been on deck for sailaway under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This time, with MTD, we sailed under this magnificent structure while on deck 13. It was well worth delaying dining until 7:30 to see the bridge closeup. Food on Brilliance ranged from satisfactory to very good. On Brilliance, RCCL has employed the "food station" concept that we are used to on Celebrity ships. We prefer this approach since it eliminates the long buffet lines and results in better food quality and food options. The food in the Windjammer was tasty and varied. I do not believe anyone can go hungry in the Windjammer. There is indeed something for everyone. We opted for MTD. The first night MTD was chaotic because newbies did not understand the reservation protocols and hundreds of people showed up at 7 pm without reservations expecting to be seated at 7 pm. Brilliance dining room staff did their best to accommodate everyone but not everybody could be satisfied. Things were much better on successive nights. MTD works only if there are tables available at your desired dining time. Food in MDR was generally very good. We especially enjoyed the duck prime rib, lobster, and filet entrees. The escargot served on Brilliance is not good, IMHO. The recipe includes a butter sauce(not real butter) and some type of foamed topping that is tasteless and not consistent with traditional escargot en croute. I wish RCCL would favor a more traditional escargot recipe. I only ate one serving during our 5 night cruise and I am an escargot junkie. I hate to disclose this (because it should be kept a secret) but food in the Solarium Cafe was excellent. As noted in other reviews the roast beef sandwiches are wonderful. The salads are great. DW ate smoked salmon every morning. The specialty deserts were wonderful every day. Incidentally. Brilliance staff enforced the no children rule in the Solarium with regularity. DW and I both had the Premium beverage package. I know I received value for my money but I doubt DW got her money's worth. Beverage service ran the gamut from very good to poor depending on the venue and the time of day. As you would expect, peak times at popular bars had service issues. Clearly this is a function of staffing. It appears to me that RCCL has reduced the number of servers and bartenders. That is just my observation. Perhaps it is an intentional attempt to reduce alcohol consumption...who knows? We enjoyed the musicians in the Centrum and Schooner bars. The repertoires ranged from classical music to solo guitar favorites. These locales were great for relaxing in the afternoon or before and after dinner. We only attended two shows. The comedian/ventriloquist was mediocre. The Temptations cover band was excellent and had the house rocking during their performance. Key West- we have been to KW at least 6 times. We did a self-guided bar tour making our traditional stops at Sloppy Joes, Capt. Tonys, and Irish Kevins. As usual Irish Kevins was a riot with lots of raucous entertainment enjoyed by good natured cruisers and vacationers. We love Irish Kevins. Cozumel- similarly, we have been to Cozumel several times. We did not want to do the dreaded shopping walk so we kept a low profile this visit. I am not a fan of excursions in Cozumel so that was not an option for usWe found Ernestos' Cafe just off the ship. Beers were $2.50us. WIFI was free. The view was great and we saw several cruiseship crew members eat there. We will remember Ernestos for future stops in Cozumel. We made the mistake of stopping at Marguritaville for a beer. Two beers and a bottle of water were $16us. And Coronas are not an import in Mexico! Ripoffville. Caveat Emptor. Our mistake. In closing I want to describe our disembarkation. Originally I wanted to book an 11:35 flight TPA-ORD but I was concerned about making the flight on time. I booked a 2:20 pm connecting flight TPA-MIA-ORD. At 8:15 am DW and I decided to reschedule to the 11:35 flight. We were off the ship in 15 minutes and in a cab by 8:45. Had we made an earlier decision we could have been off the ship by 8 am. I rebooked the flight from the cab. We were checked in and were eating breakfast in the airport by 9:30 am. This was on Thanksgiving Day which may not be representative of the norm but it certainly worked for us. In closing I want to state we loved Brilliance. All staff members we encountered were friendly and accommodating. The ship is beautiful and although there are not a great deal of organized activities it was perfect for our relaxed chill cruise. We loved the ease of getting in and out of Tampa. We will keep Brilliance and Tampa on our radar for future cruises.  

5 Night Brilliance of the Seas to Key West and Cozumel

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by JEBSON

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
DW and I cruised on a wonderful choice Brilliance over the Thanksgiving holiday. We made a wonderful choice.
We left ORD 10 minutes early and thanks to AA and Mother Nature we arrived in Tampa 20 minutes early...a great way to start a vacation!
We did a great deal of research on a pre-cruise hotel and we selected the Epicurean hotel. It is a great boutique hotel and we were very satisfied with our selection. The rooms are spacious and nicely furnished with great bedroom and bathroom amenities. The neighborhood is safe and includes shopping, restaurants and nightlife. We walked to the Tampa Bay shore which was only 5 blocks away. We also walked to several upscale restaurants for drinks and dinner the night before our cruise. The hotel has a great wine shop on the first level. However, we found a small food store 3 blocks away from the hotel that had a more reasonably priced selection of wines.
We had a very enjoyable mid-afternoon lunch at Carmines in Ybor City. We walked the neighborhood after lunch and shopped in between a few stops for beers.
We wanted to have dinner at the famous and iconic Berns Steakhouse (which is across the street from the hotel and shares ownership) but we learned that reservations fill up 3 months in advance for Friday and Saturday nights. The hotel concierge recommended the Copper Fish. This recommendation turned into an exceptional evening. The Copper Fish is a 2.5 block walk from the hotel. The food, the service and the specialty cocktails were all outstanding, and I rarely use that word describing restaurants. Most of the seafood selections are "day boat" fresh caught and you can tell. We highly recommend the Copper Fish.
We arranged a taxi through the hotel front desk. We departed the Epicurean Hotel at 10:45 am. The cab ride was 15 minutes. We entered the cruise terminal at 11 am and we were through security in 5 minutes. We were in the check-in serpentine for 10 minutes and checked in in under 10 minutes. We were on Brilliance by 11:30 am. RCCL knows how to process crowds and we applaud their efficiency and customer service (unlike some other cruiselines we have been on).
We had lunch in the Windjammer and toured the Brilliance.Our D1 balcony room was ready by 1:30 and we went to the room to unload our carry-on bags. The room was a typical D1 with plenty of drawer, closet,shelf, and counter space. The bathroom is typically small with virtually no vanity counter space. This was problematic throughout the cruise. The bathroom also had the dreaded too-short shower curtain which resulted in flooded floors constantly when the shower was used. The balcony was standard size and adequate for our needs.
Although we had cruised out of Tampa before we had never been on deck for sailaway under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This time, with MTD, we sailed under this magnificent structure while on deck 13. It was well worth delaying dining until 7:30 to see the bridge closeup.
Food on Brilliance ranged from satisfactory to very good.
On Brilliance, RCCL has employed the "food station" concept that we are used to on Celebrity ships. We prefer this approach since it eliminates the long buffet lines and results in better food quality and food options. The food in the Windjammer was tasty and varied. I do not believe anyone can go hungry in the Windjammer. There is indeed something for everyone.
We opted for MTD. The first night MTD was chaotic because newbies did not understand the reservation protocols and hundreds of people showed up at 7 pm without reservations expecting to be seated at 7 pm. Brilliance dining room staff did their best to accommodate everyone but not everybody could be satisfied. Things were much better on successive nights. MTD works only if there are tables available at your desired dining time.
Food in MDR was generally very good. We especially enjoyed the duck prime rib, lobster, and filet entrees. The escargot served on Brilliance is not good, IMHO. The recipe includes a butter sauce(not real butter) and some type of foamed topping that is tasteless and not consistent with traditional escargot en croute. I wish RCCL would favor a more traditional escargot recipe. I only ate one serving during our 5 night cruise and I am an escargot junkie.
I hate to disclose this (because it should be kept a secret) but food in the Solarium Cafe was excellent. As noted in other reviews the roast beef sandwiches are wonderful. The salads are great. DW ate smoked salmon every morning. The specialty deserts were wonderful every day. Incidentally. Brilliance staff enforced the no children rule in the Solarium with regularity.
DW and I both had the Premium beverage package. I know I received value for my money but I doubt DW got her money's worth. Beverage service ran the gamut from very good to poor depending on the venue and the time of day. As you would expect, peak times at popular bars had service issues. Clearly this is a function of staffing. It appears to me that RCCL has reduced the number of servers and bartenders. That is just my observation. Perhaps it is an intentional attempt to reduce alcohol consumption...who knows?
We enjoyed the musicians in the Centrum and Schooner bars. The repertoires ranged from classical music to solo guitar favorites. These locales were great for relaxing in the afternoon or before and after dinner.
We only attended two shows. The comedian/ventriloquist was mediocre. The Temptations cover band was excellent and had the house rocking during their performance.
Key West- we have been to KW at least 6 times. We did a self-guided bar tour making our traditional stops at Sloppy Joes, Capt. Tonys, and Irish Kevins. As usual Irish Kevins was a riot with lots of raucous entertainment enjoyed by good natured cruisers and vacationers. We love Irish Kevins.
Cozumel- similarly, we have been to Cozumel several times. We did not want to do the dreaded shopping walk so we kept a low profile this visit. I am not a fan of excursions in Cozumel so that was not an option for usWe found Ernestos' Cafe just off the ship. Beers were $2.50us. WIFI was free. The view was great and we saw several cruiseship crew members eat there. We will remember Ernestos for future stops in Cozumel. We made the mistake of stopping at Marguritaville for a beer. Two beers and a bottle of water were $16us. And Coronas are not an import in Mexico! Ripoffville. Caveat Emptor. Our mistake.
In closing I want to describe our disembarkation. Originally I wanted to book an 11:35 flight TPA-ORD but I was concerned about making the flight on time. I booked a 2:20 pm connecting flight TPA-MIA-ORD. At 8:15 am DW and I decided to reschedule to the 11:35 flight. We were off the ship in 15 minutes and in a cab by 8:45. Had we made an earlier decision we could have been off the ship by 8 am. I rebooked the flight from the cab. We were checked in and were eating breakfast in the airport by 9:30 am. This was on Thanksgiving Day which may not be representative of the norm but it certainly worked for us.
In closing I want to state we loved Brilliance. All staff members we encountered were friendly and accommodating. The ship is beautiful and although there are not a great deal of organized activities it was perfect for our relaxed chill cruise. We loved the ease of getting in and out of Tampa. We will keep Brilliance and Tampa on our radar for future cruises.
 
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Cabin Review

Cabin 9064
Good room. Good Location. Nice balcony
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