We flew from LHR from the much maligned new T5 - but must admit we were most impressed. Less than 10 minutes from the automated check-in through security. Nicely laid out, very modern and bright, good range of shops and eateries. It is only a short fight to Hamburg. We caught a cab into town for €27 to meet with a friend for lunch. From the restaurant we walked to the port which is in the middle of a major urban renewal area (that means a building site). We arrived around 1.30. boarding did not officially start till 2p but there was a long line out of the one building. No signs anywhere that indicated separate lines for suite guests and/or Platinum and Diamond guests. We queue-jumped to the front, asked, and were shown to a check-in agent within a few minutes. We had treated ourselves to the famous JS #1100 at the aft for this short trip. Two C&A points and a large balcony! This room certainly lives up to the fame that precedes it. It is wonderful! Tucked away round the corner at the end of deck 10, it is in a quiet location. There is the largest walk-in wardrobe I have seen - there is space for a single bed in there and then still space so it could certainly be used as a changing area. The bed room area was approx 14'x16'. Bed with rounded edges, the new blue bed throws and cushions, a blue sofa, red easy chair and foot stool, red and blue curtains, carpet and dresser chair. There is a large amount of storage - 6 drawers, and 3 small cupboard areas in the dresser. The balcony is large as expected, with 2 loungers, 2 chairs and a table. We did not feel we were overlooked from people in the Windjammer at all. We also heard no noise from above either.
Sailaway from Hamburg was great. This is the only RCI cruise leaving this city this season, so we had the fireboat escorting us down the Elbe. The Canal goes on for hours, people lining the bank waving in the afternoon sunshine. There is a small jetty after an hour - this had a band playing and they made an announcement from the jetty wishing us a good journey. Brilliance tooted in return. This was our first time on a Radiance class ship. It has become our favorite class already. Just the right size, beautifully laid out, a nice atrium, and great selection of bars all with lots of windows and views of the passing ocean. The layout of the Colony Club at the aft of deck 6 was our favorite place to sit and watch the waves. We booked Chops for the 2nd night and because it was so good we booked again for the last night. Chops was not full on either occasion - I think this was due to the demographic on board (more on this later!). We also booked Portofino's for the 3rd night, but on the first day we got a call saying they had an electrical fault in the galley so it was cancelled. I had a quick look at the menu and it was the 'old' one with the seafood skewer on it. On the last night we got a tray in our room as an apology for this inconvenience - a cheese plate and a plate of strawberries and other small cakes. We had pre-booked MyTime dining for the remaining nights. As we walked round the dining room taking pictures there was a constant stream of people signing up for this. On the 2 occasions we ate in the dining room we arrived around 8.15 and were seated immediately - table for 2 by the window. Food came promptly and was hot and very good. We are huge fans of MyTime and wish RCI well with it. It certainly seemed to be working on this cruise. The menus had changed slightly - an introduction of an Indian dish to the entrees, and the removal of the separate salad course. Menus are now presented in a hard brown cover and look a lot classier than before. Traditional dining times were 6 and 8.30 on this cruise. At no time did the dining room seem full. Perhaps this was because the ship was not full - 1800 passengers of which 1600 were German. Announcements were made in both languages with German often the first! So it was not really like any other RCI cruise we have been on! There was a traditional German band playing in the Atrium, and the food in the Windjammer was certainly more Germanic (lots of sausages!). Movies were in either language, and so were the trivia quizzes. On the first day we ate breakfast in the dining room. Again it was the 'old' menu that still featured Eggs Benedict. We eat in the dining room to avoid the scrum of the buffet but for some reason there was also a buffet set up in the dining room. The waiters seemed to be confused as to how to seat a table for 8...perhaps they had forgotten what to do in their 2-weeks of dry dock. This is the only area where I felt the staff were not on the ball. We ate future breakfasts in the Windjammer. DH discovered a small area that featured English bacon and black pudding so he was happy. We had a day at sea after leaving Hamburg. The Germans as a race are famed for their reserving of places by the pool - and true to form there was a towel on each seat well before breakfast had even started! We did get seats in the Solarium area in the afternoon on each sea-day. There were children in the Solarium and despite several signs requesting that you did not reserve chairs the staff did not remove the towels (or the children!) We arrived in Oslo on their National Day. Thousands of flag waving locals in national dress. There was a long parade of school children and marching bands through the streets up past the Royal Palace where the Royal Family were on the balcony. It was very cold with rain. It was also very expensive - one beer cost 66NOK which is £6.60/$13!! The sailaway was very scenic down a long inlet with small islands. Entertainment on board was low key. There were no traditional RCI shows. There was the tribute act Abbacadabra which I saw a few weeks before on Independence. Everyone knows the songs of Abba and everyone was soon up dancing. A good act to have when there are language barriers. The act on the final night was a Charlie Chaplin impersonator - go figure. There was no C&A Welcome Back party, but they did have the Captains party - no canapés any more though. The Champagne Bar did have a selection of nibbles including caviar every night - which we did not discover till the last night (shucks) One more day at sea, where we went to two of the trivia quizzes - came 2nd on both occasions - but the surname of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz will permanently be etched in our memories! We had a very small roll call on Cruise Critic, we met up on the first night, a very nice crowd; and it soon became a habit to meet up for a drink each evening. We docked in Southampton on Monday morning. Everyone had cleared passport formalities on board on the sea days so it was very simple to just walk off and jump into our waiting cab.