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This was our first time to do the Baltic itinerary, our fifth cruise on Brilliance, and our 32 RCCL cruise. We are Diamond Plus C&A members and so we know our way around pretty well and know some of the staff from previous cruises. We loved all of the ports and had tours planned in Tallinn, Estonia and St Petersburg, Russia. We did our own touring in the other cities. More about all that later in the review. Background We booked this cruise way in advance to cruise with friends and we both booked aft JS staterooms. We scored 1100, the best JS on the ship. The balcony is about the largest balcony for any class stateroom and is a perfect place for sail away parties. It is also mostly out of the wind so it's a perfect place to catch some rays on a sunny but cool day. After checking the airline pricing we decided to cruise over instead of flying. We sailed Quantum transatlantic to Barcelona and spent the 5 days in between cruises in Paris and London. We flew into London very early on Saturday morning and we stayed at the Double Tree Hilton Westminster. It's a great hotel that is reasonably priced, by London standards, and well located to tour by walking around. It is also very convenient to the Hop On Hop Off bus routes. We toured Westminster Abbey on Saturday and Kensington Palace on Sunday and had great weather for touring. We stopped into a pub for snacks by Hyde Park and rode the underground to Pimlico station and walked a few minutes to the hotel. Westminster Abbey is only a 10 minute walk as is Parliament and Big Ben. The Thames is only a couple of blocks east and easy to access. I hired a 16 passenger mini bus to take us to Harwich the morning of the cruise departure. The bus showed up at 10 as scheduled and we loaded up and headed for Harwich. Sailing from Harwich is the one negative because it is 90+ miles away and in London traffic proved to be an adventure. It was a real battle getting out of central London and once we hit the highway the traffic was equally bad. What should have been a two hour trip ended up being four because the driver had to take a 45 minute mandatory break half way through the journey. So he parked us at a rural Shell station/convience store for the better part of an hour. Not so much fun but we were still an hour from Harwich. Once at Harwich we had an easy check in and went for lunch in the Windjammer. Our luggage showed up at the stateroom by about 3:30 and we were unpacked and ready for muster at 4:15. We had a great stateroom attendant who brought us extra hangers and a bucket of ice and we were in business. We have sailed a dozen times on this class of ship and a JS is really a great cabin. It's about the size of a real hotel room and has a bathroom with a tub. It's a 50% bigger cabin than a D balcony and 120 sq ft bigger than an E balcony. We've been in every type of stateroom from an interior to a JS and if the pricing is relatively close or the cruise is a long one this is what I recommend. Dining WE ate everywhere on the ship except Izumi and that was only because on of our party has a fish allergy. We always do MTD because we have people that like earlier than late seating and later than main seating. We did three nights of specialty dining in Chops and Giovanni's. We had excellent food and service both times that we dined in Chops and Giovanni's was equally as good. We had six in our group and half preferred each venue the most. The filets in Chops were most popular and the lamb chops in Giovanni's was the standout. My personal favorite is the Parmesan Veal Chop in Chops.We always do Chops the first night but I made sure to line things up with the Maitre D" for the other nights. I created a standing reservation for 7 PM and we had an excellent table by the rail.No standing in the line to be seated; we just went to the table each night we were in the dining room. We counceled with him as to which nights had our least favorite menus and that is when we scheduled our specialty dining.The staff was very attentive and our headwaiter stopped at the table every day to make sure that everything was good. The maitre d' checked on us daily as well. Cruise Activities Our main activity was playing the various trivia games in the Schooner Bar. We had a diverse group with a lot of specialized knowledge but we always learn more each time we play. The usual pool games were missing due to the cool weather but things like the Quest and Love & Marriage Game show were well attended. Our Cruise Director Clo is one of the best in the fleet and she remembered us from our previous cruises with her. It's amazing how sharing your chocolate and cashews can create a lasting memory. Ports This cruise had great ports and even though we missed our last stop we were very happy with all of our port stops.We had visited Copenhagen and Stockholm on a land vacation many years ago so it was very nice to go back. We did not do ships excursions but in Tallinn and St. Petersburg we used TJ Tours and we had an excellent experience.In Copenhagen and Stockholm we walked around and searched out the Hard Rock Cafe to buy t shirts and souveniers. In Helsinki we had a real bonus because one of our neighbors had hosted an exchange student from Finland. She showed us around when we arrived and directed us to a great local restaurant and a street fair that the ladies really enjoyed.Of all of our stops Helsinki was the least touristy so we were glad to have Roosa showing us around.We stopped at Parliament and the Opera House before walking to the harbor area and lunch. In Tallinn we toured and saw Estonia's presidents residence and the palace that the Russian czars used as one of their summer escapes. The highlight was the old walled city with the old churches and narrow cobblestone streets. We visited an ancient apothecary and a really nice bakery for coffee and pastries. We had some free time at the end so my friend and I geo cached and the ladies shopped. St Petersburg, Russia was amazing to see. Things are ultra controlled and unless you have a Russian Visa you can not go around unsupervised. It was about 30 minutes to go through immigration and your visa ends up being your tour ticket. The tour highlights were the churches, museums, and palaces. We saw Peterhof and the Hermitage museum on one day and Catherine the Greats palace on the second day. The Russian palaces were heavily influenced by the French palace at Versailles. We also saw the cathedral of St Isaac and the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood. We even went down into one of the subway stations and saw how much detail they put into building their metro. The first day we had a pre planned lunch with traditional things like borscht and chicken kiev. The second day we stopped at a bakery and had a tradition lunch that was about the only bargain for the whole trip. We had meat filled pastries, salads, soups, and cokes and the bill was about $6 a person.One of our party had purchased a ticket to the ballet and so at the end of the first day she got off the bus and was met by a member of the tour company. She then escorted Kathleen to the ballet. In Stockholm we picked up a HOHO boat right by the ship and rode it to the Gamla Stan. We walked around the old city before setting off in search of the Hard Rock. We ended up taking the subway back to the old city and found a great sidewalk cafe/restaurant for lunch. After lunch some of us hopped back onto the boat and toured the rest of the harbor area and headed back to the ship. In Copenhagen we walked along the waterfront and saw the Little Mermaid statue before jumping onto a HOHO boat and touring around the harbor area. We then walked to the Tivoli Garden area where we stopped and had coffee and pastries. We decided to walk back to the ship once we figured out that it was a straight shot.Our last stop was scheduled to be Skagen in Denmark but the winds were so high that we couldn't dock. There was a lot of disappointment on shore because we were the first ship scheduled to dock there and the town had turned out in force to welcome us. So, we ended the cruise with three days in a row on board. This cruise also had some drama. We had two helicopter medical evacuations during the cruise and one tender evacuation outside Skagen. We actually turned around while at sea and went back to drop off one of the medivac patients husbands. Disembarkation was easy and painless for us. We had scheduled a 7:30 AM shuttle to Heathrow so we made sure that we were off the ship by 7. One couples luggage went astray but it was located within about 10 minutes and we were on our way to the airport just a few minutes behind schedule. I highly recommend the Baltic itinerary to all cruisers.

Great days in the Baltic

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by Priusprof

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2015
  • Destination: Europe
This was our first time to do the Baltic itinerary, our fifth cruise on Brilliance, and our 32 RCCL cruise. We are Diamond Plus C&A members and so we know our way around pretty well and know some of the staff from previous cruises. We loved all of the ports and had tours planned in Tallinn, Estonia and St Petersburg, Russia. We did our own touring in the other cities. More about all that later in the review.

Background

We booked this cruise way in advance to cruise with friends and we both booked aft JS staterooms. We scored 1100, the best JS on the ship. The balcony is about the largest balcony for any class stateroom and is a perfect place for sail away parties. It is also mostly out of the wind so it's a perfect place to catch some rays on a sunny but cool day. After checking the airline pricing we decided to cruise over instead of flying. We sailed Quantum transatlantic to Barcelona and spent the 5 days in between cruises in Paris and London. We flew into London very early on Saturday morning and we stayed at the Double Tree Hilton Westminster. It's a great hotel that is reasonably priced, by London standards, and well located to tour by walking around. It is also very convenient to the Hop On Hop Off bus routes. We toured Westminster Abbey on Saturday and Kensington Palace on Sunday and had great weather for touring. We stopped into a pub for snacks by Hyde Park and rode the underground to Pimlico station and walked a few minutes to the hotel. Westminster Abbey is only a 10 minute walk as is Parliament and Big Ben. The Thames is only a couple of blocks east and easy to access. I hired a 16 passenger mini bus to take us to Harwich the morning of the cruise departure. The bus showed up at 10 as scheduled and we loaded up and headed for Harwich. Sailing from Harwich is the one negative because it is 90+ miles away and in London traffic proved to be an adventure. It was a real battle getting out of central London and once we hit the highway the traffic was equally bad. What should have been a two hour trip ended up being four because the driver had to take a 45 minute mandatory break half way through the journey. So he parked us at a rural Shell station/convience store for the better part of an hour. Not so much fun but we were still an hour from Harwich. Once at Harwich we had an easy check in and went for lunch in the Windjammer. Our luggage showed up at the stateroom by about 3:30 and we were unpacked and ready for muster at 4:15. We had a great stateroom attendant who brought us extra hangers and a bucket of ice and we were in business. We have sailed a dozen times on this class of ship and a JS is really a great cabin. It's about the size of a real hotel room and has a bathroom with a tub. It's a 50% bigger cabin than a D balcony and 120 sq ft bigger than an E balcony. We've been in every type of stateroom from an interior to a JS and if the pricing is relatively close or the cruise is a long one this is what I recommend.

Dining

WE ate everywhere on the ship except Izumi and that was only because on of our party has a fish allergy. We always do MTD because we have people that like earlier than late seating and later than main seating. We did three nights of specialty dining in Chops and Giovanni's. We had excellent food and service both times that we dined in Chops and Giovanni's was equally as good. We had six in our group and half preferred each venue the most. The filets in Chops were most popular and the lamb chops in Giovanni's was the standout. My personal favorite is the Parmesan Veal Chop in Chops.We always do Chops the first night but I made sure to line things up with the Maitre D" for the other nights. I created a standing reservation for 7 PM and we had an excellent table by the rail.No standing in the line to be seated; we just went to the table each night we were in the dining room. We counceled with him as to which nights had our least favorite menus and that is when we scheduled our specialty dining.The staff was very attentive and our headwaiter stopped at the table every day to make sure that everything was good. The maitre d' checked on us daily as well.

Cruise Activities

Our main activity was playing the various trivia games in the Schooner Bar. We had a diverse group with a lot of specialized knowledge but we always learn more each time we play. The usual pool games were missing due to the cool weather but things like the Quest and Love & Marriage Game show were well attended. Our Cruise Director Clo is one of the best in the fleet and she remembered us from our previous cruises with her. It's amazing how sharing your chocolate and cashews can create a lasting memory.

Ports

This cruise had great ports and even though we missed our last stop we were very happy with all of our port stops.We had visited Copenhagen and Stockholm on a land vacation many years ago so it was very nice to go back. We did not do ships excursions but in Tallinn and St. Petersburg we used TJ Tours and we had an excellent experience.In Copenhagen and Stockholm we walked around and searched out the Hard Rock Cafe to buy t shirts and souveniers. In Helsinki we had a real bonus because one of our neighbors had hosted an exchange student from Finland. She showed us around when we arrived and directed us to a great local restaurant and a street fair that the ladies really enjoyed.Of all of our stops Helsinki was the least touristy so we were glad to have Roosa showing us around.We stopped at Parliament and the Opera House before walking to the harbor area and lunch. In Tallinn we toured and saw Estonia's presidents residence and the palace that the Russian czars used as one of their summer escapes. The highlight was the old walled city with the old churches and narrow cobblestone streets. We visited an ancient apothecary and a really nice bakery for coffee and pastries. We had some free time at the end so my friend and I geo cached and the ladies shopped.

St Petersburg, Russia was amazing to see. Things are ultra controlled and unless you have a Russian Visa you can not go around unsupervised. It was about 30 minutes to go through immigration and your visa ends up being your tour ticket. The tour highlights were the churches, museums, and palaces. We saw Peterhof and the Hermitage museum on one day and Catherine the Greats palace on the second day. The Russian palaces were heavily influenced by the French palace at Versailles. We also saw the cathedral of St Isaac and the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood. We even went down into one of the subway stations and saw how much detail they put into building their metro. The first day we had a pre planned lunch with traditional things like borscht and chicken kiev. The second day we stopped at a bakery and had a tradition lunch that was about the only bargain for the whole trip. We had meat filled pastries, salads, soups, and cokes and the bill was about $6 a person.One of our party had purchased a ticket to the ballet and so at the end of the first day she got off the bus and was met by a member of the tour company. She then escorted Kathleen to the ballet.

In Stockholm we picked up a HOHO boat right by the ship and rode it to the Gamla Stan. We walked around the old city before setting off in search of the Hard Rock. We ended up taking the subway back to the old city and found a great sidewalk cafe/restaurant for lunch. After lunch some of us hopped back onto the boat and toured the rest of the harbor area and headed back to the ship. In Copenhagen we walked along the waterfront and saw the Little Mermaid statue before jumping onto a HOHO boat and touring around the harbor area. We then walked to the Tivoli Garden area where we stopped and had coffee and pastries. We decided to walk back to the ship once we figured out that it was a straight shot.Our last stop was scheduled to be Skagen in Denmark but the winds were so high that we couldn't dock. There was a lot of disappointment on shore because we were the first ship scheduled to dock there and the town had turned out in force to welcome us. So, we ended the cruise with three days in a row on board.

This cruise also had some drama. We had two helicopter medical evacuations during the cruise and one tender evacuation outside Skagen. We actually turned around while at sea and went back to drop off one of the medivac patients husbands.

Disembarkation was easy and painless for us. We had scheduled a 7:30 AM shuttle to Heathrow so we made sure that we were off the ship by 7. One couples luggage went astray but it was located within about 10 minutes and we were on our way to the airport just a few minutes behind schedule. I highly recommend the Baltic itinerary to all cruisers.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 1100
Spacious cabin with full size bath, seating area, and walk in closet. The corner aft location gave us a triple sized balcony. There was plenty of storage and the size provided walking around room.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Copenhagen
    Copenhagen is a picturesque city with lots to see and do. We rode on a canal boat and saw some of the waterfront sights before walking to the Tivoli Gardens area. It's a great mixture of the old and the new.
    View All 1,124 Copenhagen Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Copenhagen Cruise Port Review
  • Harwich
    Harwich is an industrial port for the most part and is far away from the airports and London. It is really a burden to travel there to sail. It took us four hours to get there because of traffic and it was 2.5 hours to Heathrow.
    View All 33 Harwich Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Harwich Cruise Port Review
  • City Tour
    The Estonian history is dotted with periods of independence and being ruled by foreign powers. The Estonians are very proud of their traditions and our guide took us to an outdoor ampitheater where there is a major singing event evey year.
    View All 83 City Tour Reviews
  • Kadriorg Palace
    We toured the grounds and had a peek into how Russian royalty lived back in the day. The grouds were immaculately maintained and the paths were dotted with fountains.At one or two points there were sprays set up along the paths that would shower the tourists. Our guide pointed this out as we walked through and we observed from a safe and dry distance when the sprays came on.
    View All 9 Kadriorg Palace Reviews
  • Old Town of Tallinn
    We walked the Old Town starting at the top and worked our way down. We enjoyed the churches, scenic views, and narrow cobblestone streets. We stopped in a a very old pharmacy, a bakery, and went into one of the Orthodox churches. We had some free time to explore on our own so we geo cached and found one.
    View All 175 Old Town of Tallinn Reviews