Brilliance of the Seas January 16 - 26 2009
My wife and my self, no kids! We have sailed 4 times before on RCL.
Ports of Call (First time for all): Barcelona, Malaga, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Casablanca, Cadiz 4 days at sea.
We booked this cruise because of the price $729 for 10 days with $200 on board credit. We also got the fuel surcharge refunded and had the share owners credit. I guess we will not get to combine all these benefits anymore.
We traveled on AA from Kansas City to Barcelona a day early. I highly recommend this, it gives you slack to make the ship in case flights are messed up and Barcelona is a wonderful city to visit. We stayed at the H-10 Mariner because of a great deal on Hotwire. The hotel was nice and the staff very helpful especially when my wife came down with strep throat and the found me a pharmacy that would give out antibiotic (helped that my wife is a pharmacist). The bed was very hard and the shower was worse than the one on the ship but we were there only a night. Barcelona is a completely different city from the others we have visited in Europe. The Gaudi architecture is amazing and the olive oil is luscious. Cab fare to hotel from airport about 25 Euros with 4 bags. Cab fare from hotel to port about 30 Euros with 4 bags. Hotel 10 Marina is a 5 minute walk from subway. Room service was adequate and not to expensive. We would stay there again before a cruise but would not want to stay more than a couple of nights. The hotel does have free wireless Internet.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around noon were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. The port is very new and has plenty of space to handle all of the passengers.
Cabin We were in an inside cabin 9565. The bed was comfortable compared to the hotel and there is plenty of space for 2 people's clothes for 10 days. I would not want to have a family in the cabin for 10 days. No odors from the bathroom. Cabin attendant was a ghost but did a great job of keeping the cabin clean and ice in the bucket. Not that we need them, but there were no chocolates on the pillows at night, this was one of the many little differences between this cruise and the on the Radiance in March of 2008.
We had a fixed 10 top table at the late seating. This is the best group of tablemates we have ever had. 3 couples from the US and 2 couples from Essex England. We enjoyed each others company so much we met for excursions, trivia, etc. We were always the last table out of the dinning room. This opportunity to meet new friends is why my wife and I prefer traditional seating and will not choose my time unless forced. In our opinion one of the best parts of cruising is making new friends and sharing each others company over a leisurely dinner.
We ate all of our evening meals in the main dining room because we wanted to enjoy the company of the table. Some evenings the fair in the Windjammer did look better than the meals in the main dinning room. 2 of the nights in particular I can remember the appetizers were better than the main course. One night my wife had an Angus "Sirloin" that was all gristle. The fish dishes were generally good. Another big change from March was no lobster. They had "tiger" shrimp instead which was what the shrimp cocktail used to be and the shrimp cocktail are now salad shrimp. They still bring you all you want and when my wife had the bad steak the waiter and head waiter apologized and tried to bring her a new one but she was already full from the appetizers. One advantage of the food being a notch lower is you are not as inclined to eat as much because everything is something you can not get at home. We had the gold wine package and found it very good for the money. We did not see the need to pay extra for the platinum or diamond package.
Our waiter was Subijet from India and assistant waiter was Ozlem from turkey. Both did an excellent job. This was Ozlem's first cruise and at the beginning she was very quiet but by the end of the cruise she had opened up quite a bit.
Ship in General
The shows were very well done and the music through out the ship was very good. The trivia was hard and we won at Bingo, black jack and slots. Another sneaky way of getting more money, the minimum blackjack bet was $6.00 instead of $5.00. If we had not bought art we would have been ahead at the end of the trip. The mix of nationalities on the ship was very refreshing.
My wife and I found this selection of ports to be very interesting. That is one of the reasons we were so excited to get this cruise for the price we did. Because the tours through RCL were priced in dollars, we chose to use more ship tours than we usually do. We toured the Alhambra out of Malaga so we did not see the city of Malaga. I believe everyone should see the Alhambra once in their lives. The tour guide was excellent; the provided meal left something to be desired. We took the general tour of lanzrote and found it to be a unique volcanic environment. The sweet wine was to sweet and the dry wine to dry but mixed together they were quite good. We went to Loroparque on Tenerife and it was a very nice animal park. There is even snow in the penguin habitat. Tenerife reminded us very much of Hawaii with a slightly cooler climate. We took the mosque tour of Casablanca. Here we bought some wonderful spices from an herbalist who had a cure for "everything." We could not decide if Casablanca was a city on the way up or the way down. In Cadiz we did our own thing and found shoes and boots for our daughter at an almost unbelievable price. We did a cab tour for 60 Euros for 4 people for 1 and ½ hours. My wife and I both agree we could do this same exact cruise again and see something completely different in every port.
A lot of little things like chocolates on the pillows, no lobster, smaller shrimp, no exciting dinner menus, $6 minimum blackjack versus $5, no name coffee as regular coffee and "Seattle's Best" as premium coffee, a salad bar at lunch in the main dinning room instead of a hot pasta bar (because of insurance reasons) were noticeably different from or cruise on the Radiance in March. The thing that annoyed us the most was when you ask about any of these items the standard answer was that was dictated by Miami. I don't think Miami has very good buy in for the new cost cutting from the front line help that is the face of RCL. It feels like the accountants are taking over and not giving the front line crew detailed explanations for the cost cuts and then the crew cannot give good answers to the return cruisers when they notice the change from the last time they sailed with RCL. This is not a very good customer retention policy.
I wish the Captain's talk would be mandatory. I find it very informative. The Captain of the Radiance did an excellent job.
I wish RCL would enforce the 30 minute unused lounger around the pool policy the way they enforce the no bringing alcohol on the ship policy. As always there were many lounges in the solarium and around the pool on the warm days that were "held" and not used.
From the time our color was called (08:05) until we were at the airport was only 45 minutes. The friends of ours who were traveling with us were about 15 minutes behind us and they got in a much longer cab line. The airline (Continental) had changed their flight departure without telling them from 10:55 to 10:30 and they missed their flight. Our flight left at 11:10 and we had plenty of time. The Barcelona Airport is very modern and I could see in the higher travel seasons this amount of time between leaving the ship and the flight departure may not be long enough.
As I have said earlier we would do this exact cruise again. We are loyal RCL cruisers. We hope as the finances of RCL firm up they add back some of the extras just the same as the removed the fuel surcharge as the price of fuel dropped. It's not the golden age of cruising just like it is not the golden age of flying anymore.
Closet adequate for 2 people for 10 days. Good access to ship. Near center