This was our first Mediterranean cruise, we are typically Caribbean cruisers, and pretty Loyal to Royal. I'm OCD about / addicted to cruising and love the planning process. This Brilliance of the Seas round trip from Barcelona made stops at Villefranche, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Venice (overnight), Zadar (Croatia) and Kotor (Montenegro).
With 8 ports including Barcelona this was a lot of planning. We're usually do-it-your-selfers, but decided we could pack more in with take tours. We avoid the large ship tours, and we were proven right every time we drove right up to a particular sight, and passed the groups of 50 people far back following the tour guide because the buses can't get close enough in the historic cities with narrow streets.
Embarkation and debarkation were both very smooth.
I thought this itinerary was amazing. We visited so many and such a good mix of ports.
- Villefranche was a tender port. This was a DIY day for us. We took the train to Nice, spent half the day strolling Old Nice, returned to Villefranche by bus, and explored there until time to tender back.
- For Livorno, Civitavecchia, and Naples we had arranged a private tour with 3 other couples on our Cruise Critic Roll Call. I can highly recommend Joe Banana Italy Tour Sharing.
- Venice – the sail-in to Venice is a great experience. This was an overnight stop so we had a lot of time to explore on our own.
- Zadar – We were so sad that the Sea Organ was down for repair, because this was a highlight we were looking forward to, but Zadar is a lovely town, and a perfect spot for strolling. We’ll have to come back one day to explore further and hear the Sea Organ.
- Kotor – This was surprisingly by far our favorite port – and I’d say from many reactions around us we weren’t alone. We had planned an excursion with Montenegro M Tours of Perast-Budva-Kotor, and had so much interest that we filled 2 vans. The sail-in to the Bay of Kotor is spectacular, and the towns we visited each had their own personality without being overwhelmed by throngs of tourists.
We never made it to the MDR. We had MTD but found that after either a long day in port or a day that we ate in port we had no interest in a long meal. We mostly ate in the Windjammer, Park Café, and on a couple of sea days we ate at Giovanni’s Table. Service there was great, but the first night the food was way too salty; they invited us back for another night and that was perfect.
There were 2 formal nights (6th & 11th nights – both sea days) and the rest were casual – no smart casual.
- There was no Meet & Mingle scheduled, although it was confirmed before sailing with 70+ signed up. We received no good explanation about why this happened, and no response to emails. This was very disappointing as we had all chatted on Cruise Critic for a year.
- Tender process in Montenegro: It was announced that tender tickets would begin to be issued at 12:15pm. At 11am we noticed people with tickets – by then they were up to tender #9. They had begun distributing them at 10:15am. There was one announcement made, but you can’t hear them in the cabins and many locations.
- Music in the Starquest disco. The DJ cut songs short that obviously people were dancing to, yet played songs in full that cleared the dance floor. He continually overlapped songs together that sounded so awful it not only cleared the dance floor, but the lounge. Isn’t the purpose of a live DJ so they can ‘read’ the audience and adjust the playlist for the crowd?
- Although the port listed in our documentation for Croatia was ZADAR, in actuality we docked 10 minutes away in Gazenica. Royal Caribbean charged $12 for a round trip shuttle. Not a huge deal, but unexpected.
- Speaking of transportation –getting away from the Cruise Terminal in Venice wasn’t easy. There were shuttle buses that were marked ‘Shore Excursions’, but some people told us we could take that to get closer to the People Mover, others said we needed to be on a Shore Excursion. We wanted to get to the people mover. The shuttle actually took us far enough away from the People Mover that we may as well have walked in the first place! Maybe it’s normally better, but there was some construction in that area.
Aside from these issues which were mostly the result of generally poor communication from the staff, the ship is still sparkling and beautiful. I love the Radiance class ships for their connection to the sea, and this itinerary was enhanced by the ship. We thoroughly enjoyed each port and our excursions, and made some good new friends (despite the lack of the Meet & Mingle).
We had a hump balcony cabin, 9582. We chose starboard side for the sail-in to Venice; this was a perfect spot for that. We often sail on the hump, and were surprised the music seemed loud when we were trying to sleep – then realized we often stay out late, and the music is done when we return to our cabin, but with the long, full days we tried to get to bed early.
The cabin was in quite good shape, especially thinking about the age of the ship. The only thing lacking for me is USB charging ports, and electrical outlets by the nightstand.
We arranged to be picked up from the airport by Barcelona Day Tours for a 1/2 tour with drop off at our hotel for our 1 pre-cruise night. It was a good introduction, and well done, but by the end jet-lag kicked in so we were ready for the hotel.View All 54 Private Tour Reviews
This is a great port to DIY, although several cruisemates enjoyed private tours. It is quite easy to get the train in Villefranche to Nice, and although it was a bit tricky to find the bus stop to return (construction has moved the location listed in tour books - we walked to the Le Port stop), it's a pleasant trip back. Both good towns for walking around, exploring, sampling local cuisine.
We were picked up from the pier and made a quick visit to Pisa & Florence. We felt a bit too rushed because our last stop was to a Chianti winery, and our scheduled time was early afternoon. But once at the winery that was SO gorgeous, relaxing and well-planned the stress melted away!View All undefined undefined Reviews
We were again picked up at the pier and on our way quickly to Rome. With the 8 passenger van we were able to get right up to the sights we wanted to see and saved a lot of time and energy. We were warned before that the lines to the Colosseum can be very long with heightened security, so we all opted to walk around but not enter it. The price of the ticket was deducted from the cost of the tour when we paid at the end.
We had a leisurely lunch (not included in the tour) and then began our tour of the Vatican with a private guide. There is so much to see there (I'm an artist & not religious, but the work is amazing), but it's too bad there is no limitation on the numbers of people they try to pack in at once.View All undefined undefined Reviews
I can't imagine making this trip on a bus. The hairpin winding roads up the coast are crazy enough in an 8 passenger van, especially with so many scooter that don't have the same rules as at home! The Lane & Blindspot detection warnings were going crazy!
The coast is gorgeous and Sorrento & Positano are lovely towns. We had a great lunch (included) at Trattoria La Tagliata. Then on to Pompeii where we were greeted by our private guide. We all really enjoyed this experience.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This was an overnight visit, and a DIY port for us. We purchased a 24 hour Vaporetto pass so we could come and go as we pleased on the water buses. In actuality we didn't need it that often - we did a lot of walking. As we could see during our sail-in during the early afternoon - St Marks Square was packed! We waited until early evening and then early morning of the next day to visit. I felt that we had enough time to explore and enjoy it all - a gondola ride, viewing the city from the Campanile, wandering the back streets and canals, eating and drinking (pizza, cicchetti, pasta, gelato, spritz, wine, etc!)
We did find that getting from the ship to the people mover was less than convenient. There were shuttle buses that were marked ‘Shore Excursions’, but some people told us we could take that to get closer to the People Mover, others said we needed to be on a Shore Excursion. The shuttle actually took us far enough away from the People Mover that we may as well have walked in the first place! Maybe it’s normally better, but there was some construction in that area.
We were so sad that the Sea Organ was down for repair, because this was a highlight we were looking forward to, but Zadar is a lovely town, and a perfect spot for strolling. We’ll have to come back one day to explore further and hear the Sea Organ.
Zadar was the only place we visited not on the Euro - they use the Kuna, although they did accept Euros (change back was in Kuna though). We just assumed how much we'd spend, withdrew some money from an ATM, and it was just right.
We're not shoppers, but the prices here were excellent and we heard people talking about amazing bargains, especially in leather and clothing.
We did have to take a shuttle from the dock in Gazenica. We were not expecting this, and although only $12 round trip was not expected.
This was our favorite port, and an excellent tour. We didn't have quite enough time because we were delayed disembarking (tendering), and had we known we were going to be delayed setting sail (a ship excursion was 1 hr+ delayed), we could have enjoyed our free time in Kotor more.
It looked like the walk up the city walls would have been spectacular (although strenuous)but we had to skip that with my husband's back issues. We could really appreciate the art and history of Our Lady of the Rocks church off the coast of Perast, and this was a sharp contrast to the Vatican. Although it's hard to hold a stick to Michelangelo's work, it was refreshing to enjoy the beauty of this church without being rushed.View All undefined undefined Reviews