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We flew out to Dubai to spend three days prior to our cruise- we have been there several times before so this time intended to be a bit touristy - we caught the abra across the creek for a few dirhams, went to the gold souk and the spice souk and visited my favourite diamond shop; with DH's pockets a bit lighter we rode the new skytrain, we watched the skiers in the Mall of the Emirates, sat outside The Address Hotel to watch the Burj Khalifa fountains, and we had probably the best meal of our lives at the Buddha Bar in the Grosvenor House Hotel - go there if you can! We also ate at the Madinat Jumeriah resort which is a complex of 3 hotels built around a waterway and a souk - there are dozens of restaurants here in a charming setting - we ate at Times of Arabia. The next night we went to JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence) which is a new development called The Walk- lots of restaurants, shops and at least 3 Starbucks - we ate at a Turkish called Kosebasi. The restaurants and quality of food in Dubai is excellant - I don't think we have ever had a bad meal. The cost of wine brings a tear to your eye though....! Anyway, relaxed and refreshed and with the tan started, we went to the port around 2 on Monday. It literally took about 5 minutes to check in and then we were on board. We boarded from the 'tent' building and not from the new terminal as Costa seemed to be there. We were sorry to see the poor old QEII looking unloved and run down docked next to us. This was our second cruise on Brilliance and I have always deemed her to be my favourite ship of the RCI fleet so we were keen to see if she lived up to our expectations and memories. Cabin: We were in an aft with the larger balcony - plenty of space for two chairs, small table and a sunlounger. The cabin itself was looking a bit dated, the sofa definitely sagged a bit, the decor was a bit dark and there was sometimes a bit of a pong from the pipes in the bathroom - think tomcat... Beds were as comfy as always, service from Thomas was prompt and efficient - we put the little card in the slot whenever we left for breakfast and he would appear instantly. Only 4 towel animals this cruise. Bathroom had good hot water pressure but the shower curtain was useless and we (that should be I) always managed to flood the floor! Bedroom had two curtains that separated the bed from the sofa so it would be suitable for sharers. Balcony was in need of a paint and the balustrade needed a varnish. I must hasten to add that the rest of the ship was spotless and we could see no evidence of recent reports that she was looking run down or shabby. Food: Always subjective, but IMO the food on this cruise was the best out of my 3-4 recent RCI cruises. Honestly. The fillet and the ribeye in the MDR on formal nights was delicious and the steak in Chops you could cut with a butter knife it was so tender. We had MTD and our food was always beautifully presented, promptly served and piping hot. To avoid the smash n' grab nature of the Windjammer we had lunch either in the Solarium, good club sandwiches, or in the Sea View Cafe, which no one seemed to have found as it was always very quiet when we ate there, good made to order pizza, pannini and pasta and great outside tables with aft views. OK, and then there was Portofinos: I have not had a good experience with Portofinos for my last 3-4 cruises - ever since they stopped doing the whole roasted garlic I feel - and I'm afraid again it seemed to be lacking in the finesse and quality of Chops. My Caesar salad was prepared in approx 10 seconds in a ceramic bowl, my shrimp risotto was not as good as the one I had had earlier in the week in the MDR, and my mushroom pasta was a bit dry. The first bite of 'mushroom' turned out to be some sort of twig.....the people on the next table had to send their well-done steak back to the kitchen twice as it was so rare it was still mooing. So sorry Portofinos, Chops wins hands down. We had room service breakfast once and this was delivered spot on time. We also had the Diamond breakfast in the MDR once but we were seated in a section right in the middle of the dining room all by ourselves, we felt we were in the 'naughty' room so we didn't go again! There are canapEs in the Champagne bar in the evening which is not normal on RCI ships so remember to stop by there. The new wine list is also much better than before with a far wider, global selection. There are now only about 10 wines they do not have in stock fleet wide but they hoped to have full stocks by the time the ship is back in Barcelona. We had a lovely Spanish rosE and an Italian Falanghina amongst others. There is a wide range coming in under $50 a bottle. Staff: As usual they were excellent. A mention must go to Gordon (the CD) and Cuddy, who really suited the British audience on board - they weren't over gushing like some CDs I can think of; Idris and Natalia in the MDR MTD section who were excellent; the famous Rusti in the Champagne bar who has been on board as long as the ship has been in operation I believe, and finally the wonderful Angela in the Diamond Event who kept our glasses filled to the brim every night. Entertainment: Again, a subjective topic, but given the wide ranging demographic on board, then I felt they covered all corners. The majority on board were Brits, there were a lot of Gemans, Europeans and Eastern Europeans and only about 100 from USA and 150 from Canada. There was an excellent, very young, Danish magician who made women disappear and bottles appear and had an amazing knack with numbers; there was a Brat Pack tribute group and there were the aerial artists - worth it ladies for the 6-pack of his stomach alone! A very funny act was Erky from Turkey with his Who Wants to Be a Royal Caribbeanaire quiz - don't miss this one! Rules: The chair hogs were out in force, the chair next to me in the Solarium remained empty for 5 hours. I kid you not. Dress code was mostly adhered to and I saw only a few non-conformers on formal night. Suits outnumbered tuxedos 2:1. The man wearing the lurid green trousers should have been reported to the fashion police! As there were quite a few Europeans on board most nights were dressy. There was a 'white' night the day we left Muscat. Activities: We always mark off what we are going to do in the Cruise Compass and then we don't do a thing! So we didn't go to bingo, art auctions, dance classes, quizzes or towel folding lessons. I did go to the spa area and had a lovely sauna and steam (free) which is in the ladies locker room. And I did spend a lot of time on my balcony enjoying the wake with a good book. That is what cruising is about. Ports: As Gordon kept telling people, this was not a cruise like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. You could not just walk off into town, there were different cultures to be respected, dress codes, no churches or archeological sites - it was a very different itinerary. I got the impression that many did not realise this or appreciate it. If a cruise ship is visiting 5 Muslim countries then it is obvious (to us at least) that things won't be open on Friday. Mutterings were heard that 'we should have gone somewhere else on a Friday..' - where exactly would they suggest in a Muslim region? Dubai: this was easy port - many taxis waiting - there was AED20 port surcharge during the day, and AED25 at night. So it was always cheaper to come back than it was go to anywhere! There was a free shuttle bus that took you to Dubai Mall too. Muscat: we had a private tour booked with MARKTours www.mark-oman.com - it was a half day tour and cost $105. We shared with a couple from our CC roll-call. We were met at the gangplank - many tours were not allowed into the port, so you would have to catch the free shuttle to the port gates. We were taken to the Mosque- a fabulous building with the largest chandelier in the world made by Swarovski . Ladies must cover their heads and must be covered from neck to wrist otherwise you will not be allowed in. Then we went to the fishmarket and the vegetable market - the biggest spring onions we have ever seen - then to the souk, and finally out to a little museum called Bait al Zubair which was in a restored private house and was small enough to keep your interest, there were displays of weapons, dress and house hold items; and then to see the royal palace before returning to the ship. We actually got out off the car at the souk and had lunch at a restaurant called Turkish Lights - it is right up the stairs by the souk entrance, and was delicious, pitta, hummous, fattoush and a chicken kebab, a few pepsis for $20. From the souk there was meant to be a shuttle that ran you back to the ship, but we took the stroll back to the port gates, which was along the sea front, and only took 10 minutes. Muscat, and the Omani people were charming and we would love to return. Fujairah: I am sure that travel journalists could call this port 'underdeveloped' or 'untouched' but you have to admit that the 2nd largest bunker port in the world is not very scenic. We took a ship's tour here - the Dibba Dhow cruise and it was very good - pricey at $159pp but I think our Fujairah experience was more positive than others. It was an early start at 7:15, and you were given a copy of your passport picture page as you were actually going to go back over the border into Oman again. As an aside, make sure you have lots of spare pages in your passport as you get stamps for entering and leaving each port! It was about an hours drive to the port, then you climbed across a few dhows to get to our dhow. There were 2 toilets, a shower, plenty of seating on large cushions, shade and sun, towels, plenty of water and juice, a delicious lunch, snorkling, swimming and generally a fun day jumping off the side of the dhow into the water. We were back at the port by around 3 and just had enough time to run across to the duty free shops. We went to the first one so have no idea how prices compare but 200 Marlboro were $16 and a litre of Gordons was $12. The downside was they only took cash so we could not buy as much as we wanted. Of course the spirits were impounded as we went on board and the xray machine guy spotted them -but we got the bottles back on Sunday morning. Abu Dhabi: another day, another industrial container port! Free shuttle to the port gate and then we got a taxi to the city. We were insistent that the meter was turned on but he still ripped us off! The meters are like little computer screens showing the driver's name and licence number but somehow we now realise he now got a little popup to cover the cab fare. He charged us AED40 for the ride to the Emirates Palace hotel where as the honest cabbie on the return charged us AED11.25! It was quite a long journey along the Corniche, so it does show how cheap the taxis really are. We loved AD - it was spotlessly clean, and the development was more thought out than in Dubai. The whole Corniche waterfront area is being developed as a beach and restaurant area, and it had a very European cosmopolitan feel about it. The Red Bull air race trials were on so the place was jumping! The Emirates Palace Hotel was stunning - huge - over 1km from one end to the other and well worth a visit. Bahrain: I'm afraid to say we didn't get off. This was to be our sea day, relaxing in the sun. Of course the weather co-operated with firstly rain, and then a sand storm which blocked the sun completely! And then we were back in Dubai again. Because of the one day in port at the start and the end of the cruise it seemed to lose the chaos of disembarkation as people left at all hours day and night. We strolled off at 6:45 and caught a cab to the airport for AED45. All in all a very very enjoyable cruise and yes, we agree that Brilliance is still our favourite ship in the fleet.

Ship in the Desert - Brilliance in Dubai

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by little britain

Trip Details
We flew out to Dubai to spend three days prior to our cruise- we have been there several times before so this time intended to be a bit touristy - we caught the abra across the creek for a few dirhams, went to the gold souk and the spice souk and visited my favourite diamond shop; with DH's pockets a bit lighter we rode the new skytrain, we watched the skiers in the Mall of the Emirates, sat outside The Address Hotel to watch the Burj Khalifa fountains, and we had probably the best meal of our lives at the Buddha Bar in the Grosvenor House Hotel - go there if you can! We also ate at the Madinat Jumeriah resort which is a complex of 3 hotels built around a waterway and a souk - there are dozens of restaurants here in a charming setting - we ate at Times of Arabia. The next night we went to JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence) which is a new development called The Walk- lots of restaurants, shops and at least 3 Starbucks - we ate at a Turkish called Kosebasi. The restaurants and quality of food in Dubai is excellant - I don't think we have ever had a bad meal. The cost of wine brings a tear to your eye though....!
Anyway, relaxed and refreshed and with the tan started, we went to the port around 2 on Monday. It literally took about 5 minutes to check in and then we were on board. We boarded from the 'tent' building and not from the new terminal as Costa seemed to be there. We were sorry to see the poor old QEII looking unloved and run down docked next to us. This was our second cruise on Brilliance and I have always deemed her to be my favourite ship of the RCI fleet so we were keen to see if she lived up to our expectations and memories.
Cabin: We were in an aft with the larger balcony - plenty of space for two chairs, small table and a sunlounger. The cabin itself was looking a bit dated, the sofa definitely sagged a bit, the decor was a bit dark and there was sometimes a bit of a pong from the pipes in the bathroom - think tomcat... Beds were as comfy as always, service from Thomas was prompt and efficient - we put the little card in the slot whenever we left for breakfast and he would appear instantly. Only 4 towel animals this cruise. Bathroom had good hot water pressure but the shower curtain was useless and we (that should be I) always managed to flood the floor! Bedroom had two curtains that separated the bed from the sofa so it would be suitable for sharers. Balcony was in need of a paint and the balustrade needed a varnish. I must hasten to add that the rest of the ship was spotless and we could see no evidence of recent reports that she was looking run down or shabby.
Food: Always subjective, but IMO the food on this cruise was the best out of my 3-4 recent RCI cruises. Honestly. The fillet and the ribeye in the MDR on formal nights was delicious and the steak in Chops you could cut with a butter knife it was so tender. We had MTD and our food was always beautifully presented, promptly served and piping hot. To avoid the smash n' grab nature of the Windjammer we had lunch either in the Solarium, good club sandwiches, or in the Sea View Cafe, which no one seemed to have found as it was always very quiet when we ate there, good made to order pizza, pannini and pasta and great outside tables with aft views. OK, and then there was Portofinos: I have not had a good experience with Portofinos for my last 3-4 cruises - ever since they stopped doing the whole roasted garlic I feel - and I'm afraid again it seemed to be lacking in the finesse and quality of Chops. My Caesar salad was prepared in approx 10 seconds in a ceramic bowl, my shrimp risotto was not as good as the one I had had earlier in the week in the MDR, and my mushroom pasta was a bit dry. The first bite of 'mushroom' turned out to be some sort of twig.....the people on the next table had to send their well-done steak back to the kitchen twice as it was so rare it was still mooing. So sorry Portofinos, Chops wins hands down. We had room service breakfast once and this was delivered spot on time. We also had the Diamond breakfast in the MDR once but we were seated in a section right in the middle of the dining room all by ourselves, we felt we were in the 'naughty' room so we didn't go again! There are canapEs in the Champagne bar in the evening which is not normal on RCI ships so remember to stop by there. The new wine list is also much better than before with a far wider, global selection. There are now only about 10 wines they do not have in stock fleet wide but they hoped to have full stocks by the time the ship is back in Barcelona. We had a lovely Spanish rosE and an Italian Falanghina amongst others. There is a wide range coming in under $50 a bottle.
Staff: As usual they were excellent. A mention must go to Gordon (the CD) and Cuddy, who really suited the British audience on board - they weren't over gushing like some CDs I can think of; Idris and Natalia in the MDR MTD section who were excellent; the famous Rusti in the Champagne bar who has been on board as long as the ship has been in operation I believe, and finally the wonderful Angela in the Diamond Event who kept our glasses filled to the brim every night.
Entertainment: Again, a subjective topic, but given the wide ranging demographic on board, then I felt they covered all corners. The majority on board were Brits, there were a lot of Gemans, Europeans and Eastern Europeans and only about 100 from USA and 150 from Canada. There was an excellent, very young, Danish magician who made women disappear and bottles appear and had an amazing knack with numbers; there was a Brat Pack tribute group and there were the aerial artists - worth it ladies for the 6-pack of his stomach alone! A very funny act was Erky from Turkey with his Who Wants to Be a Royal Caribbeanaire quiz - don't miss this one!
Rules: The chair hogs were out in force, the chair next to me in the Solarium remained empty for 5 hours. I kid you not. Dress code was mostly adhered to and I saw only a few non-conformers on formal night. Suits outnumbered tuxedos 2:1. The man wearing the lurid green trousers should have been reported to the fashion police! As there were quite a few Europeans on board most nights were dressy. There was a 'white' night the day we left Muscat.
Activities: We always mark off what we are going to do in the Cruise Compass and then we don't do a thing! So we didn't go to bingo, art auctions, dance classes, quizzes or towel folding lessons. I did go to the spa area and had a lovely sauna and steam (free) which is in the ladies locker room. And I did spend a lot of time on my balcony enjoying the wake with a good book. That is what cruising is about.
Ports: As Gordon kept telling people, this was not a cruise like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. You could not just walk off into town, there were different cultures to be respected, dress codes, no churches or archeological sites - it was a very different itinerary. I got the impression that many did not realise this or appreciate it. If a cruise ship is visiting 5 Muslim countries then it is obvious (to us at least) that things won't be open on Friday. Mutterings were heard that 'we should have gone somewhere else on a Friday..' - where exactly would they suggest in a Muslim region? Dubai: this was easy port - many taxis waiting - there was AED20 port surcharge during the day, and AED25 at night. So it was always cheaper to come back than it was go to anywhere! There was a free shuttle bus that took you to Dubai Mall too. Muscat: we had a private tour booked with MARKTours www.mark-oman.com - it was a half day tour and cost $105. We shared with a couple from our CC roll-call. We were met at the gangplank - many tours were not allowed into the port, so you would have to catch the free shuttle to the port gates. We were taken to the Mosque- a fabulous building with the largest chandelier in the world made by Swarovski . Ladies must cover their heads and must be covered from neck to wrist otherwise you will not be allowed in. Then we went to the fishmarket and the vegetable market - the biggest spring onions we have ever seen - then to the souk, and finally out to a little museum called Bait al Zubair which was in a restored private house and was small enough to keep your interest, there were displays of weapons, dress and house hold items; and then to see the royal palace before returning to the ship. We actually got out off the car at the souk and had lunch at a restaurant called Turkish Lights - it is right up the stairs by the souk entrance, and was delicious, pitta, hummous, fattoush and a chicken kebab, a few pepsis for $20. From the souk there was meant to be a shuttle that ran you back to the ship, but we took the stroll back to the port gates, which was along the sea front, and only took 10 minutes. Muscat, and the Omani people were charming and we would love to return. Fujairah: I am sure that travel journalists could call this port 'underdeveloped' or 'untouched' but you have to admit that the 2nd largest bunker port in the world is not very scenic. We took a ship's tour here - the Dibba Dhow cruise and it was very good - pricey at $159pp but I think our Fujairah experience was more positive than others. It was an early start at 7:15, and you were given a copy of your passport picture page as you were actually going to go back over the border into Oman again. As an aside, make sure you have lots of spare pages in your passport as you get stamps for entering and leaving each port! It was about an hours drive to the port, then you climbed across a few dhows to get to our dhow. There were 2 toilets, a shower, plenty of seating on large cushions, shade and sun, towels, plenty of water and juice, a delicious lunch, snorkling, swimming and generally a fun day jumping off the side of the dhow into the water. We were back at the port by around 3 and just had enough time to run across to the duty free shops. We went to the first one so have no idea how prices compare but 200 Marlboro were $16 and a litre of Gordons was $12. The downside was they only took cash so we could not buy as much as we wanted. Of course the spirits were impounded as we went on board and the xray machine guy spotted them -but we got the bottles back on Sunday morning. Abu Dhabi: another day, another industrial container port! Free shuttle to the port gate and then we got a taxi to the city. We were insistent that the meter was turned on but he still ripped us off! The meters are like little computer screens showing the driver's name and licence number but somehow we now realise he now got a little popup to cover the cab fare. He charged us AED40 for the ride to the Emirates Palace hotel where as the honest cabbie on the return charged us AED11.25! It was quite a long journey along the Corniche, so it does show how cheap the taxis really are. We loved AD - it was spotlessly clean, and the development was more thought out than in Dubai. The whole Corniche waterfront area is being developed as a beach and restaurant area, and it had a very European cosmopolitan feel about it. The Red Bull air race trials were on so the place was jumping! The Emirates Palace Hotel was stunning - huge - over 1km from one end to the other and well worth a visit. Bahrain: I'm afraid to say we didn't get off. This was to be our sea day, relaxing in the sun. Of course the weather co-operated with firstly rain, and then a sand storm which blocked the sun completely!
And then we were back in Dubai again. Because of the one day in port at the start and the end of the cruise it seemed to lose the chaos of disembarkation as people left at all hours day and night. We strolled off at 6:45 and caught a cab to the airport for AED45. All in all a very very enjoyable cruise and yes, we agree that Brilliance is still our favourite ship in the fleet.
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