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We had a great time on board Brilliance of the Seas for our 12-night Med cruise this May. This was our second cruise to the Mediterranean. The cruise started off with an unexpected adventure during our first port at Villefranche, a tender stop. Due to unpredicted freaky high waves, we, along with about 1800 other passengers and crew members, were stranded on shore, and unable to return to the ship. Nothing like watching your cruise ship sail away while you're still on shore, videoing small boats in the harbor getting smashed to bits! I thought RCI handled the crisis exceptionally well, while others didn't share this opinion. Depended upon when you learned about the situation, and from whom. RCI had to contract with local buses and drivers to physically move all these folks 3 hours away to Toulon, where we met the ship several hours later. The last passengers reboarded the ship at 4:00 am, and the resulting delay caused us to have a shortened visit to Livorno the next day. But, once this crisis was over, the rest of the trip was relatively "smooth sailing". We arrived in Barcelona 2 days pre-cruise and stayed at the Hilton Diagonal Mar. Not the greatest location in Barcelona, but a lovely hotel, convenient to Metro and bus stops, and the largest mall in BCN. We purchased a T-10 transit ticket upon arriving at the airport, and took the RENFE train to the Passeig de Gracia stop, then transferred to the Yellow Metro line to the hotel. Not too bad, considering we were only traveling with 1 suitcase each. The T-10 ticket is shareable between passengers and is good for a total of 10 trips on the Metro and bus lines, only costs 7.85E. We opted for this form of transportation, rather than the lengthy-routed Hop On/Hop Off Bus Turistic. In Barcelona, we had a full day devoted to Gaudi sites. Started at the Sagrada Familia Church right when they opened at 9:00 am, and immediately headed for the lifts to the top (2.50 Euro), walking down the spiral stairs. Wonderful church, thoroughly enjoyed it. Next, headed to Casa Battlo (17.8E)., followed by Casa Pedrera (10E). Hopped onto bus 24 to Parc Guell, which drops you off at the top of the hill. The end of a perfect day found us watching the Magic Fountain show, and we were back to the hotel by 10:00 pm, tired and happy. (Note: skip the Poble Espanol, quite the tourist trap.) Took a taxi to the cruise dock (cost 15 Euros) and checked in smoothly, getting on-board by 11:30. Found our cabin, #3084, which was very close to the elevators. The ship was spotless, our cabin nicely-appointed, with the exception that I found the mattress uncomfortable. We asked for a mattress topper, which helped a bit. That was my only complaint. Entertainment: Honestly, we skipped several shows at night, as we were wiped out from our days in port. We caught part of the opening night extravaganza, an aerialist act - interesting. No show the night of the "Villefranche Episode", even for the folks on board; I think they showed a movie. The production shows were very good, talent-wise. The electric violin player was entertaining, as was the piano player. The juggler show was not impressive, but the magician act was enjoyable. The Cinema had some good movies that we enjoyed on rainy days. Excursions: We did Villefranche/Nice and Santorini on our own, and organized private excursions for the other ports. No ship's excursions for us, as we dislike large groups in general. Tendering process: a line formed fairly early for tender tickets to Villefranche, on Deck 5 by the activities desk. You could get as many tender tickets as you requested. Not everyone in your party needed to wait in line. For Santorini, as we docked so early (7:00am), there were absolutely no lines for tendering. Ship's excursion people exited by a separate gangplank from those traveling independently. Dining: We found the food in the dining room to be very varied and generally very good. Excellent service from our waiter and assistant waiter. We breakfasted in the Windjammer Cafe every morning. Lunch during our sea days, we enjoyed dining in the dining room and their most excellent salad bar station. Also, the pizza (made to order) at the Seaview Cafe was delicious, and never very crowded. We had a pool-side barbeque with paella one day, that was so-so. Activities: Not a big activity participant, but my husband did the Men's Sexy Leg contest and won a medal for "Most Athletic" legs. Went to the first Beading workshop, but very low quality beads were offered for that activity. Did a couple of trivia quizzes. No art auctions or bingo for us! Gambled a bit in the casino, and enjoyed the "No Smoking" night there. Disembarkation: We scheduled ours for 8:00am and were literally off the ship by 8:10 with our luggage in hand. No hassles! We took the Blue port bus (2E/person) to the Columbus monument, and from there, walked up Las Ramblas to our post-cruise hotel, Hotel Continental. Not sure I'd recommend this place or stay there again, as it was noisy (balcony room overlooking Las Ramblas) and dated dEcor - very PINK! For our last day in Barcelona we went to Montserrat, buying a combination train/aerial tram ticket at Placa Espana Metro stop for 16E/person. It is an hour away by train, but a delightful experience to ride the tram and visit the monastery. We ate lunch at the self-service restaurant there, and back to Barcelona by 3:00. A quick visit to La Boqueria Market - but watch out for pickpockets! It is very crowded, and easy to be distracted. Overall, I'd rate this cruise experience a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was a most enjoyable trip.

We survived!

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review by geogal

Trip Details
We had a great time on board Brilliance of the Seas for our 12-night Med cruise this May. This was our second cruise to the Mediterranean. The cruise started off with an unexpected adventure during our first port at Villefranche, a tender stop. Due to unpredicted freaky high waves, we, along with about 1800 other passengers and crew members, were stranded on shore, and unable to return to the ship. Nothing like watching your cruise ship sail away while you're still on shore, videoing small boats in the harbor getting smashed to bits!
I thought RCI handled the crisis exceptionally well, while others didn't share this opinion. Depended upon when you learned about the situation, and from whom. RCI had to contract with local buses and drivers to physically move all these folks 3 hours away to Toulon, where we met the ship several hours later. The last passengers reboarded the ship at 4:00 am, and the resulting delay caused us to have a shortened visit to Livorno the next day. But, once this crisis was over, the rest of the trip was relatively "smooth sailing".
We arrived in Barcelona 2 days pre-cruise and stayed at the Hilton Diagonal Mar. Not the greatest location in Barcelona, but a lovely hotel, convenient to Metro and bus stops, and the largest mall in BCN. We purchased a T-10 transit ticket upon arriving at the airport, and took the RENFE train to the Passeig de Gracia stop, then transferred to the Yellow Metro line to the hotel. Not too bad, considering we were only traveling with 1 suitcase each. The T-10 ticket is shareable between passengers and is good for a total of 10 trips on the Metro and bus lines, only costs 7.85E. We opted for this form of transportation, rather than the lengthy-routed Hop On/Hop Off Bus Turistic.
In Barcelona, we had a full day devoted to Gaudi sites. Started at the Sagrada Familia Church right when they opened at 9:00 am, and immediately headed for the lifts to the top (2.50 Euro), walking down the spiral stairs. Wonderful church, thoroughly enjoyed it. Next, headed to Casa Battlo (17.8E)., followed by Casa Pedrera (10E). Hopped onto bus 24 to Parc Guell, which drops you off at the top of the hill. The end of a perfect day found us watching the Magic Fountain show, and we were back to the hotel by 10:00 pm, tired and happy. (Note: skip the Poble Espanol, quite the tourist trap.)
Took a taxi to the cruise dock (cost 15 Euros) and checked in smoothly, getting on-board by 11:30. Found our cabin, #3084, which was very close to the elevators. The ship was spotless, our cabin nicely-appointed, with the exception that I found the mattress uncomfortable. We asked for a mattress topper, which helped a bit. That was my only complaint.
Entertainment: Honestly, we skipped several shows at night, as we were wiped out from our days in port. We caught part of the opening night extravaganza, an aerialist act - interesting. No show the night of the "Villefranche Episode", even for the folks on board; I think they showed a movie. The production shows were very good, talent-wise. The electric violin player was entertaining, as was the piano player. The juggler show was not impressive, but the magician act was enjoyable. The Cinema had some good movies that we enjoyed on rainy days.
Excursions: We did Villefranche/Nice and Santorini on our own, and organized private excursions for the other ports. No ship's excursions for us, as we dislike large groups in general.
Tendering process: a line formed fairly early for tender tickets to Villefranche, on Deck 5 by the activities desk. You could get as many tender tickets as you requested. Not everyone in your party needed to wait in line. For Santorini, as we docked so early (7:00am), there were absolutely no lines for tendering. Ship's excursion people exited by a separate gangplank from those traveling independently.
Dining: We found the food in the dining room to be very varied and generally very good. Excellent service from our waiter and assistant waiter. We breakfasted in the Windjammer Cafe every morning. Lunch during our sea days, we enjoyed dining in the dining room and their most excellent salad bar station. Also, the pizza (made to order) at the Seaview Cafe was delicious, and never very crowded. We had a pool-side barbeque with paella one day, that was so-so.
Activities: Not a big activity participant, but my husband did the Men's Sexy Leg contest and won a medal for "Most Athletic" legs. Went to the first Beading workshop, but very low quality beads were offered for that activity. Did a couple of trivia quizzes. No art auctions or bingo for us! Gambled a bit in the casino, and enjoyed the "No Smoking" night there.
Disembarkation: We scheduled ours for 8:00am and were literally off the ship by 8:10 with our luggage in hand. No hassles! We took the Blue port bus (2E/person) to the Columbus monument, and from there, walked up Las Ramblas to our post-cruise hotel, Hotel Continental. Not sure I'd recommend this place or stay there again, as it was noisy (balcony room overlooking Las Ramblas) and dated dEcor - very PINK!
For our last day in Barcelona we went to Montserrat, buying a combination train/aerial tram ticket at Placa Espana Metro stop for 16E/person. It is an hour away by train, but a delightful experience to ride the tram and visit the monastery. We ate lunch at the self-service restaurant there, and back to Barcelona by 3:00. A quick visit to La Boqueria Market - but watch out for pickpockets! It is very crowded, and easy to be distracted.
Overall, I'd rate this cruise experience a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was a most enjoyable trip.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 3084
Cabin #3084 was nice & close to the elevators, and not noisy from hallway noise. However, we experienced some maintenance noise (?) like someone banging a hammer at 6:00am a couple of times.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Athens (Piraeus)
    Oh, the drama: would we be able to dock in Athens, or would the threat of rioting and strikes cause a change in plans?? Fortunately, we timed it just right, arriving on a Sunday, right after the economic bail-out bill was passed. All those rioters were in church that day!!! We were part of someone else's private excursion with Athens by Taxi, and had a 16-passenger mini-bus driven by Paul, the owner. Visiting Athens on a Sunday was GREAT! Minimal traffic, and we got to see the changing of the guards (big production) which only occurs on Sundays at 11:00. (there is a subway station there that is like a mini archaeological museum, displaying all the artifacts that were discovered when digging the subway.) Got to the Acropolis before all the big tour buses, great for taking photos. Saw Zeus' Temple, and the new Acropolis Museum (fabulous!), after some free time for lunch and shopping at the Plaka. The combination ticket for the Acropolis, Zeus' Temple, and Agora/Forum (near the Plaka) cost 12E each. A delightful day, and very reasonably priced, our tour was 37.5E/person when split by 16 people. The most surprising thing about Athens? All the well-loved dogs wandering through town and archaeological sites.
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  • Florence (Livorno)
    We docked in Livorno at 2:00 instead of 7:00 am due to the "Villefranche Episode", so our shore excursion was cut short. We hired a private driver, Filippo Perferi (guidedtours@libero.it)to take 6 of us to Pisa for a quick photo stop, and then onto the hill towns of Volterra and San Gimagnano. Just enough time for some quick photos before we had to head back to the ship. Although we didn't depart until 10:00pm, none of us felt that we would enjoy much scenery after dark, so we got back around 8:30 pm. I was sorry we didn't have more time to enjoy the fortified towns and beautiful scenery. San Gim is famous for having the best gelato in the world, and it was DELICIOUS, the best I've ever had. It is located by the main square. I would most definitely recommend our driver, he was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English, and had very reasonable rates, charging by the hour.
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  • Kusadasi
    We were in Kusadasi last year on our first cruise, and were really looking forward to revisiting it. We booked another custom tour with Celsus Travel (www.celsustravel.com.tr) for 8 people which included Ephesus, Terrace Houses (don't you dare miss this part!!), and a Turkish Bath experience. Turkey was a highlight of our trip again this year. The archaeological sites were amazing, the food delicious, and the locals very friendly and welcoming. I liked cruising the Bazaar, but didn't buy much this year, besides some Turkish Delight (hint: check the expiration date on the boxes before buying!)
    The Turkish Bath was enjoyable, and we're glad we did it. The more modest amongst us wore bathing suits, but you are covered with a towel, so no worries. You are asked to steam on a heated marble slab for about 15 minutes, before going in for your loofah scrub-down. Then you're rinsed off and doused in foamy bubbles, before rinsing again. We were all tingling from head to toe at the end.
    I would recommend Celsus Travel, as our guide was prompt, friendly, knowledgeable, and easy to understand. Most accommodating to our wishes to NOT visit a rug factory, and guided us to a local restaurant where he ordered a variety of foods for us to share. Our guide was Igyit (sp?) Ergen, and he was great!
    Another hint: Ephesus can be very crowded, so make sure your party sticks together. It is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by all the sights there. Our 2-way radios were very helpful for keeping track of folks. Also, there are friendly feral cats there, so we smuggled some food off the ship for feeding them.
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  • Rome (Civitavecchia)
    We joined another private excursion organized with Rome in Limo, and it was a whirlwind tour of Rome's highlights. Loved the Coliseum (yes, we went in), the Forum, Circus Maximus, and Capitol Hill, before stopping at the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, then on to the Vatican. Being in a small van had definite advantages over a big tour bus, as we were able to dodge through the narrow streets and alleyways. We had a private guide for the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Mark's Basilica. An expensive day for sure, but we were glad we didn't try to tackle this port on our own. Just the traffic was daunting! Would love to spend more time here.
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  • Santorini
    Our second visit to Santorini, and loved it just as much this time! No problems tendering early, and we were on shore by 7:40 am. Rented a car through Emver Santorini Car Hire for a very reasonable rate (25E since we booked last year!) and they met us and several other folks at the top of the gondola. (Gondola tickets were 4E/person or $6.50 if purchased on-board the Brilliance, but you still needed to stand in line, so no advantage to buying in advance) We had the freedom to explore the whole island, so we did! First stop- a gas station as our gauge showed almost empty. Then, on to Kamari Beach, a delightful, almost deserted resort town. Yes, I jumped into the blue Mediterranean, as it was calling to me. (Tip: wear water shoes, as the black rocks are hot and hard on the feet.) From there, we drove to the far south end of the island to see the scenic Lighthouse (Faros). Next, up to the northern tip to Oia, our favorite spot. This year, we explored the small fishing "village" of Amoudi below Oia, where there are about 6 water-front restaurants, and a small trail that leads to a swimming spot. Just delightful! There is not a bad view in Oia... We have the pictures to prove it. Drove back to Fira, returned the car, and at the cable car by 3:40pm, no lines. Just a short wait for a return tender boat. Another wonderful day!
    No option here to add a 7th port, so will add it here for NAPLES. We booked a private driver for a van of 8 with Tour of Italy, a father/son team. Highly recommend them, very friendly, accommodating and gifted each couple a bottle of limoncello at the end of our tour. We toured the Amalfi Coast in the morning, visiting Positano and Sorrento for lunch. We hired a private tour guide for Pompeii, as recommended by Rick Steves, a guy named Gaetano Manfredi. Because he has Rick Steves' endorsement, he charges more than a typical guide (170E instead of 120E). I'm sorry to say that I CANNOT recommend Gaetano Manfredi. He was rude, condescending, and arrogant. So much so that he ticked off some of our tour participants, who walked away from the tour! I'm an archaeologist and so I splurged for this particular guide, but I've never experienced this treatment from a private guide before. We were chastised for not hanging onto his every word, and when someone had camera problems, we were "yelled at" for not paying attention and it was suggested that we didn't want a professional tour at all. I felt bullied into paying the agreed upon sum when we didn't enjoy our experience much at all. While he was knowledgeable, his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. I will be posting a negative review on Rick Steves' web-page and also TripAdvisor.com This was the only unfavorable experience we had with a private tour.
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  • Villefranche
    We did this port on our own, and opted to take the city bus to Nice. Although it was raining, we had a great time. The bus costs 1E/person and is a bargain, runs every 15 minutes in both directions (Nice or Monaco). From the tender station, follow the signs to the bus stop, turning left (train station is to the right), and go uphill. A sign points you up some stairs to the left to the main highway. The bus stop is next to the pharmacy (green neon cross sign), which is across the street from a small park. The stop for Nice is by the pharmacy, and Monaco across the street. To Nice, take either the 100 or 81 bus to the last stop, Gare Routiere. To Monaco, take the #100.
    Back to Villefranche by 3:00 and enjoyed walking around. Found Rue Obscura, a vaulted underground passage that was used as a bomb shelter during the war. Walked down to the beach, and visited the castle which is now a fancy hotel. There is a small soap factory by the entrance to the castle and we bought a few souvenir bars that smell divine. By this time, the surf was building up and we noticed that the tender boats weren't running back & forth to the ship. The rest, as they say, is history. The waves would roll into the harbor and crash into the tender dock, splashing up over the roof! With all the passengers detained in port, the local restaurants were overwhelmed and short-staffed. RCI offered a 20E credit for food from the restaurants ringing the central plaza, but we opted for grabbing a sandwich at a smaller place further inland. By the time all was said and done, we were bussed to Toulon, arriving before the ship, at 11:00pm. RCI had tents set up and provided drinks and snacks for those waiting. The ship pulled in around midnight to much cheering. The last passengers boarded the ship by 4:00 am. The Windjammer was open for food, and everyone got to recount their experiences that day - some excited by the whole thing, some disgusted. Just depends on your point of view...
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