This was our third cruise and second on Royal Caribbean. We've sailed previously on Voyager of the Seas and Celebrity Constellation. Brilliance of the Seas is a beautiful ship and we had a wonderful time on this cruise and we are already considering cruising the Mediterranean next year.
Pre-Cruise We booked our cruise entirely through Royal Caribbean this time around, on our previous cruises I had booked usually online. We had booked our previous cruises with separate airfare but this time it was entirely more affordable to go through Royal Caribbean directly for airfare and cruise. This was specially an emotionally charged cruise for my mother and me. We were originally scheduled for the Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing earlier this year on April 28, however just as we had arrived in Miami on the 27th of April we received news that my grandfather (Mom's Dad) had passed away in Mexico City and we had to postpone our cruise. I must say that the entire Royal Caribbean staff, both in Miami Airport and in the head offices was very helpful and understanding throughout the entire situation. We live in Las Vegas, NV but Royal Caribbean Air/Sea staff were fabulous and instead of booking a return flight for us to Las Vegas they immediately booked us on a direct flight from Miami to Mexico City that very morning. We didn't even have to leave the airport and all at no extra cost, and mind you we had not purchased the Cruise Insurance, they even refunded our entire cruise fare on credit for a future cruise. I am very thankful to them by helping my mother and I through this difficult time and for helping us get to Mexico City right away. After we returned from the funerals in Mexico City we immediately booked the Westbound Transatlantic Crossing also on Brilliance of the Seas but this time for November, and this time remembering to purchase Cruise Insurance. Even thought Royal Caribbean was amazing in refunding 100% of our cruise fare, we knew we could have been in a very dire situation had Royal Caribbean not been so lenient, so I surely recommend anyone to spend the extra $80 - $100 per person and purchase the Insurance. Barcelona We left early on Sunday morning, the 5th of November, and flew through New York JFK to fly to Barcelona. We had booked a pre-cruise hotel package as well through RCI and stayed in the Atrium Palace Hotel in Barcelona. The hotel was beautiful and very well located just a couple blocks from Placa Catalunya and Las Ramblas. We were greeted at the airport by the friendly local RCI staff and were transferred to our hotel where we were greeted by the RCI representative in Barcelona. He gave us a letter informing us of the next day's activities prior to boarding the ship and also offered a couple of packages to view the city through their local tour operator. We discussed going on one of these excursions however we thought they were a bit overpriced. One of them was just over 100 Euros so we decided not to book any of them since I had heard that there was a touristic bus that can take you around the city for about 15 Euros per person. Thankfully we found some information about this bus on one of the magazines that was in the room and we found out that one of the stops was in Placa Catalunya which like I said was just a couple of blocks from the hotel. This, of course, ended up being a very good choice. The "Bus Turistic" as it is called, was only 14 Euros per person and it had two routes that pretty much covers all the highlights in the city, and you can get on and off the bus as many times as you'd like throughout the day for the same low price. When you purchase the tickets they advise you that the bus tour is not narrated, however, they do have guides on board and though they do not get into much detail about every place you visit, they do offer a small narration of every place you are passing or stopping by. We did both routes entirely and we got to see all the highlights, like Montjuic, the Barri Gotic, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Parc Guell, and all the Gaudi architecture among other highlights. We found Barcelona to be extremely beautiful and we felt as though every street we passed was better than the one before. We couldn't find through the entire tour a single neighborhood we did not like or thought of as beautiful. We got off by the Barri Gotic and walked to the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, admission was 7 Euros per person but it was well worth it as it is just a monumental piece of art, we also walked by Las Ramblas which is the colorful center of the City and we also got off the bus at Parc Guell, which is a park with a whole bunch of buildings and sculptures by Antoni Gaudi himself, the great master architect that has marked the city in such a monumental way. We did not get off the bus at the Sagrada Familia Cathedral due mostly to time as it was getting pretty late and we were extraordinarily jet-lagged and tired. Admission for that was 12 Euros per person, but they say that it is a worthy visit though the Cathedral is not completed yet; however it is a magnificent building even if you just look at it from the outside as we did. All in a all Barcelona is such a rich and wonderful city that we have vowed to return to it to see all that we missed in the one short day we were there, and to see all the other sights we missed though we did pass by most of them with the "Bus Turistic", so if you go to Barcelona and you're on a budget, definitely give it a try, it's the sure bet to see pretty much everything though only skimming the surface. We returned to our hotel around 9pm after walking all day, we were exhausted but it was well worth it. On our RCI welcome letter we were advised that Breakfast was include that next morning at the hotel, and also, that we had to prepare our bags to be picked up directly in our hotel room by a porter, and that we would not see them again until we were onboard Brilliance. This was nice to find out, because when I had first booked our pre-cruise stay in Barcelona, they did not inform me that breakfast would be included, and though we knew transportation was included, we did not know it was going to be so easy! By 9:00 am the next morning, right on schedule, the porter was knocking at our door to pick up our bags, after a short breakfast in the nice cafe located in the hotel, we went back up to our room to finish getting ready and wait for our 10:45am pick-up by a bus to take us directly to the Pier. The Hotel was located on the Grand Via, which is pretty much Barcelona's main thoroughfare and we had a balcony overlooking this magnificent street, so we took a few more pictures and watched the bus pull up to pick us up.
Check-In & Boarding I only have to say one thing about the Check-In and Boarding Formalities on this cruise.... "WOW", we were checked in and onboard in about 10 minutes!!! It was unbelievable. We did take advantage, though, of the new online check-in feature on RCI's website, but nonetheless we never saw a line forming or too many buses or cars pulling up to the pier even as we were onboard the ship. This might also be due to the fact that the ship was not 100% full, but nonetheless I think we were all impressed with the quick, efficient service in Barcelona. The terminal is pretty large and there were probably about 40 counters or so and they were all open, even at around 11:30 am when we arrived. The Counters are divided in a couple of sections though, around 3 counters are used for troubleshooting and for the Pier Administrator, around 5 for check-in for Suites, around 20 for "Set-Sail Pass" holders, which is the online check-in feature, and the rest for regular cruise passengers. They were serving coffee, tea, and cookies in the terminal building, however we did not even try them as we were done so very quickly. There are also some shops right before you go up the escalators to board the ship, and these we thought were a bit overpriced as to what we had seen in Barcelona, however, if you are just looking for last minute purchases, I guess they are very convenient. We Boarded through Deck 5, which is where the outdoor promenade or "lifeboat promenade" of the ship is, and we were onboard in no time. We immediately headed up to deck 11 to start our tour of the ship as we knew our cabins would not be ready till 2pm. We did our tour of the ship and had lunch in the Windjammer and before we knew it, it was 2pm and our cabin was ready. Our cabin attendant quickly introduced himself and explained some of the features of the room (which we already knew but we let him go on), and he also reminded us of the muster drill which was to be held at 5pm that afternoon.
The Ship Ok, if you have read some of my previous reviews, you know I have to be thorough with my description of the ships, as in my opinion, they are sometimes the most important deciding factor when you go on a cruise, so here goes, the full scoop on the Fabulous Brilliance of the Seas.
Deck 2 This is were some interior and exterior cabins are located, these are the fewest cabins on any deck of the ship, so if you are looking perhaps for some privacy perhaps this would be a good deck for you. This is also were the Medical facility is in the forward section of the ship (only accessible by the forward elevators and stairs) and where the tender stations are. Deck 3 This is were we stayed, in an interior cabin, #3617, the entire deck is just cabins, and it is probably were there are more cabins of any single deck, this is also were there is a ship entrance/exit in the forward section of the ship which we used to embark in Lisbon. Deck 4 The Heart of the Ship. This is where the main floor of the Centrum is, and where the Guest Relations/Explorations desk is and the lobby bar. To the aft is the main level of the Minstrel Dining Room, were we spent 13 unforgettable dinners, and forward are more interior and exterior cabins. The Midship elevators are 6 in total, the famous 4 that face the ocean through that impressive multi-story window, and 2 that face the Centrum. The 4 that face the ocean serve decks 2 through 13, and the ones that face the Centrum serve decks 2 through 11. The elevators are pretty efficient, however when it's rush time as in any ship, it could take a while to get an elevator, or for example, if you are going from Deck 3 to Deck 11, you might have to stop at every single Deck before you make it to your destination, thankfully, rush hour is usually just once a day when early sitting is letting out and late sitting is on its way to the dining room. The Centrum The Centrum is the very heart of the ship, and there is always something going on, on sea days they usually had a noontime concert and by 5pm the Impromptu Duo would perform and then to close out the night they would have Grace's High Society Trio, the Impromptu Duo were very good, but Grace, in my opinion, had one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard and she had a very good fan base that would dance to her tunes every single night. We spent a few nights there with her and we even became good friends. Both musical groups play mostly danceable music and all-time favorites. During our Cruise we also had 2 Centrum Concerts or Performances, first was Renato Pagliari, who is an opera singer and performed in the Pacifica Theatre, however he was so popular, that he performed the next night in the Centrum to a full house of people hanging off the Centrum Balconies, it was so nice to see all the people perched high and clapping for him. Further on in the cruise the stars of the production show "Tango Buenos Aires" also had a Special Tango Performance in the Centrum, and again, the effect was ethereal. I was really happy that they use this beautiful space so well, because as I had written about the Constellation, I had wished they utilized the Grand Foyer more often because of its sheer beauty, but I'm glad to say that RCI has the Centrum very well utilized.
Deck 5 This Deck is home to the upper level of the Minstrel Dining Room. We usually entered the dining room through this Deck as I enjoyed making a grand entrance by walking down the Grand Staircase of the Dining Room and seeing the wonderful mural at the opposite end and also the lovely waterfall that is the centerpiece of the Grand Staircase. Deck 5 is also home to the outdoor promenade, Cafe Latte-Tudes, the shops, conference center, art & photo gallery and the main level of the Pacifica Theatre which is were we always sat for all the shows that were put on. The Pacifica Theatre is probably the loveliest of the theatres of the ships I have been on. As the others, it is very modern but I specially liked the dEcor and the comfort of the seats, and in general, the openness of the space. I also loved the exterior promenade which is where I enjoyed many after-dinner cigarettes while watching the ocean go by. The shops were very nice, and though not as extensive as they were onboard Constellation, I thought they were plenty big, and perhaps even bigger than the limited selection Voyager had. Cafe Latte-Tudes we never tried, but it was always busy, however I don't think I would pay that much for Seattle's Best Coffee, LOL, however if a Starbuck's had been onboard I would have been there probably every day!
Deck 6 This is where the lovely Colony Club is located in the very aft of the ship. This space is absolutely lovely with rich wood and British Colonial dEcor, this is where they usually held the bingo and Karaoke, which I finally got the guts to perform one night to my rendition of New York New York, which in my opinion went pretty well, but may be the people clapping were just being nice. We also often played Backgammon here as they have a few tables set up with either Backgammon or Chess sets, however if these two games are not your cup of tea, right next door is the Calcutta Card room, and they have an endless variety of board and card games. Also a little further down is the Bombay Billiard Club, where the famous self leveling pool tables are, and let me tell you, it is a sight to behold when the ship is rocking and the tables are keeping the balls perfectly straight. We never played, but we enjoyed watching a couple games there. Deck 6 also hosts the very popular Schooner Bar, which in my opinion is a million times nicer than the one on Voyager, and much larger also, this place was always full of people, and the Piano Player, Anselmo Bowles, was very good, as well as the Guitar Player, Lech. They always had people right around the Piano or wherever they were playing singing along with them. Right by the Centrum is the Champagne Bar, and this is a nice spot to enjoy a cocktail while still listening to the music of the Centrum and while enjoying a fabulous view of the ocean, immediately forward from the Champagne Bar is the Casino, and if you've read my review of Voyager you know I hated the dEcor on Voyager's Casino, but on Brilliance, the Casino's Art-Deco motif was very nice and pleasant and we even won $40 once!, I only wish that they had a few more penny machines as they only have 3 and they were always full, they are very popular, and of course, being from Las Vegas, we know that the trend now is to have a bunch of penny machines everywhere, but hopefully soon they will add more, otherwise the nickel machines are also fun. After the Casino is the Scoreboard Bar & Cinema, this place always seemed to be empty, but perhaps it was because there were not that many sports enthusiasts onboard, or because while cruising the Atlantic we did manage to loose signal from some channels so perhaps ESPN was not available, in any sense, it is a nice bar if you're a sports fan. The Cinema is right next door, and it is really nice with stadium seating, however it felt kind of small this cruise due to the fact that we were 6 days at sea and a lot of people would go down to watch the movie of the day, and both times we were there the theatre was packed, there were even people sitting on the floor and on the side stairs, even us, the first time we went, we had to sit in the very, very front on some improvised chairs the staff had brought in, and needless to say it was very painful to sit so close, but the movie (Memoirs of a Geisha) was pretty good, and they always played fairly recent movies. After the Cinema is the front elevator lobby and the Balcony of the Pacifica Theatre. Decks 7, 8, 9 & 10 These of course are the main passenger decks on the ship with all the balcony staterooms, four of our tablemates were staying on Deck 9 and two more were staying in Deck 10. On Deck 7 by the Centrum is the Business Services Center, which also doubles as an added section of Royal Caribbean Online which has stations on Deck 4 and Deck 5 as well. Deck 8 hosts the Explorer's Court, which is basically a little sitting room. Deck 9 has the library and Deck 10 the Yacht Club, which is another sitting area and the Concierge Club. On this particular cruise our tablemates were Diamond Plus members of the Crown & Anchor Society and they told us that there were so many Platinum and Diamond Members onboard that they had to improvise another Concierge Lounge in the Hollywood Odyssey which is on Deck 13 on the Viking Crown Lounge.
Deck 11 Deck 11 of course is the heart of the daytime action, hosting the Windjammer Cafe and the Pools. The Windjammer is beautifully decorated as the rest of the ship, however they are still lacking a bit on the food quality during breakfast, however they have a great omelet station, so you can never go wrong with fruit, some fresh bread, and a freshly cooked omelet if you don't want to try your luck with the lukewarm French toast and waffles, or the kind of old scrambled eggs. The Drink station is open 24 hours so you can always get coffee or water at any time of the day, and I'm glad they put some effort into decorating this room as well, because Voyagers was a clear disappointment. The Main Pools is really nice and this is where we spent most of our day time, the DEjà Vu Duo performed here most of the days, they are from Bulgaria and they are very good. The Hot Tubs were available most of the time, and there were always plenty of deck chairs, though the ones directly under the sun were usually full, but we still managed to get a couple chairs on the sunny side on a couple of occasions which was more than plenty for us. Otherwise if you're looking to get tanned the deck chairs on Deck 12 and the Sun Deck on Deck 13 are always available. The Solarium is very nice on this ship, and we enjoyed spending a few times there, however the first couple of days of the cruise the heat was unbelievable in this space, but I think they corrected it over the duration of the cruise as it became cooler later. We didn't spend as much time here as in other cruises where we have enjoyed the solarium, due to the fact that we really enjoyed listening to the DEjà Vu Duo and taking part in the poolside activities. Also on one of the days crossing the Atlantic, the ship was rocking so much that they had to empty some of the water in the solarium pool because it was overflowing, so it was closed for a couple of days though the hot tub stayed open. The hot tub in the Solarium was always full and even though it clearly states that guest should only enjoy the whirlpool for 15 minutes, there were people that would stay in there for hours, and I mean that literally, so it was unfortunate that some people could not enjoy the whirlpool due to this inconsiderate people that would sit in the whirlpool all day. The Solarium also has the Solarium Cafe & Bar which serves healthy alternatives like Greek Salad, Wraps, and Fruit; Mother enjoyed going to get Fruit there on many occasions. Directly forward of the Solarium is the Brilliance Day Spa, Mother had won a special Polar Age Consultation on the first day of the cruise on a raffle, but we never had the time to go redeem it at the Day Spa, however the dEcor is very nice and Arabic. Deck 12 This is the sports deck, having the jogging track, the Shipshape Center, the sports court and the Country Club & Golf Simulator. This is also where the Adventure Ocean Program is and the Crown & Anchor Lounge which is "floating" over the Centrum with a lovely glass bottom in the center where you can see all the way down to the base of the Centrum. This was also where our favorite lunch spot was, the brilliant Seaview Cafe. I had read on a previous review that they served sandwiches like a Cuban Sandwich or a Reuben, but instead on this cruise, it was a Panini & Pasta Restaurant, perhaps they change this from cruise to cruise, but the Panini's were absolutely delicious and the Pasta even better, though I wish they would serve the pasta with grilled shrimp or grilled chicken which was not an option, but oh well, they also serve great pizzas and we enjoyed quite a few lunches here. And though the food is great, another complaint is that they only serve water and bar stuff, no Iced Tea or Lemonade like in the Windjammer, so I had to walk down to the Windjammer all the time to bring up some Lemonade for Mother and Iced Tea for me, I didn't mind the walk, but just another petty complaint. Deck 13 - Viking Crown This of course is the signature fixture on all RCI ships, and this one was very nice, Voyager was divided into four sections, but Brilliance was only two, the Starquest Disco where we danced the night away on 70's Night, and the Hollywood Odyssey which in the afternoon doubled as the Concierge Lounge, and in the Evening would be a nice quiet spot to listen to Jazz or the Guitarist, Lech. Otherwise, DJ Twain would spin records in the Starquest and was always eager to play requests. This cruise was mostly older people, and the Starquest was usually empty, but 70's Night was packed. Right behind the Viking Crown is where the famous Rock Climbing wall is, and this time I did give it a try, I must say it is much harder than it looks and I was sore the next day, but I'm not a big sports guy, so I guess I'm just a big wimp, but it was still fun. Right behind the wall is the Fairways of Brilliance Mini-Golf Course, which is a very nice and fun 9 holes of golf.
Ship Overview So there's a brief description of what's on the ship, but overall the ship is absolutely beautiful, wood and more wood everywhere, there is very little show of wear or tear, and there are people constantly cleaning everywhere though at first you can't really spot them as they seem to be crew members just walking around the ship with little backpacks, however they have all their cleaning supplies in the little backpacks and as they walk the clean the whole ship. There is a rich use of wood and marble through the entire ship as I said, and even the bathrooms have extensive wood and marble and designer fixtures, however be careful when you lean to wash your hands as it is sometimes wet around the edges for some reason (probably due to the round design) and I got wet a couple of times. There is also windows everywhere and art around every corner of the ship, they even put a guide of the art around the ship in your stateroom, and however it doesn't nearly cover it all. We would definitely cruise on another Radiance-Class vessel any time as they are beautiful and big enough, yet small enough for everyone.
Ports of Call
Villefranche Villefranche was our first port after leaving Barcelona the day before. Villefranche is the deep water harbor that pretty much serves Nice, Cannes, and Monaco. For this port we decided to take a cruise-sponsored Tour as we have come to find that they are very reliable and very informative. Our excursion would take us to Nice, the town of Eze, and Monaco. We started the morning off by having breakfast in the room as that always proves to be the best bet when you are a late riser and you have to be at a certain point at a certain time, that way you can be having your breakfast while still getting ready. Our tour met at the Pacifica Theatre and we were escorted to the tender station in the forward of the ship. After the short tender ride to the port and the sweeping views of our majestic vessel, we disembarked and were directed to our bus. The funny thing is that all of the busses are staged at an old fort in Villefranche which ahs very narrow streets leading into and out of it, so it was quite a ride to go in and out of that place. We had a fantastic guide and her English was perfect with that lovely French flair. Immediately after leaving Villefranche we took the short ride to Nice, our first stop was right at the waterfront by the marketplace where we had some free time to explore the lovely outdoor shops and narrow streets. After some pictures and some shopping we headed back to the bus for a driving tour of the highlights of Nice. The tour guide was very good at explaining all of the history of Nice which is a city that goes back all the way to Roman times. We visited some of the sights like the Roman Amphitheater, the Square Hat sculpture and the Russian Cathedral before heading out to the city thought he Middle Corniche road on our way to Eze. Eze is a medieval village perched high above the Mediterranean Sea, we thought it was a very charming place and we had a wonderful time while we were there. Perhaps some of you might recognize Eze as Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel stayed at the Chateau Eza during her trip there, and believe me, a stop here is well worth it. After walking around the Village, we came back down the hill to a restaurant just at the entrance of Eze where we had lunch (included in the excursion) which was very good and there was also plenty of wine to go around. After lunch, we headed out of Eze and into the land of the rich and fabulous, Monaco. Monaco was an amazing experience as we got to see all of the sights, like the Prince's Palace and the Place du Casino. There was an option to pay a few more Euros to go into the Casino, however we decided to pass this up and instead we walked around the beautifully landscaped grounds around the Casino and took lots of photos. We also got to see the lovely Cathedral where the remains of the late HSH Princess Grace and HSH Prince Rainer lay, as well as the houses of HSH Princess Caroline and HSH Princess Stephanie. After seeing the sights in Monaco we were exhausted and slept most of the way back to Villefranche while taking the Lower Corniche road. After arriving at Villefranche we decided to walk around the town a little bit as we wanted to see some more of this quaint little town. The streets are narrow and full of charm and we even got to visit the Cathedral where there was a coir rehearsal going on, and needless to say it was very lovely. After a short walk, we decided it was time to head back to the ship to refresh and get ready for dinner and Showtime.
Malaga After a lovely day at sea in the gorgeous waters of the Mediterranean, we arrived in Malaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso. For this city we also decided to take a cruise-sponsored tour to Marbella and Puerto Banus. We once again had breakfast in the room and unfortunately we arrived about 1 minute late to the Pacifica Theatre so we had to rush behind our group to follow them to the bus. Once we were out by the pier we got kind of lost since we had lost track of our group as we saw some of them go left and some of them go right, however, one of the local RCI staff directed us to Bus #4 to the left of the ship, mind you we speak Spanish perfectly so there was no way for us to get confused by what the RCI staff member was telling us in Spanish as well, so off we went to Bus #4. After a short wait, Bus #4 started to get going, however we thought it was a little odd that no guide had come onboard to introduce themselves or anything of the sort, and this is where I began to get concerned, and after the short drive the bus stopped at the entrance of the Pier and everyone stood up and got off the bus. At that time we asked the bus driver what was going on and he informed us we were only on the shuttle that RCI had provided to take guests back and forth from the ship to the port entrance. Needless to say we were horrified that they had directed us to the wrong bus, so we immediately headed back to ship to figure out what was going on. After we got back to the ship, we approached some of the local staff, but we were directed to go up to the Guest Relations desk on deck 4 to sort out the situation. By this time it was obvious to us that we had missed our tour and that obviously we'd have to make alternate arrangements. My mother was a little upset and she sort of yelled at the guest relations people for like a minute, but the guest relations staff was very nice and they said they would refund our card and obviously apologized for the mistake. Also, I must say that it was partly our fault for being a minute late to the Pacifica Theatre, so I have no complaints for the RCI Staff besides the fact that we were sent to the wrong bus, but otherwise the situation ended up being resolved. After the whole debacle, we ended up deciding to take the free shuttle back to the port entrance and look around to see if we could find a cheap tour or something to do. It turns out we found another touristic bus that operates in Malaga and we were quick to hop on. It turned out to be a great choice again as we got to see all of the sights, and this time we did have narration via headphones that were available on the bus at no extra cost. We visited the fort (5 Euros) and the old Arab castle as well as the Cathedra (5 Euros to go in) as well as other sights. In the end we ended up being quite happy with our self-made tour and returned to the ship very satisfied later on in the evening.
Lisbon For Lisbon we had also decided to take a cruise-sponsored tour, however it was sold-out since the beginning of our cruise, so we were already considering other options. We were able to find out that there was a touristic bus in Lisbon as well, so we decided to make that our first stop. For Lisbon it was unusual as we arrived in port in the mid-afternoon; however it was exciting as we got to see the ship dock, and it was quite an awesome experience. This port was also nice because Royal Caribbean was also running shuttles from the port to the Praca do Comercio, which is pretty much in the heart of the city and about 15 minutes away from the dock. Immediately after debarking we headed straight for the shuttle and we found the bus stop directly in Praca do Comercio. There was a rather long wait for the first bus to arrive, but once it arrived we really enjoyed the narration (via the headphones as well) and seeing most of the sights. We saw the Edward VII Park, the Basilica da Estrela, the old monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries. We were going to get off the bus at the Monument to the Discoveries, but decided against it since we saw the Cruise busses had just arrived and there was a very large crowd, instead we completed the circuit and returned to Praca do Comercio. After we got off the bus, we decided to walk around the many shop-filled streets around the Praca do Comercio and we eventually walked all the way to the cathedral following a free map we had gotten while on the bus. The Cathedra, though not as spectacular as Malaga's or Barcelona's, was impressive nonetheless as it is made in simple medieval architecture. After a few pictures and a little rest in the little plaza in front of the Cathedra, we continued our walk back to the Praca do Comercio so that we could catch a shuttle back to the ship. Once we made it back to the dock, we decided to go to the little shopping district and marina that is right next to the pier. There are many restaurants and a few shops in this area and the view was very nice and peaceful. After we walked the entire length of the shops and marina, we decided to start heading back to the ship for a snack and to get ready for dinner. All in all, our stop in Lisbon was very nice and we would totally do the bus again, it turned out to be a great choice.
Funchal/Madeira Madiera is an island of the cost of Africa belonging to Portugal, this time we also chose a cruise-sponsored tour, and this time it went off without a hitch. Our tour would take us from the dock to the cable cars which take you a long way up the mountain. The views are absolutely awesome from the cable car and it's a very smooth ride all the way up the mountain. After we got to the top, it was time to head to the toboggan. This was the best part out of the whole tour; it was just amazing to go down on those little wooden basket-type cars. The wait was kind of awful as a lot of the tours arrived at the same time, and there were 4 ships in port (Crystal Serenity, AIDA Vita, Thomas Cruises and us), but at least the queue that formed was around a really nicely landscaped area, so we didn't mind too much, and believe me, the ride in the end was well worth it though it only took about 10 minutes to go down the mountain. After the toboggan ride, we were taken to see some of the cloth work that locals do and we also visited the local marketplace which was really colorful and full of exotic things. I've read in some reviews that some people thought that Madeira was very busy and full of traffic, but I guess since we're originally from Mexico City we really enjoyed it, it was sort of a throw back to some of the Latin American capitals and it really made us realize how our cultures are just so similar. After a walk around the city and by the marina, we decided to walk down to the dark sand beach and then we took a lovely stroll all the way back to the ship. This walk was nice as we got to see all of the 4 ships in port really close up and we got to take some nice pictures. Also right in front of the ships, there were many stores so we got to buy some last minute souvenirs. Afterwards, we boarded the ship and soon enough it was time to say good bye to terra firma and head off into the Atlantic for 6 days, we wouldn't touch land again until Miami.
Days at Sea When we first booked our cruise, I wasn't concerned at all over the 6 days it would take us to cross the Atlantic; however I was a little concerned about the rockiness of the ship. My mother gets a little seasick sometimes, and though she's proven to be a pro at cruising, she still carried her Dramamine just in case. After leaving Madeira we had a lovely clear day the next day; however it was kind of cloudy and very rocky the next day. This proved to be the only day that the boat rocked quite a bit and it was quite funny to see the how people seemed to "waddle" around the ship as it was bobbing up and down. My mother had a small spell of seasickness right after breakfast that day, but after some Dramamine and a quick rest in our cabin she was good to go for the rest of the evening. We found out that what had caused her to get sick was the fact that we sat very close to the windows at the Windjammer that morning and you could see how the ship would go up side to side quite a bit, so it was all visual, after that we learned not to sit to close, or rather to have mother facing the inside of the ship. That night, even our waiter was out of commission due to sea sickness and our Head Waiter was in charge of his tables. The rest of the days were rather calm, and though we had very lovely weather for the whole trip (except for that quick shower on the rocky day) it was still somewhat cool for pool activities for some days, however, the closer we got to Florida the nicer it got and we got to enjoy many days in the pool. We would also shuttle back and forth from bingo one day to the Cinema the next and so on and so forth. The Cruise Director's staff always made an effort to keep everyone entertained, and before we knew it we were very close to the Florida Coast. It was nice to see the "sea-show" (for some of you who might be into aviation, the map that most airliners show during flight is often referred to as the "air-show" where the map shows you how your trip is progressing) to see how far we had gone. It was also fun to keep changing the time every other day, for most of our trip we were gaining hours so it was quite relaxing. On the last day, as we were reaching the Bahamas, we were able to spot many ships heading back to Florida, we got to see a few Carnival boats and even passed very close to Castaway Key (Disney's Private Island) and we even got to see Disney Wonder or Magic docked off-shore. As it was getting later in the afternoon we noticed that we began to pick up speed. Just a few minutes after that the captain came over the PA system and announced that we were picking up speed to arrive into Miami that very night due to the fact that there was a sick passenger on board, and even though there was a choice to either Helicopter them out or to stop in Freeport at the Bahamas, it was deemed easier to head straight to Miami as fast as we could. Later on we heard some of the crew around the boat talking to different guests and one of the Cruise Director's staff members told us it was one of the first times that Brilliance was going full speed ahead at around 25 or 26 knots. It was really fun to stand out in the Promenade Deck as it was really windy and we could tell that the ship was plowing ahead, and I often wonder how amazing it is that these 90,000 ton vessels are able to go at over 30 mph. In the end, we were coming around dessert at dinner when we began pulling into Miami. It was kind of fun as we got to see Brilliance dock a second time (since we're always asleep when the ship docks and had gotten the opportunity to catch the scene at Lisbon before we left Europe), however I did think that our overall cruise experience was a little diminished as our "Farewell" party held at the Starquest Disco was as we were already in port, so it was kind of a break with the whole "cruise magic" I guess, but I guess I'm just nit-picking again. All in all, I hope that the sick guest was alright and that everything went well for them. As a curious side-note, one of our table mates also got sick during the cruise and he told us that they had pretty good medical supplies, but he was aware that it was not a hospital at sea, so they were glad they could get those sick passengers off the ship quickly.
Conclusion All in all, we had a great time on our cruise, we got to meet very interesting people and we loved Brilliance to death. Over all of our cruises, I think Constellation and Brilliance are closely tied as the best ships we've sailed on, Voyager might be impressive, but Constellation and Brilliance are just beautiful and gorgeous. We would totally sail another Radiance-Class Vessel again, but now it's off to try the Vision class in March 2008 for our South America Cruise! Read Less