A "right-sized" small but modern ships just upgraded with new eateries, bars, kids programs and decor.Best For People Who Want
A lively, family-friendly cruise experience on a mid-sized ship, with elegant decor, a wide variety of entertainment choices, and reasonable (though not gourmet) food quality.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
The really big Royal Caribbean ships with Royal Promenades, ice skating and Broadway showsOnboard Experience
The Brilliance (and her sister ships in the Radiance Class - Radiance, Jewel, Serenade), at just over 90,000 tons, offers an excellent alternative to her much larger cousins, Royal Caribbean's Oasis, Voyager and Freedom Class mega-ships, while still being large enough to provide all the amenities we've come to expect from modern cruise ships.
There's no shortage of activities, from standard daily trivia games, to craft classes, dance lessons, guest lecturers, and passenger participation games; yet there are plenty of spaces where one can escape the frenzy to relax, read, or just watch the seas go by. Professional entertainment on board was varied and enjoyable.
Staff and crew are friendly and helpful to a fault, and any reasonable request was accommodated without hesitation.
One rather irksome quirk on this ship is the lack of self-serve drink stations except for coffee or water. All other drinks are pre-poured and available from only two stations well inside of Windjammer Cafe. (Inside the Windjammer Cafe, servers do circulate with trays of non-alcoholic drinks as well.)Decor
With the 2013 upgrade the ship recieved a much needed face lift with new decor, a beautiful winter garden style atrium, and new furniture throughout including inside the staterooms.Public Rooms
The heart of the ship is the lobby bar on Deck 4, at the lowest level of the Centrum, where an ensemble performs each night. This is the spot people seem inclined to congregate. During the day this area is often used for cooking demonstrations, lessons on creating towel animals, etc.
At the bow on Decks 4 and 5 is the ship's main showroom, the Pacifica Theater. With plush burgundy and rouge toned individual seats, complete with cup holders, and unobstructed sight lines, the theater is an excellent venue for the ship's productions and headliner acts.
Two decks above on Deck 6, the low-key Champagne Bar offers panoramic views of the seas through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Also on Deck 6, the Bombay Billiards Club has the first pool tables at sea - very high-tech pool tables at that. Each one is balanced on a gyro-style ball bearing the size of a grape; the table may move as the ship rocks, but the balls will remain in place.
Another Deck 6 lounge is the natty Schooners, with marine blue chairs accented by real teak, along with nautical antiques and reproductions. In the adjacent Colony Club is a large dance floor and stage suitable for a variety of entertainment.
Forward on Deck 6 is the Casino Royale, where slots and video gaming dominate the large space, with lights, bells and whistles inviting passengers to contribute. Table games, a craps table, and roulette wheel call out to those who prefer more social gambling. One blackjack table is currently used for the ever more popular Texas Hold 'Em (and plans are afoot to begin hosting Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, but they aren't set yet).
A small but well-stocked library on Deck 8 faces the atrium, and feels like a traditional study. The library is open 24 hours per day, and operates on an honor system -- passengers sign books out and back in when returning them.
Close by is the tiny Crown and Anchor Club, but don't miss it: You can stand on a glass platform with a view of the entire atrium beneath your feet.
High atop the ship on Deck 13, the traditional Royal Caribbean Viking Crown Lounge offers a near-360 degree panoramic view. On Brilliance, it is divided into the StarQuest disco and Hollywood Lounge, a low-key room with a small stage for performances.
Forward on Deck 5, off the Centrum, Brilliance boasts a more upscale shopping area than other Royal Caribbean ships, including designer-branded fashion wear and a brilliant jewelry store. Near the Internet area is a small coffee and pastry shop with the unforgettable name of Latte'tudes. One of the best features of the ship is the cinema, which shows two features per day.
On outdoor decks, smoking is restricted to the starboard side. Smoking is allowed in passenger cabins, as well as private balconies. Contrary to some beliefs, there are no non-smoking cabins available.
There are two swimming pools on Deck 11. The Solarium is a tranquil, glassed-in pool area with an African theme and three enormous plaster elephants overlooking the pool. You'll hear bird and animal sounds through the towering tropical plants. The Solarium Cafe offers a variety of salads, a couple of sandwich choices and pizza.
The open-air central pool and surrounding sun deck are bit small, so the space can feel crowded on sea days. However, there are plenty of sun loungers and open spaces one deck up, on Deck 12. I'd love to see some patio-style furnishing (tables and chairs) in an open-air deck area. The central pool area has only two tables with chairs, and they are tucked into a hallway on the starboard side leading to the Windjammer Cafe.
Indoors, both aft and forward of the Windjammer Cafe are areas with lovely faux wicker style sofas and coffee tables -- excellent spots to relax, read, or socialize. If this same concept could be transferred to an outdoor area it would be most impressive.
Aft on Deck 12, are indoor and outdoor kids' areas -- the Ocean Adventures Club, complete with kiddy pool and a small water slide. Further aft is the SeaView Cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating. The menus at the SeaView were recently changed; it now only offers salads, pastas, and pizzas.
Above on Deck 13, also aft, there's a rock climbing wall, sports deck, and mini-golf course -- all free for passenger use. On Deck 12 around the pool deck is a walking/running track. Eight laps equals one mile.Cuisine
The main dining room food is as good as on any of the mass market lines. Your best bet is to try the alternative options described below.
The Windjammer buffet area has been restyled with "actions stations" to make service faster and more a la minute.Restaurants
The Minstrel Dining Room is a glamorous two-story space amidships, with a grand staircase, large pillars, and lovely, high-end furnishings. In addition to dinner service, it is available for open-seating breakfast and for lunch. At lunch, it now offers "Brasserie 30" -- a set menu that does not change day to day, but promises that diners will be in and out in 30 minutes.
Breakfasts, lunches and casual dinners are offered in the Windjammer Cafe. The physical setup at the Windjammer works very well, with separate service islands for different parts of the menu -- e.g., for lunch, burgers/hot dogs/condiments, salads, sandwiches, a carving station, pizza, and yet another that alternates between Asian, Chinese and Thai offerings.
The 2013 brought a number of upgrades and new dining venues as follows:
The multinational staff and crew clearly enjoy watching passengers enjoy themselves. They're uniformly cheerful, knowledgeable, and eager to help. The wait staff in every restaurant is noticeably solicitous and conscientious. Cabin service staff is efficient but unobtrusive. The purser's desk is notably responsive, especially in view of how much troubleshooting they must do on a ship this size. Even room service is prompt and delivered with a smile.Tipping
Royal Caribbean suggests a per person, per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite), $3.50 for the waiter, $2.50 for the assistant waiter, 75 cents for the headwaiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.Entertainment
The Pacifica Theater is the ship's main show room. The production shows with the ship's production crew were well received. The variety in the type of acts chosen as headliners was among the most diverse we've found on a cruise ship.
The daily entertainment at the Lobby Bar packed them in nightly, with rotating musical acts. A variety of musical entertainment is offered each evening in lounges around the ship, and of course the DJ spins tunes in the disco late into the night.
One of the most entertaining evenings we spent was participating in the Murder Mystery Dinner at Portofino's, with many cast members from the production crew acting the parts. It is very much an interactive evening with guests and actors, and highly recommended.Cabins
Of the ship's 1,050 staterooms, 813 have ocean views and 577 private verandas. Standard features in all cabins include refrigerator/mini-bar, hair dryer, interactive TV, telephone, computer jack, and a large closet and plenty of drawers. In standard and most balcony cabins, bathrooms have a shower and one large medicine cabinet. There are also such welcome touches as beds with rounded corners and lighted vanity tables with mirrored cabinets. Tubs are found only in the highest category staterooms; most bathrooms only have showers (though large ones) and medicine cabinets. There are even full-length mirrors in the "superior" category cabins. There are 14 wheelchair-accessible staterooms.
Brilliance has some of the best balcony cabins at sea; for the very best, look to the aft cabins on Decks 7-10, where the Cat. D rooms have the largest balconies on the ship (13 x 9.5 ft.). There are steel walls between balconies instead of the glass common on the rest of the ship. Overall, staterooms on this ship are larger than the average Royal Caribbean cabin. While inside cabins measure only 165 sq. ft.; outside cabins range from 170 to 204 sq. ft., and the five categories of suites from 293 to 1,001 sq. ft.
Brilliance had just completed the replacement and upgrading of beds, linens, and pillows during our time on board, and new duvets to replace the sheets and blankets previously used were due the following week.Fitness/Spa
The 15,500 sq. ft. ocean-view ShipShape Spa comprises three sections: a beauty and health center with 12 treatment rooms, including Rasul and thermal suite ($15 for a half-hour); an aerobics area with mirrored wall and a wooden suspended aerobics floor; and the gym, with 18 treadmills, 10 Reebok Recumbent Cycles, eight Reebok Body Peaks, four Reebok Ridge Rocker Cycles, four Reebok Body Treks, free weights, and multiple benches. TV monitors and stereo sound are available throughout. Scheduled fitness activities include stretching and aerobics classes and aqua-dynamics. The famous Royal Caribbean rock-climbing wall rises 200 feet above the sea with five separate climbing tracks. The Sports Club & Country Club has golf simulators, ping-pong, a basketball court and deck games. There's even a nine-hole miniature golf course and a jogging track.Children's Facilities
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.
Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.
RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for pre-schoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.
Lastly, RCI unveiled a Youth Loyalty Program this summer. Children and teens can now also enjoy Crown & Anchor Society repeat passenger benefits. Rewards for youngsters on their second or more RCI cruise include Crayola Twistable crayons or a Royal Caribbean bag. All repeating youth receive a Youth Ultimate Value Booklet with coloring pages, games and discounts for onboard amenities such as Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, and arcade games. Parents can enroll their children (if they have already cruised with RCI) via the line's website: www.royalcaribbean.com/youth.
Private babysitting is offered from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., provided sitters are available, for children from one year old. The rate is usually $8-$10 per hour depending on the number of children in the family. Cash payment is made directly to the sitter. Arrange through Guest Services at least 24 hours in advance.Attire
There were two designated formal nights during our 11-night cruise. The others are split between suggested dress codes of smart casual and casual, but the line between the two seems to be disappearing, and on evenings designated as smart casual the majority of men opted out of wearing jackets.
We have cruised with Royal Caribbean at least 10 times in the past and never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that I would see the cruel indifference exhibited by Royal Caribbean after we boarded the Brilliance of the Seas January 5th. My daughter, who is 25 years old, had some gastrointestinal problems due to food poisoning for a few hours until the Friday afternoon prior to our sailing; however, she felt fine by the time we boarded the flight from NY to San Juan Saturday morning and filled out the "24-hour illness" cruise form with a "no", since her symptoms were outside of the 24-hour window. When we arrived in San Juan my daughter and I boarded the ship, ate lunch and attended muster. Since my daughter felt a little warm we decided to go to the medical center for a "free evaluation" to make sure she was OK. An employee in the facility took her temperature which was, if I recall, 100.4 degrees; we admitted that she had symptoms the day before but felt fine otherwise at that point. With no further examination, the doctor walked over andannounced that we had to leave the ship immediately.
We were given no instructions as to our options, no help to secure accommodations for the evening, no help even in getting a taxi from the terminal and not even so much as a sheet with a list of phone numbers. We were escorted off the ship and dumped at the deserted terminal like so much detritus. This was not only cruel but put us in a potentially dangerous situation.
It is unbelievable and downright inhumane that Royal Caribbean can, first of all, pronounce someone ill without the most cursory examination and then put them in harm's way by throwing them off in a strange country without so much as a list of phone numbers. I shudder to think what would have happened if my daughter had really been ill; as it turned out, by the time we arrived at the hotel an hour later her temperature was 98.6 and she was 100% fine. I'm also wondering why they didn't quarantine us, as we had already been on the ship several hours and, if she had something communicable, would have exposed several passengers to the illness. By throwing us off the ship they had no way to follow up to see if she was, in fact, ill; I have a sneaking suspicion that this has something to do with CDC reporting, but that's just a hunch.
At any rate, in an attempt to get information over the next several days I called RCI customer service, RCI emergency travel assistance and RCI Choice Air. Not one of those was able to help or knew what to do in our situation.
We spent the next six days in San Juan at our expense, around $3,000. We are both extremely disgusted and traumatized by the way we were treated and will certainly be a lot wiser in the future.
This was the pits, 15 nights...and offered $100.00 each for next RCL cruise...my wife said no way, even if next cruise on NCL was offered for free...she is not going ever again. I would have given them another chance, but my wife is adamant about such poor service and treatment.
We have been on about a dozen cruises so far, we are in our 60s and both retired.
We checked 3 bags and two cases of water, with the dock's porter and gave him the GTR, guarantee, luggage tag, and $6.00 tip. [we have sailed out of that Hawaii port with NCL 2 times before with GTRs and never a problem.]
We got in line for check in, and to get boarding cards...after about 30 minutes, the girl could not get the system to check us in. She called her supervisor, he tried for 30 minutes too, then said, the reason we can't check you in, is that you don't have a room assignment. Let me go get you one. He left and 30 minutes later, had not come back. The girl's shift was ending or she was to go on break,so she went to look for him. He came back and said, you will have to go back over there where all those people are sitting and wait for a room assignment. I then insisted that they give me back my check-in paper work and passports back too. They didn't want to do that. But I was very firm about it. We went to that section, and 3 of the ship's uniformed staff were there handing out room cards, calling names. After a few minutes, I asked if all these people were waiting for room assignments. The staff member said "No, they all have rooms assigned and are waiting for cards."
I then asked to speak to the top person in charge, of the check in process, as we the other supervisor misled us.
A few minutes later, and elderly gentleman, think name was Walter, came over and said, "I don't know why he told you to wait here, let me check, do you have your confirmation paper." He said could thing you got that back, or we would have had a real problem. He came back 3 minutes later with our room cards. I thanked him. He said, "Don't thank me they were sitting there already, I didn't do a thing," Let me take you to the front of the line to check you in now."
On the way up the gangway, we passed about a dozen crew members, only the very last one, said welcome aboard.
We checked the room, they had upgraded us to an ocean view, and we went to get something to eat.
When we returned the cabin girl was there, by our door and said "Is this your room? How did you get this room? You do not belong here! You are not on my list! I said, this is the room they gave us. In any event, we will need a refrigerator for our medications.
She said, "You don't look sick to me! What is wrong with you, are you diabetic? I said no, but both my wife and I have medical problems and a bag of different meds many eed to be kept in cool place. I will have to ask my supervisor." I said, "Also, I would like you to make sure you keep our Ice bucket full too." We never got the frig, or ice, for 2 days.
It was now 5pm, we went in and set down in the room, not feeling very welcome. The phone rings, the lady on the phone said, "Do you want your bags." I said yes. "She said then you better come get them." I said why can't you just bring them to our room." She said, "This is security, your bags are sitting out here on the pier."
We went to the gangway, and the staff did want us to go leave the ship to get them and refused to go get them too. I got upset, and said no way we are leaving without them. He said let me ask my supervisor...I followed him down the gangway. The supervisor said, let them go em, but you better hurry, because we are sailing any minute.
We got down to security and I said to the lady, the ship confiscated our passports, how can we get back in, if we go out, she said do you have your pass cards. I said yes, she said that is all you need.
We went out and the bags were just outside security on dolly. Only our bags were there, they all were tagged with our names and GTR tags too. The porters were sitting on the other side of the hallway on other dollies, the guy we tipped was no where around. Another one offered to help us, but I told him, we had tipped the other guy and were not going to tip again, after all this. He said, he understood. He started to wheel the dolly in to security check point, when I guy in white shirt, pushed him away and said I will take it from here. When we got into the security area. I told him was not going to tip again. He said well I am not going to help you then and you can't use our dolly either. He put everything on the floor and took the dolly and left. We had 3 bags and two cases of water.
Somehow we managed to put through scanners and I was fit to be tied. I had the airline type carry-on bag, put one bag over the handle and the water on the top of roller bag and my wife did the same. We got up to the gangway, where the dozen crew were standing, no one offer to help us get them to the room, or even open the heavy door to the staterooms.
The ship did not sail for another 3 hours, as the check in process was such a mess for a lot of people.
The pier staff said they could not check in the bags, as no stateroom had been assigned timely. But they could call us in the stateroom. The ship blamed the pier staff.
We were exhusted physically and mentally, and slept for most of the next 2 days and rarely left the stateroom. We didn't go the Captain's Welcome either. But went up to the open buffet, about 8 pm to eat. The officer's were comiing up there now too, to eat, after the Captain's welcome.
One of them was behind me in line, and asked how I was enjoying the cruise so far. I said you really don't want to know. he insisted that I tell him, explained he was the manager of customer relations on board, his name was Rolston, as I recall. He spoke with me and my wife and said he was going to look into it.
I only told him about the cabin girl, no ice, no frig, no answer, and we did not feel wanted there. I asked to moved to another area, even if back to the inside cabin we had booked.
The next day he called and said, he had another stateroom for us, with a frig and asked us to come to the pursers desk to get the room keys and check it out.
It was a big balcony on the fan tail, the room was little bigger too. The desk draw would not stay shut...and the shower drain backed up...probably why it was not assigned before. Moreover the soot collected on the fan tail furniture and we had to wipe it down every morning.
I asked to have someone help us move the luggage, but the Purser's staff said everyone was in a meeting, as soon as over would send someone down.
We were almost done packing. The girl room steward shows up with a bucket of ice. "My supervisor said to give you this." My wife said "Take it back, your to late, we are leaving now."
She left, then another guy showed up to help us move, with a hotel dolly.
When we got to new room, the male stewards said, "Is this going to be your room?" I said, yes. He said, "So your the ones!" Apparently, we were one of the topics at the "meeting."
I handed him $50.00 up front and asked him to keep the ice bucket full too." He did, but in 13 days in that room, only made 3 towel animals, my wife really likes them. Never cleaned the balcony.
We wedged a wad of paper in the desk draw...and they had some come an fix the shower drain, I believe it had a reverse valve that was sticking in the open position. I found if you flushed the toilet it would drain.
We book the inside cabin all the time, mainly because the wife get sea and air sick easily. She was in bed for most of the trip, but really liked the balcony and didn't want to move.
Later, I told the Roys, about the check in process and pier experience a week later. He said, would take something off the bill. He took off $70.00 in the end, in Internet charges.
I also filled out a long questionnaire and left this story in the drop box.
Later, I got email from Aam M. Goldstein, President and CEO, blanket type, thanking us for choosing RC and hoped to see us again.
I wrote back all the above to his email, no reply to that or the one in the drop box.
I then worte to RC on its website...no reply to that one either. My neighbor suggested that I should have gotten another free cruise after all we went through and to write them email. She has been on RC many times and never had a bad experience.
i said only way we would take another one is if it were free. We have been on NCL, Carnival, QE2, and Disney, this was the pits on RC.
No lobster night either. The best part of the cruise was the dinning room staff.
I recently sailed on the Brilliance of the seas. It was the worst cruise i have ever been on. The crew was not friendly nor helpful. The ports were nice, but that was about all. Royal Caribbean stranded passengers at the airport for over 18 hours who had booked their airfare with them. This has got to be the worst customer service I have ever had with any crusie ship or cruiseline. Princess is looking better everyday.