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06/15/09


sailingrose
"Brilliance Of The Seas cruise"

TRIP INFO

Sail Date:06/15/2009
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RATINGS

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COMPLETE REVIEW

We flew overnight to Barcelona and arrived at 8:30 am their time. Got a cab and set off to Hotel Regina our home for the next 2 days. They took our luggage and stored it until our rooms were ready.

We left the hotel in search of coffee and found the Starbucks on the corner for me. Then we headed around the corner to pick up the HOHO Bus. We used Bus Turistic. It was 26E each for a 2 day ticket. We chose the Blue route since their was a bike race scheduled on that route the next day. The Blue route included the Port area, Bari Gothic, & the Olympic Stadium. Had some lunch on a café on Las Ramblas and the best Cappuccino at Moka. This would be a favorite coffee stop for me the next few days.

Returned to the hotel and had a siesta. We headed off to Las Ramblas for some food, wine and to absorb the local character and boy did we find it all there! LOL There were performance artists, flower stalls, nudists on motorcycles, you name it. Lot's of people watching on the Ramblas! There is a supermarket in the middle of it all so we stopped for some bread for breakfast and a bottle of soda and wine. Had a great dinner at "American Soda" some amazing Paella, good wine and then back to the hotel for some real sleep.

The 2nd day we headed out to the Ramblas for some coffee and the flutes we bought the day before. We ate our bread and watched as the flower stalls unpacked and the performance artists set up for the day. We headed over to the Bus again and took the red route which was my favorite. It included LaSagrada Familia Gaudi's unfinished church definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. Spent a couple of hours touring the church. We rented the headsets so we could get the full effect. Absolutely breathtaking. We ate on the Ramblas that night right in the middle of the action. I had a wonderful tapas fish dinner and Howie had an excellent steak! We really enjoyed just watching the people. We walked slowly back to our hotel for a good nights sleep.

Monday June 15 we wake up and know that we'll be boarding the ship in a few hours. We walked along the Ramblas and watched the flower shops open up for the day. Picked up some coffee for me and juice for Howie. Took a stroll through the market and then returned to the hotel to pack up and catch a cab to the ship.

As we pulled into the harbor we were greeted with the site of The Sovereign (formerly Sovereign of the Seas) and the Brilliance next to each other. It was a great treat for me to see the Sovereign as she was my favorite RCI ship but sad as she now has a new paint job with a new company logo as you'll see in my pictures.

Upon boarding we found out late seating was 9PM just too late for us with all those early mornings so we changed to early seating. They allowed you to go to the dining room between 6:30 and 7:15 for early seating (as opposed to anytime dining) which worked out well. Our waiter Muhammad and his Assistant Ian were wonderful. I also had the pleasure of seeing 2 head waiters whom I sailed with many many times on the Sovereign Shaun and Bruno. Bruno was our Head waiter and of course our service was near perfect.

Before sailing we headed up to the Sky bar to meet all our new friends from the other board for Bon Voyage drinks. We would be sharing tours with several of them later in the cruise. The ship was pretty quiet that night as many had jet lag. We did head to the casino for a while after dinner and came upon some old friends from other ships. Turned in early as we were headed to Cannes the next morning.

Cannes, France a tender port. We really decided to take it easy today as we knew the next few days would be jam packed. We strolled along the streets and saw all the yachts, sports cars, etc and headed to Palais des Festivals where the Cannes Film Festival is held. Strolled along and stopped at a café for some coffee and a soda and then headed back to the ship. RCI had a tent set up for you to wait in for the tenders to come.

The ship was much more lively tonight but would soon quite down as the next day was Livorno…..Pisa and Lucca here we come! Many chose to go to Florence but we knew we had another long day coming up so we chose the easier tour.

We docked in Livorno early. We had arranged a private tour with italylimo.com. They picked us up at the ship and off we went. Pisa was our first stop. We all had decided to climb the tower and had pre-arranged a climb time. The climb to the top was OK until we got to the last 100 steps or so……you could really feel the lean up there but the effort was worth it. The view was breathtaking. The other highlight was in the Baptistery. One of the workers came in a sang a few notes……..the sound as it resonated throughout the building was amazing………It was so beautiful I could have cried. I can still hear those few notes in my head. We strolled the grounds some more and then met with our driver for a trip to Lucca. We decided as a group to have lunch together at a trattoria. I had an amazing pasta with a lovely table wine. Howie had the pizza and it was among the best he had in Italy. We wandered thru the streets, through a local market and just absorbed the atmosphere. We split off in 2 groups and we headed for some Gelato (Ice Cream) and a park bench to people watch. Our driver picked us up again and took us back to the ship. This was a 7 hour day. Another wonderful evening and off to bed early as tomorrow was Civitavecchia. (Rome)

Another early and long day laid ahead as we docked in Civitavecchia. We had another private tour with Rome in Limo. Our driver picked us up at the pier and whisked us off to Rome where we visited the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican. I must say this was the hardest day of the trip and the hottest. Having the driver enabled us to skip the lines and get our tickets to the attractions immediately. We spent about an hour touring the Colosseum and then headed to the other attractions. Of course the stop at Trevi Fountain was mandatory so we could throw our coins in and someday return to Rome. The highlight of the day for me was the Vatican,(hire the private guide, well worth the money) we saw a few of the rooms in the museum(no way you could see it all in 1 day). Michaelangelos work is absolutely amazing. He truly was a genius! The sistine chapel was amazing to see. Exhausted we returned to the ship to cool off and rest. Turned in early again another port tomorrow….

Naples, the closest of all the Italian cities to my ancestors. My mom's dad was born in Sassano Italy less then 2 hours from Naples. We decided since Naples was dangerous we would take the Hydrofoil(ferry) to Sorrento. We made the right choice as it was beautiful. We took the local bus an interesting ride up! The town was bustling but had a wonderful Italian flair. We just walked and roamed. It was wonderful not to be touring and just enjoyed soaking up the ambience. After a couple of hours we returned to the docks and ate at a lovely restaurant overlooking the water. Of course dessert was necessary too so we stopped for a gelato and headed for the hydrofoil back to the port. The ship was livelier tonight as we were finally hitting a sea day the next day.

I must say that this is an exhausting itinerary for first timers. I admit that on this sea day we did very little. We went to our meet and mingle and then went to rest. I have never spent so much time in our cabin as we did that day…….we only left for lunch and dinner. After dinner feeling way better then we did we were able to enjoy the ship.

Oh my it's day 7 and 8 Venice Day. I will say this was my favorite port and would return again in a blink. We used public transportation (ferry and water bus) to get around. We headed to Piazza San Marco and walked along the waterfront for a while then back to the Piazza to find the Gondolier I read about online. We found Marco, who did a wonderful job explaining things to us and he even sang for us! It was the perfect way to enjoy Venice for us. We rode for 45 minutes along the Grand Canal and some of the smaller canals. It was fun to see everyone looking down on us from the bridges. We enjoyed roaming around and getting lost after that. I really wish Venice had been earlier in the trip and we weren't as tired. We didn't get to see or do all the things we wanted. Howie wasn't well on day 8 so we didn't get back into Venice the 2nd day.

Venice definitely was what I always pictured Italy to be in my head. Old crumbling buildings, plaster and brick, laundry hanging from the windows, people yelling at each other from the same windows (Italian communication), beautiful flowers, cobblestone streets. It was truly a magical city that I hope someday I can return to.

Day 9 meant Dubrovnik Croatia. We truly hoped the rains would hold off but that was not to be. We headed to the old city via RCI transport and got our tickets to climb the wall and then the heavens opened up……You do not want to have to come down from the wall in rain…….it's like a waterfall! Living in Florida you can read the sky and the clouds pretty well so we saw what was coming. We got off the wall soaked to the skin and roamed around old town a while. The sky was speaking to us and we headed out to the transport back to the ship. Just as we got out of the bus the rains began again, boy were we happy we returned as it began to monsoon! We dried off and headed to lunch. The ship was virtually empty so we headed to the pool for some R&R. This was the only day that it rained so no complaints. I really would have liked to see more of the city.

Day 10 was Corfu Greece. We stayed aboard in the morning and rested and after lunch headed to the ships tour we booked. It was to Paleokastritsa, Lakones and Wine tasting.

I'd skip the Greek wine next time……LOL but it was interesting. Paleokastritsa was gorgeous! We took a little boat out into the Mediterranean Sea to see the caves dug out by the ocean. The water was crystal clear but definitely cold. On returning to the beach I took off my shoes and stood in the sea then we did a little shopping and had a cold drink. This was a wonderful day and were the last to return to the ship.

The last 2 days were sea days. We used the time to rest, chat with friends and recharge before the long flight home.

Some general observations…….The ship was lovely and the service was excellent everywhere on the ship. The chef did an excellent job with some of RCI's regular entrées particularly the fish. As a whole the dining room food was excellent. Buffet was the same as always.

We were both very happy with the Rome tour however we wish we could have had more time for lunch and for the Sistine Chapel. There is no way you can see it all in 1 day.

Wine is definitely the way to go when in Spain and Italy. It was cheaper to drink wine then soda! Skip the pizza in Italy as a whole we did have great pizza in Naples.

Research is very important with this itinerary. Many who took the cruise ship tours disliked them and got to see much less then we did so do your homework. Thanks to everyone who helped me by answering questions and offering advice, I hope I can return the favor someday.

I loved every minute of the cruise and would go again in a minute. If you have a chance to do this go for it.

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