Overall Rating: Very Good
|Destination:||Caribbean - Western|
|Departed From:||Tampa, FL.|
|# of Nights:||7 Nights|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
As you may know, this was our second cruise with RCCL and 10th overall. Our first with RCCL was aboard the Jewel in May 2013 and we were so unhappy with that sailing, we almost cancelled this cruise but our agent convinced us to keep the booking. I'm somewhat happy we did. You see, we had always compared cruises based on price yet always wanted to sail on an RCCL ship. It seemed in the past that other cruiselines doing the same itinerary and accommodations were less expensive than RCCL so we booked the other line. We had always expected to get that "WOW" factor from cruising with RCCL as they always advertise. On the Jewel, they didn't even come close. In the Brilliance, they almost got it but still fell short in my opinion. Let's look at my review......
EMBARKATION: Timing is everything as you all know and this cruise, "I" got it wrong. We left a bit later than normal for our 35 minute drive (including dropping the dog off at the boarders) so we arrived at our parking lot at about 11:30am. There were two ships, the Brilliance and the Paradise in the Port of Tampa this day but the lot only supplied two shuttle vans for transport to the pier. We waited at least one hour in line before we were able to board a shuttle. When we arrived at the terminal, we had about another 30 minute wait just to get to the check-in counter. Thanks to my OCD, I had all the docs ready including our healthcare forms and were only at the check-in window for about 4 minutes before being issued our set sail cards. Once again, as with the Jewel cruise, kudos to RCCL for not FORCING passengers to wait in line for an embarkation photo they may not want like many other lines do.
ONBOARD: Once aboard the Brilliance, we were able to go straight to our balcony cabin (8550) and drop our carry on bags as it was after 1pm. We immediately were greeted by our cabin steward "Alfred". Alfred did a fantastic job in keeping our cabin kept up and always having a fresh supply of ice for us.
DINING: After checking our cabin, we went to the Windjammer for a quick bite. We were extremely impressed with the quality of food served at the Windjammer. Always hot and fresh. Never had an issue with finding (or actually them finding us) a waiter to refill our glasses of iced tea. Many reviews have complained about the Windjammer always being crowded and not being able to find a place to sit. I don't understand that! Once you fill your plate, you can go anywhere you want on the ship, close by to sit and eat. There is a wrap around aft area with tables. You can even go out to the pool area if you like. We had the pleasure of meeting the Hotel Manager and he told us the Windjammer on the Brilliance had received the #1 rating for the 3 prior months in the Radiance fleet. The MDR (we had MTD for a 6:30 slot) was OK. Service here was kinda slow and finding bar service was a struggle. Lunch and dinner in the MDR was excellent but the breakfasts there left much to be desired. I had sent back Eggs Benedict twice because the eggs were more hard boiled than poached. I guess being a Chef makes me a bit opinionated!! We did try the "Chops Grill" dining venue one night. It was worth the extra $30. Although, the couple sitting 2 tables away complaining and arguing while we ate was NOT appreciated. Against my wife's wishes, after 15 minutes of hearing them argue, I went to them and boldly stated that I didn't spend $60 to hear them argue and asked them to take it to their stateroom. They were quiet for the rest of dinner. Sorry Chrissy!!!
CABIN: As with the Jewel, and I'm not sure if this is just a Radiance Class thing, but the balcony and bathroom were much smaller than on other ships we have sailed. And the shower....REALLY RCCL????? You can't even bend over to wash your feet without bumping your head or pushing the shower curtain out of the stall and causing a flood!!! And no, I'm not a big guy. I was taken a bit aback, after learning that a few months ago the Brilliance underwent over $30 million in drydock and finding the sofa stained, the balcony door being hard to open (couldn't vision an elderly person opening the door it was so hard) and the outside handle of the door being broken. I did bring this to the concierge desks attention complete with picture. They put in a maintenance report and sometime during the day, they fixed the door (made it easier to open) but the handle was still broken. Our cabin steward said he had reported it on the prior cruise but nothing was obviously done to repair it. As with the Jewel, the maintenance staff needs a wake-up call!!
PORTS OF CALL: Key West was a port we have been to before. Did the conch train tour and hopped off at Margeritaville for some trinkets. A bit too touristy and eclectic for us. Grand Cayman was a tender port but they did a great job in assuring you could board the tenders via a ramp as opposed to climbing a ladder. We did the Dolphin excursion here and it was OK with $25 photos (we passed). On the way back, they dropped us off at 7 mile beach which was hopping but food and beverages were a bit on the expensive side. Isla Roatan we did the Maya Key excursion which was a short 5 minute boat ride from the pier. I would most DEFINITELY recommend this excursion. Because the island is small, it is limited so if you plan to go there, book EARLY!! Cozumel.....as always, we visited Paradise Beach as did the Captain of our ship, Captain Stieg. Always welcoming and VERY inexpensive. They love CruiseCrazies there so make sure you let them know your a member.
ENTERTAINMENT: I'm not much of a show person so Chrissy went to one show alone and said it was just "OK". BUT, the aerial acts in the Centrum were SUPERB!! There were a total of 3 aerial acts for our 7 night cruise. We attended almost every occasion being held in the Centrum and had a blast at all. As for the casino, the ship had the tightest slots I have EVER experienced on a cruise. This is usually my main stop of our sea days but after the first 2 days, I opted to save my money.
DISEMBARKATION: Fast and easy. A hint though, use a porter when disembarking. They whisk you right to and through customs.
Did the Brilliance "WOW" us? Almost. Will RCCL be our primary cruise line in the future? No, but we will use it as comparison.
I have produced a slideshow video of our cruise for those planning to sail the Brilliance. Sound ON please: