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Brilliance of the Seas Review-Dubai

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All Decked Out on Brilliance of the Seas

 

 

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause if you believe or perhaps you are a newbie to RCI! With a fare too good to be true and not having to fly, we booked a last minute inside guarantee on Brilliance out of Dubai during the holidays. We will be three star Mariners on our next HAL cruise and have also sailed Celebrity but we're looking forward to an RCI experience...... especially having had the sea call me on the new shell phone......I love that ad! We used our usual online agent and to my surprise within the week our RCI reservation was assigned a Superior Ocean View Balcony Cabin on deck nine, mid-ship! I kept checking every day waiting for it to be a mistake. We have never booked a guarantee before in any category and this good fortune probably doesn't happen often.

 

For those of you contemplating a cruise on Brilliance but concerned about it being an older ship lacking the bells and whistles of the bigger classes, don't delay. The ship was in great shape and looked festive with all of the holiday decorations. There were no plumbing issues, the carpets and furnishings looked fine, and all of the surrounding glass sparkled from the continuous cleaning.

 

Liked a Lot:

being able to see the pre-booked reservations that you made on the RCI web site for your specific cruise; being able to view your account from the cabin TV

 

quick response from the RCI dining team regarding my wait-listed MTD status (thanks for the tip CC)

 

the planner on Day One that lets you know in advance the formal nights, drink of the day, activity times for the week, special sales each day; the inclusion of all of the port information in the first daily compass, providing information even if you were doing a port on your own instead of a ship tour

 

The Captain's sense of humor and friendliness of the crew. Always being greeted with smiles and doing everything they could to make you comfortable

 

The outdoor seating area by the Seaview Cafe deck 12 that seems luckily undiscovered

Seaview Cafe panini sandwiches-wish it was open earlier than three pm

 

The layout of lounges in the Colony Club; being able to go from the Champagne bar to the piano bar, and dance floor without the music overlapping

 

Solarium was a peaceful pool retreat with an exotic Indian theme, wooden loungers with thick pads to relax on, the convenience of both a bar and cafe

 

Room Service-arrived on time and with everything you ordered!

 

Entertainment -a wide variety through out the day and into the night; classical music, Latin music, big band orchestra or R&R to dance to, piano music to sing along with, classical guitar, disco and karaoke; theater shows included guest singer Tracey Shield performing like Celine Dion, Rat Pack tribute, and Tango Buenos Aires

 

Dining & Drinks

Chops Grill-Great and worth the money; excellent service and they even decanter your wine by the glass; the steak melted in your mouth and was cooked as ordered; sides were good also-mushroom and leek combo, potatoes with prosciutto & cheese, onion rings, green beans or buttered asparagus; desserts included mud pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for us chocolate lovers;

 

Portofino-originally reserved the Wine & Dinner series but unfortunately not enough people so it got canceled. We substituted a regular dinner reservation and enjoyed it very much; really liked the variety of breads to get you started; we ordered veal saltimbocca which was good though a little salty; desserts were very rich-I had a double dark and white chocolate dessert which was heavenly but best shared

 

MDR-we were able to switch from the early seating to MTD and liked being able to reserve ahead of time; The staff did a superb job of handling this style dining and we always got a table for two without waiting and in the same section though didn't have to request it. They easily accommodated guests configuring the table sizes from 2-6. Even the larger oval tables for eight appeared more conducive to conversation than the huge round tables you so often see in banquet settings; our waiters Alex and Alok were a great combination and it helped that they were also able to serve you the wine as you didn't have to wait for a wine steward; the special holiday dinner offered traditional turkey which was very good; nice assortment of breads each night, delicious lentil and sun-dried tomato soup, excellent presentation; food was hot; stayed away from the steak(Chops reservation anyway) but have to say I ordered sea food three times and twice it was overcooked and once it was cooked to perfection but full of bones! As was my husband's and the gentleman at the table next to ours. Need to schedule more filet lessons

 

Windjammer-typical cruise buffet; no problem finding a table, friendly service and hot food, some items really good (danish pastry, sweet & sour Indian dish, cooked to order omelets) others take or leave but you won't go hungry

 

Drinks-Drink of the Day was $6.95; Bottle of Heineken was about $5; we thought bottles of wine outside of the wine package were slightly higher or what you might pay in a larger city in the US (but less than a hotel in Dubai!) Most cocktails were in the $7-$8 range but Margaritas and the like were a sobering $10-$11. The drinks were all good---not watered down; enjoyed the revolving bar at Starquest and the live entertainment every night at the Lobby Bar; medium size bottled water in your room was $4----yikes!

 

Liked a Lot Less:

Sun lounge chairs crammed together-we didn't like the design of the pool area and placement of the chairs on the outside decks at all. An average amount of towels covered vacant chairs but not excessive however the chairs were so close together they took economy class to a new level. Many of the chairs were also lined up on the upper decks against the wall and often had a ceiling overhang that blocked the sun or ventilation fans blowing. There was a special area designated for either suite or diamond guests but the area wasn't utilized much whenever I walked by. There is also a lot of deck space allocated to the water slide and sports activities which I guess that “prime real estate” aspect depends on your interests......but you do have the solarium alternative to escape to.

 

Cabin- Showers-sure are tiny! Spoiled by the HAL shower/tub combo in all of their balcony cabins so no thumbs up here; plenty of storage space and hangers, comfortable beds (liked the curved edges) needs flat screen TV, built in international plug adapters, and some new balcony furniture but I'm sure these will be taken care of in a future dry-dock and not a major concern

 

Odds and Ends:

A good balance of service throughout the ship. Waiters were available when you wanted a drink but didn't pounce on you as soon as you finished one or before getting settled in a new venue. Photographers unobtrusively captured candid shots or were scattered at various places in the ship to take your photo without having to be scheduled in advance. With the beautiful decorations even we couldn't resist buying an 8x10 for $19.95.

 

The in-house news show hosted by Paul the Cruise Director was a clever way to inform you about what was going on and what you needed to know.

 

There were two formal nights and one theme night. The White Night had many crew and guests donning Middle Eastern dress and posing in the Arabian tent and around the camels. The obvious good time being had relinquished my impulse to call the Cultural Wizard when I spotted them with a drink in hand!

 

Port Tips-This Middle East itinerary is a great way to explore a part of the Gulf region. They are all industrial ports so factor that into your “view expectations” while sitting on your balcony in port. Friday is the holy day and except for the malls most things will open later in the day.

Visiting the mosques-in Abu Dhabi all women will be given an abaya to put on and a shayla for your head if you don't have a scarf. Men will be provided a khandora if wearing shorts; in Muscat women must have long sleeves to your wrists and a head covering. Men need long pants. You will remove your shoes before entering the mosque. I didn't wear socks in Muscat, it was not a problem (though I would have felt better if my toenails weren't painted red.) In the shopping areas it is respectful for women to cover shoulders and knees---think short sleeves and capri pants, though in Dubai people digress!

 

Dubai-add a day or two pre or post cruise if this is your first visit. There is so much to see and do here even after you shop! The cream colored taxis with different colored roofs are plentiful, metered, and inexpensive. You will see many lined up at the port entrance; HOHO busses were also at the cruise terminal as were free shuttles to a couple of the malls....I believe one was Dubai Mall but not positive; there were also many 4x4's waiting to take people on their scheduled desert dune bashing experience (if you are prone to motion sickness you may want to take some medication before hand)

 

Abu Dhabi-Free shuttle to the Marina Mall where you can get a taxi if not on a scheduled tour; Sheik Zayed Mosque is beautiful and free tours are given in the morning;

Falcon Hospital is an interesting alternative if you have been to Abu Dhabi before. The staff is welcoming and provides a lot of information, you get to see falcons being treated in the “spa” and even have one perched on your arm for photos

 

Muscat-Free shuttles to the port gate in Muscat were provided. There is a large sign outside with posted fares to different places. Gives you an idea for your taxi negotiations; Some drivers will interpret the rate to be pp.

We agreed to pay 15 OR for both of us for a roundtrip to the Grand Mosque and have the driver wait for us. He had wanted 20 rials for the 30 minute ride each way. He explained areas as we drove through the city, after our visit he brought us to a reception area in the mosque for tea and dates, took some pictures for us etc and in the end we felt he earned the extra amount and tipped him the difference

You can walk to the Mutrah Souk in about 10 minutes from the port gate;

 

Bait al Zubair and Palace area are about 3km from the souq. If you are energetic you can walk to it in about 50 minutes along the beautiful sea promenade or corniche. The four buildings offer a wealth of information about Oman, there's a beautiful jewelry exhibit for the women and handsomely crafted swords and kanjars for the men, a cafe to order coffee or tea and try the Halwa sweet treat of Oman, stop in the gift shop where you can also spritz yourself and make a splurge purchase of Amouage, the Rolls Royce of perfumes of the world made in Oman.

 

If your ship is docked overnight, check to see if there is a performance at the new Royal Opera House http://www.rohmuscat.org.*****/ It is a beautiful building and offers not only opera but ballet, symphony, jazz and other performances. The new season begins mid January through March and tickets sell out quickly so if you are interested, don't hesitate.

 

Fujairah-plan a tour, dhow cruise or stay onboard and enjoy the ship; the shuttle to LuLu's is like a trip to Carrefour or Walmart SuperCenter

 

Passenger mix was at least 75% Europeans from all over the continent, some North Americans and everyone in between. Daily program guides were offered in a variety of languages. A number of children and teens on board and an equal number of activities to keep them busy; yes, even Santa came aboard Christmas Eve

 

Embarkation-moved along quickly

Passport Retrieval-effortless; also US citizens- ship arranges Oman visa/ charges $13 to your sea account-probably others too but not sure which countries so won't comment

Disembarkation-Our tag number gathered in the Schooner Bar at 8 am and I was home making coffee at 8:30 am after a 10 minute taxi ride-as close to a Florida perk as you can get!

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Nice to read a review from an ex-pat!!! My BFF lives in Dubai and I m always trying to get her to take his cruise with her family!!

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Nice to read a review from an ex-pat!!! My BFF lives in Dubai and I m always trying to get her to take his cruise with her family!!

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my review. Now I just have to learn how to better attach my photos....lol. Hope your friends take this cruise.....lots of room on the ship when everyone else goes ashore;)

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Great review, it has given us first time cruisers some good tips. Hope we enjoy our trip at the end of Jan 2012.

Did you pre book the soda / water packages, my wife is like a sponge with water so am not sure how many bottles of water to pre book, or is it possible to take packages of water onboard with you ??.

Do you get a room card each with the packages printed on, is the soda package good value, luckily we dont drink too much alcohol so will be buying alcohol as required.

I am not sure about the My Time Dining & how it works, we have opted for the 9pm sitting, so hopefullt that is a good choice, we will also be hoping to try out the speciallity restaurants at some point.

Thanks for your experience

Andy & Jane:D

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Thanks for the review! We were on the same cruise but probably a week before (12-19 Dec). Yes, the passenger demographic was quite diverse!

We enjoyed the cruise thoroughly. The gym and Windjammer didn't feel crowded at all - it felt like almost everyone was out on the deck chairs! We spotted a few topless sunbathers :)

Adventure Ocean was great as there weren't many kids onboard. My kids enjoyed the Adventure Ocean program immensely.

 

Abu Dhabi - we did the RCCL tour - Grand mosque and city tour. Would have been cheaper if we had taken a cab, but the tour was fine too.

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Great review, it has given us first time cruisers some good tips. Hope we enjoy our trip at the end of Jan 2012.

Did you pre book the soda / water packages, my wife is like a sponge with water so am not sure how many bottles of water to pre book, or is it possible to take packages of water onboard with you ??.

Do you get a room card each with the packages printed on, is the soda package good value, luckily we dont drink too much alcohol so will be buying alcohol as required.

I am not sure about the My Time Dining & how it works, we have opted for the 9pm sitting, so hopefullt that is a good choice, we will also be hoping to try out the speciallity restaurants at some point.

Thanks for your experience

Andy & Jane:D

 

We did not purchase the water or soda package. We purchased one of the five bottle wine packages and that was reflected on your sea pass card. There was always plenty of ice water and lemonade available in the Windjammer. We brought one six pack of small 300ml cans gingerale in our checked luggage and it arrived. We had a small bottle of water that we didn't finish in port and were able to bring that back through security as well. It was not apparent that travelers were bringing quantities of water on board with a luggage tag on it as others have posted on other threads. If you enjoy cappuccino, Latte-tudes charged $3.15 for an average size take-away cup. That was the price on our account so would include any gratuity.

 

We thought they did an excellent job with MTD.....much better than HAL. We reserved for 8:15 and were able to see a couple of the shows before and one after dinner during the week. We stated that we preferred a table for two on our documents but it would have been fine to sit with others if not available. We always got our table for two. As the tables for two were fairly close, you would find people talking between the tables and later in the cruise became a table for four! We signed up on our CC roll call and though our group was small we met for a drink at sail-away and it was fun chatting with each other on the ship. It included our own little diverse group-UK, South Africa, US, and expats like us in the Middle East. You will probably meet people with fixed dining but also check out your roll call if you haven't already.

 

Happy to answer any other questions and enjoy your cruise

 

Thanks to others for the "thanks":)

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Thanks very much for the great review, I persuaded my friends to take this cruise as their honeymoon trip, they were on the same time as you. So glad that they had a really good time and I am thinking of taking this cruise , I have been on the Brilliance before and thought it was a lovely ship.

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Do you remember the traditional dining times ? I´d like to know whether late seating is at 9:00h, 9:30h or 8:30h.

Alos, do you happen to know, whether people disembarked in DXB during the last night ( in order to catch their night flight home? )

Thank´s!

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I think it's great that the Member Reviews posted to date for this season's Dubai-based cruises (including mine) have all been positive:

 

http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/getreviews.cfm?action=ship&ShipID=261

 

I know our experience was just terrific - those of you preparing for your trip are going to have a blast. I'm jealous, not least because we've actually been trying to find a way to get back on board before the season ends.

 

Late seating was at 8:30, and yes, some people did disembark on the last (overnight) in Dubai.

 

We really enjoyed having wine, soda, and water packages - they made things very convenient in the cabin (water) and at meals. I think they're good value just for the simplicity they bring.

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Our first cruise was the Brilliance, deck 9 midship, not called cabins but suites, we was spoilt going around the Med from Barcelona-Barcelona, in fact couldn't wait for the next cruise, but alas waited 2 years until the next cruise, and that was on the Victoria from Southampton, a special day, twas my 60th birthday, and all three queens were in port, but the QE was off to become a hotel/restaurant I think, anyway we loved the life, and hopefully we will be able to afford a life on the ocean wave again.

Our ideal holiday would be to set off from UK on one of the queens for 30+ days to get us to New Zealand, then rent a vehicle for a few weeks, then pick up another cruise line to bring us back (slowly) to the UK, just in time for the summer.

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We just got off the Brilliance yesterday and I concur with much of what you said.

 

Our embarkation was slow even though I am a Diamond member, primarily because one of the 2 representatives was assisting one family for the entire time we were in line (about 30 minutes.) In addition passengers leaving the regular line had to pass though our line which was confusing.

 

I also thought that the ship was in good shape. Our inside cabin on deck 8 was small, but had plenty of storage and was kept spotlessly clean by our cabin attendant Daria. However the walls are quite this so we could hear our neighbors coughing, moving around, etc.

 

The majority of passengers on our cruise were Europeans (UK, Germans and Spaniards) or Indians and other Asians which I thought was a nice change.

 

We also used MTD, but ended up with the same tablemates and waitress every night - mostly because other dinners were not interested in sharing tables. Our tablemates were a couple from the US and one from the UK and a single from New Zealand. And several nights we were also joined by a German couple.

 

The dining room food was generally fine, but there were highs and low. I enjoyed the filet and the garlic shrimp, but my chocolate soufle was under cooked and the sole was tasteless and had bones in it. The Windjammer was fine for breakfast, but I thought it was pretty terrible at lunch time - a poor selection of cold, soggy food. Luckily we usually arrived back at the ship after the Seaview Cafe opened and found the food there to be quite good.

 

I did not enjoy most of the entertainment and even walked out of several shows, but the music in the lounges was good. And there was a variety of activitites even though we were in port most days.

 

The majority of passengers on our cruise were Europeans (UK, Germans and Spaniards) or Indians and other Asians which I thought was a nice change.

 

The ports were interesting since I had never been to the UAE or Oman before, but felt the tour choices were somewhat limited. Normally we go off on our own or share private tours with others from our roll call, but our role call was almost non-existent so we took the ship's East Coast tour in Fujiharah and the city and Wahiba Wilderness tours in Oman. We made what we felt was a mistake of using the Big Bus (hop on/hop off) in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Their routes are long loops with relatively little of interest, we felt that we would have better off taking ship tours or taxis. Our ship tours in Fujiharah and Oman were good, primarily because of our guides. People with other guides were not as pleased. Note: I wish we knew in advance that there would be shuttles at most ports as it probably would have changed what we did in several.

 

I booked tickets for the Burj Khalifa online so we were able to go to the Observation deck at the end of our day in Dubai.

 

We also enjoyed the humor in many of the Captain's announcements. He brought the ship close enough to shore for us to enjoy the Dubai fireworks on New Years Eve even though it meant closing the casino for several hours.

 

Disembarkation was a non-event for us. We had an 8 AM so we walked off the ship at 4:30 AM with our luggage. There were plenty of taxis even at that hour. Note: They open the Windjammer at 4 AM for breakfast disembarkation morning.

Edited by DEL67

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Dubai-add a day or two pre or post cruise if this is your first visit. There is so much to see and do here even after you shop! The cream colored taxis with different colored roofs are plentiful, metered, and inexpensive. You will see many lined up at the port entrance; HOHO busses were also at the cruise terminal as were free shuttles to a couple of the malls....I believe one was Dubai Mall but not positive; there were also many 4x4's waiting to take people on their scheduled desert dune bashing experience (if you are prone to motion sickness you may want to take some medication before hand)

 

Really like your picture of the Burj Khalifa. Hopefully one day I will be there!

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Del67-thank you for adding the review of your sailing. that was a nice touch for the captain to be close to Dubai for everyone to enjoy the fireworks; hope you enjoyed your visit to Burj Khalifa-it is a spectacular building

 

Peter4076-the QE2 is docked in Dubai and had a NYE celebration onboard....mixed reviews on its success though

 

I hope the many positive comments on recent reviews will entice others to visit the region and perhaps answer some questions for those sailing on Brilliance in the next couple of months :)

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Thank you for your reviews. I am doing this cruise in March. I have been to Dubai before but none of the other places. We are two women travelling together (sisters-in-law). Do you think it will be a problem anywhere not having our men with us if we do not take ships tours?

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Thank you for your reviews. I am doing this cruise in March. I have been to Dubai before but none of the other places. We are two women travelling together (sisters-in-law). Do you think it will be a problem anywhere not having our men with us if we do not take ships tours?

 

I had the same concern as it was just my DD and myself on our recent cruise, but we were fine in Dubai and all the ports. In fact we used the hop on-hop off bus by ourselves in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi with no issues other than we thought we would have been better off taking taxis than the bus because of the long, one way loops.

 

However, if you want to get off the ship in Fujariah, I would reccomend tour as there is little to see there close to the port. Note: The crime rate is very low in the UAE and Oman and I believe that there are laws against bothering women.

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Thank you very much for your review. I'm always curious about what others have to say about Brilliance and I'm so very excited to board her in July!

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Do you remember the traditional dining times ? I´d like to know whether late seating is at 9:00h, 9:30h or 8:30h.

Alos, do you happen to know, whether people disembarked in DXB during the last night ( in order to catch their night flight home? )

Thank´s!

 

For traditional dining, it was 6:30pm for first seating and 9pm for 2nd seating.

 

We were told that you could disembark the ship in Dubai once we had cleared customs upon arrival at the port the morning before the end of the cruise. Yes, we did see passengers disembarking.

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Thank you for posting the helpful review and info. My almost 13 yr old daughter and I will be on the March 19th sailing and are now looking into actitivies. We also will be staying in Dubai a few days after. We plan on doing all the Dubai sights, but were wondering about the other locations. We usually stay away from ship tours. We hope to do some snorkeling when in Fujiharah, just need to figure out which is best place and best secure way to get there in order to spend the most time on beach. We also dont want to be stranded hours away, without a reliable way back to ship in short time.

 

Also, anyone know which place/city would have the most fun/extreme dune bashing? We are now looking into the safaris with dunes, camel rides and sand surfing.

 

Its been a few years since we sailed RCCL, love Celebrity, and have been on other lines recent trips.

 

Thank you!

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Thanks again! Any special things you can recommend either on board or on land?

 

I definitely would have dinner in Chops Grille. They did a terrific job and the steak was so tender.

 

In addition to the Grand Mosque, I would recommend visiting Bait Al Zubair Museum in Muscat. Be sure to check out the Amouage Perfume in the gift shop.

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Thank you for posting the helpful review and info. My almost 13 yr old daughter and I will be on the March 19th sailing and are now looking into actitivies. We also will be staying in Dubai a few days after. We plan on doing all the Dubai sights, but were wondering about the other locations. We usually stay away from ship tours. We hope to do some snorkeling when in Fujiharah, just need to figure out which is best place and best secure way to get there in order to spend the most time on beach. We also dont want to be stranded hours away, without a reliable way back to ship in short time.

 

Also, anyone know which place/city would have the most fun/extreme dune bashing? We are now looking into the safaris with dunes, camel rides and sand surfing.

 

Its been a few years since we sailed RCCL, love Celebrity, and have been on other lines recent trips.

 

Thank you!

 

There is a very nice Hilton Resort Hotel on the beach in Fujairah. It has a nice sandy beach, you can snorkel there, and an outdoor restaurant called Breezes. I believe you can get a day pass for 57 AED ($15pp) to use the facilities. I'd send an email to confirm. It is not too far from the port and a taxi would probably be 30AED.

 

I have used Arabian Adventures when friends have visited for the dune bashing and BBQ in the desert experience from Dubai. A bit touristy but fun. Have a great trip!

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