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G85 SS

Brilliance of the Seas: A Truly Brilliant Cruise - Review

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As most of us on here know, one leads to two, two leads to four, and so on. After my two previous cruises having been on two of the largest ships, not only within Royal Caribbean Cruise Line but in the world, it was time to take a step back and find something a little smaller.

 

After talking with my girlfriend and brainstorming ideas, Brilliance of the Seas out of Tampa, FL for a 5 Day Caribbean Itinerary on December 16, 2013 seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Having never been on a Radiance Class ship, I was truly looking forward to this experience after hearing so many positive statements about this class.

 

Upon originally booking the cruise, we decided on a Balcony Stateroom. After having my first Balcony back in 2011, I have stuck with that category. It's pleasant to have your own personal space to sit as you sail out of ports or come into ports. Or to just sit and enjoy a meal or read a book. Once the booking process was complete, it was time to start logging in each day to watch the countdown clock tick away (as if the tickers aren't enough).

 

Fast forward to a few weeks before our cruise set sail and the "dreaded" price drop happened. Balconies were almost half the price of what I spent, but the good news is the price for the Junior Suite Guarantee (W) nearly mirrored what I paid for my Balcony, so a phone call was made to RCCL to see about getting bumped up. Well, little lady luck paid me a visit and I was able to grab the very last Junior Suite Guarantee they were offering at the price shown and it only added $30 to my entire booking total. Since this was my first time having a guarantee category I was a little uneasy as I watch the days tick away into single digits without being assigned a stateroom yet.

 

December 9th came and as I signed in to see if we were assigned a Junior Suite yet, I saw something unexpected. Not only was I assigned a room, but we were bumped up again to a Grand Suite! After rubbing my eyes a few times I realized we were going to be sailing away not only with a totally new experience with this ship, but a brand new experience with the benefits that come along with a Grand Suite. My anxiety was already starting to climb with the cruise reaching a week away, but this Christmas Present from Royal Caribbean awaiting us heightened my anxiety that much more!

 

With the wait finally over, it was the morning of and we were heading off to the port. I will say, getting in and out of the Port of Tampa is one of the easiest I have experienced. And definitely a massive difference from Port Everglades back in June for our Oasis Cruise. Well, the car was parked, bags were dropped off and we were group 1 to board the ship. Once our group was called, I found it hard not to run like a 5 year old at Disney, but I was able to restrain myself.

 

The Gangway led us to deck 5 where we had our SeaPass photo's taken and boarded the ship. Once on board, it was time to explore. My overall impression of the ship is simple. Beautiful. There are so many things I love about the ship that just picking a few highlights seems hard to do, but after checking out all of the venues around the ship, I had a feeling most of our time spent would be spent in Schooner Bar and in the Solarium. Which is exactly what happened.

 

Lunch was held at the Windjammer Café and as soon as I walked in I realized right away what I missed so much about the "smaller" ships. And that is the availability of seating in the Windjammer. Lunch was very good as it always is and once we were finished with lunch, the announcement was made that the rooms on board were ready for our enjoyment... The moment we have been waiting for.

 

As we trekked down the port hallway towards the front of the ship, we located our Stateroom (1036). The "golden key" was used and behind the closed door that promptly opened for us was a pleasant surprise. The room had was seemed like a thousand square feet of space. The closets had enough room to hang our entire wardrobe that we packed plus what was left at home it seemed. A lovely island/mini bar was also there for our enjoyment and to our surprise had a nice array of complimentary fruits for us to enjoy throughout the cruise. Checking the bathroom was yet again another pleasant surprise. Two sinks, a full bath tub and additional counter space for whatever we needed it for. Definitely a HUGE benefit over the other staterooms. After looking around inside the room, I walked out onto the balcony and what a balcony it was. Two chairs, a table and a lounger with room to spare.

 

Now that our initial look around was over and our child like smiles were subsiding, it was time to head up to the Sky Bar for the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle. This small gathering was very nice as it's always great to meet new people. And speak to those in person who you have communicated with over the internet for several months or even years. I would also like to take this time to again say it was nice meeting all of you and I look forward to sailing with each and every one of you again in the future. :)

 

Following the Meet and Mingle we completed the muster drill and began to sail away. By this time it was time for the Concierge Lounge to open up so we headed there for a short while before sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Concierge Lounge was also a very nice venue to visit and we spent some time in there almost every evening. And when we visited it never seemed to be crowded in there as some have experienced. After a drink, we headed down to the front of the ship as we began to sail underneath the Sunshine Skyway. As we crossed underneath it, the ships horn blasted and we were finally off to begin our magnificent 5 day Caribbean Cruise...

 

Downtown Tampa Skyline:

TampaBaySkyline_zpsfdf5ed60.jpg

 

Sunshine Skyway Bridge, sailing into an absolutely gorgeous sunset:

IMG_4630_zpsbfa94739.jpg

 

Stay tuned for more to come. :)

Edited by G85 SS

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My family is on the New Years Cruise on Brilliance. Can't wait to read more.

 

I will be posting more in the coming days. Hopefully it will all be done before the new years cruise departs.

 

I can say they will most definitely enjoy the ship. I know I did but boy did 5 days fly right by. Still too short for my taste. :p

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Getting bumped up from a balcony to a GS for $35.00. Don't you wish it was for a 12 nighter???

 

Oh I do. lol.

 

There were a lot of people on this cruise who got bumped up stateroom categories. Another couple also went with the JS GTY and was bumped to a Grand Suite while two couples who were originally booked for Grand Suites were bumped up to Owners Suites.

 

It was a very generous cruise for a lot of us on board for sure. Don't know how I am going to be able to go back to a Balcony after that experience. Haha

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Key West:

 

With the backdrop of the setting sun and the appropriately named Sunshine Skyway Bridge all but a memory, day two was upon us and we were calling in Key West, Florida. Now, I live in Florida, take a cruise from Florida to travel to..... Florida. Don't judge. :p . But if truth be told, I have lived in Florida my whole life (26 years) and have never once been further south than South Beach in Miami. This port of call was a selling point for the both of us. As we woke up to the sun beaming rays of sunlight into our stateroom, we decided it was time to head to the Windjammer for Breakfast before heading out and about before we arrived in Key West. Again, this trip to the Windjammer was perfect. No lines, empty tables all around and wonderful food.

 

After fueling up for the day, it was time to head to Lattitudes to meet a group from this forum for a Cabin Crawl. This event took about 30 minutes and we had a group from every category of stateroom from Interior to Owners Suite participating for all to see. This was the first time participating in the event and I like being able to see all the different options in person because sometimes those pictures online aren't of your actual room. Who would have guessed? :eek:

 

Once the event was over, we all parted from this gathering and began doing our own thing again. Since our arrival in Key West wasn't until about 11:30am and clearance was after noon, we decided to grab some lunch then head off of the ship at about 12:30. This cruise we decided against booking any excursions as we just wanted to sit back and relax for 5 days and relax we did. Our mission in Key West was to go to the Southernmost Point. From where Brilliance docked to Southernmost Point is just a hair over a 1 mile walk one way. The walk there was very relaxing along Whitehead St and it was nice to soak up some of the history of my home state that I didn't know much about along the way. We passed places like the Truman Annex, The Oldest Schoolhouse and the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum. Once at the Southernmost point, we took our pictures and began a walk back along Duval St.

 

The walk back along Duval St was just as relaxing and enjoyable for us. Once we neared the shopping area we happened across a very unique store called "Abstracta". I almost walked right by it but my girlfriend caught it and from the outside it reminded me a little bit of the store "Obscura" on the Science Channel show called "Oddities". Once inside, though, we realized it wasn't the same sort of unique items, but still, very unique none-the-less. We spent the better part of an hour walking around in this store and finally settled on buying two different items for presents. They have all sorts of art pieces and décor for your house in this store and if you have never been to it, I HIGHLY recommend you walk around the store. The owner is a very, very nice gentlemen and will do anything to help you out. It is located at the corner of Duval St and Angela St.

 

After I was finished driving the other half up a wall from all the pictures I was taking, we headed back to the ship. Once back on board, we enjoyed the rest of our evening preparing for Formal Night and taking pictures. Of course this included going out on deck for sail away and to catch another sunset. The sunset started out promising as we had some cloud cover so I was expecting the sky to light up with vivid colors of orange, pink and purple. Sadly, clouds on the horizon had other plans but a beautiful sunset was still had.

 

Once the sail away was complete and the sun cast it's final ray on the day, it was time to reflect on the time spent in Key West over our dinner in the Main Dining Room. We both felt Key West was a great port to visit. There's a ton of history within walking distance to where the ship docks, plenty of bar life and of course, shopping for those who love shopping. The only negative I can think of, and this is being picky, is a few additional hours in port would have worked out great. But there was plenty of time for us to accomplish what we had in mind so I guess it doesn't even qualify as a negative, but more of a personal want.

 

After reflecting on our day in Key West over dinner and enjoying short conversations with Raveen, Katia and Anthony (Assistant Waiter, Waitress and Head Waiter in order) the evening was sadly coming to an end. And with it, another day was already in the books. But this left us with a positive outlook on day three. A day to spend at sea and really get to know this beautiful ship: Brilliance of the Seas.

 

Some images to leave you with from Key West.

 

Tank Island:

KeyWest2_zpsf1be79fa.jpg

 

Whistle Bar/The Bull:

WhistleBar_zps153e52f1.jpg

(Can you spot the beginner photographer error in panoramic photography? lol)

 

Sunset:

KeyWestSunset_zps71d8c630.jpg

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Important question - did you get frozen key-lime-pie-on-a-stick?

 

The best way to avoid leaning buildings is to get a special tilting lens for an SLR. I don't even know if they are still made, we saw references to them back in the good ol' days of 35mm photography. Me, I just point the camera up and say " Ignore the leaning buildings"

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Important question - did you get frozen key-lime-pie-on-a-stick?

 

The best way to avoid leaning buildings is to get a special tilting lens for an SLR. I don't even know if they are still made, we saw references to them back in the good ol' days of 35mm photography. Me, I just point the camera up and say " Ignore the leaning buildings"

 

No. I don't like Key Lime Pie.

 

And There's a filter in Adobe CS6 called "Adaptive Wide Angle" that allows you to straighten the horizon and buildings. But these were done in CS5 and I am new at photoshop so I am sure there's a way to correct it in CS5 I don't know about. Or at least minimize it.

 

However, the leaning buildings isn't what I was speaking of. Keep looking at it and see if you find something else. lol.

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Hi, thanks for the review and pics so far. Did your stateroom attendant happen to be Ito? Just wondered...he's a friend of mine and he works on Deck 10.

 

As a matter of fact it was him! I will be speaking more about the service later on in the review but he has been hands down, the best stateroom attendant I have ever had. The first day of the cruise he already knew the both of us by name. And the last day he did a small gesture that I thought was above and beyond anything else I have received before as well.

 

IMG_5398_zpsd1b534bc.jpg

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However, the leaning buildings isn't what I was speaking of. Keep looking at it and see if you find something else. lol.

 

White #18 Jersey/Blue shorts guy?

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As a matter of fact it was him! I will be speaking more about the service later on in the review but he has been hands down, the best stateroom attendant I have ever had. The first day of the cruise he already knew the both of us by name. And the last day he did a small gesture that I thought was above and beyond anything else I have received before as well.

 

IMG_5398_zpsd1b534bc.jpg

 

 

We were in 1034 on the Dec 7 sailing and Ito was our attendant. I agree, he was the best attendant we've had so far. He also left us a hand-written note.

 

I love your sunset Skyway Bridge pic. We were still out in the middle of the bay when the sun went below the horizon, so I didn't get the pictures I would have liked. Maybe on our next trip in March.

Edited by nolesrule

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Lol, yep. Who says cloning isn't possible? :p

 

I expect I have won a free cruise...line keychain.

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I expect I have won a free cruise...line keychain.

 

lol. Sadly, I only got 5 questions right in trivia so I don't have a keychain...however, I do have a Freedom of the Seas LED Keychain flashlight....

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As a matter of fact it was him! I will be speaking more about the service later on in the review but he has been hands down, the best stateroom attendant I have ever had. The first day of the cruise he already knew the both of us by name. And the last day he did a small gesture that I thought was above and beyond anything else I have received before as well.

 

IMG_5398_zpsd1b534bc.jpg

 

How funny! Ito is a good guy, have known him for many years. Glad you had a good cruise!

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How funny! Ito is a good guy, have known him for many years. Glad you had a good cruise!

 

 

Yeah, he did a great job. If I ever end up back on Brilliance I'd like to run up and say hi to him again. Like I said, by far best room attendant I have ever had.

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My daughter wants to know if she should bring her afro and 70's dress. Is there a 70's night?

There's a 70's dance party.

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Before I continue, I would just like to say I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday. Now, continuing on with the review.

 

Day 3 was a magnificent day at sea on board this pleasant ship. With the sea day came plenty of time to explore some more areas of the ship not yet explored.

 

With the sun shining brightly to begin the day, it was off for breakfast yet again in the windjammer. Prior to the cruise I was fully planning on going to the main dining room for breakfast or even have breakfast delivered to our room off of the Main Dining Room menu, but we never did that. Partly due to how close we were to the windjammer plus the fact that every time we went, there was always a place to sit down and enjoy a meal.

 

This day we decided to eat out on the back deck where Rita's Cantina is located. I loved being able to find a spot outside to sit where we could smell that wonderful ocean air and look out onto the wake of the ship. I certainly wish more ships with had designated dining areas outside because this was a great positive for me. Sometimes going to the windjammer, or anywhere else, then bringing food back to your chair at the pool deck isn't very practical.

 

After a meal to begin our day we were off to spend some time pool side (as we have already done the first couple of evenings in the Solarium). The Solarium in this class of ship can be described with one word. Amazing. I love the fact that the pool is heated to begin with. Then beyond that, I love the overall design of the Solarium. It definitely made me want to come back again and again just to look around. And since we loved the Solarium so much we spend very little time by the outdoor pool. The actual size of the pool is nice too and honestly, Oasis could use a pool of this size or even a little bigger to make up for the lame excuse of a pool in the Solarium on that ship.

 

When time was not spent in the Solarium, we were usually found in the Schooner Bar. On my earlier cruises I used to fancy the Schooner bar because of the nautical theming throughout and the views of the ocean. It is the perfect bar for a cruise ship in my opinion. Walking down the hallway leading to Schooner Bar, we almost always detected the smell of what seemed to be a woodfire grill. Such a wonderful aroma. Not sure if it was coming from one of the specialty dining restaurants accessible through Schooner Bar or not but it just added to the ambiance of Schooner Bar for me.

 

Walking through Schooner Bar, you pass by Next Cruise as well as those famous Radiance Class self leveling pool tables. Then you reach The Colony Club. We didn't spend too much too much time in here other than for Quest. But while Quest is the topic let me say....

 

By far the best Quest we have ever been to! An English couple in our group was down to do anything and everything they possibly could for our team to win. And when I say anything and everything, I mean it. Let's just let your minds fill in the blanks with what happened when the following questions were asked:

 

"I need your team number and a guy wearing women's panties"

"I need your team number and a woman from your team with three bra's not being worn".

 

Another area of the ship that was really nice to see again was the centrum. It was an area all but forgotten about from the bigger ships I have been on but when I saw it, I was immediately brought back to my first cruise. The Centrum has LED lights behind some design work going up one of the walls as well as LED lights on each deck that intersects with centrum which fade into several different colors and during shows such as the Ariel Show, they are in sync with the music being played. Personally, I thought the Ariel Show was very neat but too short. However, it's not exactly an area that you can keep a show going on for 45 minutes to an hour so I can understand why it's short.

 

After the show, it was off to the elevators and this is another highlight of this class of ship for me. The elevators that face the water are brilliant. It's nice to have scenery on the outside to be looking at while you are heading up or down. I can definitely see why Radiance sails in Alaska because who would want to miss even a second of that breathtaking scenery? And when it comes time for me to book my Alaskan Cruise I will be looking for none other than a Radiance Class ship.

 

Some other notables around the ship for me is the bow. This was a highlight for me on the Freedom Class but I was highly disappointed in the only opportunity to be out on the bow on Oasis was by an invite for sail away from Nassau. So I took full advantage of the bow being open during this cruise and with it came some pretty amazing photographs. And speaking of pictures, I think this is what everybody clicks on a review for. So without further ado.

 

Brilliance of the Seas in all it's beauty:

BrillianceoftheSeas_zps1deb35a8.jpg

 

Outdoor Pool/Viking Crown:

VikingCrownLoungeandPool_zps883ff5b2.jpg

 

Solarium:

Solarium_zps5bc46fd4.jpg

 

Solarium2_zps68b81f9e.jpg

 

If anybody would like to see additional information on some of the venues around the ship I did not cover, click the following for another great review of this same cruise. Thread by DarthGrady and posted with his permission. Thank you again Grady.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1958948

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