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Brilliance of the Seas REVIEW - Jan 2-13/06

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A few quick facts:


Length of cruise: 11 days

Itinerary: Labadee, Aruba, Curaçao, Panama Canal/Cristobal Pier, Costa Rica

Cruise Director: Becky "Hello Luv!" Thompson -- who, by the way was proposed to by her boyfriend on this cruise (another member of the cruise director team told us) so if you see her, give her a big congratulations!

Formal nights: 3

Buffets: Chocolate, Poolside, Gala

Horse Racing Derby: Yes

'Win a Cruise' Bingo: No! There's just a cash prize bingo. :(



Day 1 - Departing Miami


This was a bit disorganized at the terminal. When we arrived at 10:30am there were people everywhere waiting for the security checkpoint to open. No lines were clearly marked, and everyone bunched together, getting tighter and tighter as more people spilled in from the escalators. No one from Royal Caribbean was there to direct anyone, and when the security opened up around 11:10am it was a mass bottleneck of people stampeding towards two checkpoints.


The Windjammer was supposed to be open for lunch by 11:30am but did not open until 12pm. It seemed that there were a few time typos in their schedules and posted notices.


The rooms were ready at 1pm (in our case, a rep from RCCL just pushed open the main locked door on our deck and said, "Well it looks like everything is ready, I suppose you can go in." I doubt he was supposed to have done it that way, but there were no complaints from us as we had just suffered from a red-eye flight and were going on 30 hours with no sleep.


When we made it to our room (Deck 2, inside) we were greeted with a hot stuffy room reeking of cigarette smoke. We immediately rang the front desk and notified them of this stench. The stuffy room was attributed to the power loss that the ship had after docking for two hours, meaning that the A/C was still being fixed.


We managed to take a two hour nap in the horrible room, and our stateroom attendant Victor came in and told us how there was a woman who previously smoked like a train in our room, even though she was asked to smoke in other parts of the ship. Victor put things right for us and fumigated the room with a big fan and some sort of magical odour absorber. We were extremely happy with all his efforts and our room smelled as though a smoker had never even been there.


Dinner was great, and we had no complaints about the food the entire time. Our waiter, Tamas from Hungary was absolutely fantastic and dead on with his recommendations from the menu. A few notable standouts were the NY striploin, rack of lamb, lobster, herb-crusted cod and some of the thai stir-fry dishes. They did have the strawberry soup as well!


We didn't see the show that night as sleep seemed a tad more important for us! The entertainer that night was Carl Guerra and the RCCL singers and dancers.



Day 2 - At Sea (Formal Night)


I think one of the best parts of doing a cruise longer than 7 days is that we felt not a pressured to cram so many things to do into the days. We really enjoyed taking things at our own pace (and not doing all the crazy things for shipshape dollars like we did the last time!).


They had a cooking demonstration today that was really interesting to watch -- even though we just managed to catch the last 20 minutes of it, it was really entertaining.


They also had the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception that we somehow overlooked and ended up missing. It didn't seem to be a huge loss unless the happiness of your vacation depended on free champagne!


This was also the first night of the Karaoke Idol search. We watched this event because on our last cruise we were completely entertained by some of the people who butchered their songs -- excellent! This time around, there were a few, but it seemed a tad more competitive because they select the winners to perform on the last day of the cruise in the Pacifica Theatre for a big finale show.


We were still a tad foggy from getting on schedule with sleeping that we skipped out on the formal dining room (making our table think that they had scared us off -- not quite!!!). We decided to dine under the stars in the outside seating of the Windjammer. This was a really nice change for us as we've always eaten in the dining room. The selection of the food is similar to what you can get up in the dining room, but the presentation is lacking (just a tad!).


The entertainment was Judy Kolba -- which we missed and regretted because our tablemates told us she was fantastic.



Day 3 - Labadee (Smart Casual)


The tendering process for Labadee is painful. We were caught in a sun-trap with the sun beating off the side of the boat on to the tender, cooking everyone on the top who had no shelter from the sun. If you can get a seat underneath on the tender, do it...we were waiting a while in that position waiting for the tender to fill up. I ended up putting a towel on my head so I wouldn't start to broil!


Labadee is a nice stop to get away from the hustle and bustle of the other ports to come. There are no streets and cars and it's nice and quiet, with the only sounds coming from the odd band playing music at some of the beaches. They have a little shuttle that can take you to certain areas, but the place isn't all that big, and it's not a far walk to get around.


There are people waiting to grab loungers for you -- as we found out, you can't really say no to them, they insist on bringing them over for you and expecting a tip.


We brought our own snorkelling gear with us and were sadly disappointed with the conditions in the water. Haiti has been so badly over-fished that we only managed to spot 10 fish between the two of us -- and we were told that the beach we were at (Hideaway Beach) was the best place to snorkel.


The BBQ lunch was awful! First of all, the area that we saw where it was supposed to be served was really tucked away past a bathroom area. You had to follow the smell to get to it! There were meagre pickings of hamburgers and salmon, and big plastic containers of coleslaw and rice, not much else. We were later told by some of our tablemates that we must have been in a crappy area because they feasted on ribs and chicken and all sorts of goodies. Lesson learned there...if you want some good food, stick to the areas closer to the tender area!


The children's areas looked fun, but a few people commented on the fact that none of the kid's areas had any sort of shade to play in, so they'd be fried under the sun.


The market area just looked like you'd be swarmed by vendors so we stayed away from that. One funny thing was that the hair braiding area had security guards. Hmmm...what for, we'd like to know!


The show that night was a RCCL singer and dancer production "Big Time Swing". We're not all that interested in the RCCL productions, we're a bit picky about entertainment! (hmmm, sounds a bit snobby, but it's the nicest way I can say it)


There was also late night Comedy with Carl Guerra. It was just so-so. We've seen better comedians.


We also tried the Seaview Cafe and we disappointed with the change to an Italian menu of just pizza, pannini and pasta. We had read about some of the great greasy snacks you could get and weren't able to try them. They still had a drink menu up and we tried to order a frozen coke -- but that was also part of the "old" menu and we couldn't get it. We split a pizza (our server seemed shocked that we wanted to split it instead of pigging out) and it came very quickly. You have a choice of a LOT of toppings to customize your pizza. The one bonus is that the pizza here is miles ahead of the pizza in the Windjammer.



Day 4 - At Sea (Casual)


They had the Belly Flop Competition today...and all you can really say is "ouch"! It's fun to watch!


The horse racing derby was today as well. We never watched this and we don't really understand it either, but I know some people like to know that they do it on the ship!


This was the day that I started to get a cold as well. Not fun, but at least we packed some meds in case it happened. One recommendation for this, because I had to end up buying more meds, do it on land! The ship's price for a pack of Dristan cold pills was $10.50!!!!


I stayed in the room most of the day and napped and tried to fight off the cold. Hub went to dinner without me because I didn't want to get anyone else sick. I ordered room service for dinner -- you can get the majority of the dining room menu sent to your room! It was fantastic! The really funny part came when our waiter, Tamas found out I was sick so he asked my hub if there's anything for dinner that I would want (thinking that I wouldn't have ordered room service), so just as I finish the room service dinner, Tamas was knocking at my door with dinner number two! I was blown away that he would hand-deliver my dinner when he's serving 18 other people -- but that's just the type of great person Tamas was.


So in my room I had a total of four, FOUR! strawberry soups, two entrées, and a few appetizers, and two desserts. Hub cleared out part of the mini fridge to make room for stock-piling the soups, lol! We had strawberry soup everywhere!


We went to the show that night and saw Mark Donoghue and he was great! He plays 4 or 5 instruments (not all at once!) and it makes for a very entertaining show.


Just as a side note -- we had read on these boards about some bevvies called a 'BBC'. Well let me tell you, they are addictive!


We also visited the disco on Deck 13 with the revolving bar which is sooo cool. (Either that or we're just easily entertained...or maybe that's the BBC's fault.) Juan from Chile is the bartender there and he's extremely entertaining with his little bar tricks (we also learned a lot about Chile and South America from him, so we weren't just there to booze it up!).



Day 5 - Aruba (Casual/Caribbean)


This port is crazy busy! We were in awe of the number of cars that zoom around the port area -- in fact, I was nearly backed over by a van! Don't let all the pretty colours distract you there.


There's a large market when you get out of the port just to your right, and across the street there's a mall with a good variety of stores to check out.


We signed up for a tour with the ship to do some snorkelling with the Jolly Pirates. I had looked at the prices with them seperately from the ship and the price was still pretty good through RCCL. One thing to note! In the Explorations booklet that RCCL provides, there are tours that are offered that are not printed in that booklet...so if something is full that you want to go see, check with the front desk, there could be other times available!


We also ended up on the banana bus that we laughed at when we first got off the ship...and it lived up to our expectations of be gloriously tacky! Our driver was hillarious, honking along with the music and providing a lot of entertainment.


The snorkelling in Aruba is fantastic. Lots of fish to see and beautiful, clear water. The fish at the shipwreck are much bigger, even though the water is a bit more choppy. At the last dive site they bring out the rope swing and let everyone have a go. Hub tried to do a flip off it and ended up with a huge impact bruise from his calf up to his ribs...show-off! (at least I have the film of it to laugh at!)


The entertainment tonight was a magician, Phil Keller. He was okay. Nothing earth-shattering or anything like the creepy things that Criss Angel can do, but we weren't trying to leave the theatre so it kept us entertained well enough.


The caribbean poolside buffet was also later on in the evening. A lot of BBQ items, fruit, desserts...all good stuff!


Another side note: I'm not sure if it's just on Saturday nights in Aruba, but around 10pm or so you can see a whole bunch of hotels on the coast setting off fireworks. It's a really neat thing to watch while you're on the ship.



Day 6 - Curaçao (Casual/ Rock 'n' Roll)


Curaçao feels like you're in a little storybook town. The colours of the buildings are amazing and the architecture is fantastic. They're doing some upgrades to the pier area with some landscaping which looks amazing. You can take the cobbled walkway that they're created and follow it to the ferry to shuttle you downtown as the floating bridge is out of service for upgrades until (I think) May.


Trying to actually find the curaçao liqueur there took a while. We managed to find two small liquor stores that sold the bottles (and not just the stores that look like they've had them sitting on the shelves for two months next to keychains and t-shirts).


The nice thing about the shopping in Willemstad is that most of the roads/alleys in the shopping area are for foot traffic only so you can wander around without being run over (bonus for me!). There are a lot more stores than what we found in Aruba, either that or it was just more interesting to walk around and look at the shops. We walked by the floating market and took some great pictures of the produce that was on display (namely some huge carrots that were the size of my forearm! cool!).


We didn't do any organized tours at this stop, so we pretty much wandered around and discovered things for ourselves.


The entertainment for tonight was another RCCL production showtime that we skipped.



Day 7 - At Sea (Formal)


On every at sea day we went and worked off dinner from the previous night at the shipshape centre. My only complaint is that they don't provide any source of water in there. No cups of water or even a water fountain, so you have to drag your sweaty self to the Windjammer for some bevvies afterwards. Another notice they should have up in the gym is that you have to wipe down the equipment you've used with the cleaning cloths they provide (I didn't see anyone using them when I was there, ew!).


Well, on to more important things, like the Quest! They did an excellent job with switching the tasks up this time, so all of the people who came prepared with items were shut down! It did end fairly close to the other Quest game that we've seen, but it's a definite do not miss!


Other important things were the men's sexy legs competition which had enough speedo/leg-baring in one day to meet your quota for the year. One guy was a gymnastic pro and did all these crazy flips and handsprings.


The entertainment (if you can call it that) tonight was the horrible Joey Van. We were really looking forward to seeing this comedian who claimed he could do impressions. It was a pretty insulting show...more for our intelligence than anything. To sum it up, if you picked a random sloppy guy out of a crowd, boozed him up and gave him a suitcase full of wigs you'd have the entertainment of Joey Van. We wanted to leave but had the misfortune of getting ourselves good seats so we didn't want to interrupt the show for others. We saw quite a few people leave during the show and we were envious.



Day 8 - Panama Canal/Cristobal Pier (Casual/Country)


We decided to not get up at the crack of dawn to watch the ship go into the locks...instead we figured we would catch the encore of it going in the opposite direction around lunchtime. This turned out to be a great idea as we staked out seats on the outside tables of the Windjammer so we could have lunch and watch everything going on.


This was one of the highlights of the cruise. Seeing how the locks work and how the ship is moved through was very interesting. The local person they bring on board to do a commentary on it all was really hard to hear from where we were, and his accent while he was speaking was also hard to understand at times. But no worry, I think we got the point!


We got off at Cristobal Pier and they have an enclosed market to walk through and shop at. There are stores and there are independent vendors in a marketplace selling all sorts of carvings and beads (and more!). We found that the items you could get in Panama (and Costa Rica) were more interesting than the more rinky-dink touristy things that they tried to sell on the small islands.


There were also adults and children dressed in traditional Panama outfits which were amazing to see, and there were native people selling some of their wares in the market area.


I also manage to walk into the little general store there and see a small notice trying to sell ***** for $10 a pill...took a picture of it and it makes for a great laugh when we show it to people!


I think the only complaint about Panama was the disembarking from Deck 3. They lined you up down the hallway of the cabins just to get out. Good luck to anyone trying to get in and out of their cabin on deck 3...you had to fight hundreds of cranky people. (Oh, and this disembarking would not be recommended for anyone who is claustraphobic...it gets pretty cozy and warm with everyone lined up).


Getting back on the ship was an equal pain in the bum. You still walk through the hallways with the cabins, but they cram in all the x-ray machines that you have to get through. Hub also managed to accidentally boot someone's room service tray about 6 feet down the hall...yet another problem with the deck 3 set-up.


The entertainment this night was Craig Dahn who was a crazy talented pianist. We wondered why, on his poster, they showed him all buffed up wearing a white tank top...almost looked like it was going to be a strange stripper show!


The Love and Marriage game was also on tonight. This was excellent and very VERY funny. Becky does a fantastic job of hosting this show.



Day 9 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica (Casual/70s Attire)


We had arranged an independent tour with Charlie Soto based on the reviews we read on these boards, and he did not disappoint! Our tour went from 9am to 5pm and was spent seeing monkeys and sloths, a banana plantation, ziplining, touring the canals, having lunch at Bonita Beach, and eventually shopping downtown. Charlie was a great guide and really customized the tour to what everyone wanted to do.


I had a few problems with two things, the first seeing some of the locals exploit the endangered animals to make money from the tourists. This really made me angry...especially after Charlie telling us that this sort of thing is illegal, and if the police come by they will fine you for it. The fact that we stopped for one of these people holding a sloth that had been ripped from it's tree for some of the people on our tour to touch, hold and photograph really bothered me. I wanted no part of it and stayed in the van.


The second problem I had was with the ziplining. Even though I was a tad apprehensive about it (okay, maybe freaked out is a better description) I really wanted to try it. I'm not afraid of heights or anything, so that wasn't the problem. The problem was with the amount of training the people at the Jungle Breeze place actually give you. There is a practice/demonstration cable, but no one was able to use it. And, someone had to ask them how to brake! And so, after a brief chat and demonstration they throw you in the deep end, right on the first platform, 80ft above the jungle.


Well, my problems were a combination of not enough training and no practice because I was stuck in the middle of the cable swinging there after doing what I was told to in our little 'orientation'. I was forced to pull myself along the cable to the other side (which isn't an easy thing!) and once I was there I pretty much lost it. Not really having a good idea of what to do, combined with no other option but to pull yourself along if you stop was a scary thing. They don't have ropes or sticks or anything to help you out in that situation.


They arranged for one of the employees to 'taxi' me to the 4th platform (once you're at the first one, the only way out is to do 3 more cables). I was shaken up, down $40 and feeling a tad ticked off.


Conversations that we had with others who ziplined once we got back to the ship had some safety concerns as well, and from what I gather, if the ziplining people don't do a better job training the first-time zipliners they're going to have a serious accident on their hands soon (if it hasn't already happened!).


The canal tour was good, but HOT. We saw a lot of animals (crocodile, iguana, sloths, etc) and it was around a 1 hour tour.


We also went to the Del Monte banana plantation and watched how they harvest and prepare the bananas for shipping. I would have loved if they had someone from the Del Monte place there to ask questions to, but it was a cool thing to see otherwise.


Bonita Beach was beautiful. The surf there was great to watch, and the little restaurant was right on the beach. My only recommendation is that you eat the menu items that are deep-fried. I had a chicken sandwich and the temperature of the chicken seemed a bit off (neither hot or cold...). Some people had huge party platters of deep-fried plantains, chicken wings and other deep-fried items, while others had snapper and other seafood dishes. For two chicken sandwiches and Cokes it came to a whopping $4.


We were also taken to a local grocery store where we were able to buy coffee for a much better price than at the markets closer to the pier. Charlie was able to translate things for us and make sure we weren't being ripped off!


When we talked to others back on the ship we discovered what a bargain it was to book with Charlie. Some people paid $89 just to go on the canal boat tour. Our grand total was $49 for the whole day, and an extra $40 if you did the ziplining.


Entertainment tonight was 'Tango Buenos Aires', but unfortunately the female dancer had hurt herself in the first show so it was only available as a pre-recorded showing in the theatre that no one really enjoyed. We heard that it was one of the best shows on the ship to see -- at least the second seating people got to see it live!



Day 10 - At Sea (Formal)


The infamous lobster night! I think part of the entertainment is seeing how many lobster tails your tablemates can choke down. Tamas, our waiter, told us that the most he's seen one person eat is 12 tails. Whoa!


I should also mention our other server, Adrianna from Mexico...she was also fantastic and kept our glasses full!


There was another cooking demonstration today, but this time Becky, the cruise director, took part. You could tell there were certain 'scripted' funny things put in for her to look goofy next to the chef and the volunteer out of the audience...but one thing happened that wasn't scripted in! They were making black forest cake and Becky slipped and dropped her cake into her bowl of sad, unwhipped cream and it actually sprayed all over one poor woman. It was absolutely hillarious but Becky was apologizing like crazy to the woman and offering to have her clothes laundered.


Today we also tried to get some pool chairs for the first time ever. We're not big fans of sitting out in the sun, but wow...are chairs ever hard to come by! All those towels and books sure do need a lounger to hang out on. We read that RCCL monitors the chairs, and when a chair is left unattended for over half an hour they take the items to lost and found. I never saw this happen and I wonder if they ever did it to anyone.


We did manage to find seats in the solarium, but the pool in there is a tad chilly. And yes, it's still saltwater, but I didn't mind. They also have a little cafe in the solarium where you can get sandwiches and salads. We never tried it, but it looked pretty good.


The entertainment was a Salute to the Temptations. Don't miss this show! Even though we're a younger couple we both enjoyed the talent that these five guys brought to the show. And it wasn't all signing and dancing -- well, a lot of it was, but there was a lot of audience participation which was a nice way to break up a show.


Another side note: We became pretty chummy with one of the bar service people (not naming names on this one!) and we did actually manage to score some free drinks!



Day 11 - At Sea (Casual)


Always the most depressing part of the trip. Part of you wants to go home, and the other part doesn't want it to end. We found ourselves getting a little tired of the fare offered in the Windjammer for breakfast...but they really did have everything you could possibly want to eat.


We spent this day working off the dinner at the Shipshape Centre and just enjoying parts of the ship that we had come to like.


We started to pack in the afternoon just so we didn't feel rushed in the evening to grab and stuff our things into suitcases.


There were a few napkin and towel folding events held today, and the final cash prize bingo (that's when I found out that there was no 'win a cruise bingo', the only one I ever play).


We watched a little bit of the dodgeball tournament -- and they're using softer rubber balls now instead of the killer volleyballs, but it still wasn't enough for us to join in and play!


There was also an ice-carving display that we caught the tail-end of.


The entertainment was the Farewell Showtime with an awesome juggling act (Mark Angelo) -- at one point juggling ping pong balls out of his mouth! and the RCCL singers and dancers (which we stuck around and watched). It was a bit of a sappy tribute to Burt Bacharach and the show would have been better off just being the cruise in review video and the juggler (wow, that sounds harsh, but it's all I can say!).





We arrived in Miami earlier than expected so people were being let off as early at 6:30am. There was no mass chaos in the Windjammer for some reason...and we managed to find seats to eat breakfast.


The wait for our luggage on the other side took a while, but it was still organized quite well.



So, to sum it all up, this was a fantastic cruise! The food was great, the people we met we great (tablemates as well as people around the ship and RCCL employees). We learned a lot about many different things just by stopping and asking people where they were from and why they were here. It almost feels as though we've come away with a bit of an education on things.


My only complaint would be with the entertainment. There were definitely a handful of stand-out shows that RCCL put on, but their own singers and dancers fell a bit flat for us. Also, the fact that a lot of the entertainers put on shows that were geared towards the 'older' set was a bit off-putting. Sure we know who Burt Bacharach and the Temptations are, but it would have been nice if even the late-night comedian put together a show geared towards some of the younger set. I suppose we'll just have to wait and put in our time...maybe in 30 years they'll have entertainment that will cater to us!


Other than that, we'd book with RCCL again no problem.


If anyone has any questions, (or managed to stay awake and read this review in one go) let me know and I'll try to answer them. ;)

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Thanks so much for the very informative review. You pretty much covered everything, so not many questions. What should I look for in the shopping area. Did you score any bargains?



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Pixie, I'm doing this exact cruise on April 17th. Thanks for taking the time to write such an extensive review. I truly enjoyed reading it. I have also read a couple of other recent reviews. Both of them touched on something you didn't mention. They both experienced plumbing problems in their cabins. Mainly the toilet not flushing for most of the cruise. Did you have any trouble concerning this? I'm guessing No,since you didn't mention it,but had to ask. These 2 gals were both on different cruises,and both said there were lots of others,on the cruises,having the same issues. This really concerns me,as it doesn't sound like a fun way to cruise. :( Otherwise,glad to hear that you had a great time.

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In the smaller islands (Aruba, Curaçao) we saw a lot of really tacky items (like glossy kitten key holders with an 'Aruba' stuck on them) and there were the usual suspects of keychains, gaudy monkeys carved out of coconuts, bags, t-shirts, necklaces (cheap beaded ones).


A few things that stood out was the high-end jewelery in Aruba -- this seemed to be the best stop if you were looking for things like this. Tablecloths and the delft blue pottery was also available. We couldn't find any gouda cheese to purchase (anywhere we looked, even if it did say that the store sold it).


Curaçao was more of the same, but a lot less selection in terms of the high-end jewelry. There was a lot of electronic equipment, but the prices are probably much better on your home turf than there. We also saw a lot of pirated movies trying to be sold.


Panama seemed to have a bit more selection in terms of more cultural and hand-crafted pieces. There was a lot of wood carvings of all sorts of animals and bowls. A lot of cheap jewelery as well, hardly any higher end stuff, but they did have an emerald store that was pretty pricey. Don't buy the stuff that the cruise ship puts out on the pool deck before you shop at Cristobal...their stuff was really overpriced and I heard one employee telling a person shopping that they wouldn't be able to find t-shirts at the pier...which was a huge lie. There were TONS of t-shirts, bags, you name it.


Puerto Limon had the best market at the pier in my opinion...a lot more variety and coffee and vanilla was available. (Not the best place to buy it, find a local grocery store if you can!) I bought two really nice carved wooden bowls there and hub bought a neat rosewood walking stick. There was a lot less of the really super tacky stuff there than anywhere else. Other than that, if you head into town we saw TONS of places selling shoes and clothing.


Hope that helps!

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Oh yes, I FORGOT! We had also heard from one couple how their toilet never worked the whole time they were on the cruise. They said that maintenance had been down there with the big toilet snake to retrieve everything from socks, towels and toys out of their toilet plumbing. They weren't too happy about that (neither would I) and had to run to other people's cabins or other parts of the ship to go to the bathroom!!! I never found out what RCCL did for them in terms of any reinbursement, hopefully they got some.


Our bathroom was pretty good. It had a slight sewage-y smell when we first came on, but that may have been the lack of air circulation from the power outage. On about day 8 or 9 I noticed a leak under our bathroom sink and it was making the floor wet. We called in maintenance and it took over an hour for the guy to fix it. The next day there was still a teenie blob of water that would appear, but we were so close to the end of the cruise we couldn't be bothered about it.


But hey, if it's that or no toilet, I'll pick a leaky sink any day!

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Thanks for the review, we did this sailing back in December and it brought back nice memories.


However, I cannot agree with your review of Jungle Breezes. We were there with Oscar Brown and had a very positive experience. The guides made it clear that all we needed to do was ask questions if we did not understand something. They were VERY safety conscious as we were always attached to at least one if not two safety cables at all times. They told us at what point to break and if we were stuck there are roped on EVERY platform to assist you if needed. I'm sorry you had a bad experience but from others I've spoken to and read on this board your situation was not the norm. Jungle Breezes was a great adventure.

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We are on this cruise in 6 days. Thanks for the info. It will be our first canal cruise and we are really getting excited. Wife has been packed for 2 weeks. Still not happy about the Seaview menu change, but I guess we won't go hungry anyway. Glad you had a good time, and I'm sure we will also.

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I cannot agree with your review of Jungle Breezes. We were there with Oscar Brown and had a very positive experience. The guides made it clear that all we needed to do was ask questions if we did not understand something. They were VERY safety conscious as we were always attached to at least one if not two safety cables at all times.


I'll agree with you on most of the safety precautions that they had set up at the Jungle Breezes, I think my problem was more with the lack of training before the first cable.


I think that some improvement could be made on requiring everyone to do a test run before the being sent out. Some of the manuevering issues that some people ran into (myself included) weren't covered by the safety talk -- such as the fact that you can keep yourself straight if you guide the clip that your other hand is holding onto to keep you facing the right direction.


They told us at what point to break and if we were stuck there are roped on EVERY platform to assist you if needed.


This is one part where I'm going to have to disagree with you. When I had come to a stop on the cable I yelled to the platform to ask if they had a rope, a stick, ANYTHING that could pull me in, and I was told no, you have to pull yourself in with your arms and nothing else. If they had a rope that sure would have been the time to use it!

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Thanks for your great review... I'm in the process of reading it. How did you like Becky? We loved her on the Voyager last year! Who was the Assistant CD/Activities Coordinator

? Does anyone know who is in charge of if there is horse racing or not... because we didn't have it with Becky on the Voyager last year.





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Thanks for a great review, we are looking at this one for next year. I thought I read somewhere you can tender off to tour once you are in the lake or did you only get off after coming back thru? Is there time for anything else to do besides shopping? Thanks

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DH and I were also on the BOS Jan 2-13 cruise and last year in January. We had a blast. I would highly recommend catching the Panama Canal westbound and the return. It is a marvel. I was approaching this kicking and screaming but it was great.


In Aruba we took the Kookoo Kunuku Dinner and Bar Crawl. We are in our 50's and thought we might be the oldies. However the ages ranged from 18-75. Everyone had a great time.


Aruba is the best jewelry port on this itinerary. Serious shopping should be done at this port.


Puerto Limon has the opportunity to purchase some beautiful wood pieces. Beware of the weight it can add to luggage.


Our likes: The ship. The number of days at sea. The additional casual nights. The early debarkation. Judy Kolbe entertainer. Desserts. You can be as busy or relaxed as you chose to be. The check and cross check of passengers as they visit ports. Becky, the CD


Our complaints: Slow boarding process even though we had registered online. We are Platinum members and that line was even more backlogged. Instead we were directed to other Deck lines. Changing the Seaview cafe menu. Too many early shows for second seating diners. If you enjoy watching the ship pull from ports/taking photos, it is a bit difficult to do if you have to be showering in order to catch a 7 p.m. show. People and their lack of manners. Remembering to use tongs to pick up food. Eleven nights go by way too quickly.


Have a wonderful cruise.

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How did you like Becky? We loved her on the Voyager last year! Who was the Assistant CD/Activities Coordinator

? Does anyone know who is in charge of if there is horse racing or not... because we didn't have it with Becky on the Voyager last year.


Becky was fantastic. I took a few days for me to get used to her, but after that she really grew on me! Some of the boob (or lack of) jokes she poked at herself weren't needed -- she's a great person no matter what cup size! (Plus she always looked fantastic...her evening dresses were so beautiful!).


The activities person was a chick called 'Double Dutch'...I can't remember her real name but that's what she was called most of the time.


I never watched a horse race so I can't say who was heading that one up!

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Debbie, thanks for adding your likes and dislikes of the Brilliance,and the cruise itself. I'm devouring everything I can find right now,about this ship and cruise. Seems to be the majority is upset over the change of menu at the Seaview. Here's hoping RCL listens. Since I never experienced the old menu,I probably won't miss it too much personally. I was looking forward to eating there though.


Pixie, glad to hear that you didn't really have bathroom issue's in your cabin. Must be hit and miss with the cabins affected,so I'll keep my fingers crossed with ours. I agree with you wholeheartedly.I'd much rather have a small sink leak anyday.

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I thought I read somewhere you can tender off to tour once you are in the lake or did you only get off after coming back thru? Is there time for anything else to do besides shopping? Thanks


You can only tender in the Gatun Lake if you have a tour arranged though Royal Caribbean. They have a process of giving you a certain amount of warning with time because your exact timing of going through the canal can always change. They call you in to wait in the Pacifica Theatre based on what your tour number is, then you tender off the ship from there.


At the Cristobal Pier we never ventured outside of the main shopping market at the pier...it was quite large, and since it was so hot there we were glad to be close to the ship to board.


Besides shopping there...you can watch some of the local cultural dances put on by adults and children in their full costumes, or an aboriginal tribe comes out a little later and performs some music you can watch. There's a few small bars you can grab a cool drink at, and we saw someone selling BBQ'd items...and a small Pizza Hut booth (which looked sooooo out of place!).


We had a window of about 3 hours or so to look around before the ship boarded -- but this can always change (again) depending on when the ship gets the go ahead to go back through the canal.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to do such an extensive review! You gave a bunch of great information! :)

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Great Review Pixiedoodle;


By any chance, do you have information on what the menu fare was each evening, e.g., Italian night, Caribbean night, etc.? We'd like to make reservations at Chops/Portofino but don't want to miss out on a good dinner in the main dining room either.


Thanks in advance.

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Great Review Pixiedoodle;


By any chance, do you have information on what the menu fare was each evening, e.g., Italian night, Caribbean night, etc.? We'd like to make reservations at Chops/Portofino but don't want to miss out on a good dinner in the main dining room either.


Thanks in advance.


Now you're really putting my memory to the test!


I remember our waiter telling us that the dining room menu on the night you're in Aruba isn't that great...since you're there so late in port there's a lot of people who eat off the ship and who have later excursions planned. Our whole table didn't show up that night. That would be a good night to do Chops/Portofino's...I believe they're both open until 10pm.


I would say you wouldn't want to miss the dining room on any of the formal nights, they seemed to have the prime rib, shrimp cocktail and lobster (on the very last formal night!) on those nights.


You can ask your waiter for some recommendations on which nights have 'weaker' menus, they should be able to answer those sorts of questions.

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thank you for this wonderful review. We are on this cruise on 2-13-06. Looking forward to . This will be our 2nd. cruise on the Brillance. It is a great ship.

Thanks for all the information on each port. Very informative.


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Hi Pixiedoddle -- you have given us all a wonderful report on your Brilliance trip -- thank you so much. We are travelling with a number of cruise friends whom we've met on previous cruises, plus many new friends we have met on our thread on the Cruise Critic board. I have attached a link to our board, (at the end of this message) if you would be so kind as to answer a question for us, or rather clarify and post it on our board. We've been told, unequivocally by Becky (cruise director, as you know) that there are only 2 formal nights on this 11 night cruise (we leave Feb. 13th. ) Your posts and a few other threads indicate there are 3 formal nights. Would you mind clarifying this for us folks. We would really appreciate it -- Becky should know, but then you've just experienced the cruise -- so, we'd love to hear it first hand from you, again, if you don't mind. Thanks so, much, please join in on our fun thread with your reply and -- at any time -- we welcome all cruise friends - and we're a crazy fun group. Thanks, so much, much appreciated.

Loie & Peter


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Thanks, I am also on the group for the cruise on 2/13/06 it is good to read about it before we go. Can't wait!!


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Your posts and a few other threads indicate there are 3 formal nights. Would you mind clarifying this for us folks.


I've posted on the link that you gave...but just for everyone else, yes! there are 3 formal nights on this cruise.


It seemed as though there were a lot of people caught off guard by this, but the last formal night was lobster as well (which some people skipped thinking it wasn't going to be!).



Thanks everybody for all your kind words. It took a while to write the review but it was well worth it to remember all the fun we had. And if anyone has any questions about a specific day (barring menus!) I've kept all of the compasses we received. ;)

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Great info, thanks so much. We will be the first cancel trip in Nov so I have to gather info now.

I was reading on the ports of call board where people were booking private tours from the lake, so are you saying NOT with RCCL, only thru the ship???

FYI- we did an 11 night Caribbean on the Grandeur two years ago, everything said two formal nights...we had three, so plan for it.

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PIxiedoodle - Thanks for the great review. We leave for the same cruise in 4 days. One quick question - is the Gala Buffet the same night as the last formal night? We've never gone to the buffet on our previous cruises and hoped to try it this time. We were planning on eating light for dinner that night but don't really want to miss "lobster" night. My DH would kill me! I have a bit of a problem eating light in the dining room. Well, for that matter, it's difficult to eat light anywhere on the ship!

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