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katiel53

Brilliance Panama Canal 4/7/06 Review

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Our group of six included my 93 year old dad, a ladyfriend of his, my sister and her husband, and my husband and me. Three of the cruisers are from Texas, and the rest of us are from the Orlando area. I don't like driving in Miamia, so my husband, father and I opted to take Cruise Connections from Orlando to the pier. The ride was longer than we expected, but it worked out well as the three Texans arrived at the pier just about the time we did, so we were all able to board together.

 

There really wasn't any line to speak of so we got out boarding cards and were on our way onto the ship. As it was about 1:30 or so, we decided to drop our carry-ons in our cabins, then go to the Windjammer. Our lunch was very good and there were choices for all of us. We liked having the different stations so that there wasn't one or two long lines. We stopped at the pool bar after lunch and met a few people from Cruise Critic. That was neat.

 

From lunch, we all went back to our cabins and I called to make reservations for Portofino and Chops. We weren't able to get the time we wanted for Portofino, but we did get a later time which worked out well. It then became time for the muster drill. It was very well organized and all guests were checked off so that attendance was taken.

 

After the drill, we went back to the cabin and waited for our cabin steward to appear. My husband snores so loud, it's like a train coming through a tunnel, so we always request that the beds be separated. My TA requested that, I even emailed RCCL to be sure they were. Guess what? They were together. I asked our stewardess to separate the beds and she became concerned that we might not be able to get egg crates at the late hour. Fortunately, they had 2 left so we were lucky. Our queen bed had one but it's a one piece so wouldn't work with the separated beds.

 

We had cabin 9526, an E1. Usually, we have D1 or JS, but this trip when we booked, we were lucky to get an E1. It was miniscule. Once the beds were separated, it was very difficult to get to the bathroom from the bed by the balcony doors. The bathroom was also tiny. You could almost take a shower and brush your teeth at the same time.

 

After unpacking and showering, it was time for us to go to the Concierge Lounge. We are Diamond members (all of us) so we were able to take advantage of this offer. The other two couples were in rooms 8540 and 8590. Their rooms were just like ours.

 

The Concierge, Katherine Valenzuala, is truly one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met on a cruiseship. She is very accomodating and a real asset to RCCL. I wish that she would get transferred to the Mariner so when we go in November, we could see her again.

 

We left the Concierge Lounge and went to dinner. Our table 417 late seating, had a terrific team of employees. I have never seen a head waiter come to the table every night of the cruise. Karsi, our HW was there every night and my dad asked to have shrimp cocktail every night, but was told none the first night. The 2nd night would have shrimp cocktail, but after Aruba, he could have shrimp cocktail every night as they were loading more shrimp in Aruba. That was fine for us as we were going to the specialty restaurants Sunday and Monday nights. Our waiter Burak from Turkey, and assistant Kenroy from Jamaica made our dinners great every night.

 

After dinner, we tried our luck in the casino. Unfortunately, no luck but we all had a great time. We went to bed about 11:30 after a busy day.

 

On Saturday morning, we had decided to have room service breakfast. We ordered omelettes, juice and Danish and all was fine.

 

We went to the solarium, which is beautiful, and some of our group played cards. We hung out or went to the casino and had a relaxing day.

 

Lunch again was in the Windjammer and dinner was formal. Most people were appropriately dressed. I didn't see a lot of tuxedos, but most men had on suits. I didn't see any jeans.

 

Sunday was another day of relaxation but dinner was at Portofino. I would go there again in a heartbeat. The pasta ribbons with either marscapone or gorgonzola sauce with mushrooms was to die for. That was only one of the courses. We had marvelous service. None of us had room for dessert, so we took ours back to the cabin.

 

Monday morning we were up and in the dining room by 9AM. The rest of my family prefers to eat breakfast in the dining room, so they were there almost every day, but we divided our breakfasts between the Windjammer or the dining room. Eggs Benedict are my favorite cruise breakfast. I usually have them once or twice each cruise and I had them Monday morning. RCCL also has the best small pastries. They have a custardy/cheese filling. I wish I could have taken a dozen home with me.

 

We all decided to go to a casino in Aruba. We have all been there many times before, so we didn't want to tour. Four of us went to the Marriott. We played all day, never had lunch, didn't lose a lot and we arrived back onboard about 5. Once again, time to shower and hit the Concierge Lounge. If you are fortunate enough to be able to go there, be sure to try the huge chocolate/white chocolate covered strawberries. The other hors d'oeuvres were good too.

 

Dinner this night was in Chops. Another great dinner and service. My family like Chops better than Portofino, but I preferred Chops. Oh well, next cruise I will get to try them again and make a final decision.

 

Tuesday was another sea day, so we had time to go to the casino and relax. I won $150 on a quarter machine. Lucky me!

 

Lunch again was in the Windjammer. Do you notice a pattern here? Good choices again for buffet food.

 

Dinner in the dining room wasn't anything impressive, but once again wonderful service and yes, my dad did get shrimp cocktail. The dining room has magnificent rolls. Lots of crusty rolls with soft centers. They also have mini rolls and everyone at our table loved them. They either had sesame seeds or poppy seeds on them and were just about 2 bites. Our assistant waiter knew we all wanted them and he would joke with us every night and bring more for us.

 

Wednesday was Panama Canal day. Our cabin was near the bow and we were fortunate enough to be on the starboard side and in the left lane going through the locks. Ahead of us in the right lane was a cargo type ship and it was just a little ahead of us. When the guest lecturer started speaking at 6AM, we were awakened and went out on the balcony. I think we had the best view and we could hear all that was being said. It was the neatest experience.

 

We didn't do any tours at the Canal. We went to lunch at the Seaview Cafe and had pasta aioli (Sp) It's one of my favorites and I totally enjoyed it. The others, except for my sister who had the same I did, had pannini's. They surely looked good.

 

We were able to see the closing of the locks on the way back as the Seaview is up on the 12th or 13th deck in the rear.

 

I will write the rest later.

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katie, thanks so much for the great review. If you have the same concierge we had on Mariner you will love her too but she was talking about leaving. We are sailing Brilliance next yr. and absolutely cannot wait. Your review helps me look forward and make plans. We are planning to do Chops and Portofino's most nights or at least half of them since we have good shipboard credits. Thanks again and can't wait to read the rest. Deb

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Review Part 2

 

We had dinner in the dining room again. I think that it was the night Osso Bucco was served. It was sooooooooo good. I have always wanted to try making it, but thought it would be a waste if I didn't like it, but now I know I have to try it one of these days. We all had our nightly mini rolls.

 

Off to the casino again after dinner. My sister won $500 on a nickel machine. Lucky her! I lost again as did my husband.

 

Thursday morning, we were in Costa Rica. We didn't have any excursion planned because although I really wanted to do the Tortuergoa (Sp) Canals, I read on CC that it's very hot in Costa Rica and lots of mosquitos. My husband really minds the heat so we decided to not do anything. We had breakfast in the Windjammer. The egg station makes omelettes or eggs/egg whites cooked to order. I had eggs over easy as I really hate scrambled eggs. There is the best bread in the Windjammer. It is very dark and grainy and is out of this world. I had 2 slices of that as well as one of those custard pastries. Yum!!

 

We got off the ship, walked to the little market near the ship. We were approached by many people offering tours, but we declined. We went into the market and got some great bargains. We babysit for our 10 mo old granddaughter and of course I had to look for things for her. Cute little dress and panties and another Costa Rica dress were purchased for her. We also bought some coffee and a huge wooden salad bowl with 6 small bowls and serving utensils for $25.00. Great bargain!! Unbeknownst to us, my sister had been negotiating a tour with one of the locals for us. It was only $15 a person and it was about 2 1/2-3 hours long.

 

We left the market and went into an a/c van. The tour director was Alejandra and I don't know the driver's name. They are a licensed tour company there and they did an excellent tour. We went to the DelMonte banana plantations. Unfortunately, it was a Holiday (Holy Thursday) and most things were closed down for the day. We got to go through the plantation and the tour guide explained to us all about packing and shipping the bananas.

 

We also went to a butterfly farm. There were so many huge, beautiful butterflies as well as a nice area to relax and have a cold beer or water. Very clean restrooms too.

 

We went to a local grocery store so I could buy more coffee at a lower price. We wanted to buy a 6 pack of beer for my husband, but because of the holiday, we weren't able to. We rode around some more looking at sites, monkeys and we tried to find a sloth but didn't see any.

All in all, the tour was worth way more than what we paid.

 

After getting back to the ship and showering, off to the Concierge Lounge. They had line dance lessons in the Centrum and people were having a great time. Then to dinner. Moroccan Rack of Lamb was perfectly seasoned and probably the best lamb I have ever had. After dinner, we went to Quest. I hadn't ever gone to a quest before, but it was obvious some of the people had as they had things ready as soon as the CD announced the items. The winners had everything all lined up beforehand. That seems to me to be cheating. The team who won also had their leader in the hat game. He cheated in that too, so I guess that's how he wins. I forgot to mention that this was Country Western Night so jeans were ok that night.

 

 

Friday was another sea day. Another day to relax and enjoy the balcony and the solarium. We were invited to a Platinum & Diamond luncheon. We were seated with the Officer in Charge. He was a very pleasant man from Sweden. We talked about the perks for us and I made a couple of suggestions which he said he would pass on. I forgot to mention the water in the solarium pool is quite cool. It's fine once you're adjusted to it, but when I got out the air was cool from the air conditioning and I froze. I guess when you live in Florida you get used to heat and get cold easier.

 

We went to the casino again and none of us really won anything. Had a good time though. They had line dance lessons in the Centrum and people were having a great time.

 

Dinner was formal. Shrimp and lobster tail were served together. I had asked our head waiter the night before if I could have 2 lobster tails as I am allergic to shrimp. I didn't want any shrimp put on the plate at all. He agreed to do that for me and I was very pleased.

 

Another night in the casino and my brother in law won about $150 on nickels. Everyone that played blackjack lost.

 

Saturday morning we went to breakfast in the dining room. No Eggs Benedict for me that day. The pastries and eggs over were all good.

 

We got off the ship and wanted to snorkel near the dock as we had been told on CC. Unfortunately, no one was snorkeling there, so we ended up on a tour, $20 a person I think, and it wasn't worth $5 a person. We sat in a van for about 20 minutes waiting for the van to fill up. We were ready to leave when the last two people came aboard. We went to Hell and saw the rock formations and had a few minutes to shop. We then went to the Tortuga rum cake factory. The next stop was to the turtle farm, but most people didn't want to do it, so we headed back to the pier. There was a lot of traffic coming back and the tour lady was really angry. She was smoldering! I made a suggestion to her that would help her, but she just refused to do anything. Finally, she got into a right turn lane and squeezed into the left turn lane near the main road. Still sputtering and muttering. Her name is Norma, so if you go to Grand Cayman, don't go with her on a tour.

 

After the tour we shopped a bit, then took the tender back to the ship. Easy ride back.

 

Once onboard went to the solarium for a swim. Again, cool water. Back to the cabin to rest a bit and sit on the balcony.

 

Dinner wasn't anything I remember so I guess it wasn't special. Again to the casino after dinner.

 

 

Sunday--Easter

We had breakfast in the Windjammer. Someone ate all my favorite pastries!!! Oh well, guess I didn't need all those extra calories.

 

No lunch today as we had a late breakfast. Packing was on schedule for the afternoon. Somehow though, I got talked into going to Bingo. I am NOT a bingo player. There were 5 games and I won the 2nd one and won $337.00. Wow, I nearly fell off my seat. At the last game with full coverage, I needed 1 number for a long time. I didn't win the $6600 plus. Oh well, not a bad days pay. After packing, showering etc., we went up for our last evening in the Concierge. It was hard to say goodbye to Katherine. I wish I could have taken her home with me, not just to have her serve me drinks, but she is just so sweet.

 

Dinner in the dining room was ok. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to our servers and we had a few last laughs with them.

 

No casino visit tonight. We had last minute things to pack and we just wanted to relax as we knew Monday would be another long day.

 

 

Monday we had breakfast in the dining room and our color was called about 8AM. We got off the ship easily and waited until 10:45 for the bus to take us back to Orlando.

 

Overall, I think the cruise was wonderful. The ship is absolutely gorgeous and the Centrum is so impressive. I would have liked to have had a larger cabin, and should we go on this class of ship again, I would get a JS or a D1.

The food in the dining room for dinner was ok. Some dinners had no real flavor to them, but still were edible. My complaint about the dining room is that we were near two families with small children--about 2-3 years old. The parents strolled into dinner, which was at 8, at anywhere from 8:30-8:45. The entire tables of 8 and 10 arrived at the same time. The young kids screamed, had temper tantrums on the floor and interrupted a lot of dinners. One night the 2 year old was carried in and he was asleep. He woke up screaming and screamed as usual the entire meal. No one in that group thought about removing him from the dining room. As I mentioned on another post, I think it's the ME generation who felt it was their vacation and they were entitled to be there at the time they wanted. It must be the rest of us had free cruises because we weren't given any consideration by RCCL or the families. No waiter, head waiter etc. did anyhing about the kids and when one had the tantrum, he almost tripped a waiter. The parents just did nothing. There were over 500 kids onboard and I would never had know there were that many if I hadn't been told by an officer. The majority were very well behaved and not any problem.

 

I wish the shows were after dinner instead of before dinner. We chose late seating so we could relax before dinner but having the show before dinner, defeated the purpose for us. Consequently, we missed the shows.

 

Every crew person we met was pleasant and said Good morning etc. I can see how this ship won the award for best in the fleet for 2005.

 

I love the Radiance class ship and would go on another cruise on the Brilliance or other ship of this class if given the opportunity. The few negatives were definitely outweighed by many many positives. Sorry I took up so much space with my review---Sometimes I am long winded, bu I wasn't at the Meet & Mingle which was quite nice. I got to meet a few more people I chatted with before the cruise. Thanks for reading my review.

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Thanks, Katie, for bringing back some sweet memories of our Brilliance Christmas/New Years Cruise. We also loved Katherine and wanted to bring her home.

 

Jane

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Good review, Katie.

I was on the same cruise (with DW & DS) and have a few random thoughts to add:

 

The ship was immaculate and the service was impeccable.

I can't remember walking thru the ship once without seeing the crew cleaning, polishing, hosing decks, wiping glass, etc.

Found our E1 cabin (w/ pullman bed) to be more than adequate for the three of us. Plenty of closet and drawer space, and I thought the bathroom/shower size was comfortable as well. We enjoyed the spacious balcony most of all, I would never even consider taking a cruise without a balcony stateroom.

 

Highly recommend the bus/train/boat tour excursion in Costa Rica (booked thru RCI). Includes a tour of banana plantation, half hour train ride along the coast, and half hour boat ride thru the canals. Tour guide was an amicable young lady named Marilyn, who was very knowledgeable and spoke perfect english.

 

Our late seating dining room table was also near the table with the screaming baby and bratty kids as well. However, my biggest complaint with the main dining room was our table size. There were 13 seated at our table, which makes it extremely difficult to familiarize and carry on a conversation with tablemates on opposite ends of the table. They were nice people (at least they spoke English), but we had little in common with them and didn't feel like socializing with them at dinner, nor did we feel like getting "dressed up" for dinner.

 

Probably should've requested to be moved to a different table after the second night (only 3 others showed up on the first night and sat about 1/4 mile away at the opposite end of the table )...... but I shouldn't have to ask in the first place, and we probably wouldn't have been any more content at another table anyway. This cruise definitely confirms my disdain for "traditional" dining.

 

Fortunately, the food and service in the Windjammer & Seaview was tremendous, so we only ate in the dining room for three out of the ten nights, skipping both formal nights as well. Frankly, the Windjammer was a 1000% more quiet and serene setting at dinner than the main dining room was, which made for a much more pleasant, relaxing dining experience.

 

Overall, it was a very enjoyable cruise. Although I'm leaning heavily towards NCL for our next cruise (because of the "freestyle" dining option), I would consider another cruise on RCI solely because of the Windjammer, excellent kids program, cleanliness, and great service.

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Nice review Katie.

 

We were on the Brilliance sailing just before yours. Mar 27 - April 7. The first few evening shows were after dinner. Then all of a sudden they were before dinner at 7:00 for the rest of the cruise. We agree with you that it makes you have to rush to get ready. It kind of defeats the purpose of have the late seating.

 

We were seated at a table for ten, but there was only six of us. The other four never showed up. The table for ten next to ours was full the first two nights, then vacant the rest of the cruise. Apparently they ate in the Windjammer everynight.

 

In Panama, we did the Two Ocean Rail tour which was nice. In Costa Rica we did the Jungle Breezes Canopy tour. The zip lines were a blast.

 

Tom

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Hi Tom,

 

Would you please tell me about the tour in Costa Rica? What was the zip line like? I'm a chicken at heart but would love to try this. Was it fast? DH is a big guy, 6"4'', are there any restrictions? Anything else I forgot to ask??

 

Thanks,

Music

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Hi Music,

 

The Jungle Breezes zip line course is layed out so that you are gradually eased into it. You are outfitted with a very sturdy harness, helmet and leather gloves. The harness has two safety straps. The first platform is about 10 feet off the ground and the cable stretches for about 50 yards. The first couple are short lines. After that, a couple of them get longer, maybe 100 yards. There are a couple of exit points in case you feel like you can't make it any farther. There are 13 lines in total. The weight limit is 250lbs.

 

Just to let you know, Teri was terrified of doing this. She had 3 months to agonize over it. Even at the last second, she was saying that she could not do it, but the guide on the platform was very calming and helpful. Once she did the first line, she was hooked. She says that if she can do it, anyone can. Her words of advise are to listen carefully to the guides and follow their instructions.

 

Sometime over the weekend, I will have pictures of the tour on our web site. Check back maybe on Monday.

 

Tom

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Ok, since you both commented on the bathroom, I'm embarassed to ask, but does the shower have a door or a clingy curtain???LOL Up until our last cruise on the Mariner, we always had the clingy curtain, so now I'm spoiled. I know, pretty dumb question huh?

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Tom,

 

Thanks for the info. I will be looking for the pictures. I will probably agonize also and I have until next March, that's alot of time. :) I'm not sure DH will want to do this anyway but maybe he will cheer me on!

 

Pat

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Hi Choozin,

Our bathroom had a shower curtain. The shower was kind of round. It was NOT easy to shave my legs in the shower and I wasn't kidding when I said I could reach out and brush my teeth while showering. I know Tom had a different opinion. Compared to other bathrooms, this one was really small. It was still manageable though. I think this was the smallest bathroom we've had since the old Mardi Gras of Carnival, lol. Realistically, maybe the bathroom wasn't that much smaller than other ships, but the way it was laid out made it seem small. There was no storage space in the sink area. There was a shel under the sink, but on top there wasn't anything like we are used to. I guess it's a matter of adjusting. As you can see, we survived, and the bathroom didn't ruin our cruise for a minute. I just wanted to mention it so that others would be aware.

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Katie - I will be on Brilliance next March. Thank you for the review.

 

 

 

I can't wait!

 

 

 

Sue

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Katie - I will be on Brilliance next March. Thank you for the review.

 

 

 

What sailing will you be on? I am on the 26th of March

 

Sue ( another one)

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Hi Katie,

 

You mention that one of the couples sailing with you was in 8590. I booked an E3 cabin, and chose this one from the deck plan. Sounds like I may have made a mistake. We're not sailing until April '08 and there is time to change to another E3. Based on your experience of the ship, were would you relocate to ( we're doing the Panama Canal trip ) ? Any advice would be much appreciated ! Thank you !

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Katie, that was a great review, we did the 10 day PC cruise last DEC, our favorite members of the crew were the Schooner bartenders Susanna & Dennis, they made our cruise. We also took the Cruise Connection bus, it's the only way we will go to Miami for a cruise anymore...See ya on the Mariner.:D

 

Jim&Pat:)

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Fortunately, the food and service in the Windjammer & Seaview was tremendous, so we only ate in the dining room for three out of the ten nights, skipping both formal nights as well. Frankly, the Windjammer was a 1000% more quiet and serene setting at dinner than the main dining room was, which made for a much more pleasant, relaxing dining experience.

 

 

This is so in keeping with our own experience on RCI ships. When we did the Brilliance cruise to the Panama Canal 1 1/2 years ago, we ate in the Windjammer or Portofino very night. If you get to the Windjammer after the first show, it is very peaceful and quiet...not at all crowded. At that hour, there are few children also.

 

Our last cruise, Hubby wanted to try the dining room again just to see if we were somehow mistaken about our earlier experiences there. Well, we ended up beside a table of infants and toddlers and their hard working parents who did their best, but the struggle throughout the meal was non-ending. It tired me out. The experience just confirms for me that the glamour some seem to find in the dining room has been elusive for us.

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Hi Katie,

 

You mention that one of the couples sailing with you was in 8590. I booked an E3 cabin, and chose this one from the deck plan. Sounds like I may have made a mistake. We're not sailing until April '08 and there is time to change to another E3. Based on your experience of the ship, were would you relocate to ( we're doing the Panama Canal trip ) ? Any advice would be much appreciated ! Thank you !

 

I tried to look back and figure out what was wrong with 8590, but couldn't find it. We were in 8592 in Feb and loved it. Your balcony is a little shortened and it may be a little breezier while you're moving but, you have a great view when you are going through the locks. Especially if you are fortunate like we were to go through the left lock. If it were me I'd keep it. You sure do not want to be in the cut in part of the ship. (8584-8544)

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Hi Katie,

 

You mention that one of the couples sailing with you was in 8590. I booked an E3 cabin, and chose this one from the deck plan. Sounds like I may have made a mistake. We're not sailing until April '08 and there is time to change to another E3. Based on your experience of the ship, were would you relocate to ( we're doing the Panama Canal trip ) ? Any advice would be much appreciated ! Thank you !

 

My sister had to have been the one in 8590. The balcony was very, very small because it was pie shaped. At one end there wasn't even room to stand almost. If you have the opportunity to change to another one, it might be a good idea to do so.

 

Just look at the deck plans and see what you would be interested in. I did notice that all the cabins on deck 7 had balconies that extended out more than ours did. I just looked at availability and on Deck 7, there were a few that were close to the elevator and that's usually where I like to be.

 

I am sure you will make a great decision and the canal is definitely a wonderful trip. Enjoy.

 

Katie

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My sister had to have been the one in 8590. The balcony was very, very small because it was pie shaped. At one end there wasn't even room to stand almost. If you have the opportunity to change to another one, it might be a good idea to do so.

 

Just look at the deck plans and see what you would be interested in. I did notice that all the cabins on deck 7 had balconies that extended out more than ours did. I just looked at availability and on Deck 7, there were a few that were close to the elevator and that's usually where I like to be.

 

I am sure you will make a great decision and the canal is definitely a wonderful trip. Enjoy.

 

Katie

 

For what it's worth though, deck 7 balconies look out over the lifeboat canopies. :( Deck 9 balconies, above us extended out because their cabins are longer. Sorry to butt in....

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I was emailed by the Consigerge that 2/23 the new beds were to be installed starting on 10 with the suites, then 3/5 8 & 9 got their beds, etc.

 

We cruise TA on 4/16 MIA-BCN & were told we'd sleep very well. But no mention of the beds here. We had them on Freedom & my spine was very happy.

 

I see mention of egg crate so tha meant no new bed.

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Choosin.....you know, I think I'll follow your suggestion and keep it....you make some very good points. I've studied the deck plan over and over and since you enjoyed the cabin next door to this one, it seems the small balcony is the only detractor. The location looks good. We'll only be out there for a look at the scenery every now and then....the action, I'm sure, we be in the rest of the ship ! Thank you so much for your insight.

 

Katie...thank you too, it was good of you to take the time and offer your suggestion. The reviews of the cruise are outstanding....we can't go wrong. Can't wait ! !

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I was emailed by the Consigerge that 2/23 the new beds were to be installed starting on 10 with the suites, then 3/5 8 & 9 got their beds, etc.

 

We cruise TA on 4/16 MIA-BCN & were told we'd sleep very well. But no mention of the beds here. We had them on Freedom & my spine was very happy.

 

I see mention of egg crate so tha meant no new bed.

 

 

This review is a year old, 4/7/2006 don't lose the faith. Our friends just got off on friday and they didn't have the new beds on the port side of 8 but they were putting them in that day. And they were told that the remaining would be done by the 3/26 cruise.

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From my C6 & C7, dislocated by a drunk driver so no arms to use for months. All is much better & getting more every day & I have to have a good bed.

 

Love this cruise leaving MIA for 6 days at sea to the Azores, Portugal & 4 ports in Spain.

 

This review is a year old, 4/7/2006 don't lose the faith. Our friends just got off on friday and they didn't have the new beds on the port side of 8 but they were putting them in that day. And they were told that the remaining would be done by the 3/26 cruise.

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