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Mediterranean experience?

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I did a 7 night last year on the Brilliance and it was awesome! The ship is beautiful and the staff was great. This is my formal review, so there is probably a lot more than you need. My advice, go for it!


7-night Mediterranean Cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas 05/29/05 06/05/05


Ports of Call: Rome, (Civitavecchia) Italy; Naples, Italy; Messina, Sicily; Livorno, (Florence) Italy, Villefranche, France and Barcelona, Spain

As I researched for months before our Mediterranean cruise, I feel it necessary to pay it forward to share what Ive experienced. I learned so much from others, that I hope someone can learn from me! We are in low/mid 30s, married for 3 years, with no kids, and this was our first time over the pond, and it will certainly not be the last.


OVERVIEW: First of all, the only way to describe a Mediterranean cruise is to just simply say Amazing. There are not enough words to describe all of the wonderful sights we have seen in such a short time.

For starters, I booked our air, transfers, precruise stay in Rome and cruise itself directly with RCI over the phone. I did not experience any problems during precruise planning, and after everything negative I read from others, they did not fail us in anyway during our trip. As far as the ports, we did everything on our own, or hired private drivers.


PRECRUISE TOUR IN ROME: After we landed at 10:10 a.m. we were greeted at the Rome airport by the tour company that handled the logistics for RCI. Once you exit the baggage claim area, you will see all of the tour operators holding signs. Within 20 minutes we were on a bus and on our way to the Crowne Plaza St Peters Hotel. We got to the hotel about 11:30 a.m. and our room was ready for us. We had a nice corner room with a big balcony. There was also a Hospitality desk in the lobby from the tour company to greet us. They had a welcome kit that included instructions for us, a map, schedules for courtesy transportation and an order form to buy tours through them. We were also given a time for the next day for our transfer from the hotel to the pier.


TOURING ROME: The best advice someone gave me to combat jet lag was to stay on local time once we arrived. So my husband and I decided to take a cab to the center of the city and just explore. We walked around for a couple hours and saw the Victor Emmanuel Monument (not to be missed), Trevi Fountain, Coliseum and Arch of Constantine (all on foot). We also stopped at a little restaurant and had a lovely outdoor lunch. Then we spent about 1 hour looking for a cab. By this time it was around 4 p.m., and with the jet lag and heat I was tired. We made it back to the hotel so I could rest.

In order to see more sites in the morning, my husband decided to rent a scooter (the preferred way to drive around Europe and lots of fun!) for the next day. He went back into town to find a rental store while I took a nap. About 7 p.m. we decided to get ready for dinner. We just stayed at the hotel for convenience. The food was good, but the service was slow.

The next day, we did not have to meet the bus for the transfer to the pier until 2 p.m., so we had some time on our own. Breakfast in the morning was complimentary with our package, which I did know when I booked. A nice treat before we spent the next few hours navigating the streets on our scooter. It was Sunday, and the only Sunday of the month the Vatican is open. We thought if we got an early start we would be fine, but NO By 7:30 a.m. when we got there, the line stretched for more than 6 city blocks that we could see, so we gave up. Later realizing that the Pope is buried there, we knew we were not going to see the Vatican before 2 p.m. So we went to St. Peters which also had a long line to get in. We took pictures outside and ventured on. This gives us a reason to go back someday soon!


EMBARKATION: The bus ride to the port was nice and seemed quicker than the 90 minutes everyone says it takes. We did have a slight delay waiting on the bus at the pier, because the check-in facilities were very informal. Literally, under white canvas tents instead of a permanent building. We just had to wait for a bus in front us to check in and then we were on our way. Pretty painless procedure, just a few more lines and we were on the ship! We were on board by 4 p.m. Because they had collected our luggage at the hotel in the morning, our bags were in our room waiting for us.

The muster drill was at 5:15 p.m., so we had enough time to unpack, settle in and freshen up before we donned our fashionable orange life vests, although we did miss the Windjammer that closed at 4:30 p.m.! After that it was off to the Bon Voyage party on the pool deck at 6:30 p.m. Now, we are on vacation as they say!


THE SHIP: There has been a lot written about the ship already, so Ill just highlight a few things, especially our cabin! We had an aft deluxe balcony on deck 10, #1102. At first I was worried because we were right under the Windjammer and on a much higher deck than we ever have been. Let me assure you, the cabin was perfect! Very little disruption from above us, and our balcony was twice the size of the balconies along the side. Large enough to accommodate 2 chairs, 2 lounges and a table, and still room to move around! The cabin was also wider than the standard Balcony rooms. The worst part of the cabin was the long walk from the elevators in the center of the ship. But that is why I felt no guilt about having dessert nightly!

I followed some advice room Cruise Critic posters and on the first day when we met our Cabin Attendant I gave her a portion of the tip up front and just asked for a couple of bathrobes if there were any extras. Within minutes we had 2 robes! We also had great attention all week from Aishesha who made our cabin up as soon as we left!


THE STAFF: Overall, we did not encounter any bad service. That is why we keep going back to RCI. The CD was not the most personable we have seen, but his staff was lively. The captain, Michael Lachtaridis from Greece had a good sense of humor.


DINING: As far as dining on the ship, there were four different seatings. We were assigned late which on our docs said 9 p.m., but on our seapass was 8:30 p.m. We felt the shows/activities were not scheduled as well as they could have been. We did not leave most of the ports until 7 p.m., and I hate to miss any sail away, especially for dinner Plus a couple of the activities we wanted to participate in were overlapped. The schedule for the week was as follows:

6:00 p.m. Main seating Deck 4, 6:30 p.m. Main Seating Deck 5, 8:30 p.m. Second Seating Deck 4, 9:00 p.m., Second Seating Deck 5.

And the big shows or important activity of the night, were timed as follows:

Day One: (Casual) 7:45 p.m. -- Welcome Aboard Show Featuring Comedy of Steve Rawlings, all guests 9:30 p.m. - Majority Rules Game Show 11:00 p.m. - Karaoke Hour.

Day Two: (Formal) 7:30 p.m. 8:30 p.m. -- Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception: All Guests -- 9:00 p.m. -- "Everything Old is New Again" Production Show: Main Seating Guests -- 11:00 p.m. -- "Everything Old is New Again" Production Show: Second Seating guests 10:45 p.m. - Who Wants to Feel Like a Millionaire Game Show.

Day Three: (Smart Casual/'50s & '60s) 7:30 p.m. -- Headliner Showtime with Mark Donoghue: Second seating guests, 9:30 p.m. - Headliner Showtime with Mark Donoghue: Main seating guests 10:15 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. - '50s & '60s Dance Party.

Day Four: (Formal) 7:30 p.m. - Crown and Anchor Party 9:00 p.m. - Now and Forever Production Show: Main Seating Guests 11:00 p.m. - Now and Forever Production Show: Second Seating Guests 10:15 p.m. - Love and Marriage 10:45 p.m. - Karaoke Hour 11:00 p.m. 1:00 a.m. - '70s Dance Fever with the Almost Village People.

Day Five: (Casual/Country Western) 7:30 p.m. Headliner Showtime with Brenda Cochrane Second seating guests 9:30 p.m. Headliner Showtime with Brenda Cochrane Main seating guests 11:00 p.m. - The Quest.

Day Six: (Casual/Toga after dinner attire) 9:00 p.m. -- "Close to You" Productions Show -- Main Seating Guests 11:00 p.m. -- "Close to You" Productions Show -- Second Seating Guests 10:30 p.m. 12:30 p.m. - Toga Party Poolside 11:30 p.m. - Poolside Chocolate Buffet.

Day Seven: (Casual) 7:30 p.m. -- Farewell Show with Magic of Mandy Muden - 2nd Seating Guests 9:30 p.m. -- Farewell Showtime with Magic of Mandy Muden - Main Seating Guests 10:45 p.m. - Karaoke Hour 11:00 p.m. - Farewell Disco Party.

As far as the food, I thought everything was fine. We ate in the dining room all nights except one. There was a Murder Mystery Dinner in Portofinos on day five so we reserved for that well in advance (lots of fun). The main dining room menu offered a lot of variety. The dessert menu could use some more options. For breakfast and lunch we altered between the Windjammer and room service. Both were just fine, but I prefer Windjammer for the variety. I regret not making it to Seaview Café as Ive heard it was good.

We did buy the new Wine & Dine package which is a good deal if you tend to order wine nightly with dinner. You pay 1 discounted price for 5 or more bottles, but you have a limited menu to order from. On the last night we still had 1 bottle to drink and the head waiter let us take it to the Schooner Bar to toast with our new friends.

BARS: I will comment on this as my husband and I are very social people. The best place to hang out and make new friends imho is the Schooner Bar. The staff was awesome and we got to know them throughout the week. Arlene and Steve were great! The bartender Eric also introduced me to other passengers if I was there alone. A true meeting place! We also enjoyed the Champagne Bar on the formal nights. They had hors d oeuvres available nightly before dinner. The sports bar never seemed to have anyone in there, but the pool bars did Also, Tanya in the Casino was awesome. She really made losing all of my money memorable.


ENTERTAINMENT: We only saw one show which was as good as expected. We did watch the Newlywed Game and participated in the Quest. Both are not to be missed. There were not as many people participating as on the Caribbean cruises, but I think it is because of the intensity of the ports on this cruise and the difference in passengers.


THE PORTS: NAPLES/AMALFI COAST: We privately hired Francesco Marrapese in Naples and he was great! He is 32 (our age range) and fairly new on his own, although he has driven for other companies in the past. We were with him from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. He was very nice and informative, and took us all over! We started at the Herculaneum where he dropped us off and we spent about 1.5 hours, and took about 250 photos. It was not crowded at all, and smaller than Pompeii. One of the guards for the property walked us around to explain and point things out for us for a nominal tip. Then we drove the Amalfi Coast. First stop was Sorrento, so beautiful, where we just walked around on our own for about 45 minutes. We did some shopping on the side streets. Then off to Positano where again we walked around on our own for 45 minutes. This area is known for Lemons, some the size of a soccer ball. We walked down to the beach and on the way stopped in a beautiful little church. At this point it was about 2 p.m. and time for lunch. Francesco recommended a place and we invited him to join us. This is where he introduced me to my first taste of Limoncello at La Taverna Del Leone in Positano. Although we bought a bottle at a shop in Positano, I had not tasted any yet. We then drove through the town of Amalfi but did not stop. Then off to Ravello where again we walked around on our own for 45 minutes. All along the drive he pointed things out to us and stopped for photos at certain places. The views are just breathtaking. Ive never seen anything like it. The cliffs just seem to drop into the beautiful blue water. Each view better than the previous. We did not have a lot of time at each place, but trust me, it was enough. I highly recommend Francesco as a private driver.

After returning to the ship just about 6 p.m., we had time to relax and freshen up for the Welcome Aboard Reception before dinner. The captain was late coming to the reception because a group of passengers arrived to the ship late, and so we left late. The hotel director greeted us in his absence. I did miss not having my photo with the Captain though


Messina: I had no particular plans in this port, so we slept in and just walked around the city near the port. When we first arrived we saw a group of school children dressed in costume that were playing a life size game of Chess. Very neat to see! We stopped in some beautiful churches and did some shoe shopping. The city was much different than the others, and seemed to be more crowded with local people. Ironically, we had a difficult time finding pizza for lunch, so we headed back to the Windjammer and relaxed on the ship for the remainder of the afternoon.



At Sea: Beautiful weather and we were traveling at a pretty slow pace, no more than 14 knots. This day was pretty packed with activities for us. We were in the 10 a.m. Slots tournament, in which I came in 2nd place. Then at 12:30 p.m. I was a judge for the Mens Sexy Legs Contest. It was fund to participate in the game for once. After that, the Belly flop competition took place. That is always fun to watch. We stopped for lunch in Windjammer and then I just kind of walked around and I enjoyed the ship. I stopped in the Schooner Bar while my hubby was in the Blackjack tournament. This is when I found out, trapped at sea, that the ship could not sell cigarettes or bottled alcohol. I was told it was due to some Italian and Spanish laws, and it would start selling again the end of June. I can only assume it was because of the ports we embarked and disembarked at. Bingo was at 3:30 p.m., and this time in the Colony Club. We usually have seen it in the Theater. Just like in the casino, I walked away with less money in my pocket! Tonight before dinner was the C&A party and this time the captain was on time! I always enjoy finding out how many cruises people have been on. After dinner was Love and Marriage and as always, it was a hoot! Right after the game was the only production show we saw all week, and the singers and dancers were good.


Florence: We privately hired Marco with Tuscany Tours as our driver in Florence. He was efficient, just not as personable as Francesco in Naples. We were with him from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.. We started at Piazzale Michelangelo for great photos. Then off to Florence where Marco gave us a map and dropped us off. He is not a guide, so we spent about 4 hours on our own just walking around in awe of our surroundings. Although we did not go into any of the galleries or museums (due to long lines), we did climb over 400 winding steps to the top of the Duomo. Wow, was that an experience, and not for the weak hearted. Ponte Vecchio was very crowded but we did window shop for jewelry. We then had lunch on our own and met Marco to go to the Field of Miracles in Pisa. It was amazing as we drove around a bend and there was the tower! We did not climb the tower because of the timing (they only allow so many in at a time), but we did buy tickets to go into the Duomo and Baptistery for great photos. The one thing that surprised me, was that there an entire street of vendors selling trinkets in the area. Then we were off to the ship. This evening after dinner was The Quest (not to be missed). I was surprised that there were not more people participating, considering the room was full.


Villefranche: Again, in this port I had no particular plans except to see the changing of the guards and the Grand Casino. Guess what, I missed both! We left the ship at 11 a.m. and immediately caught a cab right outside the tender station to go to Monaco. The drive took longer than I thought so we missed the changing of the guards by minutes! The cab also cost 50 euro, which is a lot more than a train ride. Once in Monaco we decided to walk around and see everything we could. We ended up going into the neo-Romanesque cathedral and saw the graves of Princess Kelly and Prince Rainier. What a surreal moment. After that we wandered around in awe of the cleanliness of the city as well as the views and then stumbled across the Oceanographic Museum, founded by Prince Albert in 1910. Jacques Cousteau was the former head of this institute and it contains so many artifacts and photos from his diving expeditions. The aquarium contains hundreds of species of fish in such a contained facility that they are able to grow their own coral reefs. As scuba divers, we truly appreciated this museum. We stopped for lunch at a little street side café and enjoyed people watching. To get back to the ship we decided to take the train but it was not easy to find. It might have helped if we knew the French word for train. We asked someone on the street and he pointed us in the right direction. The station was quite large and once we bought and validated our tickets it was only about 5 minutes until the 4:30 p.m. train arrived. The ride was quick as we only had 3 stops before ours. At 6 euro for the 2 of us, it was much cheaper than the taxi. We got back to the ship about 5:30 p.m. after spending some time walking around the port for a while.

My husband was determined to go the Grand Casino, but I was exhausted. So he dressed in his suit and went back to the port while I stayed onboard for dinner. Since we were scheduled to leave the port at midnight, I worried about him making it back on time. I thought that if he did miss the last tender, at least one of us was there to pack up our cabin. It all worked out and he was back on board by 11:30 p.m.!


At Sea: Our last day on board. How sad that the entire week has almost gone by! This day was not as activities driven as our first day at sea, but with my hangover that is a good thing. We basically spent the day lounging around relaxing our tired bodies This has been a very busy week. I had a hot stone massage today and it was wonderful. All of the Day Spa staff was friendly and my massage therapist was very kind and professional. What a way to end the week! Before dinner we packed as much as we could. After dinner we just spent the evening in the Schooner saying goodbye to all of our new friends. We took one last trip around the ship to say good bye to everyone that has made this trip so enjoyable and took lots of photos.


Disembarkation: The next morning we headed to dining for our last breakfast on board. Because we booked our transfers through RCI, we were in the first group called off just before 9 a.m. What a nice treat! Our luggage was waiting for us and we were very quickly boarding a bus for the airport. A very quick and easy process as there was staff to direct us where to go. As we drove through Barcelona, I wished we had a day or two because it looked lovely from the bus. Again, one more reason to go back. Our flight was at 12:10 p.m. so we had plenty of time to check in, go through security and relax (and shop duty free) before boarding.

After all is said and done, here are my tips and hints: Change the date/time to the local time on your digital camera to get the best record from your photos. Bring lots of memory for your camera. We took over 800 photos. Currency exchange rate on the ship was the best we found, and trust me, my husband shopped around on this one. They offer it at certain hours throughout the cruise at the guest relations desk and had the hours posted all week. We were only charged $6 additional form our bank for use of the ATMs twice in Italy. American Express was rarely accepted in the ports, so do leave home without it, and bring your Visa or MC. Ladies, I invested in some Chicos Travelers collection and they are the best clothes to travel with. Never wrinkled and lightweight. I used the Space Bags travel set and they worked great. There were 3 bags, and helped keep the suitcase from getting so bulky. Its amazing how compact you make your clothes! For those flying a long distance, invest in a neck pillow for the flight. Mine was a blow up pillow from Magellans and it was certainly worth it. Also bring a spritzer of water as your skin will feel very dry. For your first aid kit, add Gas-X. Enough said. If your cruise offers the Murder Mystery Dinner, go for it. It was $50 pp but champagne and wine were included all night and we had a 5 course dinner, which had lobster for an entrée. As far as language barriers, we experienced less in Italy than in France. There is a lot of walking, so were very comfortable shoes, and make sure they are broken in! I read terrible things about the public toilets in Europe and envisioned holes in the ground that I had to pay to use. Not so. Many of the toilets were like a standard toilet without the seat. I only had to pay at 3 of them in: Pisa, Ravello and Monaco. The most expensive was .50 cents.

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It was awesome and have done it twice - It is worth a balcony cabin, but if that is not on your agenda, any cabin is better than not going at all. it is well worth the money.


It is a very busy agenda, so bring good walking shoes.

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We just finished this 12 day cruise, am still trying to get over jet lag.

The Brilliance is our favorite, food great, ports intense but worth being tired just to see all the history and beauty, entertainment great, if you could stay up, staff excellent in all accounts. This was by far our favorite cruise and we are planning our next. We would do the Meditterean again, so much to see, never enough time.

I say go for it....you will not be dissappointed.

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Hi all,

We're thinking of taking the 12-night Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona to Greek islands on the Brilliance of the Seas. Has anyone been on this cruise? If so, how was your experience?


We just did a 12 night cruise on the Brilliance 8/15. It was the trip of a life time!!!!!!!!!!!!! You will love it!! AS others have posted, very intense but well worth it. Nothing negative to say.

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I was not particularly excited about Turkey or the Greek Isles and they were all fantastic. LOVED this cruise.


The dining room menus are much more deluxe than on the shorter or more tropical cruises. There were more appetizers and entree offerings than usual, and a special dinner every night we had been in port, relating to that country's cuisine.


Plus the Radiance class ships are just gorgeous!


We loved the Toga Party too.


My favorite part of the trip (other than the fantastic things to do in every port) was to come back to the ship and sit up on deck in the beautiful south of France (or Greece, or whatever beautiful place we were) and go for a swim up on deck and enjoy the surroundings. It was hot and the pool felt terrific every afternoon/early evening!

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