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4/19/04 Brilliance review (in full)

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Learning from my mistakes is something I’d rather not do but was necessary when writing this review as this is my second attempt, the first being lost forever in cyberspace because I didn’t save it to word. I’d rather learn from another’s mistakes instead of making my own and if this preface helps anyone from having to face the reality of loosing all their time and work then my suffering was not in vain. Now on to the review…..


We have recently returned from a wonderful cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas sailing 4/19/04. We started planning this cruise 8 months prior to sailing in order to be able to book the cabin we had. The Brilliance really lives up to it’s name and I am happy to report that we would recommend this ship to anyone considering a cruise on her.


Our adventure started the day before sailing with a drive from the Florida west coast to Miami. We spent the day prior visiting with family and friends and spent the night at my mothers home, about a half hour drive from the pier. We didn’t get much sleep that night, being so excited about boarding the next morning. This was going to be a special cruise for our anniversary, our 13th cruise in 13 years of marriage and our 6th on RCI.


We arrived at the pier at 11:30 and checked our luggage with the porter at the curb. We had four checked cases for this 11 day cruise, one filled with 17 bottles of individually bubble wrapped wine bottles that weighed a ton. With a generous tip in hand the porter assured a safe transfer of our cases to our cabin. At check in we were given Bahamas immigration forms to fill out. This was a minor inconvenience that could have been avoided if they had been included in our document package but once finished was quickly forgotten. We were whisked to the next available counter and quickly processed and given our sea passes and directed to boarding. Skipping the embarkation photo we found our way to the 10th floor and stormed the fire doors that blocked our way and made our way to the cabin to drop off our carryons.


Cabins are not “officially†ready for passengers until 1pm, but they do allow earlier arrivals to leave their carryon’s in the rooms. We had a junior suite cabin #1100 with a huge balcony that had great views over the aft of the ship. It was ready when we arrived, and was more than we had expected. What a beautiful room!!!!! It was almost 300 square feet of comfort with a king size bed, a sofa, coffee table, comfy chair and ottoman, ample storage space with a lighted vanity and chair, walk in closet, and nice size bathroom with a tub/shower combo. The balcony was my main reason for booking this room, it’s about 20 feet long and about 12 feet deep with two loungers and two deck chairs and a table. We were supposed to meet up with a large group of Cruise Critic buddies at the pool bar after boarding so up we went.


The pool bar was already hopping when we arrived and many of our new friends were already putting the bartender through his paces. There were about 75 registered Critics onboard this sailing and we had all decided to wear yellow ribbons the first couple of days of this cruise to help us identify each other. This was by far the most fun group of cruisers we have had the pleasure of sailing with. We called ourselves the Royal Cariâ€beans†or “beans†for short and that’s how we will be referred to in the rest of this review. Introductions and drinks flowed freely and somehow we found a few minutes to grab a bite to eat at the welcome aboard buffet before heading back to our room to gather our lifejackets for the muster drill.


While gathering up our life jackets, the doorbell rang. OMG< We have a DOORBELL!!!! LOL It was our stateroom attendant, clipboard in hand welcoming us to our new home for the next 11 days. She was very nice and cheerful and proceeded to ask questions of what she could get for us to make our stay with her special. Feather Pillows, check….Robes, check….wine glasses and extra ice, check…..I’m easy and it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I must include here that I had read reviews of the sailings just prior our ours having cut the stateroom service staff, resulting in poor service and late room make ups onboard the Brilliance. We sure got lucky with our cabin attendant as we always had our room made up by 10 am each morning and turned down complete with towel animals each evening while dining. This girl was very good at her job and made it look easy while we observed other cabin attendants running around like chickens with their heads cut off well into the afternoon trying to finish up their morning work just leaving themselves a short time before their evening duties began. Our attendant got her rooms finished quickly while doing a great job still leaving her the afternoon to rest and refresh before starting her evening duties. I personally think it’s just a matter of organization or lack of. We have all probably worked with or have observed someone that is looking like they are terribly over worked when in reality they are just plain disorganized. That IMHO is the problem with some of the attendants onboard this ship. This girl could give lessons that might benefit some of the other attendants onboard on how to properly do their jobs without crying to their passengers about how they just don’t have the time to provide the service we have all come to expect when on a cruise. I never heard one word from her the entire cruise about being overworked and on gratuity day I make it worth her while. Muster blew and out we flew….


Muster didn’t take long and we went back to stow away our lifejackets in the room and our attendant already had everything we asked for in the room waiting for us, including all our luggage. Can’t ask for more than that . Great Start! Sailaway was about to begin and we unpacked the most important things first…. A bubble gun and a bottle of pre-chilled bubbly Asti (carried on in a collapsible cooler) filled our glasses and stepped out on our balcony for the first of many sail away celebrations. Bubbles blowing in the wind and tickling our noses as we sipped the wine, we watched as Miami grew smaller and smaller on the horizon. What a great way to start a cruise. I really don’t know what took me so long to break down and book an aft cabin but this was really the best sail away we have ever experienced and I’m sure it will happen again on a future cruise. We finished our unpacking and got ready for dinner.


Dinner was second seating on the 5th floor of the dining room by the rail that overlooks the 4th floor. We were at an eight top table set for nine and had an extra passenger, a single lady traveling alone joining us and three other couples for dinner in the evenings. I won’t attempt to try to describe each evenings menu but will make note of dishes we found to be exceptional. We particularly enjoyed the filet mignon (so much so that it was offered to us another evening during our cruise). The prime rib was also quite good as were the daily shrimp cocktail appetizers that our wonderful Maitre’d graciously provided for my shrimp loving hubby. He also brought us out a very large plate of chocolate covered strawberries one evening when we said we would not be attending the chocolate buffet. Also worthy of note was the warm chocolate cake that was almost orgasmic is was so good. J Our waiters were very good and had great personalities and enjoyed a good joke, something really necessary when dealing with our table. They really had their hands full when dealing with our single lady. She was obviously on the wrong ship, expecting a Crystal Cruise line experience while paying for and sailing RCI. There was one time I came close to inviting her back to our cabin for a nice view of the wake as I threw her over the rail. LOL


We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room twice on our sailing and lunch twice as well. Service and food were very good for all these meals. Most of our breakfast and lunch/snack choices were from the Windjammer buffet. There were plenty of different offerings and we were satisfied with all of our meals there as well as the service. Juices and Teas and coffee were available in the mornings, and Coffee Tea and lemonade were available the rest of the day and evenings as well as bar service Several times we went to the Seaview café for a snack or an informal dinner. It has a great view of the ocean and you can either eat inside or alfresco. Hubby was really fond of the hot wings served there.


The crew of the Brilliance hosted three parties that we received invitations to. The first was on our fist at sea day, a meet and mingle for the “beans†it was well attended and the cruise director, Peter was our host. Everyone received a lanyard, sea pass holder and a raffle ticket for a drawing. We all chatted it up really well while enjoying the gourmet bites (caviar too, yummy) set out for us to enjoy buffet style. The lucky raffle ticket holder got a RCI aqua mouse for their computer with a tiny cruise ship floating inside. Pretty cool! The second invitation came for a Crown and Anchor party prior to dinner one evening. There were lots of goodies to munch on and open bar while the band played for dancing. We were all thanked for our repeat status on RCI and the most frequent cruiser was rewarded with a bottle of Champagne. The final party was another Crown and Anchor party, this time just for Platinum and Diamond members, not so many people at this one and the hors-dourves were better and so were the drinks. Both C&A parties were hosted by Peter as well. He was very visible around the ship and was very friendly and quick to tell a joke and remember a name.


Entertainment onboard ranged from Comedians, to magicians, a concert violinist, a Liberachi wanna be pianist, a pickpocket, a balancing act, the Coasters, and several shows by the RCI singers and dancers. We shy away from production shows but did enjoy the other headliners. There were also musicians playing in all the bar areas and poolside.


Speaking of poolside, the Solarium pool onboard the Brilliance was my favorite hangout (unless you count our balcony or the Schooner bar J ) This pool is so beautiful and it is so relaxing there, that I found myself there at every opportunity, either soaking in the hot tub, swimming in the pool or napping on a cushy lounge chair while pretending to read a magazine. It’s really beautiful in the evening when the lights in the waterfall change color ever few seconds while crickets chirp over the speakers. It’s really worth passing on dinner one evening to enjoy the solitude here and have a romantic evening, it’s open 24 hours. Bar service is available but not vocal, you need just raise a hand to have someone come and take your order, I guess they don’t want to disturb the passengers that are pretending to read while the really are napping in those cushy chairs. The pool police were diligent in removing towels from unoccupied chairs there as well if they went empty for too long. Yippee!!!!


The casino onboard was smaller than we expected and have experienced on some of the other ships we have sailed and true to our past experience was looser the first and last night of the cruise and tight in between. We did see some big winners on our sailing, but we considered ourselves lucky when we broke even on the final night of the cruise, and called it quits enjoying the entertainment value in the time we spent there.


On to the ports…..


San Juan was the first port on this itinerary and we planned a day of self guided walking tour of the old city with some of the “beansâ€. We started in the morning by taking the trolley up to the fort and touring there, enjoying the beautiful view and the children from a local school that were on the lawn flying their kites. We then worked our way down hill towards the waterfront, enjoying the historic buildings and also a couple of local bars along the way to quench our thirst. The mango daiquiri’s at Barrachinas were worthy of mention. Very yummy!!!! By afternoon it was getting pretty hot, OK, it was cooking hot, so we went back to the ship and changed into swimwear and relaxed in the Solarium pool, making sure we returned to our cabin for sail away complete with bubble gun and bubbly on the balcony. Fortunately most of our neighbors below and to the side were “beans†and enjoyed the bubbles as much as we did.


Next port was St. Thomas and a bunch of us “beans†cabbed it to Red Hook and jumped on the ferry to St. John to enjoy a day of beach and snorkel at Trunk Bay. We had a beautiful day and enjoyed the sun and the fun with our new friends while taking turns making runs for drinks at the bar. J Made it back to the ship in time for another bubble pelting of the aft LOL, But some of the “beans†were also armed with squirt guns in retaliation. What fun!!!!!


Antigua was our next port of call and we had a group of “beans†that were going to spend the morning shopping on our own, meeting up at noon on the other side of the island at an all inclusive, The Pineapple Beach Resort. Shopping went well but on our way back to the ship to drop off our goodies, we decided to stop in the casino by the pier. We tried the quarter machines first without much success, and then decided to give the nickels a shot. Bar service was complimentary here and the nickels were doing well, drinks kept coming and I finally said “what time is it?†Well, it was 3pm Oh boy, we got lost in time. Leaving the casino as winners and plowed with drinks, we went back to the Solarium and met up with the “beans†returning from the resort, they were very understanding and gave us a brochure of the resort so we could see what a beautiful place we had missed. They highly recommended it for a future excursion, rubbed it in a little while we retaliated with our winnings and another bombing of the aft with the bubble gun at sail away.


St. Lucia was next on the itinerary and another all inclusive on the schedule for us and a large group of “beansâ€. This time we all made it there, a nice resort called Rendezvous. They have a great swim up bar in the pool, a nice beach with sailboats, snorkeling, paddleboats, kayaks and water skiing. There was a buffet at lunch time, not quite as nice as onboard the Brilliance, but it served the purpose, and we whiled away the day in the company of friends while enjoying the resort until it was time to head back to the ship for another round of bubble blowing.


St. Martin was the next port and by then I was getting really tired of so many port days in a row and just plain worn out from so much activity all day long and well into the night with little sleep so we decided to just do a little shopping and either head to the beach or back to the pool onboard. Shopping complete we went back to the ship to drop off our bags and the pool was much closer than the beach so it won the fight for our attention. Next thing, I knew, hubby was shaking me awake from my reading to go to the cabin for sail away and more bubbles.


Two Sea days followed, thank god!!!! We made the most of our sea days by hosting wine tasting parties in our cabin followed by time well spent in the Schooner bar, which actually looks quite a bit like a maritime museum. Our bartender there, Nash, was great at keeping the “beans†glasses from going empty in the evenings and entertaining us with his silly jokes and magic tricks. One of the “bean†regulars was also a very good magician and sure amazed me with his tricks. We also had plenty of time on sea days to enjoy a good magazine in those comfy chairs in the solarium trying not to snore.


Our final port was Nassau, not quite Labadee as planned due to civil unrest in Haiti and we wouldn’t have even gotten off the ship had it not been for a need to search out some rum cakes for a gift, so we were back onboard quickly and packing up our things so we could enjoy our final afternoon and evening onboard while all the rookies were packing, leaving us an empty ship while they packed. It was hard to believe that those 11 days had flown by so quickly and there were a lot of sad faces in the schooner bar that night.


Gratuities were well earned on this cruise by our attentive servers and attendants and in addition to their monetary rewards we also gifted them each with bottles of our wine (we make our own) complete with labels that pictured the Brilliance. They were very appreciative, and the Maitre’D even gave me a kiss (I blushed) We bid farewell to our new friends and servers and made one last attempt to tempt the casino gods, that brought us to the break even point before calling it a night and having one last evening of romance on that wonderful balcony before sailing into the port of Miami.


Disembarkation was so fast we didn’t even have time for a cup of tea our final morning before our color was called and they made me leave the beautiful Brilliance scratching and clawing at the rail to stay onboard for another cruise. By 8am we were at the curb in Miami waving goodbye.




Panama Canal Transit 4-16-05

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I'm so jealous that you got cabin 1100. I've been trying for The Serenade for spring next year but it just doesn't come up available for any dates. How did you get it? Thanks for the review!

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Hey Ginny!! Wasn't that cruise the absolute best ever!!! Man, the beans were so much fun. Goes to show that cruise critic and the meet and mingles are what you make of them. We on the roll call made every effort to get together and spend time with each other and it worked out beautifully. Thanx for hosting all of the get togethers. You and your cabin made it so much fun. I hope I am with another group this fun some time in my life. If you hear from Jae ask her to email me. I'm getting worried because I haven't heard from her since she said she was driving back home with Rose. Doesn't look like she made it to the Orlando hospital like she had said. And don't forget to let us know when you are in Savannah so we can have that drink. Tell Rick hey from Mark and I!!!



Holland America - Westerdam 12/95

Carnival Celebration 12/96

NCL - Majesty 12/97

RCCL - Grandeur 10/98

Celebrity Century 10/00

Carnival Imagination 10/01

Carnival Fascination 4/02

RCCL - Enchantment 10/02

RCCL - Voyager 5/03

RCCL - Nordic Empress 11/03

RCCL - Brilliance 4/04

RCCL - Navigator 10/04

RCCL - Legend 3/05



Navigator of the Seas



14 day Panama Canal


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Hi Franki, We will be heading up that way on the 11th on our way to NC to visit my daughter who STILL hasn't had her baby yet. I'll call when we get in the area and if you guys have some time maybe we can meet somewhere for a drink. I just got an e-mail from Jae, she's home and safe so no more worries.


You are absolutely right about the meet and mingles being what we make of them. This group was so organized that most of us had met before any formal party took place and we all knew who was in what cabin and had the same interests in things they wanted to do in each port before we even got onboard. This was absolutely the BEST group of cruisers we have been with on any of our cruises. We had a blast. I miss everyone, but most of all I miss my stateroom attendant, I need clean towels, mine are still on the floor. icon_biggrin.gif




Panama Canal Transit 4-16-05

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Thanks for the nice review. It was very well written. Your experience closly matches the one we had on the Brilliance in February. We too loved pretenting to read in the Solarium icon_smile.gif


We have signed up again for next year. Several of us were interestred in Rendezvous. Most of the posts I have read about this were positive except for one recent one. icon_confused.gif


Thanks again,



Our Brilliance Cruise 2004

The Official Blues Cruisers Website

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tfries, Rendezvous was very accomodating to our group. We e-mailed them before sailing and confirmed reservations so they were expecting us. They provide towels and everything you need except sunscreen, it was a very easy day that we enjoyed very much. The cab ride to Rendezvous was short, it's only about five minutes away from the pier. I think the rate for a day pass was $38pp and they took credit cards. Drinks were very good at the swim up bar. icon_biggrin.gif




Panama Canal Transit 4-16-05

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what a review!!!We were thinking about booking this cruise for our 25th anniverary in Jan. That's it! No more hesitation...I'm on the phone with my travel agent as soon as my DH comes home from work!!!!! icon_biggrin.gif


Thanks a Lot!!!!



Ecstacy 01/01

Monarch of the seas 06 & 09/02

Facination 01/03

Triumph 10/03

enchantment 01/04

Facination 05/04

Brilliance 01/05 !!!! icon_cool.gif

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I have a few questions for you!!!

I was lucky enough to find available today JS 1098.Right across from your aft 1100.So I switched from our recently booked D1. Was it nice and quiet back there? I know its not aft,and the balcony isn't as big as yours was,but its a Junior Suite!

Did they have laundry service on the ship?

Does it have a laundry service? We're traveling with our 5 yr. old. icon_wink.gifDoes the suite have a VCR?

Are we allowed touse the Concierge(sp?) room?

Thanks for all the help.



Ecstacy 01/01

Monarch of the Seas 06 & 09/02

Facination 01/03

Triumph 10/03

Imagination 05/04

Brilliance..Our 25th!!!


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Thank's for the review, and am very glad that you had such a great cruise. We had the cabin right below you (9256) on our March cruise and really got spoiled by the views on the sailaways. It was also good to hear that you had such good service from your attendant and in the dining room. We were not so lucky on our cruise (I think mainly due to a large turnover among the crew as we boarded), but agree wholeheartedly that the Brilliance is a fantastic ship. Once again, thank you for letting us know that RCI's standards are back on the up-swing.



Barcrawlers on ice, where will we turn up next?


Carnival Celebration 08/97

Carnival Fantasy 02/99

RCI Explorer 05/02

RCI Brilliance 04/03 The Barcrawler Legend Begins

RCI Brilliance 03/04 The Return of the Barcrawlers

Celebrity Summit 06/10/2005

Barcrawlers in Alaska


email address: Stretchcrawler@yahoo.com


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