Cruise Ship: Brilliance of the Seas
Cruise Destination: Mediterranean
Cruise Dates: May 26, 2007
Guest Contributor: Sharon
My husband and I were on the May 26th Barcelona/Barcelona cruise of the Brilliance of the Seas. A little about us - we are professionals in our early 30's - no kids yet - 2 prior cruises in the Caribbean on Celebrity. This was also our first time to Europe. With frequent flyer miles we arranged a free flight into Heathrow and stayed one night at the Paddington Hilton. What a wonderful town! Not nearly enough time. Then purchased tickets on British Airways to Barcelona where we stayed at the Barcelona Hilton for 2 nights. We spent one day catching up and the other day traveling around the city on the Bus Turistico. Went to all the sites and Las Ramblas. Ate at a couple of restaurants by the hotel in the financial district. Because we were out of the area of the main city, we missed out on some of the charm of Barcelona but with a couple of free rooms. . .
We boarded the Brilliance of the Seas about 11am on the 26th. We had every intention of checking in, dropping off luggage and going back into town but since we love cruises, we found ourselves by the pool bar and meeting friends from San Francisco. First impressions of the Brilliance - nice, but no Celebrity Galaxy or Century. Not as clean or nicely maintained as the Celebrity ships. We quickly made friends with our pool staff bartenders - Lukas from South Africa (only second week at sea), Allan and Marcio. We met another couple and looked forward to the next week ahead!
We were seated at the late seating - 9:15pm. We prefer the late dinner so when we get home from the day ashore we can relax or have a drink before rushing to dinner. One note, all the brochures and info stated 2 formal nights, 4 casual and 1 smart casual. There were actually 2 smart casual nights, not 1. Dinner was OK for the week. Again, hate to compare but not nearly up to the standards of Celebrity. We had to hail down the drink server and always ask for water instead of the assistant waiter just re-filling.
This was the only disappointing part of our trip and because of it, we will probably not sail RCCL again. To give a glaring example, my husband ordered two appetizers on the final night of the cruise: risotto and soup. Only the risotto came. I'm sorry, but if you can't get the orders right ON TIP NIGHT, something is very wrong. Anyway, we spent most of the evening in the casinos and exploring and making friends. There is no craps table but we were more than happy with the slots, roulette, blackjack and Caribbean poker. We did purchase the RCCL 12 drinks for $39.99 card which was very easy and a good deal.
Also, we found MANY Americans. We thought it would be mostly Europeans and were pleasantly surprised. The ship is considered an American ship and accepts USD in the casinos. You can cash in Euros for USD but you cannot exchange USD for Euros as they are not allowed to carry. All tipping was in Euros for the tours so be sure to get some at one of your ports or before embarking.
Ports: Think HOT. Any later than the end of the May and these ports would be so hot, I would not want to visit. Most ports were upwards of 35 degrees Celsius at mid day. In some ports we had our own arrangements through local tour guides. The excursions were great and the ports were fun places to visit.
- Villefranche: We spent the day riding the train to Nice. Nice is a wonderful city to visit. While many of the smaller ships can gain entrance into Nice's commercial harbor putting Nice within walking distance, many more larger ships anchor in Villefranche, France leaving the independent traveler with the problem of getting to Nice if that is there choice of destinations.
- Livorno: We took the ships tour to Pisa . Great shopping, restaurants and lots of color.
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