Cruise Ship: Brilliance of the Seas
Cruise Destination: Mediterranean
Cruise Dates: July 8 - July 20, 2007
Guest Contributor: Thomas St. George
My wife and I booked a twelve-day Mediterranean cruise through Royal Caribbean (RCI) on the Brilliance of the Seas (Brilliance). We took our three grown children ages 23, 21, and 19, along with our youngest son who was 12. The cruise began on July 8, 2007 and ended on July 20, 2007.
We booked our flights through Royal Caribbean International. On the outbound flights we flew Air France. The usual evaluation of Air France is that the food is great and everything else is a maybe. Our trip tended to validate this opinion. The food was great and, unlike most United States carriers, alcoholic drinks were gratis in coach. The entertainment was also up to today's standards: There was a nice selection of movies, video games, flight data, television shows, and news. However, significant issues deterred from the fine fare and viewing.
We left Los Angeles late, but the captain made up the time in-flight. Grateful to have plenty of time to catch our connection to Barcelona, we gleefully prepared to disembark our Boeing 777 upon arrival to Charles D'Gaulle Airport. Unfortunately, there were no open gates, which meant we sat on the tarmac. Fifteen minutes later a gate opened up. Once at the gate we all stood up, as passengers leaving planes tend to do---and we waited. After ten minutes we were told that the gangway had broken. Thirty minutes later, the problem was rectified, but time was now more critical. In the airport we discovered that Air France operated many terminals, none of which were connected. Thus, we asked for directions. Following the pointing finger of a Frenchmen, we hopped on what we hoped was the appropriate train to head to another terminal. Yet when we read the signs, it was obvious the train we were on was not bound for anywhere we wanted to go. Back off the train, mildly panicked, we looked for a friendlier Frenchmen and new directions. This time we were told to get on a bus, which we dutifully did. Thankfully, the bus was the right one and we made it to our gate. When we arrived it was obvious that there was a large, angry crowd at the gate. The flight was not only late, but it could not come to this gate; we were to be bussed out to a runway-holding area for boarding. Before we were allowed on the bus, we needed to show our tickets. Oops, in Los Angeles the ticket agent forgot to stamp my boarding pass for the connection to Barcelona. Consequently, I was informed that, while my family could board, my boarding pass was not valid because it was not stamped. Air France demanded my ticket, but thanks to RCI only giving E-tickets, and not the kind that used to get people on to the good rides at Disneyland, I could only show them my empty pockets. Whether it was the empty pockets or my pathetic, American-traveler act, they eventually acquiesced and allowed me to join my family.
In time our plane arrived, and soon we were winging our way to Barcelona. This time the doors opened, and we made our way to the luggage carousel (with all the implied double meaning that word brings). The luggage took forever to arrive, and it was never quite clear which of the ten carousels were to be used. Thankfully, oh so thankfully, all twelve pieces arrived. We learned later that one of our neighbors on the ship did not get any of their luggage; it never came to the ship, and they were told that it was going to be months before it arrived. Thank you Air France for having pity on my family.
Luggage in tow, we sought out the ubiquitous guys with the signs. Finding ours, we were put into a cab. After fifteen minutes, despite severe jetlag, it was clear that we were going in circles. I didn't know much Spanish, but I knew it was not a good sign when the driver said to his dispatcher, "Donde esta Hotel Diagonal Barcelona?" Several more dondes later we made it to the hotel. They had our rooms and were expecting us, which is good after a long transatlantic flight.
The Hotel Diagonal was clean and upscale. Our only issue was that the bathrooms were made of glass, and not the kind that become opaque with the flip of the switch. It was as if the designer had seen an article in Architectural Digest but failed to understand the entire concept. For the grown children a transparent bathroom was more family bonding than they had bargained for, but it was a minor problem. The next day we were picked up by our RCI-arranged connection. The connection was on time. We quickly made it through the ship's check in (ten minutes). Note: Be prepared, RCI does take your passports at check in and does not return them until the end of the cruise. I definitely had a problem with this, but what can you do? As with most cruises, a sea pass card served as passengers' identification on the ship and was issued to each passenger before boarding. RCI recommended that we use our driver's licenses as identification when ashore.
Once on the ship, we went to guest relations in order to get Internet for one son, and a soda wrist band for the other. We opted not to get Internet in the room, because we were told by guest relations that it was too slow to be useful. Instead, we took a 150 minute Internet connection ($50), which was accessed through RC's computers or on our own. This connection proved quick enough for my son to communicate well with his office. The soda wrist band did not go so well (these bands gave a guest unlimited fountain sodas). There must have been a problem in communication, as we found out later the wrist band my son received was the standard children's identification wrist band. Thus, we had to sign him up a second time.
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