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Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review

Cruise Review - Brilliance of the Seas Mediterranean Cruise

By Thomas St. George

The view from the ship alone was magical, as was the entire place. We did not even consider a ship's excursion in Santorini. Fira was such a beautiful town and so easily accessed that a ship's excursion was not necessary. Santorini was a tendering port, but by this point the crew had given up on tender tickets. When passengers were ready to go ashore, they got in line. The tenders dropped passengers off at the base of a steep cliff. Fira was at the top of the cliff. There were three ways to get to the top: tram (4 Euro), donkeys (price to be negotiated---before starting up), walk (which was free). I took the tram and my wife took the donkeys. We both arrived safely. Whatever the choice, once at the top visitors were in the heart of Fira. Photographic opportunities were everywhere. It was one of the few places I have ever traveled where I regretted not taking more photographs without people. The town acted as a muse for even the most unaccomplished photographer. Along with photos, there was limitless shopping. Here the shopkeepers were not aggressive but neither were they very flexible. Cafes were present, though not numerous. For individuals seeking to explore the island, there were cars and scooters for rent.

After an unforgettable day in Santorini, the Pacifica Theatre featured Renato Paliari. Renato was a true performer, who succeeded in getting the crowd very involved in his performance. A combination of humor and music made for an entertaining night. Casual/toga attire was called for at the Minstrel, although I saw no staff or passengers in toga attire during dinner. However, from 11:30 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. the ship hosted a toga party around the main pool. Togas were supplied and tied by the staff. Each passenger lined up to get his/her bed sheets properly wrapped. Some individuals chose to go toga- only, while others wore the toga directly over their clothing. Toga tying was followed by a poolside banquet, complete with all the right buffet foods and ice sculptures. A dance floor was set up, with D J Luis playing the music. This was a very well attended and executed event. The good food and music made it a great night.

When I booked this cruise the itinerary was the driving force, but once on the cruise the sea days were as welcome as the excursions; day ten was a sea day. Breakfast at the Windjammer was followed by a round of morning bingo. It was my experience that bingo usually did not start on time. Blackout seemed to be the game of choice aboard the Brilliance Bingo was played in the Colony Club and attracted sizeable crowds. In order to get a booth or good seat, passengers had to arrive early. Any player who got a bingo in 50 or less numbers won the bingo pool. This carried over until the last day of the cruise on Friday, when it was more than $3,000. The money from the pool was guaranteed to be paid out on the last day. This was also the day that passports were returned.

This second sea day was formal attire and lobster night. This is the one day we knew that we would not go to Chops or the Portifino. Apparently we were not the only ones committed to eating at the Minstrel that night, because there appeared not to be an empty seat in either level of the dining room. The lobsters were small, so requesting two was common and not a problem. Our server had asked us in advance how many lobsters we would like per person. Formal nights have begun to be criticized by some frequent cruisers, but they were always a lot of fun and created a great atmosphere on the ship. Most people stayed in their formal attire after dinner; this was particularly true for those over 30. That night we retired early in order to be ready for our last excursion.

Naples was a beautiful city, made more beautiful by the fact passengers did not have to tender. For those who only wanted to see Naples, the harbor was attached to the city. A three minute walk put passengers in the heart of Napoli. There were few, if any, taxis at the wharf, so taxi people found this port more challenging. We opted for an excursion to Pompeii. All of the available ship excursions allowed for less than four hours at the site. Individuals who desired more time at Pompeii needed to investigate private tours. There was no water provided on this excursion, so bringing water was a must. On the way to Pompeii our retail stop was a Cameo factory/store. This stop bothered me more than others. Pompeii was vast and there was such a limited time at the ruins that stopping to sell tourists cameos seemed offensive. At Pompeii we were given time to use the restroom and purchase water or other refreshments before the tour began. A four-hour trip to Pompeii did not begin to cover the area. The appropriate result was that our guide tried to show visitors a variety of areas, along with the real highlights. A must see were the paintings above each of the rooms of a brothel; each depicted the "specialty" of the woman who lived in a particular room.

The amount of original mosaic and art work in the homes was amazing. Further, virtually all of the streets were extant. In one of the baths, the original roof was still present. For travelers with even a passing interest in history or archaeology, Pompeii was a stop that could not be missed. As a bonus, Mt. Vesuvius was clearly visible going to and from the ship. Our excursion put us back on the ship by 12:30 p.m. This left plenty of time to see Naples for passengers who wanted to visit the city. From the ship I counted thirteen church domes.

Despite the lure of Naples, we opted for a leisurely afternoon of lunch, time around the pool and taking in a late-afternoon movie. Lunch was at the Seaview Café, which was located on deck twelve above the Windjammer. This was an Italian themed restaurant that specialized in sandwiches and pizzas to order. There were an impressive number of ingredients available on pizzas. I enjoyed a blue cheese, mushroom, and ham pizza. There was also limited bar service available in the Seaview. The Seaview was a nice alternative for lunch, though its menu was too limited for dinner.

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