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Royal Caribbean International: Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas Review

Insider Take

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

The really big Royal Caribbean ships with Royal Promenades, ice skating and Broadway shows.

Onboard Experience

The Brilliance (and her sister ships in the Radiance Class - Radiance, Jewel, Serenade), at just over 90,000 tons, offers an excellent alternative to her much larger cousins, Royal Caribbean's Oasis, Voyager and Freedom Class mega-ships, while still being large enough to provide all the amenities we've come to expect from modern cruise ships.

There's no shortage of activities, from standard daily trivia games, to craft classes, dance lessons, guest lecturers, and passenger participation games; yet there are plenty of spaces where one can escape the frenzy to relax, read, or just watch the seas go by. Professional entertainment on board was varied and enjoyable.

Staff and crew are friendly and helpful to a fault, and any reasonable request was accommodated without hesitation.

One rather irksome quirk on this ship is the lack of self-serve drink stations except for coffee or water. All other drinks are pre-poured and available from only two stations well inside of Windjammer Cafe. (Inside the Windjammer Cafe, servers do circulate with trays of non-alcoholic drinks as well.)

Decor

With the 2013 upgrade the ship received a much needed face lift with new decor, a beautiful winter garden style atrium, and new furniture throughout including inside the staterooms.

Public Rooms

The heart of the ship is the lobby bar on Deck 4, at the lowest level of the Centrum, where an ensemble performs each night. This is the spot people seem inclined to congregate. During the day this area is often used for cooking demonstrations, lessons on creating towel animals, etc.

At the bow on Decks 4 and 5 is the ship's main showroom, the Pacifica Theater. With plush burgundy and rouge toned individual seats, complete with cup holders, and unobstructed sight lines, the theater is an excellent venue for the ship's productions and headliner acts.

Two decks above on Deck 6, the low-key Champagne Bar offers panoramic views of the seas through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Also on Deck 6, the Bombay Billiards Club has the first pool tables at sea - very high-tech pool tables at that. Each one is balanced on a gyro-style ball bearing the size of a grape; the table may move as the ship rocks, but the balls will remain in place.

Another Deck 6 lounge is the natty Schooners, with marine blue chairs accented by real teak, along with nautical antiques and reproductions. In the adjacent Colony Club is a large dance floor and stage suitable for a variety of entertainment.

Forward on Deck 6 is the Casino Royale, where slots and video gaming dominate the large space, with lights, bells and whistles inviting passengers to contribute. Table games, a craps table, and roulette wheel call out to those who prefer more social gambling. One blackjack table is currently used for the ever more popular Texas Hold 'Em (and plans are afoot to begin hosting Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, but they aren't set yet).

A small but well-stocked library on Deck 8 faces the atrium, and feels like a traditional study. The library is open 24 hours per day, and operates on an honor system - passengers sign books out and back in when returning them.

Close by is the tiny Crown and Anchor Club, but don't miss it: You can stand on a glass platform with a view of the entire atrium beneath your feet.

High atop the ship on Deck 13, the traditional Royal Caribbean Viking Crown Lounge offers a near-360 degree panoramic view. On Brilliance, it is divided into the StarQuest disco and Hollywood Lounge, a low-key room with a small stage for performances.

Forward on Deck 5, off the Centrum, Brilliance boasts a more upscale shopping area than other Royal Caribbean ships, including designer-branded fashion wear and a brilliant jewelry store. Near the Internet area is a small coffee and pastry shop with the unforgettable name of Latte-tudes. One of the best features of the ship is the cinema, which shows two features per day.

On outdoor decks, smoking is restricted to the starboard side. Smoking is allowed in passenger cabins, as well as private balconies. Contrary to some beliefs, there are no non-smoking cabins available.

There are two swimming pools on Deck 11. The Solarium is a tranquil, glassed-in pool area with an African theme and three enormous plaster elephants overlooking the pool. You'll hear bird and animal sounds through the towering tropical plants. The Solarium Cafe offers a variety of salads, a couple of sandwich choices and pizza.

The open-air central pool and surrounding sun deck are bit small, so the space can feel crowded on sea days. However, there are plenty of sun loungers and open spaces one deck up, on Deck 12. I'd love to see some patio-style furnishing (tables and chairs) in an open-air deck area. The central pool area has only two tables with chairs, and they are tucked into a hallway on the starboard side leading to the Windjammer Cafe.

Indoors, both aft and forward of the Windjammer Cafe are areas with lovely faux wicker style sofas and coffee tables - excellent spots to relax, read, or socialize. If this same concept could be transferred to an outdoor area it would be most impressive.

Aft on Deck 12, are indoor and outdoor kids' areas - the Ocean Adventures Club, complete with kiddy pool and a small water slide. Further aft is the SeaView Cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating. The menus at the SeaView were recently changed; it now only offers salads, pastas, and pizzas.

Above on Deck 13, also aft, there's a rock climbing wall, sports deck, and mini-golf course - all free for passenger use. On Deck 12 around the pool deck is a walking/running track. Eight laps equals one mile.

Restaurants

The Minstrel Dining Room is a glamorous two-story space amidships, with a grand staircase, large pillars, and lovely, high-end furnishings. In addition to dinner service, it is available for open-seating breakfast and for lunch. At lunch, it now offers "Brasserie 30" - a set menu that does not change day to day, but promises that diners will be in and out in 30 minutes.

Breakfasts, lunches and casual dinners are offered in the Windjammer Cafe. The physical setup at the Windjammer works very well, with separate service islands for different parts of the menu - e.g., for lunch, burgers/hot dogs/condiments, salads, sandwiches, a carving station, pizza, and yet another that alternates between Asian, Chinese and Thai offerings.

The 2013 brought a number of upgrades and new dining venues as follows:

Main Dining Room with complimentary, multi-course dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Windjammer Cafe, pizzeria, Seaview Cafe with sandwiches, soups, and snacks, and room service.

Royal Caribbean signature specialty restaurants Chops Grille steakhouse and Portofino Italian restaurant, where for one low cover charge you can choose any items off the menu from appetizer to dessert.

Cafe Latte-tudes, a specialty coffee house.

Complimentary Park Cafe for sandwiches, wraps, soups and carry away desserts like cookies and cannoli.

Chef's Table intimate dining experience.

Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant.

Izumi Asian-fusion cuisine, featuring a la carte sushi selections.

Rita's Cantina for Mexican fare favorites.

Entertainment

The Pacifica Theater is the ship's main showroom. The production shows with the ship's production crew were well received. The variety in the type of acts chosen as headliners was among the most diverse we've found on a cruise ship.

The daily entertainment at the Lobby Bar packed them in nightly, with rotating musical acts. A variety of musical entertainment is offered each evening in lounges around the ship, and of course the DJ spins tunes in the disco late into the night.

One of the most entertaining evenings we spent was participating in the Murder Mystery Dinner at Portofino's, with many cast members from the production crew acting the parts. It is very much an interactive evening with guests and actors, and highly recommended.

Fitness/Spa

The 15,500 sq. ft. ocean-view ShipShape Spa comprises three sections: a beauty and health center with 12 treatment rooms, including Rasul and thermal suite ($15 for a half-hour); an aerobics area with mirrored wall and a wooden suspended aerobics floor; and the gym, with 18 treadmills, 10 Reebok Recumbent Cycles, eight Reebok Body Peaks, four Reebok Ridge Rocker Cycles, four Reebok Body Treks, free weights, and multiple benches. TV monitors and stereo sound are available throughout. Scheduled fitness activities include stretching and aerobics classes and aqua-dynamics. The famous Royal Caribbean rock-climbing wall rises 200 feet above the sea with five separate climbing tracks. The Sports Club & Country Club has golf simulators, ping-pong, a basketball court and deck games. There's even a nine-hole miniature golf course and a jogging track.

Children's Facilities

Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.

Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.

RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for preschoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.

Lastly, RCI unveiled a Youth Loyalty Program this summer. Children and teens can now also enjoy Crown & Anchor Society repeat passenger benefits. Rewards for youngsters on their second or more RCI cruise include Crayola Twistable crayons or a Royal Caribbean bag. All repeating youth receive a Youth Ultimate Value Booklet with coloring pages, games and discounts for onboard amenities such as Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, and arcade games. Parents can enroll their children (if they have already cruised with RCI) via the line's website: www.royalcaribbean.com/youth.

Private babysitting is offered from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., provided sitters are available, for children from one year old. The rate is usually $8-$10 per hour depending on the number of children in the family. Cash payment is made directly to the sitter. Arrange through Guest Services at least 24 hours in advance.

Overview

A "right-sized" small but modern ships just upgraded with new eateries, bars, kids programs and decor.

Best For People Who Want

A lively, family-friendly cruise experience on a mid-sized ship, with elegant decor, a wide variety of entertainment choices, and reasonable (though not gourmet) food quality.

Cuisine

The main dining room food is as good as on any of the mass market lines. Your best bet is to try the alternative options described below.

The Windjammer buffet area has been restyled with "actions stations" to make service faster and more a la minute.

Service

The multinational staff and crew clearly enjoy watching passengers enjoy themselves. They're uniformly cheerful, knowledgeable, and eager to help. The wait staff in every restaurant is noticeably solicitous and conscientious. Cabin service staff is efficient but unobtrusive. The purser's desk is notably responsive, especially in view of how much troubleshooting they must do on a ship this size. Even room service is prompt and delivered with a smile.

Tipping

Royal Caribbean suggests a per person, per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite), $3.50 for the waiter, $2.50 for the assistant waiter, 75 cents for the headwaiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Cabins

Of the ship's 1,050 staterooms, 813 have ocean views and 577 private verandas. Standard features in all cabins include refrigerator/mini-bar, hair dryer, interactive TV, telephone, computer jack, and a large closet and plenty of drawers. In standard and most balcony cabins, bathrooms have a shower and one large medicine cabinet. There are also such welcome touches as beds with rounded corners and lighted vanity tables with mirrored cabinets. Tubs are found only in the highest category staterooms; most bathrooms only have showers (though large ones) and medicine cabinets. There are even full-length mirrors in the "superior" category cabins. There are 14 wheelchair-accessible staterooms.

Brilliance has some of the best balcony cabins at sea; for the very best, look to the aft cabins on Decks 7-10, where the Cat. D rooms have the largest balconies on the ship (13 x 9.5 ft.). There are steel walls between balconies instead of the glass common on the rest of the ship. Overall, staterooms on this ship are larger than the average Royal Caribbean cabin. While inside cabins measure only 165 sq. ft.; outside cabins range from 170 to 204 sq. ft., and the five categories of suites from 293 to 1,001 sq. ft.

Brilliance had just completed the replacement and upgrading of beds, linens, and pillows during our time on board, and new duvets to replace the sheets and blankets previously used were due the following week.

Attire

There were two designated formal nights during our 11-night cruise. The others are split between suggested dress codes of smart casual and casual, but the line between the two seems to be disappearing, and on evenings designated as smart casual the majority of men opted out of wearing jackets.




Ship Overview

The second of four Radiance-class ships, Brilliance of the Seas debuted in 2002. Upgrades in 2013 brought new staterooms, an outdoor movie screen poolside, a pub, the casual Park Café, Asian, Italian, and steak-house specialty restaurants, a Mexican restaurant, lounges for elite past passengers, a new nursery, and digital signage.

Considered by many people to be the most beautiful vessels in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Radiance-class ships are large but sleek and swift, with sun-filled interiors and panoramic elevators that span 10 decks along the ships' exteriors.

Big, bigger, biggest! Royal Caribbean has the largest modern mega cruise liners in the world, as well as some of the most innovative technology on its newest ships, from robot bartenders to the fastest Wi-Fi at sea. Its fleet of 25 and counting are all-around favorites of passengers—arguably the most multigenerational (and Millennial) crowd at sea—who enjoy traditional cruising ambience with a touch of daring and whimsy. Each ship in the fleet has action-packed activities such as surfing pools, rock-climbing walls, and on the newest ships, skydiving simulators, and 10-story slides.

Expansive multideck atriums and promenades, as well as the generous use of brass and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, give each vessel a sense of spaciousness and style. The action is nonstop in casinos and dance clubs after dark, while daytime hours are filled with poolside games and traditional cruise activities. Port talks tend to lean heavily on shopping recommendations and the sale of shore excursions.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Aft on deck 6, four distinct lounges and a billiard room form a clubby adult entertainment center
  • Spacious family ocean-view cabins sleep up to six people
  • Ships offer a wide range of family-friendly activities and games

Cons

  • Upgraded features of the fleet are not consistent throughout this ship class, so check before booking
  • Dining options that charge have replaced some that were previously complimentary
  • Libraries are tiny and poorly stocked for ships this size
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 857
  • Entered Service 2002
  • Gross Tons 90,090
  • Length 962 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,056
  • Passenger Capacity 2,112 (2,501 max)
  • Width 106 feet
  • New

Apr 26, 2016

cozumel

WOW! Who doesn't love a cruise?! My wife and I just returned from our Royal Caribbean cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas out of Tampa on 4/18-22/2016. Having cruised with Royal Caribbean several times before we were sure this trip would be equally amazing especially since our port of call was Cozumel, Mexico; check that off the bucket list. The revitalization of the ship, Brilliance of the Seas, was stunning and the entire staff was awesome.

Unfortunately Royal Caribbean really missed the mark with the food - AWFUL - cafeteria food for fine dining! Room Service: Breakfast- 30min early - YEA... only cold & flavorless. The Danish appeared to have been left over from the day before. The scrambled eggs were a flavorless ice-cream scoop mound of yuk. By the way, no amount of salt and/or pepper can fix cold (powdered?!) eggs...believe me we tried. Buffet Breakfast: Not bad but nothing special...again the eggs left ALOT to be desired although the eggs from the “eggs cooked to order” looked good if I felt like waiting and waiting and waiting. Lunch Buffet: Standard lunch fare....probably better than breakfast but nothing memorable except the self-serve ice cream. Park Cafe: Thankful for a go to spot for a quick snack "after-hours"- oh wait... that was only till 10:30pm. Guess that explained why I saw so many guests squirreling food away to their cabins. Aside from that...snacks, pizza, and sandwiches were adequate. Minstrel Dining: THIS IS WHERE IT WENT FROM BAD TO WORSE. Ever since I can remember, one of the highlights of cruising was the food; specifically the main event-dinner. I gotta hand it to the wait staff...really on top of their game. It's just a shame they have such a poor product to work with. Many of the entree items featured were simply leftovers from the Windjammer lunch buffet or at best the same food prepared again for dinner with a slight variation and better presentation. Two specific items topped the list of worst of worst for us- the chicken marsala and the seafood medley were complete failures. Mrs. Pau's, Gorton's & Tyson have better or comparable products. So disappointing. We both felt like the bulk of the dinner entrees were essentially cafeteria food in a fine dining environment-and many of our fellow cruisers relayed the same sentiment even going so far as to advise others ahead of their meal of what NOT to order...sad, just sad. Bartenders: Not the most jovial bunch but who can blame them; so overworked it seemed they could barely look up. Regrettably this cruise was to be the benchmark for a future family cruise in February and it really has left a very poor taste in our mouths. No comps, coupons or refunds are being solicited, just needed for you to be aware of why you will not be seeing us for repeat business anytime soon.

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  • New

Nov 21, 2015

Cozumel and grand cayman

Dinning room service was terrible at our table. Bathroom smelled bad. Employees seemed tired and didn't smile much of the time. Bed pillows were old and flat. Need new towels as well they were old. Food was fine nothing special good salad bar. Nice cabin but it smelled bad in the bathroom and the pillows were old and very flat. Bingo was expensive $38.00 to play We didn't do any activities. Went with

family and it was stressful at dinner because service was very poor very difficult to get a drink No smiles from staff and our waiter and his assistant complained and seemed tired.

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  • New

Nov 14, 2015

repositioning

Our most recent cruise was a 13 day repositioning cruise from Boston to Tampa. This cruise appeared to attract older travelers many of whom take this same voyage every year. While there were a few newlyweds on board the cruise was predominantly retired folks. The food was not bad but not amazing or memorable. In general, the food lacked flavor although moderately salted (especially the soups). Omelets and fish were most generally overcooked

and not appetizing. With regards to dining venues the food available on the buffet stayed generally the same throughout the cruise. The food in the main dining room was okay with two notable exceptions. The horseradish crusted salmon and the prime rib were by far the best foods tasted during the 13 days on board. Our experience with the any time dining option was a nightmare. Expect long wait lines unless you are choosing to eat at 5:30 pm or after 8:15 p.m. If you are thinking of paying for food in the specialty restaurants expecting to be wowed, save your money. Both the Chops Grille and Giovanni's were huge disappointments. They only provided a more intimate dining experience than what we had in the main dining room. If you like coffee with your dessert be sure to order it at the beginning of your meal. For some unexplained reason it was very difficult to get coffee served just prior to desert. If I were to look for the silver lining it would be that I did not gain any weight during the cruise. The stateroom was nicely appointed, very comfortable and kept immaculate by our stateroom attendant. Surprisingly, there was lots of storage space available for all of our clothes and toiletries. On sea days there were a lot of activities available. The cruise director and her staff work hard and it showed. The entertainment in the theater was fantastic. If I were to make one suggestion it would be to turn down the volume for the RC singers because there were times that a lovely song turned into painful screeching. We enjoyed the progressive trivia, and the many demonstrations that were provided. One of our favorite sessions was a chat from the captain at both the beginning and end of the cruise. It was so informative and our captain was engaging and interesting. As far as the movies, we were disappointed with the options as they seemed to be either science fiction, adventure or serious. A lighthearted comedy or two would have been wonderful additions. We loved waking the deck and we were so pleased that we could walk all around Deck 5 which we did daily. I really appreciated the opportunity to attend daily Mass. Thank you Father Connolly and Royal Caribbean for making that happen. We actually played pool a few times on the gyro pool tables. That was something that we had never experienced on any other cruise. We enjoyed our excursions. They were long enough to allow us to see the islands that we were visiting while still allowing time at port for shopping and an ability to enjoy a local beer/cocktail. My only disappointment was the limited hours to enjoy Curacao which is one of my favorite destinations. Unfortunately we were only allowed six hours in port. We had a lovely and relaxing cruise. The Brilliance of the Seas was a nice ship and as with every cruise - it is what you make it. When looking back - my one pet peeve was that RC tended to favor the platinum and diamond guests (there were than 500+ on board) so much that we sometimes felt like second class passengers. While I understand the need to reward repeat passengers, that desire should be balanced with providing first time travelers with a reason to want to sail with RC again.

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Jun 14, 2015

Baltic cruise

The food was the worst I have ever encountered on any cruise,( previously been with P&O & Fred Olsen). There were virtually no vegetables, and what there were were severely undercooked. One main meal had 2 button mushrooms and half a tomato as its only veg, another had 4 very small pieces of potato and 9 peas. Most guests, including Crown & Anchor Diamond members,were very unhappy with the standard. Often it was at too low a temperature to be safe

from microbiological hazard. This was raised with the catering staff, but despite this the problem was not resolved until the final dinner, when suddenly we were served with our only hot meal. The ship has its faults, but is generally well-maintained, and is quiet and smooth, and the crew are all very friendly. The ports of call could not have been bettered, but some of the shore excursions were poor. An evening river cruise in St Petersburg drew lots of complaints, but Royal Caribbean offered a miserly compensation of under US$10. On the following day, a trip to Peterhof Palace was spoiled by insufficient time at the venue. The guide knew at the outset that the journey would take up most of our time, resulting in completing the tour of the grounds at a virtual jogging pace, yet no apology for this was ever made. See above. The waiters were not of the highest standard. It was not unusual to be presented with menus upside down, and on one occasion being given the menu for the previous day. Sometimes the meals provided were not what had been ordered, resulting in the waiters dashing around to find replacements. Excellent, as was our steward, who was very attentive. Not brilliant. There could have been much more done to occupy time on sea days, and the venues used for events were often unsuitable. Many evening events were in the Centrum, which is far too small, and of poor acoustics, resuting in many guests wandering around trying to find seats. There is an excellent venue, The Colony Club, which is severely underused. Avoid the St Petersburg evening river cruise. Otherwise, all of the shore excursions were to venues which were worth seeing, even if time was sometimes too short Everyone should do a Baltic cruise, but not with Royal Caribbean. It's well worth seeing, but the itinerary means you have 5 active days without a break. It's back to P&O for me.

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Apr 25, 2014

Mexico

Overall the cruise was what we made it. Some entertainment was fantastic - others were boring and we had to participate in order to keep the passengers awake. The greeter as you came aboard was the most boring I have ever encountered - she clearly did not want to be there and Royal Caribbean should have thought that one out before putting someone with 0 people skills at that position. For the first time ever on a cruise - I never saw the cruise

director and absolutely no staff members smiled or were friendly - with the exception of our room steward - Roxanne who always greeted us with a smile - and our dining room staff. Bars were always understaffed and crowded and bartenders were rude and nasty - in fact after patiently waiting in line for a drink or 20 minutes and being constantly overlooked - the bartender told me to relax I was on vacation and he would get to me eventually - really! Not - been on 23 cruises and have never encountered a crew with no personality! Disappointing to say the least. The food was ok...still miss formal lobster night - althought for an additional charge I hear you can get it from the dining room. The times for the Windjammer need to be extended and there should be more availability of food throughout the ship for those not wishing to attend the dining room. The stateroom was over the top and absolutely fantastic! They were ok - I didn't like the fact that most shows were in the main hallyway and people crowded the halls to look over the balcony. Entertainment was definitely of cruise ship level - nothing spectacular - did like the "fliers" and the passenger participation with Thriller was original. Been to Cozumel many times and would have normally rented a car but with a 6 pm back at ship departure it made that difficult so we just hung around the port and spent time at Senor Frogs - which was fun. Since we were celebrating my daughter's birthday - it was fun but again after all the cruises I have been on - the crew was absolutely boring. They all looked like they were at the end of their contracts and couldn't wait to get off the ship. Also the cost of the photos is getting out of hand. There should be more affordable packages available for those who would like - but cannot afford the $17 5x7 photo. Loved the perks of the Emerald level and hope one day to achieve Diamond - but you will have to pick up your game - already booked our next cruise - on Carnival....

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