July 2016 - Brilliance of the Seas to Europe - Mediterranean
My husband was looking forward to this trip for a long time and booked it for our family. I felt so sorry for him because it was a huge disappointment. Let's begin with packing for the trip. The literature from the cruise line said that there was a dress code for dinner. Casual. ( Specified that shorts were not allowed in the main dining rooms ever for anyone) Smart casual. Dress shirts no ties required and dresses or pants suits for women. and Formal. They said that exceptions were made on the first day. I bought several pair of long pants, ties, dress shoes and collared shirts for my son (he doesn't dress up often) This was a waste of money. Dress code was NEVER enforced. Men had shorts and ball caps in the dining room, flip flops and short shorts on the women. Some stepped it up for formal nights, but no one is ever turned away. Other special dress nights were announced on the cruise. They had White night, Rock night, 70's night....like we all had those things packed!!! We got to the ship early as recommended and got on board very quickly. This is when they begin the endless extra charges. Drink packages vary. The full out beverage package is 59.00 per person, per day plus 18% gratuity charge. We did not purchase this for our family of four. The only beverages included are water, the flavored water of the day, tea and regular coffee (sure there is a Starbucks wannabe on board, but it is extra). We splurged for wine a dinner but there is a drastic up charge. a $4 bottle of Beringer White Zin is $29 plus the added 18% gratuity (which is over $5). We bought the water bottle case for the excursions. It took them 2 days to deliver it. First major fiasco occurred trying to go to dinner, Because we didn't want to worry about reservations for dinner, we prebooked (through Royal Carribbean) a 9pm dinner reservation. When we arrived for our reservation the first night there was a tremendous line. When we finally made it to the front we were sent to another line because they didn't have a table assignment for us. They attempted to blame this on the travel agency but we didn't use one, we booked directly through the cruise line) 47 minutes later we had a table in a different dining room and they let us know that we would have a table the next day and not have to wait on line. Day two we skipped the line as instructed, annoying many people in the long queue to get in, only to find someone else in our table. They found us a table but told us we would probably just have to "take our chances" every night. Oh hell no. I complained the next day to customer service where a very nice woman named Susanne tried to help. The rest of the trip, we had a table with an outstanding waiter named Ervan but it sort of felt like a punishment because we and another family were seating alone in the game room. We missed out on the atmosphere of the main dining room with the art and waterfall. It was especially obvious on the formal nights. The Windjammer is a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. The food is plentiful and most was pretty good (upcharge for orange juice) Sometimes, however it wasn't very hot. There is not enough seating at breakfast, sometimes you have to eat on a deck chair. The main dining room food menu changes nightly. Listen to your waiter's recommendations and keep in mind that you can order more than one appetizer or entree or dessert. My son often had 2 entrees. The food is pretty good. There are 3 specialty restaurants on board as well, for an upcharge, of course. Lets talk more about the constant $$$$ grubbing. Eventually I was just dying for a soda and splurged. Many of the day time shipboard activities involve money. You can play bingo, for 20$ a card, you can go to a wine tasting class for $, You can do jewelry making for $. They are selling stuff at every turn, from watches to tshirts. BUT, there is NO sundries store on board, so don't forget or run out of anything. No sunscreen, tampons, toothpaste etc. And, they tell you that there is shampoo in the state room, but there isn't. If you buy a movie in your stateroom for 12.95, it is the same one shown for free in the ship's cinema. There are some games and trivia and karaoke on board and the activities staff is awesome. Especially Josh. He single handedly made our time on board better. The main theatre entertainment was varied and not that thrilling. I didn't go to all of the shows, but I saw a Phil Collins tribute, a broadway review and a concert pianist. My daughter needed to purchase internet for the trip because she had coursework to complete. It is VERY expensive and only works sporadically, The IT person was not able to help either. As in other incidents, it seems like they are given rehearsed answers for problems and if you ask something that one of those answers doesn't fit, they don't know what to do. Quite often we were told, "I don't know" and no one seems to know. The pool areas are over packed and you cannot get up early and reserve a lounge. They come by every so often and take towels and belongings off the lounges if you are not sitting there. If you are travelling in a large group do not plan on sitting together. The adult only solarium is small and is not the relaxing place it is advertised because there is a snack counter in there for all to use and so kids running and yelling is not uncommon. The main pool is small and over run with kids. They do not do a good job of keeping little ones out of the hot tubs, even though it is labelled that you cannot be in it without a parent. They kids pool with slide had almost no one in it. The excursions are awesome. We stopped in Rome, Venice, Montenegro, Ravenna, Nice, Monaco, and Naples. The only port that was a little was Ravenna. There isn't a lot there. 2 days in Rome would have been better. The family stateroom sleeps 4. Mom and dad in the bed and kid one on the pullout couch and kid 2 on a bunk that pulls down from the ceiling. It is too crowded in there for 4 people for 2 weeks. And working around the tiny bathroom is hell. On the last night, you are to pack your luggage, tag it and place it outside your stateroom. When you get off the boat to meet your connection to the airport, you are reunited with it. Because we had an early flight, we were in the first group to get off the ship. All but my son's luggage made it to the pick up area. We had to wait almost 2 hours for them to find it. He filled out a report form, but they made him cross out that his luggage was lost. When they finally found it, group 27s luggage was coming off the carousel! Then they didn't want to put the luggage on the bus, but on a separate truck to the airport. When we told them that we didn't want to risk being separated from it again, they told us, then we couldn't board the bus. Our bus driver made a personal stop to drop something off on the way to the airport, missed the turn for the terminal and then had to circle around again. sigh. I think this was probably our first and last cruise. Too much money and not enough for it.