March 2014 - Brilliance of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
We booked this cruise for some much needed time with our adult kids and their spouses (no grandkids!), and that was exactly what we got. We had a great time just being together: laughing, visiting, eating, relaxing. We have cruised a number of times before, and our kids have all cruised once or twice, but their spouses hadn't ever cruised so we all came with different expectaions.
We booked this cruise mostly because of the timing of it (we needed it during one of the kid's spring break) and also for the port (our daughter lives in the area). The length of the cruise was exactly what we wanted for a 1st cruise for some of them
The ship has recently been renovated and it was very nice. The centrum was very dramatic, and when they did the aerial show on the 1st day, we were very impressed! We loved the fact that the only place smoking was allowed was in the casino (which we didn't go to) and only in a very limited area on one side of the pool deck. We didn't have to walk through smoke filled bars or lounges to get to another. We loved hanging out in the Colony Club, which had a very rich decor along with a great view. The solarium pool was beautiful, although it was quite busy during the day hours. We sometimes hung out there late at night (which was where the only late night food was available...other than room service). The staterooms were nice, nothing special but nice, with lots of storage space. The bathroom had a bit of a musty odor. We booked a balcony room for us...I knew there was a "partially obstructed view" but we were VERY disappointed with just how obstructed it was. We were on the 7th level, and the metal roofs that cover the life boats were basicly an extention of our very small balcony, coming right off of the other side of our railing and extending out about 8 feet. We were able to see the ocean when we looked past that, but it was dissapointing, and I feel these rooms should definitely be discounted compared to other balcony rooms, along with making sure people understand what "partially obstructed" means. Also, 2 of our kids rooms were on the 2nd level, they were booked as "ocean view"... we booked (not directly through Royal Caribbean, but through ) 6 months prior to the cruise and were disappointed that they were put on that level, and were unable to change it. Even though they were considered ocean view, the rooms on that floor only have a SMALL port hole. Again, that should be made clear, and I feel those rooms should be priced differently. Over all, the ship was very clean, and the staterooms where kept up nicely. We realized the 1st night that some things had been "cut back" since the last time we cruise...there was no "turn down service" (no mints on the pillow :) ) and the much anticipated towel animals only showed up twice in the 5 nights.....not a real big deal but it is kind of fun every night to anticipate!
The shows were good...we were very impressed with the Royal Caribbean dancers and singers, and enjoyed the jugler/commedian. There were a number of activities on board that you could do if you wish...I felt there were less on this than on other cruises we've been on, but we still enjoyed some of them. We were disappointed in the cruise director of this ship...we felt compared to other cruises that he wasn't as personable or wasn't as involved with activities/announcements throughout the ship.
The food was good. We ate in the Windjammer for all of our breakfasts and lunches. We loved sitting out on the tables overlooking the water. The quality of food in the Windjammer was pretty good (not exceptional, but good), and they did change it up some every day. As crazy as this sounds, what we all enjoyed the most was the most AMAZING french fries!! :) The main dining room was very beautiful, and the food there was quite good (most of the time). We had a bit of trouble here the first night (also we were told possibly because we did not book directly through Royal Carribean) because, although we were assured that all 8 of us would be at a table together, we were at 3 different tables. They couldn't guarantee they could fix it the 1st night, so we went to the Choppes Grille that night (which was AMAZING and ruined us for the rest of the cruise :) ) but did get us together at a table for the rest of the time (along with another family of 6). As the nights went along, we enjoyed getting to know the wait staff for our table and they us, and we appreciated the service and attention to our specific requests! We often were able to sample a couple of different entrees! I highly recommend doing a specific seating assignement instead of a "your time dining" for that reason...the interaction with your wait staff is worth it! As for Choppes Grille, we can't say enough about it! We LOVED not only the massive amounts of excellent food, but the personalized service. It was a great experience for all of us! One thing that was dissapointing about food was that there never a gala midnight buffet. Again, I realize they probably have cut back on things to make cruises more affordable, but we so enjoyed not only seeing the beautiful creations made from food and (also ice sculptures), but also tasting them on previous cruises, and it would have been great to have that at least one night.
All in all it was a great experience and we have some wonderful memories to share with our kids!