BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008
|Subject: BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008 Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:41 pm|| |
Brilliance of the Seas- 12 night Western Mediterranean/Venice June 22- July 4, 2008
Before you read this review, you might want to grab a drink and settle in. Gone with the Wind may be shorter by the time I finish.
I recently escorted a group onboard the Brilliance of the Seas, 12 night Med/Venice from June 22 – July 4, 2008. Some of these clients had done this same cruise with me in 2006 and therefore rather than repeat the same shore excursions I arranged for us to go off the beaten path in the French and Italian ports. Two years ago when I had spent 18 months researching the excursions etc, so this time planning was really a breeze. Our last time sailing this ship and itinerary was as close to a perfect experience as we could imagine so this time both the ship and excursions had high expectations to meet and overall they did. This review will be broken down into 2 sections--first the ship and then the ports and excursions.
I live in San Diego, and my traveling companion was coming from Manchester, England and my clients all traveled from Tampa, FL. Originally I had booked this group onboard the Jewel of the Seas’ Baltic itinerary, but when RCCL ran a special for the Brilliance including an air special of $1000.00 per person we jumped ship to this cruise. The deal even got better when they put out a C&A coupon, reduced the price several times and gave extra group amenity points to entice people to book this cruise. All said and done, everyone wound up saving over $1500.00 per person by moving from the Jewel to Brilliance which more than covered our private excursions and 2 night pre cruise stay in Barcelona. To add icing to the cake, every cabin received a $300.00 onboard credit!!
Flight Arrangements- Since we booked the Cruise Air special, the group was at the mercy of RCCL. I’ve previously used RCCL’s air for other itineraries when it made sense price wise and have never been disappointed with the schedules they provided and this time was no different. They flew the group from Tampa to Barcelona via Philadelphia on USAirways and returned them on American Airlines via JFK. The group had no complaints with the airlines or service, with the exception of American delaying the flight from Barcelona by more than 5 hrs for mechanical reasons. Things like this do happen at times, and AA not only had lunch brought to the gate in BCN, but also put everyone up overnight when they got to JFK, gave meal vouchers and confirmed them back to Tampa the following day.
I opted to book my own air from LAX to Barcelona since I got a good deal on a British Airways Business Class ticket. Being 6’3”, I chose BA due to their new lie flat business class seats and I must say, it was the most comfortable I have ever been in an airplane. Let’s face it air travel isn’t what it used to be, and my main concern is with my comfort, especially on such a long flight. While the seat/bed was extremely comfortable, allowing me to stretch out and sleep well, the service and food was lacking which surprised me considering this is a premium product. The plane was also very dirty and on the flight from LAX to London there was only 1 operable bathroom for all of First and Business class!! The food was inedible and crew, while very polite didn’t go out of their way to offer any type of service.
Because of BA’s schedules it was necessary for me to fly into BCN the day before my group was to arrive as I didn’t want them to arrive in BCN without me there to meet them. Due to a city wide music festival in BCN, I couldn’t find any hotel accommodations under 200 Euro, so I opted to bid for a hotel on Priceline and was awarded the 3 star, Hotel Rialto for $125.00 USD for 1 night. The hotel has an excellent location right off Las Ramblas, and while not fancy, it was clean with recently renovated rooms. My room was about the size of an inside cabin and I could barely open the door all the way without hitting the foot of the bed, but for 1 night it was more than fine. The staff was very nice and after a good nights sleep I was up early to make my way to the Apsis Atrium Palace hotel where I would be meeting my group for our 2 night pre cruise stay.
Pre-Cruise- As mentioned, I booked the group for a 2 night stay at the Atrium Palace Hotel through RCCL. While booking with RCCL was a bit more pricey than doing it direct, the benefits of the extra cost outweighed those of booking direct. In booking with RCCL, the transfers were included between airport, hotel, ship and airport and to the surprise of us all, the rate also included a full breakfast buffet daily at the hotel which had a value of approx. 18 Euro per person. The breakfast buffet was quite extensive and included hot and cold items, cooked to order eggs, champagne, juices, pastry, meats and cheeses and could easily hold you over through lunch. RCCL had a manned Hospitality Desk in the hotel lobby where you could get information on the city and purchase optional tours around BCN. As I had arrived at the hotel early in the morning I made a request with the front desk to see if they could have a few of the rooms, if not all of them available as soon as possible since my group was to arrive around 1030am. The staff was wonderful, and not only did they get rooms ready for us as soon as possible, they gave everyone rooms on the upper floor, at the front of the hotel which had beautiful views of the Gran Via. The hotel was spotless and had quite a few amenities not usually found in European hotels such as a Spa, Indoor Pool, full bar and restaurant and free wireless internet access in your room and all the public areas. They also had a small business center with 2 computers that were free of charge. The rooms were quite large by European standards and the in room bottled water was free as well.
Barcelona- For our first night in BCN, I had made reservations for the group to have dinner at a restaurant we had gone to on our last visit. I tried to call them in advance to reserve but the staff’s English is limited so I abandoned that idea and just paid them a visit in person to make reservations. The name of the restaurant used to be LaVilla but after a renovation, they changed the name to “Restaurant and Bar”—real original—LOL. The owner is the same, as was the menu and the food was every bit as good this time as it was in the past. The menu is small but offers something to appeal to everyone and the prices are very reasonable (approx. 25.00 Euro per person) for salad, entrée, wine, water, and coffee. They are located down a small alleyway off Las Ramblas. There is a large sign in front of the Hotel Citadines. Basically if you go to the Le Meridien Hotel and walk directly across the street to the Hotel Citadines and down the alley you’ll run right into it. The address is Pasaje de las Ramblas 122- Pza Vila de Madrid. The phone number is 011-34-934-12-55-41.
Having been to Barcelona before, I basically did nothing more than walk around the city, took a harbor cruise and people watched while drinking wine from a seat at one of the many sidewalk cafes. The group on the other hand, purchased tickets for the HOHO Bus directly from our hotel’s front desk and spent the entire day riding around the city exploring various sites. That night we all walked down to a tapas restaurant recommended by the hotel’s staff and enjoyed a wonderful meal together.
Embarkation- The RCCL Rep at the hotel had informed us to have our checked luggage packed and ready for pick up at 9am. After another nice breakfast at the hotel, the RCCL bus was waiting for us at 1030am for the short transfer to the pier. We made a brief stop at another hotel to pick up other cruise guests and were at the pier around 11am.
Upon arriving at the pier, I was shocked to see so many people already in line for check in at such an early hour. By contrast, last time we sailed from BCN we were basically the only ones checking in so early. There were numerous check in windows a few of which were dedicated to Suite Guests and Diamond/Diamond Plus. The priority lines had nobody in them, and we were checked in within minutes. Those that were not entitled to this line, were through the “normal” line in roughly 10-15 mins. Apparently there had been a small outbreak of Noro virus on the 2 cruises prior to us and they were making everyone sign the paper stating you weren’t experiencing any ill symptoms. We were told boarding would begin at noon, and actually they started calling Priority boarding around 1140am. All in all a very painless check in/embarkation in typical RCCL fashion.
Cabins were not ready until 1pm and while lunch was available in the Windjammer, we opted to just take seats in the Centrum until the cabins were ready. During this time, I ran around to make our reservations for Chops and Portofino and to check the dining room table location as well as sign up for my Cyber Cabin connection with Guest Relations etc. The Cyber Cabin was $120.00 for the 12 nights and gave me unlimited access to the internet from my cabin. This service does not include using the ships computers or wireless internet service, so charges still apply if using these options. I’ve had the Cyber Cabin before and it’s never been lightning fast, but on this cruise it was painfully slow and there were a few times where it just wouldn’t connect. With that said, I didn’t use it nearly as much as I wanted and instead wound up using the ships computers whenever I needed to do something quickly.
Cabins: Half of the group had booked D1’s and the others Cat. H, oceanview cabins. I was able to secure the most desirable “hump” D1’s with the larger balconies on Deck 9 and even scored the aft, corner one for myself (cabin 9256). The oceanview cabins were all located on Deck 3, midship. Everyone was quite pleased with their accommodations and service from the cabin attendants. One thing about the aft, corner cabin- #9256—The balcony is barely covered and it gets HOT, HOT, HOT!! There’s little to no shade to sit out there and without the extended cover, the cabin also tends to get very warm if you don’t keep the drapes closed. Other than that, the balcony size was nice and as we were off the ship most days anyway, the heat issue wasn’t that big a deal. I also want to give a word of warning to anyone out there that might have the aft cabins- 9258 and 9260 booked. These cabins have major plumbing problems and flood on a daily basis. My cabin attendant told us they just can’t seem to find the cause and it’s been a mess. If you’re booked in these cabins you may want to look into moving.
Ship: It’s no secret that the Radiance class ships are my favorites, and the Brilliance did not disappoint. Having just come out of a drydock in April, the ship was sparkling clean. No signs of rust, most of the carpet and upholstery had been replaced and there was very little signs of wear and tear. I noticed a lot of the marble and wooden flooring had been polished and or replaced as well. Due to the small cases of guests with Noro virus on the previous 2 cruises, they had the Purell hand sanitizing wipes all over the ship, and the crew was actually making sure people used them- especially in the restaurants. One interesting fact—while there were guests that contracted Noro on the previous cruises, no crew members came down with the illness which proves that simple hand washing and personal hygiene goes a long way. I did ask the crew why they no longer had the “ball” of hand sanitizer out anymore and as expected they found that it gave people a false sense of security in that people would use the sanitizer in favor of washing their hands. There weren’t any reported cases of Noro virus on our sailing and everyone was diligent about washing up and not touching railings etc. When in port we also used the sanitizer as there are numerous bathrooms where soap, and or paper towels weren’t available.
Service: Service was excellent on this cruise. Everyone on the crew has happy and eager to please. Ingrid the Concierge was filling in for Katherine who’s on vacation, and was wonderful to work with and could not do enough to ensure her guests were well taken care of. Due to the small number of Diamond members on this cruise, a secondary Concierge Lounges was not set up. Our favorite bartender, Angela was on vacation which was such a disappointment but we soon found crew friends we’d known from other ships. Stand-out bar staff include Rusti in the Champagne Bar, Eric in the Schooner, Raul in the Starquest and Brendon at the Sky Bar. Other stand out crew members were our Waiter- Ahmet from Turkey and Asst. Waiter- Leonardo from the Philippines who were supported by Head Waiter (I forget his name). These 3 men were a great team and complimented each other tremendously.
|Subject: BRILLIANCE MED- JUNE 2008-- PART II Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:42 pm|| |
Food/Dining: This is the area where we were most disappointed! Compared to our last time on the Brilliance where the food was some of the best we’ve had in a long time, this cruise, the food could only be described as dreadful. There’s a new Chef onboard and according to our waiter and head waiter, he’s very arrogant and does not want to hear any criticism about his food or menus. The dining room staff said they’ve gotten numerous complaints from this and past cruises since this Chef joined the ship. I can only hope RCCL responds to the negative comments on the comment cards ASAP. The choices were terrible and it seemed the Chef got a special on fish and pork as they were offered most nights with different sauces to change the mood—the Windjammer was also horrible in both selection and quality of food. It’s pretty bad when you can’t even find a dessert that’s appealing! I never ate so much ice cream and pizza in my life. One night we could smell the fish coming a mile away and after one small taste we had to send it back. A few nights after sending multiple meals back, I gave up and wound up not eating dinner those nights. The only positive is I came home 15 lbs lighter—now if I can just keep it off- LOL.
Dinner times were offered in the 2 traditional seatings (600pm for Main and 900pm for Second) as well as My Time Dining from 6pm – 1030pm. We chose Second Seating.
Another favorite was the Seaview Café. I much preferred the menu they had on the BOS over the menu they have on the other ships. On this ship they offered made to order pizzas, pasta, salads, Panini sandwiches and a few desserts. There was also a bar should you wish a cocktail or wine with dinner. On the other Radiance class ships the menu is more “fast food” and I felt the quality of the food was much better on the Brilliance. We sampled a little bit of everything they offered and were not disappointed with anything.
Portofino and Chops were well worth the extra surcharge. Portofino is $20.00 pp but the charge for Chops has been raised to $25.00 pp fleet wide. The service and food in both restaurants was excellent and had we known the food in the dining room was going to get worse each night we would have made reservations to dine here more frequently.
The dress code onboard was a bit more casual. There were the typical folks dressed in formal wear, but it seemed that after dinner everyone changed into more casual, comfortable clothes. Yes people did wear jeans to dinner (I was one of them, but not on formal night) and if you’re offended by this, you will most likely not enjoy this ship. Personally I don’t get all the fuss over what people wear when they’re on vacation. I don’t wear a suit for work, so putting one on while on vacation doesn’t really appeal to me, not to mention it takes up valuable space in my suitcase and I only wind up wearing it for a few hours anyway. People were neat and presentable and since there is now My Time Dining offered on this ship you always saw a wide variety of outfits being worn. If you enjoy being the “Fashion Police” then maybe you should get a job with Joan Rivers on the Entertainment Channel--LOL.
Entertainment- We only saw 2 of the shows during the 12 nights, mainly due to their scheduling. It seemed that the times for the second seating show was pre dinner at 715p or 730p which we personally do not care for. It defeats the purpose of having late seating if you have to rush to get ready in order to see the shows. On a few nights the show was after dinner at 11pm and they were both worth seeing. One night it was an Italian opera singer Renato somebody, who was about 70 yrs old but could still belt out a tune. He was also a bit of a comedian and quite entertaining. He also did a special show in the Centrum one night and packed the place. The second show was an Elton John tribute act—I wouldn’t call him an impersonator—because he’s the only person actually endorsed by Elton John to do a tribute. He not only looked the part but sounded and acted amazingly like the “real” Elton John. The show was high energy and had people dancing in the aisles. Due to timing we didn’t attend any other shows, but heard good things from those in the group that saw the production shows and other specialty acts.
The musicians around this ship were excellent. The piano guy in the Schooner Bar was excellent as was the band in the Colony Club. The poolside band was also quite good, and surprisingly enough was a Caribbean style reggae band. Apparently past complaints about not having a Caribbean style band on the European cruises led to this change. The trio in the Centrum as also very good and we enjoyed stopping to listen to them every time we walked by. On several nights the guest entertainers and the group from the Tango Buenos Aires production show entertained in the Centrum which proved hugely popular with everyone onboard.
Fellow Guests- The majority of those onboard were foreign with a lot of German and Spanish. There was a large number of from the United Kingdom, and other European countries and American’s were also represented well. We were told that beginning with the cruise following ours there would be more American’s than foreigners. With the ship having so many foreign country guests, you had to adjust for cultural differences such as line jumping, pushing etc. It wasn’t a huge issue, but at some times it was a bit frustrating. The main thing that started to bug everyone is the Germans who are notorious for chair hogging. They would literally get up at 5am and place a magazine on a deck chair and not use the chair all day. Some nights I saw the same magazines still on the chairs and never did see a person sit there. With this in mind, we simply took the items off the chairs or had one of the deck attendants remove them and sat down. We always seemed to find a place to sit in a desirable area.
There were over 300 kids onboard and again, they were hardly seen (The cruise after ours had over 700). RCI has really stepped up to the plate with onboard security. They had the SeaPass machine set up outside the disco every night, and any kids that wanted to gain access had to insert their SeaPass card. The picture on file was matched to the person, thus eliminating underage kids using their parents or other adults card to gain access. Deck Patrols also kept the Solarium adult only and prevented any diapered infants in the pools and Jacuzzi’s.
Debarkation- The ship actually docked back in Barcelona around 5am, and they started calling colors around 645am. I did Express Departure as my transfers were not included since I didn’t use cruise line air, and I was called off the ship at 620am. My group had an 1115am flight home, and were in the second group to be called off at 645am. All of us had plenty of time to check in at the airport and grab some breakfast and make the obligatory last minute duty free purchases before boarding our flights home.
|Subject: BRILLIANCE MED- JUNE 2008, PART III Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:42 pm|| |
Congratulations on making it this far. If you haven’t fallen asleep by this point keep reading for the information on the various ports.As stated previously, most of this group had done this cruise in 2006 so this time around rather than re-visiting the same cities and repeating the same excursions, I planned for us to go off the beaten path a bit.Cannes: We dropped anchor in the Cannes harbor around 930am and as this was a tender port, those on RCCL excursions and with priority tender tickets were the first ones allowed off the ship. They were very strict in not letting anyone without the correct tender ticket down to deck 1, so don’t even try getting off before they call. As we had a private driver reserved, I made arrangements with the Group Coordinator to give me enough priority tender tickets for everyone in my group and we were off the ship by 10am which was perfect since our driver would be meeting us at 1030am. I had booked the group on a full day excursion into the Provence countryside through Dream Tours. I’ve used Dream Tours before and have been very happy with their service and price. (www.dream-tours.com) To our delight we had the same driver, Fred we had on our last visit. We piled into our mini-van for the 2 hr drive through the Provence countryside to the town of Aix-en-Provence, which in addition to being the historic capital of the area it’s also the home city of the artist Paul Cezanne. Along the way, Fred gave us information on the area and pointed out any sights of interest along the way. Upon arriving in Aix, Fred drove us through the city pointing out any historic sites and main areas he thought might interest us. This was a nice orientation to the town before he parked the van. We had a few hours on our own to explore Aix and have lunch before meeting back at the van for the short drive to Cezanne’s Workshop and home with it’s amazing view of the St. Victoire Mountain that was often the main theme in Cezanne’s paintings. From here, we began heading back in the direction of Cannes making stops at local vineyards for wine tastings and along the route of the Tour de France. Along the way we stopped in several small towns, one of which has a Cathedral housing the remains of Mary Magdelene. In each town we had plenty of time to explore at our own pace and Fred was a fountain of information. On the way back to Cannes, we opted to leave the main highway in favor of the “scenic drive” over the mountains to St. Tropez and drove coastline of the Italian/French Riviera all the way back to Cannes making several stops to take pictures arriving back into Cannes at 630pm in plenty of time to make the last tender back to the ship at 730pm.Livorno (Florence/Pisa): Last time we did this cruise, we spent the entire day doing the obligatory tour of Florence and Pisa. This time I arranged a private driver for a day of touring Tuscany. The ship docked at 7am and we were off at 745am. We were met by our driver Roberto from Papillon Tours. (www.papillonservice.com). This was my first time using this company and again I was very impressed with their level of service and professionalism. Leaving the port, we spent the next 90 minutes driving through the Tuscan countryside with it’s picturesque homes, vineyards and olive orchards. We made a brief stop at the Castle Monteriggioni before continuing onto the town of Siena. We were given a few hours to explore this walled city on our own. Our driver presented us with maps of the town, and gave commentary on the local history and sites. Siena was quite large with plenty of shops, cafes and cathedrals to explore. By arriving here early in the day, we were able to explore without the crowds from the ship that seemed to arrive just as we were leaving. Our next stop was the medieval town of San Gimignano. Our driver had phoned ahead to a local trattoria and reserved us a place for lunch and good thing he did as the entire restaurant could only seat 12 people and 9 of them were our group. The food was excellent—everything fresh and homemade, including the Chianti wine. Lunch per person was about 12 Euro which was an excellent value for the meal we received. After lunch everyone had time to wander the narrow streets and explore the shops and artisan’s wares. On the way back to the ship, we again opted to leave the main highway in favor of the “scenic route” though the countryside and mountains. Along the way we stopped for the obligatory photo ops and wine/olive oil tastings before returning back to the ship at 530pm for our 7pm sailing.Civitavecchia (Rome): Last time we were in Rome, we were unable to get into the Vatican Museum, so this time this was the main activity. I again booked a private driver and guide for the day, this time through my friend Giovanni at Benvenuto Limos (www.benvenutolimos.com). Giovanni was kind enough to also arrange a private guide and reservations for the group to tour the Vatican Museum so we wouldn’t have to wait in the miles long line out front. We docked promptly at 7am and again were among the first people to depart the ship. Giovanni has an arrangement with Remo who owns the company Driver in Rome (www.driverinrome.com) whereby they send each other business if they are unable to have a driver / guide available. This was fine, as I’ve also used Remo and his company before and they also do an excellent job. We actually had Remo as our host for the day and he’s quite entertaining, interjecting jokes and songs between the historical commentary and if you’re lucky you just may get serenaded by his “squeeze box” accordion. We made good time on the road and were in Rome in just about an hour’s time. We went right to the Vatican Museum where we met our guide Stefania who had our tickets in hand and walked us right to the front of the line and into the museum. As it was Wednesday and the Pope was holding audience at St. Peter’s the museum was virtually empty this morning. We were able to leisurely walk through the museum and Sistine Chapel all the while receiving plenty of history and background from our guide. After our tour, Remo was waiting for us to begin the whirlwind tour of Rome. Our stops included, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia, Roman Forum, Colisseum, Mouth of Truth, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Capitol Hill, Victor Emmanuel’s Tomb, Cesar Agustus’ Palace and Circus Maximus ending at a park overlooking the city of Rome and of course some gelato. This was more than a full day and our 1.5 hr drive back to the ship had us “home” at 530pm for a 7pm sailing. Naples (Amalfi Coast): I again booked a private driver for the day with Giovanni at Benvenuto Limos and as promised Giovanni was at the pier waiting for us at 730am for our full day on the Amalfi Coast. As we visited Pompeii on our last visit, we chose to spend the entire day exploring the seaside towns along the coast. After leaving Naples, we drove past Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius and continued along the coast to Sorrento where we had some time to explore this seaside town. From Sorrento we continued to Positano and again had time to wander up and down this hillside town. Upon leaving we were taken to a small, family owned restaurant, La Tagliata that was basically a cave carved into the mountain overlooking Positano. The only thing that surpassed the incredible view was the food. From the moment we sat down we were presented with jugs of wine, bottles of water and platter after platter of antipasto and bread, following that came platter after platter of pastas and if that wasn’t enough, platter after platter of desserts—all homemade by Mama who we visited in the kitchen to pay our compliments. Of course coffee, cappuccino and shots of Grappa and Lemoncello were offered to complete the meal. The price for this was 23 Euro per person, but the food and overall experience was priceless. We were so stuffed, none of us went to dinner on the ship that night. After lunch we continued down the coast to the town of Amalfi and spent time wandering around, trying to walk off some of that marvelous lunch. Leaving Amalfi, we opted again for the scenic route, and instead of driving along the coast, drove over the mountains back to Naples. We got back to the ship around 6pm for a 7pm sailing. Apparently there were several tours from the ship that were delayed as our departure from Naples was delayed for over an hour while we waited for 8 busses to return with guests on the ships excursions.At Sea: Finally a day of rest! You will never treasure a sea day as much in your life. There were plenty of activities offered and nothing was more enjoyable than sleeping in, having coffee on our balcony and taking a nap. Actually we didn’t leave our cabin until dinner time.
|Subject: BRILLIANCE MED- JUNE 2008 PART IV Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:43 pm|| |
Venice Overnight: What a great city Venice is!! We entered the Grand Canal at 12 noon just in time to hear all the city's chimes ring in the noon hour. The ship made it's way down the canal to the main cruise dock area and then turned around and went back toward St. Mark’s Square to the old Maritime Dock (M5) which is where we would tie up for our 2 day stay! What luck to get this dock as it’s literally right in town and only a 4 bridge walk to the center of St. Mark’s Square. The Captain was shocked he was given this dock which normally isn’t used, especially for a ship the size of Brilliance. Normally the ships dock at the Cruise Terminal which is about a 15 min. water shuttle ride away from St. Mark’s. We each purchased the 24 hour Vaporetto Pass from the nearby station which gave us unlimited use of the Vaporetto’s for 16 Euro per person. The ship tied up at 1pm and everyone in the group was on their own to explore Venice. I had arranged dinner for the group at a local restaurant, Trattoria Dona Onesta—which is a small, family owned restaurant off the beaten path. Due to it not being in a major tourist area, this restaurant had very reasonable prices and excellent food. Dinner, including appetizer, salad, entrée, wine, water and coffee was about 25 Euro per person. The following day, we went back into the city and spent the entire day walking around the small, winding streets. We made a stop at the Rialto Bridge for lunch and enjoyed the day exploring the little nooks and crannies of this beautiful city. We got back to the ship around 2pm to enjoy a swim and a nap on the pool deck before our 5pm sailaway. Split, Croatia: We dropped anchor in the Split harbor around 7am, but as I didn’t have any planned group tours here, we opted to sleep in and leave at our leisure. Split is a fairly large city primarily dominated by ruins of the Diocletian’s Palace. We explored the Palace and other Roman ruins and wandered around the small, narrow streets. It was very hot and after a few hours we retreated back to the ship for a swim in the pool. Several in the group signed up for tours on the pier and were very happy with that decision. At Sea: Another relaxing day at sea. We left the cabin today and spent time wandering around the ship and relaxing on the pool deck.Valletta, Malta: We docked on time at 8am to another scorching hot day. Again everyone in the group was on their own to explore. To get from the ship to town you have 2 options: 1- walk up about 200 steps, or 2- spend 1 Euro per person to take the city bus. We took option #2!! The busses are remnants from World War II, painted in yellow and orange and in very good condition considering their age. Several of us chose to purchase tickets for the HOHO Bus (25 Euro per person) as it would give us the opportunity to circumnavigate the entire island and we had planned to visit a few of the other towns anyway. This proved to be a bad decision.. not only did the HOHO bus not stop, the driver drove so slow, we could have walked the entire route in about half the time. Chalk that up to a lesson learned. We finished our day in Malta with a quick walk around the town of Valletta and a lunch stop which again wasn’t the best idea. Not much to see and the food and service was horrible—how can you ruin a grilled cheese sandwich? Needless to say, we were back on the ship early.At Sea: Last day of the cruise. Busy packing, getting tips put together, last minute shopping, and of course time by the pool.Debarkation: The ship docked back into BCN around 430am. As I had done air on my own, I didn’t have transfers included, I opted for Express Departure and carried off my bags in favor of being first off to make sure a taxi would be available to take me to the airport. The group having done air through RCCL had transfers included. They began calling for Express Departure at 620am followed by RCCL transfers in various groups that started at 645am. Walking off the ship was a breeze as there is no Customs or Immigration check. You merely walk off the ship and straight out the terminal. Taxi’s were not plentiful, so I was glad to have gotten off the ship first thing. I waited at the airport for the RCCL bus to bring my group and after making sure they got checked in for their flight went off to check myself in. All of us had flights at 1115am and had plenty of time at the airport to check in, get something to eat and do some last minute duty free shopping.Summary: This was a fantastic trip in every sense of the word. The weather, while hot, was perfect (the crew told me it was the first week since they got to Europe where they didn’t have rain and cold temps). The sea was smooth as glass the entire cruise, with the exception of the last night when it got a bit rocky. The crew was excellent as always with RCCL. The only real negatives were with the food quality, selection and taste. As well as the laundry service onboard. Normally I use the ships laundry on every cruise and have never had a problem. The clothes come back clean, pressed to perfection and the cost is minimal. It seems that RCCL is having problems with the Chinese laundry crew some of whom are “jumping ship” in various ports. This is causing RCCL trouble with the authorities and to remedy this, they’re replacing the Chinese laundry crew with Indonesian crew who don’t have a clue how to operate the machines. With this said, the laundry service was pitiful. They can barely keep up with the ships normal linens and towels and even then they’re not sparkling white. Our towels had a blue-ish hue to them the entire cruise. I sent out a bag of laundry and 4 days later only 1 shirt was returned—ruined--. It took 2 more days for the bag to arrive with the rest of my items and then half of the contents were missing. Others in the group had similar problems. To the credit of Guest Relations they did reimburse us not only for the laundry charges but for the cost of the missing/ruined items. This was an exhausting trip, sleep was at a premium, but there’s so much to see and so little time. We were very pleased with our guides, and based on the comments of those that took RCCL tours I would never recommend using the ships excursions. Not only were they twice the price of what we paid, they didn’t allow for half the sightseeing we did. Everyone who took the ship tours came back complaining about the long walks (1.5 miles EACH WAY) from where the bus dropped them off to the cities and towns. Large busses aren’t allowed into the city centers and they couldn’t hear the guides etc. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgI have over 2000 pictures to sort through before I post them on webshots, but you can check my album for updates and pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/rdeagazio
|Da Bronx Bombers Fan|
Number of posts : 185
Location : Brooklyn, NY
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Registration date : 2007-08-26
|Subject: Re: BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008 Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:58 pm|| |
Great review Bob! Can't wait to travel with you on one of the cruises!
|Subject: Re: BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008 Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:14 pm|| |
Thanks Bronx... I think the review took longer to write than the length of the trip-- LOL
Glad you enjoyed it and will look forward to sailing with you as well.
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Registration date : 2008-11-30
|Subject: Re: BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008 Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:35 pm|| |
|Subject: Re: BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008 || |
BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS- MED- JUNE 22, 2008