Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day


Welcome to our second day onboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and it is our first sea day!

We were very tired last night but nonetheless, I still wanted to wake up early and get a start to our day, so at about 7am, we got up and were on our way!

Breakfast brought us to the Windjammer, which had the usual Royal Caribbean breakfast.  

As always, if you want eggs, you have to go to the omelet station for the “good stuff”.  I had my usual egg white omelet and we enjoyed our breakfast on the outdoor Windjammer seating at the aft of the ship.

The outdoor seating is a great feature of the Radiance class.

We started off today with a lot of “motion in the ocean.”  Since last night, there had been quite a bit of motion and the Captain indicated we were encountering waves 2-4 meters (6-12 feet).  

To quote George Costanza from "Seinfeld," the seas were angry, my friend.  This would set the tone for our day (that’s called foreshadowing!).

We stopped by the Vitality Spa to get my wife a massage.  Massages are her cruise tradition and I am happy to buy them for her because she puts up with all of my blogging.

While she went off to get her massage, I amused myself with some morning drinks.  In this case, a Bloody Mary, from the Solarium Bar.

I am always in search for a good, non-mix Bloody Mary but have yet to find one on Brilliance of the Seas.  Any suggestions?

I did some more exploring of the ship, lost a little money in the casino, and then decided to try my skill at morning trivia.

Trivia is a great daily activity on Royal Caribbean ships and the morning trivia was a potpourri of questions.  We did not win but I met some new friends and had a great time in the process.

My wife finished up her massage by this time, and reported it was as good as she remembered.

We then opted to stop by the NextCruise office to “research” some possible options.  Let me just say I walked away happy.

Of interest, the NextCruise office is open on debarkation day, which was a surprise to me.

For lunch, we opted to try out Giovanni’s Table.  I was not planning on eating here on this cruise, but for lunch the cost is only $15 per person and it is hard to beat that value.

Once again, I will share my full review in an upcoming post but overall I liked Giovanni’s Table but did not love it.  Essentially, it is not my favorite restaurant, although I will admit the menu favors those that enjoy shellfish (I do not). 

By this point, it was about 1pm and the ocean waves were really getting strong.  My wife left lunch half way through to return to the stateroom because she was not feeling well.

The crew had already put out the sick bags, which is never a good sign.  

Frankly, I do not know why the ocean was so rocky, given there was no sign of a storm and it was sunny.  

With my wife in the room trying to sleep off the effects of the motion, I headed up the Solarium.

Royal Caribbean had closed the pool due to the motion, which was something I had expected.  I do believe this was the worst motion I have encountered to date on any cruise.  It was not horrible but the ship was definitely moving.

I was starting to feel tired (perhaps that 7am start to my day  was not a great idea), so I did something I love to do on a cruise: I took an afternoon nap by the pool!

Fast forward a few hours later and I woke up at about 3:30.  Oh well, time well spent!

My wife was feeling better by this point, so we decided to head to the Schooner Bar for TV theme song trivia!

We joined another team and lost, but it was a fun time.  

I have to say, the trivia games are just a great activity because you really get into it, even if you have no idea what the answers are.  My suggestion is ask to join a team and meet new friends!

With trivia done, we walked back to our stateroom with a quick stop to enjoy the afternoon sun.  Sea days are quite beautiful!

I went up to the helicopter pad to see the sunet better, but unfortunately the clouds prevented us from seeing the full effect.

Tonight is our formal night, so it was time to get back to the room to get ready for dinner.  

After getting dressed for dinner, we went to Izumi for another go at "pre-dinner".  I cannot help myself!

I went for the DX Sushi Combo this time and it was a great selection of different sushi rolls.  

An interesting change to Izumi on Brilliance of the Seas is that the miso soup costs $2 here, whereas on all other Izumis I have been to, miso soup was complimentary.

Granted, the miso soup served here is quite large. Probably the largest bowl of miso soup I have ever had.

I decided to head down to deck 4 at hang out at the R-Bar.  There was live music playing as well as the Captain's Toast.

I am such a sucker for live music on Royal Caribbean cruises.  I think it is not only quite beautiful, but really entertaining and it is something I seek out every cruise.

Dinner in the main dining room was formal night and I enjoyed my selections.

Following dinner, my wife went to see the show in the theater that is all about Michael Buble music.  I opted to take in live guitar music in the King & Country Pub.  To each, their own!

I found this stowaway in our stateroom.  Love the towel animals!

Tomorrow is Cozumel and after our day of rocking seas, I think we are all looking forward to some time on land.

Stray observations

I meant to to do this on yesterday's post, so here are a few random observations and such to share that did not fit into the regular narrative.

  • We went to Chops Grille yesterday about making a reservation for formal night but they told us they were totally booked.  We decided to book it on the last night instead, although I have my doubts that we could not have shown up tonight at 6pm and been seated.  
  • Speaking of specialty restaurants, Giovanni's Table for lunch was pretty empty.  We were among 4 tables for the time we were there.
  • The motion today on the ship I think is the worst I have ever encountered.  On our Quantum of the Seas cruise earlier this year we had rough seas, but do not think it was as bad as this.
  • The best way to deal with sea sickness? Bonine and a nap.
  • Quote of the day comes from the NextCruise officer, "You are Emerald status but have the knowledge of a Diamond Plus".  That is quite a compliment!
  • Busiest spot on the ship? R-Bar. That is because it is at the base of the Centrum, where so many activities take place.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Share them all in our comments!

Live Blog Index

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day


Embarkation day is here and it never ceases to amaze me how excited I get for the first day of my cruise!

Yesterday afternoon we drove down to Gainesville, Florida to help cut down on the distance to the cruise.  We chose Gainesville because it was around half way to Tampa (it was really about two-thirds of the way there) and it would be less expensive than staying in Tampa.

We got to our hotel, the Hampton Inn, without incident.  We chose the Hampton Inn because it was the top rated hotel on TripAdvisor in Gainesville.

The hotel room was clean, felt new and well maintained.  What else can you ask for in a one-night hotel?

As per usual, I slept poorly but got more sleep than I thought.  At 6:45am our alarm went off and we got ready to go!

We had breakfast at Waffle House and then hit the road for an easy two-hour drive to Port of Tampa.

We gassed up the car in Tampa and then parked the car across the street from the port.  It is the official parking garage and costs $15 per day.

I suggest dropping off all luggage at the pier first and then driving across the street to park.  This eliminates having to lug around the luggage down an elevator and across the street.

The check-in process at the port was very simple.  In fact, I would say it was the quickest and easiest of check-ins on non-Quantum class ships!

Also, I felt the cruise terminal in Tampa was the most aesthetically pleasing terminal I have ever been in on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  It did not feel like a giant warehouse and I really enjoyed the embarkation process here.

Of interest, Royal Caribbean was selling the unlimited drink packages in the cruise terminal.

We arrived at the terminal at about 9:45am, and by 10:30am, they called our boarding group.  Not bad!

Once onboard, the Windjammer was not open yet, so we did what any self-respecting Royal Caribbean cruiser would do….we went to the bar!

We bought the Premium unlimited alcohol package for this cruise to try out, so we grabbed our first drink at the Pool Bar.  First drink of the cruise: lava flow!

Lunch at the Windjammer was exactly what embarkation lunch is usually like, and I loved it!  Great selection of foods from around the world, and I naturally gravitated towards the curry onboard (potato curry).

Following lunch, we took a tour of the Vitality Spa.  We have not booked anything yet but my wife will be getting a massage.

Speaking of the spa, there is the thermal spa pass and the ultimate spa pass.  The thermal spa pass includes access to the heated chairs, steam room, rainforest shower and another room that I forgot.  You get unlimited access to all rooms for the duration of your cruise.

The ultimate spa pass includes everything with the thermal spa pass, plus a rasul room treatment.  The rasul treatment is essentially a couple’s exfoliation, shower and facial.  Or at least, that is what I remembered from it.

We spent the next few hours exploring Brilliance of the Seas.  I also took the opportunity to book “pre-dinner” at Izumi for 6pm tonight.  YOLO!

We checked out our table at the main dining room and we are at a large table.  I am looking forward to meeting some new folks onboard!

We also noticed there was quite a bit of Christmas decorations onboard the ship.  I was expecting decorations to be added perhaps tomorrow, but already the decorations have come to Brilliance of the Seas.  Perhaps there will be more decorations as the cruise progresses?

Our stateroom was ready a few minutes after 1pm and we booked an interior stateroom.  In fact, all of our luggage was already waiting for us when we got there!

Our stateroom is nothing fancy, but for my wife and me it is perfectly fine.  We prefer in this kind of a cruise to save money on a stateroom and spend that money somewhere onboard.

Much of the afternoon was spent exploring the ship.  We had an early muster (3:15pm), so we did the muster drill on deck 5 and when it was complete, enjoyed sailaway from a comfortable chair in the Solarium.

Having just spent the afternoon onboard, Brilliance of the Seas already strikes me a ship that offers a lot in a small(er) package.  Just because she does not have the size of an Oasis or Freedom class ship, does not mean there is not a lot to do onboard.

I do think Brilliance of the Seas, and her sister Radiance class ships, do favor those that are looking for relaxation just as much as activities.  I can already see us spending a lot of time up on the pool deck with a cold drink in our hand.  That does not make for lively blog posts, but it still a lot of fun!  

Following sailaway, it was back to the stateroom to get dressed for the evening.  

I know some folks do not love getting dressed up on a cruise, but we really enjoy it.  When else do you get to dress up nicely other than weddings and funerals? Plus getting dressed up makes for great photos!

We decided to get ready for dinner a little early and as my wife was getting ready, I walked out to the outside deck on deck 5 and witnessed a wonderful sunset sea.  Unfortunately, I  forgot  my camera’s memory card in the room so I do not have photos to share (smooth!).  Trust me when I say it was quite beautiful.

We headed up to Deck 12 to check out the ship passing under the Sunshine Skyway bridge and it looked like we were not going to make it….but we did.  Very fun experience.

We had “pre-dinner” at Izumi tonight, which is located on Deck 12 where the old Seaview Café used to be.

I will save my review of Izumi for a formal blog post but we really liked the experience.  Great sushi, beautiful spot and great service.

This evening’s entertainment was a medley of Broadway music, which my wife really enjoyed.  There were songs from Mammia Mia, The Producers, The Full Monty and more. 

It was essentially one song after another and if you like show tunes, this is the show for you.

Dinner tonight was in the main dining room, where we had a Thanksgiving menu attached to the regular menu.

I ordered the pumpkin bisque, turkey dinner and pumpkin cheesecake.  All were terrific and I would order them again.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it certainly did not feel like Thanksgiving onboard.  Some guests watched the various football games on TV but I kept reminding myself it was a holiday.

I would say this is a great cruise for anyone who wants to skip the whole formality of a holiday with all the “stuff” that goes into it.  It felt like a Royal Caribbean cruise that happened to be during Thanksgiving, and I enjoyed it just fine.

After dinner we did a little walking but we were wiped out.  True to form, by 10:30pm, we were in bed and ready for sleep.

Tomorrow, is a sea day and I plan on doing a lot of activities.  Hoping to work in a little of everything tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Live Blog Index

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast


Hey everyone! Episode 121 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

This week, we're sharing the details about our cruise on Brilliance of the Seas to the Western Caribbean that begins this weekend.  Let's look at why we picked this cruise, the cool things to do on Brilliance of the Seas and our plans for each port of call.  

Be sure to also check out our pre-cruise summary of what our plans are for the cruise and for how you can read our live blog each day from the cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 121. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday cruise deals


Just in time for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, Royal Caribbean is rolling out a Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal.

Black Friday Sale

For Black Friday shoppers, Royal Caribbean is taking its existing BOGO GETTER deal and adding on free Voom high speed internet along with 25% off 3rd and 4th passengers on all eligible sailings.,

Qualifying bookings will be entitled to

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full fare guest
  • 50% reduced deposit
  • Onboard credit
    • Inside stateroom: $100 per stateroom
    • Oceanview stateroom: $200 per stateroom
    • Balcony & Suite staterooms: $300 per stateroom
  • 25% savings for 3rd and 4th passengers booked in the same stateroom for Caribbean sailings departing Jan-May, 2016.
  • One Voom internet package for one device on Anthem, Harmony, Allure, Oasis, Freedom, and Enchantment of the Seas on sailings departing between May 1 - September 30, 2016.

Offer applies to all sailings departing on or after Dec 10, 2015, excluding China departures.

Offer open to residents of U.S. or Canada. 

Cyber Monday Sale

The Cyber Monday sale is essentially the same as the Black Friday sale, but with a bit more onboard credit.

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full fare guest
  • 50% reduced deposit
  • Onboard credit
    • Inside stateroom: $150 per stateroom
    • Oceanview stateroom: $250 per stateroom
    • Balcony & Suite staterooms: $400 per stateroom
  • 25% savings for 3rd and 4th passengers booked in the same stateroom for Caribbean sailings departing Jan-May, 2016.
  • One Voom internet package for one device on Anthem, Harmony, Allure, Oasis, Freedom, and Enchantment of the Seas on sailings departing between May 1 - September 30, 2016.

Cruise must be booked Nov. 30, 2015.

Offer applies to all sailings departing on or after Dec 10, 2015, excluding China departures.

BOGO is combinable with the adjoining OBC, 3rd and 4th Guest Savings and Voom offers, Crown & Anchor discounts and NextCruise offers; BOGO and 50% 3rd and 4th Guest Savings are not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military). OBC and Voom offers are combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military, BOGO) and NextCruise offers. OBC and Voom offers are not combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts. Neither offer is combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, weekly Sales Events, Net Rates, Shareholder Benefits.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean offering luggage storage service on Grandeur of the Seas


Royal Caribbean is now offering guests on at least one of its cruise ships the opportunity to store their carry-on bags until their stateroom is ready.

Sue Watson from the All About Royal Caribbean Cruises Facebook group spotted the new service available on Grandeur of the Seas.

Guests can bring their carry-on luggage to the South Pacific Lounge on Grandeur of the Seas and have leave their carry-on bags there from 10:00am to 1:00pm.

Guests must reclaim their bags when they want to bring them to their stateroom.

It appears this service is designed to make things easier for guests in the time between boarding the ship and when their stateroom is ready.

Would you use this luggage storage service on your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Let us know in the comments!

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Preamble


Welcome to our next Royal Caribbean adventure, onboard the beautiful Brilliance of the Seas!

We are taking a four-night Western Caribbean cruise from Tampa on Brilliance of the Seas.  This will be a cruise of firsts: first time on Brilliance of the Seas, first time cruising over a holiday and first time cruising without kids!

Why we chose this cruise

There is a fun story behind why we decided to book this sailing on Brilliance of the Seas.  Back in September, my wife and I were watching an episode of Dream Cruises on AWE Network and it happened to be Brilliance of the Seas.

I love these documentaries, mostly because it gives me a quick Royal Caribbean "fix" and while seeing all the fun things available on Brilliance, I told my wife I was going to find a deal for us.

My wife scoffed at my remark, because she knew we were low on vacation funds and even lower on vacation days.  

Challenge accepted!

After a bit of searching (during the commercial breaks), I found a sailing over Thanksgiving that would require just one day off from work and an affordable price....provided we left the kids at home.

It took some negotiating, but eventually my wife gave me the okay to book the cruise.  

Our plan would be to leave the kids with my in-laws and we would drive down to the port.

Our plans onboard

This is our first time on Brilliance of the Seas, but not our first time on a Radiance class ship.

We sailed on Jewel of the Seas in 2013 and had a great time.  What the ship lacked in size, it made up for in character.

The big difference between Jewel of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas is Brilliance of the Seas was refurbished in 2013 and offers a lot to see and do onboard.

Since we are leaving the kids at home, the first thing we did after booking the cruise was to book the premium unlimited alcohol package.  This will be our first time using one of the drink packages and I am very interested to see if it's "worth it."  

I have always felt that the unlimited alcohol packages do not make financial sense for me because it is just too much to drink over the course of the cruise.  However, I am keeping an open mind and will see how well the package works.

I am also excited to try a number of the restaurants onboard, since I love Royal Caribbean dining and there are some favorites to visit and new choices to try.

Specifically, I am looking forward to going to RIta's Cantina, Chops Grille, Izumi and Park Cafe.  Reviews will be forthcoming!

Our plans on shore

We only have one port call, Cozumel, and our plans are still up in the air.  We want to do something different than we usually do, but not certain what that something is.

I think we will end up putting together a potpourri of activities.  I have been over the shore excursion options dozens of times but either what I like is too expensive or not really interesting to me.  

We have a fairly good amount of time in port, 8am to 6pm, so time is on our side.

I could see us taking a taxi to the east side of the island in the morning, heading downtown for lunch and shopping and then hitting a beach before heading back.  

Our itinerary

Our ship

Next update should be on our embarkation day, Thursday, November 26. Stay tuned for all of our live blog updates right here.

Live Blog Index

Royal Caribbean offering new dining packages on Allure of the Seas


Royal Caribbean has started offering dining packages on select Allure of the Seas sailings, that allow guests to enjoy multiple specialty restaurants for a fixed price.

There appear to be three dining packages to choose from

  • 3-night package: $80 per adult
  • 4-night package: $95 per adult
  • 5-night package: $110 per adult

Guests that reserve a dining package will be asked to select their dining party and preferred dining time.  Royal Caribbean will then make a courtesy dinner reservation will be made the guest's behalf in a pre-selected restaurant on day 1 or day 2.

On Day 1, guests will receive reservation confirmation in their stateroom. Guests are able to amend or to complete additional dinner reservations by visiting a Hospitality Desk or any specialty restaurant.

For restaurants with a la carte pricing, package includes a $30 credit towards the food portion of your bill.

Kids ages 6-12 dine at specialty restaurants for only $10. Ages 5 and under eat free!  Royal Caribbean staff can add kids to existing reservations at kid's prices once onboard.

Earlier this year, we have spotted similar dining packages offered on Explorer of the Seas and some Freedom class ships.

It is not clear yet if these dining packages are available for all sailings yet.  Royal Caribbean Blog reader Calvin Harris spotted the deal offered on his December 12, 2015 Allure of the Seas sailing.

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean Blog readers have spotted similar dining packages on Oasis of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas & Serenade of the Seas.  

Will you book one of these dining packages for your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Tell us in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean releases 2014 Sustainability report showing how cruise line leverages innovation for environmental gains


Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd released its 2014 Sustainability Report, which documents the Company's commitment to environmental stewardship and showcases improved efficiencies across its fleet.

Royal Caribbean highlighted in its report the delivery of its Quantum-class ships, the expansion of its Advanced Emissions Purification program and its plans to update its Save the Waves goals into the next decade.

Royal Caribbean has looked to emerging tech, such as RCL's air lubrication system, which creates a reduced friction layer of billions of microscopic air bubbles on a ship's hull, have helped Royal Caribbean launch some of the lowest-emission ships in the industry. RCL's new Quantum-class ships, for example, emit about 20 percent less carbon dioxide than previous designs.

One interesting success was Royal Caribbean's Florida-based ships achieved a major milestone of not landing anything to a traditional landfill and a 114 percent increase in waste recycled across the fleet.​

"At Royal Caribbean, we are working to ensure that sustainability remains at the heart of our business," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We bring 5,000,000 guests to nearly 500 ports around the world every year, and we understand the need to act responsibly towards the oceans that we sail and the places we visit. Our mantra is continuous improvement and we constantly strive to find new and better ways to meet those goals."​

For the second year, the Company developed its sustainability report in accordance with the internationally recognized GRI G4 guidelines. Additional highlights from the report include:

  • 2014 greenhouse gas emissions are 21.4 percent lower than the 2005 baseline.
  • Royal Caribbean International became the first cruise line to launch a specialized autism initiative, in collaboration with Autism of the Seas, to make the ships a more welcoming environment for autistic guests and their families.
  • The company increased responsible local sourcing in Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand, with a 20 percent increase in Australia and New Zealand.
  • RCL also received a first-ever certification from RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States, recognizing the company's professionalism in preventing and responding to security incidents.

Top 7 Must-Dos on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas


Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas offer so much for guests to enjoy, but of all the experiences onboard, which one stands out as the best?

Matt counts down his top seven experiences while he was onboard Anthem of the Seas to give you a look at what this new ship has to offer.

Royal Caribbean updates website for Gifts & Gear section


Royal Caribbean's online destination for purchasing gifts, decorations and everything that can be delivered to your cruise ship, Gifts and Gears, has gotten a new web site design.

As part of Royal Caribbean's overall redesign of their web site, the Royal Gifts section of the site now has a new look to go with the new name.

From here, guests can 

  • Rent tuxedos
  • Order gifts to their home
  • Order gifts and products to their stateroom
  • Purchase items from the bedding collection
  • Purchase gift certificates
  • Shop Royal Weddings
  • Shop Royal Celebrations

Over the last few months, Royal Caribbean has been updating the look and feel of its website and the Royal Gifts section is the latest section to receive the update.

Orders for ship delivery are accepted up to 48 business hours before debarkation (with the exception of flowers and packages containing flowers).