Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 9 – Sea Day

In:
12Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

My final day on board Brilliance of the Seas was a sea day, as we head back to Tampa, Florida. Today was the first day all cruise I slept in, I think all those early mornings finally caught up with me.


 

I went down to the solarium to relax, while my girlfriend went to the spa. She received the 50-minute hot stones massage. The cost after the 20% Diamond Plus discount was $130 + 18%. Not the cheapest massage, but it sure did make her happy. Of course, she mentioned the upsell at the end of the treatment, but she kindly said no thanks.


 

I was relaxing in the solarium and noticed how many chairs were open. Since 1/3 of the ship is spring breakers and they don’t hangout in here, you could almost always find a chair. We grabbed some breakfast from the Windjammer and just ate it poolside.


 

For lunch we had our one last meal at Park Café. I tried the corn salad and didn’t think it was very good. But the salad and roast beef sandwich were wonderful. After lunch it was time to get some packing done in the cabin, it so much more fun unpacking!



 

While walking through the main pool, I saw the Cruise Director Mike had a trivia game going on around March Madness. I’ve never seen this played on the pool deck, but I noticed almost everyone was playing.


 

They also had the same 50% off shirts & bags sale. I heard a lady tell her husband, “but it’s 50% off, we have to buy it!”



 

After the uneventful packing up the room, we headed down to vintages to enjoy some wine. We had one bottle in our room we hadn’t opened, so I thought let’s go enjoy it on the lounge.


 

Since it’s our own bottle we didn’t have to pay any fee to enjoy it, but I did tip the server a few dollars for getting us wine glasses and a cheese plate.


 

Dinner tonight was in the Windjammer; I wanted to dine here since I hadn’t tried their dinner all week. When we walked in, I thought wow I’ve never seen this place so empty!


 

They had the same lamb shank they serve in the main dining room the last night. I also found some grilled and fried fish, so I got them both.


 

The meal was enjoyable; I really liked that fact that I could look around at everything before deciding. For our dessert I just made a little sampler plate and we got to enjoy everything. When you can’t pick just one, get them all!

After dinner we walked around saying our goodbyes to all our favorite staff on board. I saw they were playing some kind of game in the centrum; I couldn’t really make out what it was. We ended getting to bed a little early, since we both have work tomorrow morning.


 

Overall it was an outstanding cruise, I loved being able to stay on board for the back to back. Brilliance was in good shape, but did have a few signs of wear. However, after her transatlantic to Europe next month, she will go under a dry dock. I tried to get some information about any changes to the ship, but was unable to get any confirmed information.

I hope you enjoyed this 9-day live blog; I had a lot of fun sharing my vacation with you. My next cruise is in 6 weeks on board Adventure of the Seas. I’ll be taking her from San Juan to New Jersey, so see you soon!

Royal Caribbean launches Annual Family Sale in Australia

In:
12Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering families a newpromotion, withkids' cruise fares from just AU$29/NZ$39 a day, plus up to 30% off for mum and dad with the launch of the Annual Family Sale.

The deal also includes up to to 30% off for mum and dad with the launch of the Annual Family Sale. Available to book until 9 April 2018, the Annual Family Sale is applicable to all local sailings departing Australia between September 2018 and April 2019.

“We know how precious family holiday time is. It‘s essential to find the perfect holiday option that offers the right balance of activities and down-time for the whole family. That’s what makes a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s incredible range of three Australia-based megaliners the ultimate holiday destination,” said Adam Armstrong, managing director, Royal Caribbean Australia & NZ.

Prices start at AUD$1,689/NZD$1,859 per person for adults and from AUD$169/NZD$189 each for kids on an 8-night South Pacific cruise on Ovation of the Seas, based on quad-share accommodation. The roundtrip cruise departs Sydney on 9 April 2019 and calls at Noumea in New Caledonia and Mystery Island in Vanuatu.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-up March 11,2018

In:
11Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy weekend! We hope you remembered to Spring Forward! Here’s all the Royal Caribbean news this week!

Royal Caribbean launched a new initiative this week that seeks to consolidate the logins and accounts between Royal Caribbean's sister companies.

Beginning in March 2018, Royal Caribbean will begin offering an enhanced guest account that will, "deliver many capabilities of our digital cruise experience, to simplify the guest experience online and to allow guests to quickly access features and information." The one login can be used for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises apps and websites. It promises to bring them everything guests need from loyalty (Crown & Anchor) information, personalized itineraries and details – all with just one account login.

Unfortunately, the initial implementation has resulted in some "growing pains" that have resulted in some users unable to access the new system. You can always use the old log in in the meantime.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 240th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, providing an overview to the unlimited drink packages offered by Royal Caribbean.

In this episode, Matt goes over the basics of the unlimited drink packages, and explains what they entail, and if you shoud get one.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Travel Weekly reports on the non-TV marketing strategy Royal Caribbean is using before the ship's launch.

Miami Herald announced the new partnership between Royal Caribbean and Miami's Frost Science Center.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 8 – Cozumel, Mexico

In:
11Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

We made it to Cozumel, Mexico our only port of call on the quick four-night cruise. Our arrival time was scheduled for 8AM to 5PM. I woke up early to watch us arrive in Cozumel from my aft balcony. I’ve never used a balcony so much on a cruise; these aft views are really something special.


 

I spoke to the concierge in the lounge last night about helping us get of the ship early. He said no problem and requested we meet him at 7:50AM. Sure enough he took us down to deck 1 and let us skip the line of people waiting to get off the ship.


 

We had reserved an excursion through the cruise line called Fury Snorkeling Catamaran. The full price is $79 per person, however I booked in on a weekend sale in the cruise planner and paid $59 each. To be honest, I didn’t know too much about it but I was looking for something different to do. Our meeting time on the pier was 8:15AM.


 

The catamaran boat was docked at the pier, even before you get to the checkpoint before you exit the pier. It was nice that we didn’t have to take any transportation to our excursion.

The day is split into three different sections, within the four hours. The first is snorkeling, the second is beach time, and the finial is the one our ride back with some line dancing.


 

The snorkeling was really fun; I even jump off the ship. I did however, get stung by a little jellyfish while in the water snorkeling. It didn’t hurt too bad, since it was a little sting, they had some vinegar on board to help reduce the stinging.



 

The second part of the excursion was a quick ride over to their beach. Once you arrive on the beach drinks were included, but the lunch was $11 per person – we passed on their lunch.


 

Everything else on the beach is included, such as water sports, kids water aqua park, and beach chairs. This was a lot of fun and nice that we could do so much and not have to keep paying extra.



 

The last part was our ride back, which is about an hour ride. We stood on the top deck and took in all the views of Cozumel. The staff on board was so great, I’d say every 3-5 minutes they would come check with you if you needed a drink.


 

Overall the excursion was a great success and I’m really happy I booked it. I will likely try this again in the future while visiting Cozumel, but I’m staying away from the jellyfish!



 

In the afternoon we had planned to visit a little beach bar I found out about called turquoise. I learned about this place through some of the crew and then I had a friend visit a few weeks ago and kept talking about it. I thought it was 3 miles down so I took a taxi for $8. Turns out it was only about 1 mile down, so we ended up walking back.


 

They have a great view of the ship while you are enjoying lunch or a beverage. We were really hungry by this point, so we ordered some tacos. The food was so good, I might even make a bold statement and say it’s better than Nachi’s! We stayed around an hour and relaxed and enjoyed a few beers. Our bill for all the tacos, beers, and guacamole was $29.



 

We slept for a few hours in the afternoon, all that action packed day finally caught up to us. This evening we had reservations at Giovanni’s Table our second half of our BOGO. Usually it must be used night 1 and 2, however a wedding party rented out the whole restaurant on night 2.


 

Dinner was great as usual, they were joking that I had become part of their extend family this cruise. I said thank you, but you have also put 5 pounds on me! I ordered the filet and three-cheese pasta again. My girlfriend tried the fish and I really liked it, I kept eating hers.

This evening around the ship seem to be a little calmer than the past two nights. I think people called it a night from Cozumel. They had the 70’s party in the centrum tonight and that was a lot of fun. I saw so many passengers on board dressed up for it. I did make it to the disco tonight for about an hour, but even that was kind of dead.


 

Tonight we change for daylight savings time, so that means I lose an hour of my cruise! Tomorrow is my final day on board Brilliance of the Seas; stay tuned for a fun sea day.

Royal Caribbean expands new smartphone app to Symphony of the Seas

In:
10Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released a new update to its smart phone app, which primarily adds support for use on Symphony of the Seas.

Version 1.6.0 of the Royal Caribbean app was released to fix bugs, improve performance and also be compatible with Symphony of the Seas.

According to the app description page on iTunes Store, version 1.6 lets guests

  • Learn about the hundreds of activities, movies, and shows available onboard, and use category filters to sort them to their preferences
  • Explore off-ship adventures to make the most of our port stops
  • Peruse complete restaurant, bar, and lounge options onboard
  • Plan a day of indulgence with our array of spa offerings
  • Use deck plan illustrations to navigate the ship

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 7 – Sea Day

In:
10Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

Today was our first of two sea days this sailing. I woke up at 6AM and took advantage of some quite time in the Diamond Lounge. If you were ever wondering when I spend the time to write everything for the live blog, it’s in the early morning hours.

Last night we placed the room service card outside our door for the continental breakfast. They have the option to order eggs, omelets, and bacon for a $7.95 upcharge.


 

But we just stuck to the basic items like toast, fruit plate, granola, and yogurt. They have 30-minute windows for the delivery time; we picked 8:30AM to 9:00AM. Right at 8:30AM they called the room and said our food was on the way. The breakfast was nothing special, but it was enjoy food to hold us over for the morning.


 

After enjoying breakfast on our balcony we headed down to the pool deck. Today was still kind of chilly and overcast so we headed to the warm solarium. I noticed while walking forward the pool attendants marking unoccupied chairs again. They seem to be all over this on Brilliance, let’s just hope they keep it up.



 

The Solarium was nice and relaxing all morning. We did try to get into the hot tub, but it stayed full the whole morning.


 

Lunch we headed to the Windjammer, I needed a break from Park Café. We went right at noon and it was packed! People were looking for tables, so we ate as fast as possible to help someone else out. I would recommend coming at 11:30AM or closer to 1PM to avoid the rush.


 

We had some nachos, they had a whole section where you could build them yourself. I might have gone up for more they were so good!


 

On the pool deck they had the $10 sale going on and 50% off shirts. This seems to happen every sea day. If you are looking for some good Royal Caribbean gear, this is good place to pick some up.


 

This afternoon we decided to enjoy some relaxing balcony time and our first beverage of the day. The pool deck was starting to get a little wild with all the college spring breakers. Also, so I could work on the live blog some as we are getting off the ship at 8AM tomorrow.


 

Around 3PM I went up to the concierge lounge for an afternoon coffee. Since I’ve mentioned this lounge a few times in my live blog, I thought I’d take some photos for the blog. They have some great outside seating, lounge seating, and the bar.




 

Tonight was formal night but we had planned to start our evening with room service brought to our room for dinner. The cost for room service is a flat fee of $7.95 + 18%. So if you are ordering for one or ten it’s the same fee. In the name of research we ordered a little more than we could eat.


 

A few of my favorites were the wings, Philly cheesesteak and cheesecake. The main course was the salmon and I really enjoyed it, very fresh and tender. I also liked being able to get through dinner in less than a half hour. We had the whole night ahead of us to do whatever we wanted. I would order room service again if I needed a fast dinner.


 

Most of the evening we spent down at the R Bar for the captain’s reception. They had a band playing for a little over an hour before the reception. People were up dancing and enjoying themselves. I used my three diamond drinks while sitting here, so no extra cost on drinks without the drink package.


 

The captain came on for about 5 minutes to introduce the officers and say a few words and the event was over. I asked someone about all the dancers they had out last cruise and they were confused also why that didn’t happen. No big deal, I just thought it ended very fast.


 

We jumped around to Vintages and to listen to some music at the schooner bar. I tend to like to jump around and see different venues. Around 10:30PM we did the ever so long walk back to our cabin and get ready for bed. We are breaking records on our steps this cruise, so I’ll take it!

Tomorrow is going to be a long day in Cozumel, Mexico and we wanted a good nights sleep. I'm excited to share all the new things I'm doing in Cozumel tomorrow! 

Spotted: All Access Crew Life Tour on Royal Caribbean

In:
09Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has begun offering guests a behind-the-scenes tour of the crew's life on select sailings.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Chris spotted the new "All Access Crew Life Tour" option in the Cruise Planner site. This appears to be a new tour offered, where guests can get a glimpse of what it is like to live on a cruise ship.

The tour costs $79 per guest, and lasts for two hours.  

As is often the case with new Cruise Planner options added recently, the site lacks a full description.  Typically, we see the full gamut of information added to the Cruise Planner site over the next few days.

This tour may not be available on all sailings. To check, log into the Cruise Planner and check under the "Entertainment & Activities" section.

Friday Photos

In:
09Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The weekend is here and with it, comes our weekly showcase of great Royal Caribbean photos that our readers have shared with us.

We begin with a photo by Kinny Lee of the Royal Promenade, as seen from Central Park on Allure of the Seas.

John M. Long shared this photo of Vision of the Seas.

We move to CocoCay with our next photo, taken by David J.  You can see Grandeur of the Seas tendering in the background.

Lizz took this beautiful photo of the beach by the beach beds in CocoCay. Lizz's review of the beach beds is stated simply, "On a side note: Beach beds? Totally worth!!!!"

Ross and Pam sent in this photo of Explorer of the Seas at the Isle of Pines during a transpacific cruise.

Here is a shot from Rhapsody of the Seas by Marnix Van Cauter while in Europe.

We wrap things up with this photo of Anthem of the Seas passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as she departs Port Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey.  Photo by Michael Kho.

Thank you to everyone for sharing these great photos. If you would like to share your own fabulous Royal Caribbean photo, send them in via this form. Have a great weekend!

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 6 – Tampa, Florida

In:
09Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

Today was our turnaround day in Tampa, Florida. I wanted to get up early and watch us sail into port. Too often I’m on land watching this view in Tampa, so I wanted to see the view from the ship.

It was around 50 degrees on the top deck and the wind made it feel even colder, but I survived. We docked at a different terminal than the one we left at, since we were the only ship in port today.

When you do a back-to-back cruise, the cabin attendant from the first cruise will carry everything to the new cabin for you. They even ask that you leave all your clothes on the hangers. While all the guests were getting off the ship, I didn’t have anything to do (pools were closed for cleaning).

So I decided to move all my items to the new cabin myself and get settled in. I had talked to my new attendant the day before, to let him know I was coming. He was kind enough to have my cabin cleaned and ready for me by the time I arrived.

I had received a paper on day one explaining the turnaround process, I was to meet in the conference center at 9:30AM. We were delayed for 10-15 minutes because one family was still packing up and causing the whole process to be delayed – don’t be that family.

Once we walk off, we enter customs just like you would leaving any cruise, we handed over our passports, but no questions were asked. After that we went right back on board. It’s a very easy process and now I had the ship all to my self, we had 9 consecutive cruisers.


 

I had about an hour on board without passengers, so I took advantage and walked around taking some pictures of the empty ship.


I also stopped by a few suites to tour them. They were in the Royal Suite cleaning it, but they said I could tour it quickly. At 10:40AM I started seeing the new guest arriving on board.



 

On this sailing I was moving up to an aft facing ocean balcony – 9660. This cabin is simply amazing; the balcony has so much space. As soon as my girlfriend got on aboard I took her straight to the cabin. That’s also another advantage of sailing again, they let you come and go from the cabin as you please day 1 and you aren’t required to wait until 1PM or later.

Most of the afternoon we were swimming in the Solarium since it was cold in Tampa. We were so surprised we were the only ones in the pool and hot tub. The pool water was warm since it’s heated and that area is enclosed.

For sailaway we stayed on our balcony and opened a bottle of champagne. I usually spend sailaway dancing on the pool deck, so I was looking forward to something different.

We backed into the turning basin because we pulled in this morning, so that was neat because we were looking straight at our home, maybe 100 yards away!



 

We started our evening in Vintages; I love this bar on Brilliance because of the ocean views. But I also love wine too, so maybe it’s that! Around 6:30PM we passed under the Skyway Bridge, the sun we also setting so it was that much better.


 

At Vintages, if I ask for a cheese plate, they will usually bring one out for you to enjoy with wine – no charge. Funny, he brought us one but it didn’t have any cheese on it.


 

We did jump over to Schooner Bar for awhile, they were very busy this evening. I was talking to some of the crew on about that tonight it felt like the ship was much more “alive” than the last few nights. They said, on the 4-night sailings almost everyone on the cruise has the drink packages.

Which on this sailing, my girlfriend and I decided to pass on the packages. Today I spent $8 on my BOGO coupon and got two beers. I’ve just been taking advantage of the wine I carried on board and my diamond drinks.

For dinner, wait you guessed it… Giovanni’s Table. They seated us about a half hour early because we were just getting hungry. We carried a bottle of wine to dinner, since it was a bottle from Crown & Anchor for being Diamond Plus they waive the cork fee.

We both ordered the filet, again it has the sauce already on the steak. We also had them sit a three-cheese tortellini in the middle to taste. Let me tell you, the tortellini was amazing! I’m sure it’s because of all the cheese, but I was eating that over my steak. Really outstanding meal again, the service at this restaurant couldn’t be better.

After dinner we made a little donation to Royal Caribbean International in the casino. We also used our free spin to win in the slots, but no luck with that either. The casino was so busy and smoky we decided to leave and head to bed.

Thanks for following my full turnaround day on board Brilliance of the Seas. Tomorrow we have a sea day as we sail to Cozumel, Mexico. I have all new adventures planned for Mexico, so stay tuned!

Review: Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
08Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

On a recent Brilliance of the Seas cruise, we decided to revisit a popular Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant, Chops Grille, to see what's new in this classic restaurant.

Royal Caribbean's signature specialty restaurant, Chops Grille, remains a favorite for many who cruise Royal Caribbean often.  It's inviting atmosphere, great cuts of meat, and service have earned Chops Grille quite a reputation among repeat cruisers. While Royal Caribbean continues to add new specialty dining options periodically, Chops Grille remains a popular choice.

Many blog readers have shared with us their positive experiences at Chops Grille, so I wanted to re-visit Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas to ensure it continues to be somewhere I can recommend to others.  And so, in the name of research, my wife and I have returned to Chops Grille once again.

Atmosphere

Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas is located conveniently on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.  Its location adjacent to Giovanni's Table and across from the Schooner Bar makes it an easy-to-find restaurant, since there is a lot of foot traffic in the area and odds are you will walk past it multiple times on your cruise.

Walking into Chops Grille, you will find a large, open room that has tables filling the interior, with some booths along one side.  A few tables are near the windows to provide a view outside.

Chops Grille on Radiance Class ships has a large open kitchen, which provides a nice view for guests into the work being done to prepare food.

Food

The Chops Grille menu on Brilliance of the Seas has changed recently, to bring with it the "new" Chops Grille menu.  Other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet have this updated menu, and Brilliance now joins them with it.  You can always tell the new menu from the old menu based on the fact the new menu offers seafood towers, as well as does not have the French onion soup.

While I lament the loss of the French onion soup, I decided to try the Wild Mushroom soup.  After all, it has truffle oil, so how bad could it be?

I really enjoyed this mushroom soup because the consistency of the broth was just right.  It was not too thick or watery.  Of course, the white truffle oil helped distinguish this from a mushroom soup you might heat up at home.

From the Signature Appetizers, I went with the tuna tartare.  Admittedly, I can never resist tuna, and this version was outstanding.

As a self-described ahi tuna habitué, I found this to be worthy of a Brazilian steakhouse style operation, where my waiter would bring me as many as I want until I turned over a card to indicate I was satisfied replete.

For our entrees, I was not sure what to order.  My wife always picks the filet mignon (no one ever regrets filet mignon), but I was not sure what to do.  I opted to ask our waiter for his recommendation on what he really enjoys.  He pointed me to the New Zealand rack of lamb.

I know what you are thinking, "There are entrees on the menu that do not have beef?" but it does indeed exist.  My hesitation about lamb is that it can be tough, and I spend more time trying to extract the meat from the bone than actually enjoying the food.

Nonetheless, how could I object to a recommendation made by a crew member I had met just 15 minutes earlier?  I rolled the dice on the lamb.

To my pleasant surprise, the lamb was extremely soft, and essentially fell of the bone.  Instead of wrestling with the knife or wondering aloud to my wife what time the Windjammer is open to, I spent a few glorious minutes enjoying a terrific serving of lamb. 

No visit to Chops Grille is complete without a few sides.  The sides can feel like a meal, but they offer a great accompaniment to your entrees.  I prefer to load up my fork with as many mushrooms as I can fit, alongside a cut of the meat and a dip in the mashed potatoes.  Perfection!

The new Chops Grille menu has resulted in the removal of the Red Velvet cake.  Alas, no restaurant is perfect.

Overall

I enjoyed our meal at Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas.  It is easy to see why Chops remains such a popular choice with so many cruisers, based on the wonderful menu.

It is important to note that for this visit, we took advantage of a Royal Caribbean dining package, which brough the cost down considerably.  The price for Chops Grille continues to push up, so consider a dining package as a way to really save money.

For a night out of great dining, Chops Grille is a solid choice for celebrations, date nights, or "the main dining room menu isn't my favorite".

What are your thoughts on Chops Grille? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

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