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!

Royal Caribbean's Double Up Sale offers up instant savings and onboard credit

In:
08Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Double Up Sale rolled out today, which offers combinable instant savings and money to spend at sea.

The Double Up Sale is valid on cruises booked March 8 - March 12, 2018 on sailings departing on or after April 8, 2018.

  • Instant savings
    • 5 Nights or Fewer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $50 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $75 USD per stateroom
    • 6 Nights or Longer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $75 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $200 USD per stateroom
  • Onboard credit
    • 5 Nights or Fewer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $50 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $75 USD per stateroom
    • 6 Nights or Longer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $75 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $100 USD per stateroom

The Double Up Sale is combinable with the March offer of 30% off all guests and Kids (12 and under) Sail Free on select sailings.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 5 – Sea Day

In:
08Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

These cruises always go too fast; today was our final day of the cruise.  I had planned to sleep in, but of course I woke up at 6AM and got up for the day.  This morning I watched the sunrise from the Diamond Lounge working on the live blog, but I forgot my camera! 

For breakfast I wanted an omelet so off to the Windjammer I went. The made to order omelet was ready in 2-3 minutes I couldn’t believe how fast they made it. One perk of getting up early, it isn’t so busy at 7AM. I sat in the outside area again just taking in the view and enjoying the morning.

At 9:30AM I had a bridge tour scheduled by the loyalty ambassador on onboard. We were asked to arrive 10 minutes early for security screening. They scan you with metal detectors prior to going on the bridge and also ask you to sign in on a clipboard for records.


 

Once we were on the bridge the second officer took us out to the wing and explained some of the equipment. It was also fun to see the glass on the floor they use for docking.


 

Someone asked about our stop in Grand Cayman and noticed we didn’t use our anchor while we were in the middle of the water. He explained that it was too deep and their anchor wouldn’t hit bottom. So they use a technology that it similar to autopilot that keeps the ship within the same 10-meeters at all time.


The bridge tours only last 30 minutes, because they have other groups coming in one after the other, including the all-access pass they sell in the cruise planner. I really enjoyed it today; they were very friendly and answered so many of our questions.



 

I decided to go soak up some sunrays and take advantage of our last sea day, within an hour of being outside it starting to pour rain. Everyone cleared out and I headed back to the Windjammer (for the second time today) look at me! It was a total zoo because everyone from the pool deck also had the same idea.



 

I had some grilled fish and it was so fresh, I really enjoyed it. I passed on the cake, I almost went for it but I decided I have 4 more days of eating on board.


 

Most of my afternoon was hanging out in the pub watching March Madness and napping. Just taking it easy, I did finish my 10-drink punch card this afternoon and found it a really great value for just $57. I only wish they had more than 2 beers on draft.


 

I went by the guest services desk walking to my room and wow that line was long.  Try not to wait until the last sea day to visit them, or go very early in the morning.  


 

This evening was the last one on board, so I spent two hours in the concierge lounge chatting with some of the new friends I’ve made. That’s one of the reasons I love cruising so much, you can meet people from all over the world.

After the lounge I went to listen to the piano player in the schooner bar. He was really entertaining and the lounge was very busy tonight. I didn’t have any dinner plans tonight; I wasn’t hungry so I just decided to skip a meal.

I hadn’t attended any shows this week, I thought I was due for one. I went to the farewell show in the main theater. The show starts a little slow but they end on a high note, music from ET and Star Wars. I was happy I saw the show and at the end people were giving them a standing ovation.

After the show I headed to bed, so I can be fully rested for the turnaround day. I’m so happy I’m staying on board for one more sailing! Stayed tuned, the live blog will continue!

Drink packages 101 on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
07Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 240 is available for downloading, providing an introduction on how Royal Caribbean's drink packages work and if they are worth it.

If you are new to Royal Caribbean's drink packages, Matt goes over the basics of the drink package offerings and discusses what you should think about before booking one.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 240. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher 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!

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 4 – Cozumel, Mexico

In:
07Mar2018
By: Michael Poole

Today was our second port, Cozumel, Mexico. We didn’t arrive until 10AM, so it was nice being able to relax this morning and not feel rushed to get off the ship. I wanted to watch us sail into Cozumel from the helicopter pad, since I could see Liberty of the Seas was also in town.

On Brilliance the helicopter pad is open access to anyone, so I recommend you coming up here at least once. It was rather windy but really fun to watch us sail into town. You will want to go to deck 5; in the centrum area you will see doors to lead you to the outside deck. Once you are outside, just walk them all the way forward.

As soon as we made our approach to the pier, we started spinning to back in. So I decided to head up to the to deck to finish our docking process.

I reserved a day pass at Nachi Cocom, which is an all-inclusive beach property. The cost is $55 per person and they limit the property to 120 guests per day. The taxi rides are $17 per way, up to 4 people. I heard a couple in line talking about how they were going to Nachi, so I just asked them if we could share a taxi.

Since Brilliance was the last ship to arrive in Cozumel, Nachi was almost full by the time I arrived. Thus, I had a set in the last row, no big deal it was still beautiful. I had some guacamole down on the beach at 11AM and then lunch up by the tables at 1:30PM. For lunch I ordered the shrimp fajitas, and maybe it was all the beers, but they were the best I’d ever had!


 

I ended up staying at Nachi until a little after 5PM, since our ship left at 7PM. It was a really great day in Cozumel and the service was outstanding both down by the beach and the swim up bar. There was almost no one at the property when I left, so I ended up taking my own cab back for $17.

This evening was the Crown & Anchor top tier event. This is a special event to recognize all the Platinum and above members. They had out drinks and talk about all new ships coming out. I am happy to report I had my first Stella of the cruise at the event! They announced all the total number of members on board: 136 Platinum, 42 Emerald, 64 Diamond, 45 Diamond Plus, & 6 Pinnacles.



 

Dinner tonight was back in Giovanni’s Table. I know what you must be thinking, how much Giovanni’s can one person eat! Last night I had asked them if there was anyway they could save some of their lunch lasagna for me at dinner. They checked with the chef and since we were in port they were closed for lunch, but that we would make me some fresh for dinner! It had so many flavors and very filling, I wasn’t able to eat it all and skipped my dessert tonight. Talk about a food coma!

After dinner I decided to go straight to bed. My day in Cozumel was perfect, but I think with all the drinks and food I was ready to get good nights sleep. Tomorrow is the last sea day of this voyage and I have a lot planned, stay tuned!

Royal Caribbean creating single login for use between Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises

In:
07Mar2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today it is rolling out the first part of its enhanced Guest Digital Experience with a new Universal Guest Account.

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.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has simplified and strengthened the account security and password reset processes to ensure guest information is safe and accessible.

Guests may experience new functionality while it is being trialed beginning as early as March 7, 2018 who have upcoming reservations.

Royal Caribbean has also hinted that additional digital enhancements are coming in the months to follow. Other enhancements include the ability to book anything imaginable from a smart phone and more.

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