Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean cruise ship rescues 18 Cubans

In:
19Mar2016

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas rescued 18 Cuban migrants off the coast of Florida on Friday morning, following a 22 day journey at sea for the migrants.

The United States Coast Guard reported the rescue by the Royal Caribbean ship, which unfortunately also resulted in nine deaths prior to the resucue.

Brilliance of the Seas spotted the raft while on her way to Mexico, west of Marco Island in Florida. The migrants on-board suffered from severe dehydration, the Coast Guard said.

"Our deepest condolences to the families of the nine people who recently did lose their lives," said Captain Mark Gordon, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard's 7th District. "Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common when taking to the sea in homemade vessels with no safety or navigation equipment. The dangerous waters of the Florida Straights can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill-advised and illegal voyages."

Review: Chops Grille on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
22Dec2015

Perhaps no specialty restaurant is as well known (or liked) on Royal Caribbean cruise ships as Chops Grille.

Over the years, Chops Grille has seen her fair share of changes, but it remains a fan favorite restaurant for the high quality food offered.  

While on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, we just had to go back and try Chops one more time and see if all the admiration it receives is deserved.

Atmosphere

Located on deck 6 of Brilliance of the Seas, Chops Grille is right outside the Schooner Bar and is the only specialty restaurant that was not a recent addition.

The restaurant is essentially one large room, with booth tables along the sides, some smaller tables by the windows and larger tables in the interior.

There is an open kitchen, which allows guests to watch the "action" in the kitchen from tables close enough to get a view.

In the evening, the lights are dimmed and it certainly feels like you are dining in a fine steakhouse, with the dark and light browns contrasting against the white tablecloths and plates.

What is interesting about Chops Grille is fleet wide, the experience inside is pretty much the same and all Chops Grilles have a very similar flow.

Food

Though the focus at Chops Grille is naturally on the steaks, there are plenty of other things to talk about as well.

To begin the meal, a plate of warm bread with butter is served.  

My wife swears this is the best butter ever.  We are not certain what is in it, but it just tastes really good.  Certainly a great start to the meal.

Admittedly, it is often difficult to not over eat just the bread, but you must avoid the temptation because the food that is forthcoming is always worth it.

There are quite a few appetizers to choose from, and it sets the tone for the entire meal of there being too much good food to try for one stomach to handle.

For salads, we tried the mesclun salad and the crispy goat cheese salad.

Both are freshly made and good starts to our meal.  Plus, eating a salad before hitting the "heavy stuff" totally offsets the calories, right?

The signature appetizers offer some of the best food that do not end in the word "steak".  

The charred beef carpaccio is some of the thinnest and tastiest slices of beef I have ever had.  

The beef carpaccio has been a staple of the Chops Grille menu for years and something I always have to order.

However, the award for most impressive appetizer goes to the grilled black pepper bacon. 

Comparing this slab of slow-cooked Berkshire pork to bacon you might get at a diner is like comparing a 12 year old Pee Wee football player to an NFL linebacker.  

This is a massive serving of bacon and among bacon aficionados, it is a must-order.

For our entrees, I went "off the reservation" and actually did not order a steak.  Please, hold your fire!

In an effort to document all aspects of the Chops Grille experience (and to watch my girlish figure), I opted to order something other than steak.  

I asked my waiter if he recommended the Everything Crusted Tuna or the Snapper Veracruz and without hesitation, he pointed me to the tuna.

As the name implies, everything is indeed crusted on this tuna and it was mighty good.  

I love tuna and this was definitely a great piece of fish and I enjoyed the Asian inspired seasoning.  

Fret not, steak fans, because my wife went with old faithful: the "petite" filet mignon.

The steaks at Chops Grille have been historically great and this time was no different.  A beautiful piece of meat and cooked to perfection.  I may or may not have snuck a few bites in from my side of the table.

For dessert, I do not even read the dessert menu because I always order the same thing and regret nothing!

Yes my friends, I always order the red velvet cake.

I do not care about what it used to be or anything else. It is still really, really good and arguably the best red velvet cake I eat every time.

We also ordered the chocolate mud pie, which is a rich chocolate cake served with a berry sauce.

By this point in the meal, we were stuffed, so it was time to waddle out of the restaurant with the knowledge of another great Chops Grille meal complete.

Overall

I have eaten at Chops Grille on a number of Royal Caribbean cruise ships and each time I have a great experience and this meal on Brilliance of the Seas was no different.

I feel the consistently good meals at Chops Grille are why so many guests come back time and time again.  In fact, it is not unusual to hear about guests that dine at Chops Grille on multiple nights of their cruise.  It really is that darn good.

Chops Grille offers a lot of food and we did not even try the dry aged steaks this time (for our review of the dry aged steaks, check out our Navigator of the Seas review).  However, that is the strength of the menu that you can order so many options and still come away with a great meal.

Chops Grille excels at all aspects of the meal and it is because of this consistency that it is hard to ever go wrong with dining here.

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

Review: Giovanni's Table on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
16Dec2015

Of all the Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants available, few have spread as far and as wide as Giovanni's Table has, especially given how relatively new it is to Royal Caribbean.

While aboard Brilliance of the Seas, I just could not resist the temptation to enjoy lunch at Giovanni's Table one more time.

I had no plans to dine at Giovanni's Table, but the tempting favorites along with the lower lunch price swayed my decision on one particular sea day.

Atmosphere

Located on deck 6, Giovanni's Table is across from the ever popular Schooner Bar.

Walking in, the restaurant is rather large and offers seating in a variety of configurations.

The restaurant is essentially one large room, with windows making up one wall, that offer an unobstructed view of the ocean.

On our day to eat here, there were waves of 2-4 meters, so we certainly had some action to see.  Admittedly, these waves were also responsible for not having the largest of appetites with all of the motion.

Giovanni's Table will not win any accolades purely for its aesthetical looks, but it feels like a restaurant that is distinct from its surroundings and certainly more elaborately decorated than Rita's Cantina

Eats

It is no secret that Giovanni's Table is an Italian restaurant and there are plenty of Italian favorites to pick from on the menu.

On my last visit to Giovanni's Table on Freedom of the Seas, I felt I did not do a good job ordering, so this time I would try something more on the "seafood spectrum" as means of correcting the experience.

Once seated, we were served complimentary bread and olive oil.  This is consistent with the every other Giovanni's Table I have dined at and having bread and oil is a standard practice among many Italian restaurants.

As I said earlier, the ship was rocking quite a bit so we ordered lightly.  

To start with, we shared an insalata caprese.

This is your standard tomato and mozzarella salad. If I can be picky, I would point out the tomatoes are the same previously frozen tomatoes served in the Windjammer.  Not the end of the world, but I was hoping for something fresher.

I also ordered the eggplant parmigiana.

The eggplant parm from Giovanni's Table is not breaded and is more of a baked eggplant than traditional eggplant parm.  Nonetheless, I would say this was the best eggplant parm I have had at Giovanni's Table in quite a while.

For our entrees, I ordered the sole filets, while my wife opted for the pappardelle pasta.

My fish was a lightly fried sole filet that was served on top of sautéed garlic zucchini spaghetti.

The fish was light and pretty good, but it was the zucchini that I really enjoyed.  Combining the zucchini and fish together was a real treat and if I were to order this again, I would ask for extra zucchini.

My wife's pasta came in a white cream sauce and the little she ate of it, she enjoyed (the motion of the ocean was starting to get to her by this point).  

I sampled a bit of it too and thought the pasta tasted better than something out of the box.

Overall

Giovanni's Table on Brilliance of the Seas is a good option for those looking for Italian food that is more than just the typical pasta and sauce served in the Windjammer.

It is far from my favorite specialty restaurant, but the price (especially for lunch) makes it almost impossible to ignore. 

I will point out that when we dined there, there were perhaps six tables but only one waiter who also was serving as maître d'.  

Because of this, the service was extremely slow.  It did improve towards the tail end of the meal when more servers showed up to assist. 

Our overworked waiter was still quite generous, because he opted not to charge my wife for her meal because she barely ate it due to her not feeling well.  Definitely a welcome gesture and a credit to his service.

If you are asking, "should I eat at Giovanni's Table on Brilliance of the Seas," my advice is go for lunch on a sea day and take advantage of the lower cost and ease of which it is to get a table.  Stick with traditional Italian dishes and enjoy the view!

Giovanni's Table is open for lunch 12:00pm to 1:30pm and open for dinner 6:00pm to 9:30pm and we reviewed Giovanni's Table on Brilliance of the Seas.

Brilliance of the Seas Category E2 Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony photo tour

In:
10Dec2015

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Keith Davis is back to share a photo tour of his Category E2 balcony stateroom on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas. Enjoy!

Upon entrance you are flanked by the closet and the bathroom.  The closet features the standard Royal Caribbean features. 

High and low hanger bars are located on either side of a centered cluster of cubbies. The lower bars can be hinged up to provide one long space for taller garments.

The bathroom is a standard Royal Caribbean style bathroom.  The shower, unlike Voyager and Freedom class features a curtain in lieu of doors. 

One must be careful to make sure the curtain is properly placed upon entrance to the shower.  Failure to do so will allow the water to spray outside the shower curb and onto the bathroom floor.

Beyond the closet, as you enter the stateroom, is a desk.  Just above desk level there are electrical outlets.

If you have a lot of electronics to charge I recommend bringing a multi-charger w/ multiple USB ports.  Above the desk are mirrors and lights. On either side of the seating area are drawers.  They are not very large but suitable for small articles of clothing and other small items. 

Beyond the desk is the TV, below the TV is a door behind which is a small refrigerator which acts as a mini-bar.  Above the TV is a cabinet with shelves.  The lowest shelf contains the safe.

Across from the desk is a small love seat and a table, the love seat would be best described as “cozy” if more than one person wants to occupy it at a time.

Beyond the love seat is the bed, Royal Caribbean's standard style, with two separate sections pushed together (or apart if preferred). Each section is curved at the foot of the bed to help accommodate passage in the narrow cabin.

Finally past the bed is the sliding doors to the balcony.  The balcony is your standard RC balcony, listed at 43 Sq. Ft., it contained two chairs and a table.

The unique thing about this cabin is its location.  It is located at the center of the "hump".  An area where the cabins bow out away from the bulk of the cabins.   On the Radiance class ships most of the balcony cabins are inset from the hull of the ship. 

The view straight down is not of the side of the ship and the water but of the structure that covers the life boats and the promenade deck.  As this cabin is located in the center of the hump it allows an unobstructed view both forward and aft as well as down to the water.

One possible drawback to this cabin is its location in proximity to the Centrum.  This cabin located directly adjacent to the Centrum and, as such, is subject to noise from the Centrum (music, activities, etc.)  

I personally found no issue with the noise but if you are sensitive to stray noise this may not be the cabin for you as the music tends to run until 11:30 - 12:00 each night.

The positive to this location is its proximity to the aft stairs and elevators.

Something to keep in mind is the center hump cabins are coveted my many and tend to be booked well in advance.  

Review: Rita's Cantina on Brilliance of the Seas

In:
09Dec2015

It is time to talk about a specialty restaurant that we have never reviewed before, Rita's Cantina on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.

Rita's Cantina is a Tex-Mex inspired restaurant that first launched on Allure of the Seas when she debuted and has since spread to a number of Royal Caribbean ships.

Before ever stepping foot into Rita's, I had read quite a number of reviews online and most guests seemed to have a negative view of Rita's, especially compared to Sabor Modern Mexican.

I try not to judge anything based purely on what I may read or hear about it, but I will admit I did lower my expectations considerably.  I assumed a meal at Rita's would not be similar to my amazing meals at Sabor, but I wanted to keep as open a mind as possible.

Once on Brilliance of the Seas, I made a point to stop in for lunch on one of our sea days.  Will it be a hit or miss? Time to find out!

Atmosphere

On Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, Rita's Cantina is located on deck 11 behind the Windjammer on the port side of the ship.

Rita's is a half open air restaurant, with covered seating and tables out in the open.  If you have eaten at Johnny Rockets on a Voyager or Freedom class ship, the seating arrangement is somewhat similar in that there is indoor and outdoor seating. 

On Brilliance of the Seas, although there is covered seating, there is no air conditioning (or heat) for the indoor portion, so you are still somewhat at the mercy of the weather conditions outdoors.

Regardless of if you are seating inside or outside, there are views of the ocean from everywhere, except the bar (although you could simply turn around to see the ocean).

To describe the decor of Rita's Cantina, I would have to say there are hints of a Southwestern USA/Mexico motif with teals, dark reds and oranges.

Much of the restaurant, however, is not very well themed and feels more like a table at the Windjammer than a typical Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant.

After I scoped out the restaurant for a bit, it was time to dig into lunch.  Let's check out the menus!

Eats

For my meal at Rita's Cantina, I wanted to sample a little of everything that I could to get a sense of what Rita's really offers.

The first thing I noticed about the menu at Rita's Cantina is that while you could have a meal here, the menu really leans more towards being a restaurant that offers a lot of drinks and some snacks and light fare to go along with the drinks.

There is quite a selection of margaritas available, served on the rocks or frozen.

If mixed drinks or beer are your thing, then there is plenty to choose from as well.  Certainly. no one can complain about there not being a good selection of alcohol at Rita's Cantina.

The food menu is fairly limited, with just eight items listed.

The one thing I did notice immediately about Rita's Cantina menu are the prices.  Everything is incredibly inexpensive.  Most items are about $2-3 each.  That is dirt cheap.

I asked my waiter for a recommendation for a margarita and he pointed me towards the Pineapple Orange Margarita.

I opted for frozen and it was served in a rather large cup.

The margarita was fine, neither the best I have ever had nor the worst.  I prefer my margaritas to have more tequila than what I was served, but not the end of the world.

For my food, I ordered the roasted tomatillo broth, fiesta guacamole, chips & salsa and a grilled Quesadilla.  I figured that would be a good assortment of food to consider.

Service was a bit slower than I expected, but not because of my waiter.  The restaurant was not that busy, so at least I could tell the food was not just sitting around.

First up was the chips and salsa. 

The salsa was more of a pico de gallo, and I really enjoyed it.  We had just been in Cozumel, Mexico the day before, so I had a pretty good idea of what good salsa is and this was freshly made.  I could snack on this any day.  The chips were certainly out of a bag.

Next came the guacamole.

This guacamole was, well, awful.  The consistency was too watery and it was really bland.  I hate to say it, but I have had far better guacamole out of a jar from my local supermarket.  

Luckily, the tomatillo soup came out next and it was a welcome distraction from the guacamole.

The soup was more of a tortilla soup than anything else and it was above average.  I certainly ate much more of the soup than I did the guacamole.

Last out was the chicken Quesadilla, which was served with sour cream and more guacamole.  

I sampled the guacamole that came with the Quesadilla to see if perhaps my first guac serving was a bad batch, but this too was inedible.

The Quesadilla itself was okay and lent itself to the comparison that most Quesadilla are just Mexican grilled cheese's.  I ate a good amount of it, but the Quesadilla was just okay.  

Overall

After hearing mixed reviews of Rita's Cantina for years, I did not know what to expect but after eating at Rita's Cantina, I now know why it has the reputation it has.

I have two takeaways from RIta's Cantina on Brilliance of the Seas:

  1. The food is nothing special and tends to be more lackluster than anything else
  2. The food is really, really inexpensive

I freely admit the food is not going to impress many, but when you consider the low prices (I spent about $8 for all my food), perhaps Rita's Cantina is not an awful value.

I see Rita's Cantina as not a restaurant for a meal, but rather a snack with a few drinks.  If you purchase one of the unlimited alcohol packages, I could easily see Rita's Cantina being a great spot to enjoy the benefits of the drink package with a plate of nachos and salsa.

The bottom line is Rita's Cantina will not be at the top of many guests' favorite restaurant lists, but I do like the low prices and ample selection of drinks available.

Have you dined at Rita's Cantina? What's your favorite dish on the menu?

Brilliance of the Seas Category N Inside Stateroom photo tour

In:
07Dec2015

It seems like everyone is curious what the various stateroom types look like, so we bring to you these photo tours of various stateroom categories.

Today, we have an inside stateroom on Brilliance of the Seas in category N.

On Brilliance of the Seas, we reviewed stateroom 3545, which is located on deck 3 closest to the forward elevator bank.  Entry to the room is by your SeaPass card.

Category N staterooms on Brilliance of the Seas are listed at 165 square feet and can accomodate two guests.  There was a surprising amount of space for an inside stateroom, perfect for one or two passengers to live comfortably.

The bed is joined together but can be split apart if need be, with a nightstand on either side of the bed.  

There is a flat screen television attached to a tilting arm, such that the television can be pointed straight across or swung for optimal viewing in bed.

There is also a sofa, closet, sitting area with desk, drawer space and vanity in the room.

The bathroom contains a sink, shower and toilet.  In our room, the shower had no plastic door, but a curtain instead.  I am not certain if this is standard for Brilliance of the Seas, or just a special case in our room.

The desk features two electric outlets.

There is a large closet near the entrance of the room, with the most storage space available.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas hidden secrets

In:
01Dec2015

Going on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas means you will find a beautiful cruise ship with a lot to see and do, and naturally, you will not want to miss any of it.

We present our list of the top ten hidden secrets and gems that you should not overlook if you get the chance to sail on Brilliance of the Seas.

10. Comfy chairs at Vintages

I am always looking for the best spot to relax and enjoy a drink, conversation with friends or just a good book and on Brilliance of the Seas, the best place if you want pure comfort is Vintages.

Located on deck 6, Vintages offers some eccentric looking furniture that is just as comfortable to sit in as it is pleasing to look at.

If you like to sprawl out, the couches in Vintages will be perfect for you!

9. Thermal spa pass & Ultimate spa pass

If you are looking to indulge, be sure to consider the thermal spa pass on Brilliance of the Seas.

Guests can purchase a thermal spa pass, which gets them access to

  • Steam room
  • Sauna
  • Heated stone chairs

If you want even more relaxation, try the ultimate spa pass, which includes everything in the thermal spa pass plus a Rasul treatment session. The Rasul treatment is essentially a couple’s exfoliation, shower and facial and costs $99 per couple.  It is a great value for the time and money.

8. Surprise at the top of the glass elevators

The ocean facing elevators elevators on Brilliance of the Seas offer some fantastic views of the ocean that are unique to the Radiance class of ships.

However, there is a little surprise for those that go all the way to the top of the ship.

At the very top are two fisherman that are cane pole fishing and it is a feature of the ship few discover and fewer notice.

7. Lounge chairs on deck 12.5

If you are looking to sun yourself but either want to get away from the crowds or need to find a good place if all the chairs are taken by the pool, then head up to this special deck on Brilliance of the Seas.

Go to deck 12 and then walk forward until you find a set of stairs that lead to a smaller deck that has plenty of lounge chairs as well as a great view of the ocean.

This spot on deck twelve and a half is rarely full and most guests never even know it is there!

6. Outdoor Windjammer dining area

The Windjammer is a staple of any Royal Caribbean cruise experience, and on Brilliance of the Seas, guests can dine with the ocean breeze in their hair at one of the outdoor seating areas.

The Windjammer features a few dining annexes that are offer partial or full exposure to the sun, breeze and views.

Our favorite is the outdoor dining area at the aft of Brilliance of the Seas, because being able to enjoy your food while seeing the ocean pass you by is a wonderful view.

And since we are always on the lookout for comfortable places to dine, there are some great couches if you prefer to enjoy your Windjammer goodness in style.

5. Best spot for sailaway

If you want the best spot on Brilliance of the Seas to watch as she pulls out of port, then it has to be the helicopter pad at the front of the ship.

Located on the bow, guests can walk to the helicopter pad and enjoy the unobstructed views that you can only get from the helicopter pad.  

The perspective from this spot is hard to beat and many guests do not know it is possible to go here.

To access the helicopter pad, go outside on deck 5 and then walk forward, climb up a set of stairs and continue walking forward until you reach the helicopter pad.

4. The Cinema

Brilliance of the Seas has a movie theater onboard, which is a feature not many Royal Caribbean ships offer.

The Cinema is a small movie theater, where guests can watch a variety of movies throughout their cruise.

Movies in the cinema are complimentary and it offers a great way to see your favorite films as they were intended to be shown.

The cinema is located on deck 6 forward, near the King & Country Pub.

3. You can play darts

Royal Caribbean has been adding English-style pubs to its cruise ships for years, but for those that want the full pub experience, how about a game of darts to go along with that pint?

On Brilliance of the Seas, guests in the King and Country Pub can play darts whenever they please.

Like so many of the activities onboard, darts are complimentary and a great way to pass the time onboard.

2. Self-leveling billiards table

Brilliance of the Seas features self-leveling billiards tables that are the perfect way to enjoy a game of pool, even if the ship is rocking a little (or a lot).

These billiard tables utilize gyroscopes to always keep the top of the table level so that the billiards balls do not roll around.  

Not only is this a really impressive bit of technology, but it also means guests can enjoy a few rounds of pool regardless of the sea conditions.

1. Park Cafe

If you are looking for a bite to eat somewhere a little less hectic than the Windjammer, try the Park Cafe in the Solarium on Deck 11.  Not only is it less busy, but they have some really great choices!

Park Cafe features Make Your Own salad options, where guests can select the salad ingredients and the whole thing is  made in front of them.

There is a also a good variety of sandwiches, healthy snacks, desserts and more.

Park Cafe is also home to these small, but amazing, roast beef sandwiches.  These little bad boys are quite tasty and it (and the salads) are complimentary!

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