Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

In:
19Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Alas, it is the last day of the cruise and while the final day of a cruise is always a tough pill to swallow, my thought is it is still a day on a cruise and next week when I am at home, I would love to have a full day and night on a cruise.

We slept in and awoke to a rather gray day outside.  It seemed today's weather would be dominated by clouds, wind and some rain.

Since we had a late start to the day, we grabbed coffee at Cafe Latte-Tudes while a towel folding demonstration took place in the Centrum.

We walked through the Centrum shops to check out the merchandise, and ventured outside to confirm that it was indeed a dreary start in terms of weather.

At noon, the Royal Mystery escape room game was held in the Colony Club.  This is a complimentary puzzle game where teams compete to complete a series of clues and puzzles to discover at the end who is responsible for a theft.

This is the second time we played this particular game (first time was on Harmony of the Seas) and our team did significantly better.  In fact, we figured it all out and won!

I had hoped to eat lunch at Izumi one last time, but they were not open for lunch.  We decided to have lunch in the Windjammer instead just to mix things up.

After lunch, I tried mightily to do a bunch of things and take advantage of our final day onboard, but a nap sounded like the most amazing thing possible so I relented and took a glorious nap. 

When I awoke, the weather started getting better and some sun even started coming out.

Dinner tonight was at 7:30pm, so I decided to take advantage of my unlimited dining package and grab sashimi at Izumi for "pre-dinner".

After dinner, I went to the R-Bar in the Centrum to get a drink since I had not been to this bar yet.

Dinner was back at Giovanni's Table, and I had a second go-around with eggplant parmigiana.

Looking back on the cruise, we had a wonderful long weekend and exactly what I was looking for onboard.  

The crew onboard are some of the best in the fleet, and it shows in the fact so many crew members have been on Brilliance for years.  It astounds me how much crew turnover and transferring around occurs with crew, but Brilliance seems to be the exception.

I was very happy with our room selection, and I though the unlimited dining package was worth the extra cost.  I definitely got my moneys worth out of it.

I do feel obligated to mention the ship's wifi was downright awful the last two days.  It was serviceable in the beginning, but today even basic web browsing ground to a halt and proved a challenge. 

We had a great time on Brilliance, and I am now even more excited to come back onboard in October for our next RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise to Canada and New England!

Thank you for following along with our live blog. It is always so much fun to share my cruise with all of you, so thank you for providing me this opportunity.

Our next live blog will be in March on Harmony of the Seas!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 19, 2020

In:
19Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

We may be in the depths of winter, but there is always plenty of Royal Caribbean news to keep you focused on a cruise to (perhaps) somewhere warm(er).

Sailing on Anthem of the Seas? You want to check out the new augmented reality game you can play.

The interactive game is called Expedition Two70, and was first introduced on Spectrum of the Seas.

The game is free to play, and simply requires guests have the Royal Caribbean app installed on their mobile device.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 337th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt and Annette break down what a group cruise is all about.

Perhaps you have heard of one of our RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruises? Whether you have or not, this week's episode is all about what these sailings are and why going on them is so much fun.

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.

New RCB Video: 8 must-do Royal Caribbean can't-miss activities!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — 8 must-do Royal Caribbean can't-miss activities — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Carib Journal wrote about a new Royal Caribbean ship in the Caribbean in 2020.

CruiseHive shared what a cruise on a small Royal Caribbean ship is all about.

Weekly World News lampooned a cruise that literally goes to hell.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Cozumel

In:
18Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Our only port visit on this sailing brings us to Cozumel. Our ship arrived around 8am, and we planned to get off the ship right at 9am.

Without children, getting ready in the morning was pretty easy and we were ready to walk off right at 9am.  

Prior to the cruise, we booked day passes to the El Cozumeleno resort, so we took a taxi to the hotel.  The ride was about 10 minutes, and we checked-in quickly and easily.

 

I had booked this daypass because I really loved it the last time we visited in 2018, so I wanted to see if it held up.

We got seats at the pool, and it turned out to be a phenomenal weather day. Partly cloudy skies, plenty of sun and low humidity.

The staff was super attentive, and really enjoyed our time relaxing at the pool, eating plenty of food and drinks.

Between the great weather, great service and great offerings, I really enjoyed our visit and think it was another home run.

We left the resort around 4pm and took a taxi to La Mega supermarket to pick up my favorite food to bring home: tortilla chips.

I know it sounds crazy, but tortilla chips in Mexico taste so much better, so I bought 3 bags for about $1.50 and will enjoy them long after this cruise is over and done with.

We got back to the ship right at 5pm and it was time to shower, power nap, and get ready for dinner.

Our pre-dinner drink stop was the Starquest bar on Deck 13 in the Viking Crown Lounge.

Dinner tonight was in Chops Grille, and I really enjoy their appetizers especially.

After dinner, we decided to enjoy music in the Schooner Bar.

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

In:
17Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Our first full day on Brilliance of the Seas started off with a bit of sleeping in, but not too much.  It pains me to sleep too much on such a short cruise, but then again, relaxing comes in many forms.

We had a light breakfast in the Windjammer, which was really about having an excuse to go to my favorite spot on the ship, the outdoor dining area on the back of the ship.

We also made a pit stop at Cafe Latte-tudes for coffee.  Since I have the Deluxe Beverage Package and my wife has the Refreshment Package, premium coffees from here are included.

After breakfast, we decided to lay out a bit in the Solarium.  The Solarium on Brilliance is my favorite across the fleet, and we manged to get two lounge chairs partially in the shade.

Weather-wise, it was a bright and sunny day, although temperatures were not very warm. The Cruise Compass said the high temperature today was 73 degrees Fahrenheit, but I am not sure about that.

We spent the rest of the morning lounging and chatting, and enjoying a light breeze.

Around noon, the ocean started getting a bit rougher.  It is not too bad at all, with just enough motion to be noticable but not that we are walking from side to side of a hallway.

Lunch brought us back to Izumi, and I went for sushi, yaki udon and a miso soup.

I thought I was going to explore more of the ship after lunch, but my body was begging for a nap, so I decided to head back to the room for some sleep.

I felt better once I woke up, and headed to the Schooner Bar for Disney Trivia.  They played songs from Disney films and you had to guess the name of the song and the name of the film.  

Tonight is formal night, so we headed back to the room to get ready for this evening's festivities.

After getting dressed, I headed down to NextCruise to book this same sailing for next year. I was able to sit down without a wait and book the same room that we have from this sailing too.

I noticed the sun was setting, so I went up to the pool deck to enjoy another great sunset.

I stopped by the Concierge Lounge to check things out. As a Diamond Plus guest, I am able to gain access to the lounge, in addition to the Diamond Lounge.

Prior to dinner, I enjoyed live music in the Schooner Bar.  They have a great strings ensemble on Brilliance that we have seen over the last few years. 

Dinner tonight was in Giovanni's Table.

The service was fantastic and the food was equally good. I went with my favorite, eggplant parmigiana, and it did not disappoint. 

After dinner, it was show time in the Pacifica Theater with Now and Forever.

This is a medley of Broadway hits from a variety of shows. Lots of energy in tonight's show.

Tomorrow we will be in Cozumel.

Friday Photos - January 17, 2020

In:
17Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The weekend is here and to celebrate the start of the best time of the week, we are sharing some of our readers' best Royal Caribbean cruise photos!

Our first photo is of Navigator of the Seas in PortMiami by Tyler Ryan.

Justin took this photo of Oasis of the Seas next to Anthem of the Seas in San Juan.

Mike K. snapped this photo of Radiance of the Seas in Juneau, Alaska from the top of Goldbelt Mount.

Jorge captured this photo of the sunset from on Anthem of the Seas.

Here is a ray, as seen from their ship by Michael Kho.

If you want us to include your Royal Caribbean photo in an upcoming post, be sure to use this form to share it with us!

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

In:
16Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It's cruise day, and time for our next Royal Caribbean cruise to kick off with a 4-night Western Caribbean cruise on Brilliance of the Seas.

Brilliance sails out of the Port of Tampa in the winter, which is about 80 miles from our home.  This means we can easily drive over to the port the day of the cruise.

After dropping our kids off at school, we hit the road to get to the port.  We arrived a few minutes before 11am, and boarding had already begun.

One thing I always do when parking at the Port of Tampa is to take advantage of the valet parking option.  The cost is $80 versus $60 for standard parking, and valet is so much more convenient (especially on disembarkation day).

Check-in was a breeze and we went from curb to onboard in probably ten minutes.  Not bad for a port without expedited arrival.

Once onboard, we decided to begin taking advantage of our Unlimited Dining Package and eat lunch at Chops Grille. 

The lunch menu at Chops is smaller than at dinner, but features the highlights from the dinner menu.  

I went with the wild mushroom soup and burger, with a side of mac and cheese.  Great way to kick things off.

By the time we got out of Chops, our staterooms were ready right at 1pm.  

We booked a Junior Suite on Deck 10 for this sailing.  As I recall, the price of a Junior Suite was not much more than the price of a balcony, so I decided to go for it.

The best part of a Junior Suite is all the extra space you get, so there is less shuffling around.  

I also really like the look of the room, with the dark woods and nice finishes.  The room looked great, and I am pleased with my choice.

Next up, we walked around the ship to check things out.  Being our fourth time on Brilliance, there were not many surprises, but it is always good to get your bearings and see where everything is onboard.

Muster drill is fairly early (3:30pm), and luckly our muster station is at Chops Grille.  I love any muster drill where I can sit down.

After muster drill, it was time for sailaway.  I opted to go to the helipad at the front of the ship for the amazing vantage point it offers.

You can access the helipad on Radiance, Voyager and Freedom class ships, and is one of my favorite Brillaince of the Seas secrets. On Brilliance, go to the outside deck on deck 5, and walk forward.  

We had fabulous weather for sailaway, with partly sunny skies and comfortable temperatures.

After sailaway, we headed back to the room to shower and change for dinner.  

As we got ready for dinner, it was also time to watch the sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

The sailing under the bridge is always very cool, but this evening we also had one of the best sunset sky colors that I have ever seen.

I went up to the front of the ship to enjoy the best view of the sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge I have ever seen because of the combination of the sky colors and the spectacle of going under the bridge.

Dinner this evening is in Izumi.  I, for one, can never get enough sushi and I love the sushi at Izumi!

After dinner, it was time for evening entertainment in the pub.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • There are a bunch of fans in the casino that I never recall seeing before.
  • There are interactive games via the app now available on Brilliance.
  • To my delight, the area above the Centrum on Deck 12 is open once again to guests. The Loyalty Ambassador is now located here, and indicated to me this area has reopened as of a few months ago.
  • There appears to be a WiFi receiver in our room

The worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

In:
16Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

You will start packing for your cruise in the days leading up to the ship's departure, and whether it is your first cruise or twentieth, packing is never a simple task.

Mistakes happen, and I have the top ten cruise packing mistakes not to make!

Bringing a prohibited item

Probably the most common packing mistake is packing something that Royal Caribbean prohibits you from taking onboard. Alcohol, drugs, weapons and more are not allowed.  

Be sure to check the list of what is and what is not allowed to be brought onboard on Royal Caribbean’s website.

Putting important documents in checked luggage

You may know to bring the proper documentation with you on a cruise, like a passport or birth certificate, but be sure not to put it in your checked luggage.

The luggage you give the porters at the cruise terminal to be delivered to your room will take hours to get to your room. 

If your passport is in your checked luggage, it means a big problem with checking into your cruise. Be sure to always carry your important documents with you, or put it in a carry-on bag.

Not protecting against leaks

If you are particular about the brand of shampoo, soap or other important liquids or gels you need, be sure to guard against leaks that can ruin clothes and other things in your luggage.

Luggage gets tossed around easily, and if something explodes, it can really mess things up. Consider getting TSA approved and leak proof containers, or simply put these items in a zip lock bag.

Bringing medicine

If you have medicine you need to take regularly, be sure to first and foremost bring enough not just for the duration of the cruise, but for a few days thereafter. You never know if you will encounter a travel delay.

In addition, be sure to keep your medicine in a carry-on bag.  This guards against a lost bag creating a health issue with not having enough medicine.

Forgetting formal wear

In the grand scheme of forgetting important pieces of clothing, I think forgetting formal wear, as well as clothing to wear out at night, is an easy one to overlook.

Despite the name, formal night isn’t that formal, but you do need clothing to wear that looks nice and is appropriate for the themed evenings of your cruise.

Consult a past Cruise Compass for your ship and sailing to get an idea of what themed evenings will be offered, and pack accordingly. 

Not unpacking soon enough

Once you get in your cabin and your luggage is delivered, be sure to unpack to prevent clothes from getting wrinkled.

It is easy to leave your bags packed for a while as you explore the ship, but neglecting clothes that can wrinkle easily (especially on the first night of your cruise) can lead to some embarrassing moments.

Remember, there is no self-service laundry or irons on Royal Caribbean, so unpack sooner than later.

Overpacking

I admit, I’m an overpacker and do it often.  

While overpacking is not the end of the world, you do want to avoid going overboard with packing.  

To avoid overpacking, download a packing list, use packing cubes for better organization and think through exactly what you really will (and will not) need for your cruise.

Forgetting a jacket

I am guilty of this one all the time, because I live in Florida where it’s generally warm year-round. But if you are taking a cruise in the winter months, or perhaps a cruise up north, it is easy to overlook bringing a jacket.

Cold fronts do occur in the tropics, and of course cruises to Canada and New England, even in the fall months, can still get some chilly temperatures.

Consider bringing A lightweight, easy-to-roll jacket that's still warm.

Socks!

This is totally one I have failed at time and time again. Bring enough socks of various varieties.

Dress socks, athletic socks, low cut, whatever. Bring the kind of socks for formal night, as well as activities onboard and onshore. 

Keep in mind activities like ice skating or rock climbing require you bring your own socks, and athletic socks are easily overlooked when planning a warm Caribbean cruise.

Forgetting to leave out something to wear on the last day

There’s always someone who misses this last tip, and that is to make sure you do not pack all your clothes on the last day of the cruise.

On the last night of the cruise, guests pack their bags and leave the bags out to be delivered in the cruise terminal.  This makes disembarkation easier.

The issue is, some people pack everything, and that means they do not leave themselves a spare set of clothes to wear off the ship.   It seems there is always one family who wear their pajamas off the ship because they forgot.

Royal Caribbean filed to trademark "Make Ship Happen" pun

In:
16Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you have gone on a cruise in the last year or so, you would know there has been a big trend in guests wearing shirts with fun cruise puns on them, and it appears Royal Caribbean is getting in on that action.

On January 10, Royal Caribbean filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Make Ship Happen".

Trademark registrations are usually quite vague, and rarely contain any information on what the trademark is intended to be used for in the future.  In this case, the trademark is listed as being for good and services and described as "Ornamental lapel pins".

The "Make Ship Happen" phrase has become popular with guests who make matching t-shirts for everyone in their group to wear aboard the cruise ship. Other popular phrases I have seen include, "Yea buoy!" and "Let's get ship faced!".

Even more curious, on the same day, Royal Caribbean also registered a trademark for "Rec Room" with the description of "Cruise ship services". 

Would you buy merchandise with "Make Ship Happen" on it? Do you enjoy the cruise pun shirts? Let us know in the comments!

How to save money on cruise excursions

In:
15Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

A major component to a cruise vacation is exploring and enjoying the ports of call your cruise ship will visit. With so many great activities and tours available on shore, you will definitely want to do it all without spending a fortune.

Booking that tour that looks amazing does not mean you have to pay top dollar, so we have a few ways you can save money on cruise excursions.

Make plans on your own

The first place cruisers look for shore excursions is to book something with the cruise line. While there is nothing wrong with booking a tour through the cruise line, often this is the most expensive option.

While booking a shore excursion through the cruise line comes with some advantages, such as the quality of the tour and guarantee to get back to the ship, booking a tour on your own provides far greater flexibility and money saving opportunities.

Booking an independent excursion or tour guide usually will cost less than with the cruise line, since you can customize where you go and there is no "middle man" taking a cut of the cost.  

You could also skip an organized tour all together and rent a car, hop on a bus, or simply walk around on your own.

Regardless of which manner you do something in port outside of the cruise line, be sure to manage your time well and do proper research into reputability of anyone you hire.

More: How to pick the perfect shore excursion

Book through shore excursion brokers

In addition to making plans on your own to tour, another option is to book tours through a third-party shore excursion provider. 

Sometimes referred to as shore excursion specialists, these providers are similar to the cruise lines in that they offer pre-packaged tours with reputable operators, but are often priced much less. Exact savings will vary, so be sure to shop around and compare prices.

Besides price, they offer certain guarantees in what is offered, refunds, and assurances that may put your mind at ease when it comes to doing something outside of Royal Caribbean.

There are many different excursion brokers out there, but here are a few of the ones we have heard good things about:

Book excursions in advance

If you are looking to book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean, take advantage of pre-cruise discounts offered by the cruise line in the months leading up the cruise.

Every few weeks, Royal Caribbean offers sales via its Cruise Planner site that discount select shore excursions.  These may not be giant sales, but every dollar saved adds up.

Head over to Royal Caribbean's site to book shore excursions and see if any discounts apply to you. Be sure to check back periodically to see if there is has been a price drop.

Save on excursions at NextCruise

If you happen to book another cruise while onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise at the NextCruise office, you can qualify for up to 10% off future shore excursions when you pre-plan them onboard.

You can talk to the NextCruise staff member about details, but usually it offers 5% off the first two excursions and 10% off three or more excursions.

Take the bus

One of the largest sources of cost in any excursion is the transportation to get to and from an area. While many guests opt for taxis, do not overlook public buses.

The "chariot of the people" is available in many ports you will visit, and will cost a fraction of private transportation. 

Prior to the cruise, look up bus schedules and pick up locations.  Be sure to have proper bus fare, as well as return service.  The bottom line is, a bus ride can save a ton of money.

Great value: hop on, hop off buses

Regardless if you book this through Royal Caribbean or on your own, a very popular and affordable way to see a city is a hop on, hop off bus.

These buses/trolleys/trams run a regular route throughout the city and admission allows you unlimited rides during the day.  These types of buses are usually very inexpensive, and a very affordable way to get around town and see many different sites without paying for a private tour.

An added benefit is these hop on, hop off rides tend to be narrated too, so you can still learn about the city you are visiting while onboard.

Stay onboard

This may sound like an odd tip, but one way to save on a shore excursion is not to book one at all!

Generally speaking, I think exploring the ports your ship visits is a fantastic idea, however, sometimes it may make more sense to stay on your ship while in port for a few reasons.

First, the port you are visiting may not offer a tour or activity that really jumps out at you.  Some ports offer very few activities, or perhaps the price is too high for what you want to do.  There is no reason to book a tour just for the sake of doing something.

Second, if you stay onboard your ship in one port, that means more money in your vacation budget to do something in a different port.  After all, one awesome tour is better than a couple of mediocre ones.

Third, staying onboard the ship is a fun experience in and of itself because the ship is typically so empty, that it feels like you have the venues to yourself.  The pools, hot tubs and dining venues will be open and nearly empty! It is a fun feeling enjoying these areas without the usual crowd.

Your thoughts

What is your best shore excursion money-saving tip? Can you recommend any good strategies for making your vacation dollar go further? Share your tips, tricks and questions in the comments below!

What is a group cruise on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
15Jan2020
By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 337 is available for downloading, where Matt and Annette discuss what a group cruise is and why you should book it.

You may have heard about the group cruises RoyalCaribbeanBlog offers, and this week, Annette joins Matt to talk about what these sailings are all about.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 337. 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!

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