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

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

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

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

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.

First look at Europe Phase II: Summer 2019 sailings

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean released new information about summer 2019 European cruises.

The newly released sailings include:

These new sailings are also being shown as available for booking via Royal Caribbean's web site.

Royal Caribbean previously announced European sailings for summer 2019 on these ships as well.

6 alternatives to a Royal Caribbean drink package

By: Matt Hochberg

A lot of people going on a Royal Caribbean cruise find the idea of getting a drink package quite attractive, primarily due to the convenience and potential value offered by the drink package. However, a drink package is not an option for everyone, and there are some great alternatives to getting a drink package that will not break your budget while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite drinks onboard.

Don't get us wrong, a Royal Caribbean drink package works for a lot of people who really enjoy the options it provides. But we also hear from a number of readers who like to enjoy a few drinks, but fear a drink package will not be financially viable for them.  As a result, we came up with some strategies to enable those people to enjoy drinks onboard without feeling like they are overpaying for drinks.

If you are considering if a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth it, or are looking for other options, here are some good strategies we have used on past cruises.

Drink in port

Within a few minutes of visiting any port your cruise ship goes to, inevitably you will start seeing advertisements for inexpensive alcoholic drinks.  Many ports of calls drink prices are far cheaper than what you may find onboard your ship, and that means you can take advantage of the lower prices on shore.

Finding bars or vendors selling inexpensive beers, cocktails and more is not usually difficult.  Drinking on shore is quite popular, and so, bars and restaurants are usually abound with great drink specials.

Obviously drinking on shore does not help with enjoying a drink onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, but on itineraries that are port intensive it can be a great stategy for offsetting the need to drink onboard in the first place.

Take advantage of drink specials onboard

In this "age of the drink package", it is often lost in discussions that Royal Caribbean runs a lot of drink specials onboard throughout the cruise.  Even before drink packages became a popular choice, drink specials were an option offered for years.

The key to finding a drink special is to spend a little time seeking them out.  Drink specials are most often advertised via two means: a sign on a bar, and/or an ad in the Cruise Compass.  Some drink specials are for certain times, while others are offered for part of the cruise.  The key is to seek them out and take advantage of the drink specials to ensure out of pocket costs are low(er).

One of the oldest, and yet most well-known drink special, is the drink of the day.  This is a cocktail picked out daily that is reduced in price, usually about 25% or so off the normal price.  The drink of the day is a great choice for saving on drinking costs, and something offered throughout the day at all bars.

Hope for a drink card

Have you heard about something where you can pre-purchase 10 drinks for a set price? Usually the price is somewhere between $75-85 and you can share the drink card with anyone you want. That means a $12 cocktail would cost you really about $7.50-$8.50 each with the drink card.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, the drink card is not available on all ships or sailings.  It is something Royal Caribbean can offer, but there is no way to know if it will, nor can it be pre-purchased.  It is a sort of gamble that you need to hope for to become available on your sailing.

If the drink card is available, it usually becomes available around half way through your sailing, so on a 7-night cruise, it might show up on day 3 or 4.  

Again, there is no means of which to know if a drink card will be available on your cruise with any kind of certainty.

Diamond Drinks

This tip only applies to guests that are at least Diamond level in Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society.

Diamond members and above are entitled to complimentary drinks each evening of the cruise.  Primarily, you get unlimited drinks for a few hours in the Diamond Lounge, although Royal Caribbean does allow Diamond members to get an additional 3 drinks per evening at any bar or lounge during the same time period.

The drinks available to Diamond members is somewhat limited, but you cannot beat the price. Usually there is a three hour block of time for Diamond drinks, taking advantage of this perk means not having to pay out of pocket for drinks in the hours leading up to dinner.

Concierge Lounge

If you happen to be a suite guest, you are entitled to take advantage of complimentary drinks in the Concierge Lounge.  Similar to the Diamond Lounge, this is an exclusive area for suite guests, where you can enjoy a variety of complimentary drinks.

Just like the Diamond Lounge, the complimentary drinks are available for a few hours each evening.

Keep in mind you are free to take drinks out of the Concierge Lounge and venture out around the ship (same with the Diamond Lounge).

Bring wine

Did you know that Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise?

Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in the luggage you carry onto the ship. Do not put the wine in the luggage you hand over to the porters on embarkation day.

Wine lovers will be able to bring a couple of bottles of their favorite wine on their cruise at a savings compared to purchasing the wine onboard.  Moreover, bringing your own wine means you will save money on your total bar tab during your cruise.

My favorite aspect of bringing your own wine is if you do not finish the bottle of wine, Royal Caribbean can store the wine for you and deliver it another restaurant at that time.

It is important to be aware that Royal Caribbean will charge you a corkage fee for personal wines opened at any restaurant or lounge onboard.  Even with the corkage fee, you will still save a significant amount of money compared to purchasing a bottle of wine onboard.

Video: Royal Caribbean Makes Finishing Touches on the Ultimate Family Adventure on Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Symphony of the Seas is days away from completion; here's an inside look at her final phase of construction. The world's largest and most innovative cruise ship is coming to life with a combination of new first-at-sea experiences and signature Royal Caribbean favorites that will excite and inspire guests of all ages. From the Ultimate Abyss -- the tallest slide at sea, to new dining concepts and original aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, the whole family is in for a cruise vacation experience unlike any other.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 3 – Grand Cayman

By: Michael Poole

Our first port of call was Grand Cayman and we arrived bright and early at 7AM. At this port you don’t dock, since they have no docks for ships. They operate on small tender boats that take passengers over. I went down to deck 1 to leave the ship and they had a small line but it went very smoothly.


The tender ride takes around 10-15 minutes to get over to land. We had four ships here today and we were the furthest away. They have taxi’s right outside, but they wait until they can fill their vehicles before they leave. I wanted to spend the day at the Royal Palms and the taxi over was $4 per person each way.


Once you arrive to Royal Palm’s they charge you $2 per person to enter their facility. That covers access to the beach, restrooms, swimming pool, etc. However, if you want a beach chair those are $12 and the umbrellas are $15. The beach was getting so busy, I decided to hangout by the swim-up pool bar.

I ordered the local beer and it was $6.75, so it’s not the cheapest place to order drinks. The grounds itself is beautiful; they have done a lot of upgrades here since my last visit. I would recommend this place if you are visiting Grand Cayman, just plan on spending a few dollars on everything you want to do

Our day in Grand Cayman was short, all on board was 2:30PM. I decided to leave around 12:30PM to give me plenty of time to get back. Once I was back on board I slept for a few hours, so nothing from the afternoon to report.


At 5PM up to the Concierge lounge I went for a few drinks, I’ve met so many nice people during this cruise in the lounge. I only stayed for an hour and jumped over to the Diamond lounge to watch sunset.


Dinner tonight was in Giovanni’s Table, I just love this place so much I decided to go back. I arrived a little early but they seated me no problem. I was glad I came early because they have 48 people coming at 8PM.


For my starter I had vegetable soup, I didn’t think I’d like it but it was so yummy. The main course I had the filet again, this time they had the sauce already on the steak. I love the sauce, so I was happy with it, but if you don’t I’d recommend asking for it on the side.


After dinner I decided I needed to show some love to the Pub. On Brilliance the pub is on deck 6 beside the casino. It’s kind of out of the way, so I hadn’t really spent much time here. Now I know where all the college kids have been all cruise, they take over the pub in the evenings.


They didn’t have a sign up for the 10 draft beer cards, but I asked about them and sure enough they sold me one. The price is $49 + 18%, so I spent a total of $57 and this will carry me through the rest of the cruise. I had a few beers and listening to the singer, it was a really fun evening. I have a feeling I’ll be back at the pub at some point this cruise.



Around midnight I called it a night, when I arrived in my cabin I saw a crystal block. Crown and Anchor gives out the first block at 140 points and again every 70 after. Tomorrow is our next port of call in Cozumel, Mexico!

Symphony of the Seas concludes second set of sea trials

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas wrapped up her second set of sea trials, meaning she is one step closer to being ready to enter service.

Symphony conducted her second set of sea trials, which ran between March 3 and March 4, 2018. Ouest France reports Symphony of the Seas returned to STX Franch shipyards in Saint-Nazaire after about 24 hours of being at sea and is now ready for delivery to Royal Caribbean on March 23rd.

During these sea trials, the tests aimed to finalize the performance of the ship.

Between now and the delivery date, finishing work will be done onboard the ship.

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

By: Michael Poole

Today was our first sea day as we sail to Grand Cayman.  I didn’t have any set plans today other than relaxing poolside.  No idea why, but I woke up before the sunrise this morning.  Since I was up I decided to get a run in at the gym.  The Brilliance has a really nice fitness center, with a lot of equipment.  They did have clipboards lined up to sign up for classes, but I noticed many were full. 


After my run I noticed the sun was just starting to come up so I rushed to the room to grab my camera.  This is a must for at least one morning of the cruise, seeing the sunrise is pretty incredible at sea. 


At 7:30AM I decided to make my first visit to the Windjammer.  It wasn’t very busy at all, since I guess majority of the ship was sleeping in, it is vacation after all.  I saw they had an omelet station, so I got a made-to-order omelet.  It wasn’t noticeable for those not looking for it, so be sure to ask if you don’t see it. 

I wanted to eat outside on the aft sitting area, since it was such a nice morning.  If you go out the side doors you will see plenty of seating in the aft of the ship.  This was pretty amazing to be eating breakfast with the view of our wake.  I just sat here for a while taking in the views.  It made me even that much more excited for my aft balcony on the next cruise. 


I did walk through Rita's the former mexican resturant on board.  I have a feeling this will be removed next month during the dry dock.  For now they only serve drinks in the afternoon, even a $40 jumbo margarita. 


After breakfast I wanted to grab a pool chair because I saw many already be reserved.  I noticed the pool attendants putting time stamp on people’s chairs, with a note saying they will be removed in 30 minutes.  Great job by Royal Caribbean ensuring all guests will have a seat out by the pool.  


I just relaxed and read my book until noon by the pool.  This was when I noticed how many college spring breakers were on board.  To my surprise they were just enjoying some sun like everyone else.  Cruising this time of year for a while now, it’s pretty common to see the spring breakers on board.


For lunch I went back to Park Café, I guess everyone read my day 1 blog post, because it was packed! Many people couldn’t get tables to eat, so I rushed to eat to give up mine.  I went with a large salad today, I asked him to put double lettuce since I wasn’t getting a roast beef sandwich today. 


Most of the afternoon I just walked around the ship, did a little casino time and happy to report I’m up $5.00! I was going to attend an event at the pub to learn about beer but it was $30 + 18%, and you only got to sample a few beers, so I passed. 


Tonight I made it to the Concierge lounge right before 5PM, because last night was so busy I wanted to get a seat.  How funny, because only 7-10 people showed up tonight.  I like that they have a bar with seating in the lounge, I got to make new friends in the lounge and have fun with the bartender. 


Tonight was formal night so I only stayed in the lounge for an hour and I wanted to get out and explore the ship some.  They has some nice formal music playing in the centrum beside the R Bar.   Since it was the captains party they were also handing out free champagne! This is from 7:45PM-8:15PM, so make sure you don’t miss this. 


Dinner this evening was in Chops Grill with my BOGO, but the cover charge is $35 without.  They were busy tonight since it was formal night, but I’ll say my service was really slow.  I noticed my waiter had so many tables and was doing everything he could to keep up. 


I ordered the mushroom soup, crab cake, and the NY Strip.  The soup was outstanding, maybe the best soup at sea!  The steak was good, I asked for red wine sauce and he put another on it by mistake, so I just went with it.  I skipped dessert; honestly I was just ready to leave.  I had them open a bottle of wine for me and I took it over to Giovanni’s after for them to hold for me until the next night. 


I ended up going to the nightclub on deck 13, they were playing 80’s & 90’s music for an hour.  I really enjoyed hearing the old tunes, but when it switched to current pop music I decided to call it a night.