Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog

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

In:
19Jan2020

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!

Cruise Compass from this sailing can be found here.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Cozumel

In:
18Jan2020

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

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.

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

In:
16Jan2020

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

Brilliance of the Seas 2020 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

In:
13Jan2020

Our next RoyalCaribbeanBlog live blog is ready to roll, as I return for a long weekend aboard Brilliance of the Seas.

Photo by Michael Poole

Sailing out of Tampa, Florida, I am headed onto one of my favorite ships in the fleet for a 4-night Western Caribbean sailing to the warm waters of Mexico.  Each day, I will be LIVE blogging to share with you what Brilliance of the Seas has to offer.

I have sailing this ship and itinerary a few times already, and it has become a sort of annual winter tradition to sail on Brilliance out of Tampa in January or February. And like other Brilliance sailings I have taken, grandma has graciously volunteered to watch my kids so my wife and I can enjoy a cruise alone.

The Cruise

Photo by Earl McGrath

For the last few years, I have elected to take these 4-night sailings on Brilliance of the Seas because they span a long weekend, sails from a port that is just about an hour from my house, and visits Cozumel.

With Royal Caribbean offering new ships that are larger and large, as well as refurbishing existing vessels with new whizbang offerings, it is sometimes nice to work in a "classic cruise experience," and I feel Brilliance of the Seas is one of the best in this department.

I think Brilliance of the Seas has the best Solarium in the fleet, as well as some great bars and lounges.  Moreover, it still offers some great specialty dining options as well (three specialty restaurants).

Our four night Western Caribbean sailing will depart on Thursday, January 16 and take us to one port, Cozumel, Mexico.

Stateroom

Photo by Royal Caribbean

We reserved a Junior Suite on Deck 10 for this sailing. We booked this cruise about a year ago, and I recall the price difference between a balcony and a junior suite being a reasonable difference, so I went for it.

Since it is just my wife and myself, a junior suite is ample space for what we need. Moreover, I am a fan of moving up to a junior suite if the price difference is not too great.

Itinerary

This cruise has just one port stop, Cozumel, so we are headed back to a day-pass resort that I really enjoyed: El Cozumeleno

When I visited El Cozumeleno last time, I really thought they offered a great value and a very competitive offering. My wife has not been to this resort, and I would love to go back again to see if it is still as good as I recall.

The weather forecast looks great for our day in Cozumel (mid 80's and partly cloudy), so I think it would be the perfect way to spend the day.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention on the taxi ride back to port, I will make a pit stop at a local supermarket to pick up tortilla chips because the chips in Mexico are so much better than what we have at home.

Dining Plans

On this cruise, we decided pick up the unlimited dining package because the price was reasonable. For just $90 per person, we can enjoy dinner at a specialty restaurant each evening, plus 2 sea day lunches and lunch on embarkation day.

There are three specialty restaurants on Brilliance: Chops, Giovanni's Table and Izumi.  To quote Billy from CruiseHabit.com, I can eat $90 worth of sushi alone.

I also elected to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package for this cruise. I think the drink package works well for the way I like to cruise and with two sea days, it seems like an easy way to break-even on the investment.

What's Next

Our Brilliance of the Seas cruise begins on Thursday, January 16th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

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

In:
31Jan2019

Today was our final day on board Brilliance of the Seas as we sailed back to Tampa, Florida.  It’s always sad on the final day of the cruise, but I’m excited I’m staying on board for the next sailing too!

This morning we slept in a little took things at a slower pace, since we had nothing really planned.  We ended up skipping breakfast, just too much food and needed a break from it. 

The pool deck was very busy this morning selling $10 t-shirts, bags, etc.  Also, everyone was trying to get that last bit of sunshine before we returned to Florida.  Hillary and I just spent the morning in the solarium; I really like how the pool water is heated.  The Brilliance only has 3 total hot tubs, so it’s usually hard to find one that’s not packed.  So we settle for the heated pool!  I should mention the pool water is salt water, so be sure to rinse off when you get out, I learned that one that hard way. 

Since we were getting closer to Florida the conditions were starting to turn and the temperature was dropping.  I decided to head back to the room around 2pm to start the ever dreadful packing since I’m changing cabins on the next sailing. 

After packing I went down to the pub to relax with a pint or two.  When I arrived I was the only person in the pub, but a few moments later it was packed.  I was thinking, what is going on?! They were having a singing game and I stayed to listen for a while.  Nice to see they have mid-day entertainment for those looking to get out of the sun. 

Evening on board was full of shopping, looking at the cruise photos they took.  We used our two free Diamond Plus coupons for 8x10’s on formal night.  Without a coupon they are $20 or the 5x7 are $10. 

 

Dinner tonight was again in Giovanni’s Table, our waiter invited us back with 30% off cover charge.  Since it was the last night, I thought it would be fun to enjoy some amazing Caymus wine.  I purchased the bottle at Vintages with our drink package discount of 20% off. 

Our meal was outstanding; I can’t say more positive things about Giovanni’s on Brilliance.  Once again they did family style dining and brought out all the options.  I finally had to say, please no more food! Hillary went with the fish and I took a bite and loved it, so fresh.  Her mom ordered the Chops Grill lobster; I know it was a small upcharge, around $15.  We ended up staying a little over two hours tonight, but it was one memorable meal. 

Final Thoughts

Brilliance of the Seas is a great ship if you aren’t looking for a mega ship with a lot of options on board.  This sailing was very relaxing, not a lot of lines at any of the bars.  The VOOM Internet worked well, the first day I was having some issues staying connected but it seem to fix itself.  I know many were wondering if they have the freestyle coke machines, they still don’t off this on Brilliance.  The coffee shop was very busy every morning; they did move things along very nicely but plan on waiting 10-15 minutes. 

This will be the end of the live blog; I hope you enjoyed the five days of coverage.  If you have questions feel free to comment below and I’ll respond! 

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day Four - Grand Cayman

In:
30Jan2019

Today was our second port stop in Grand Cayman.  We arrived a little later than I thought we would at 10AM.  Due to the change in our schedule we were on the back side of the island.  This is a tender port, so you have to take small boats into the island.  

Before we went to bed last night we placed the room service card outside our door for breakfast.  Many options on the menu that is included at no charge, so we took advantage of our large balcony.  If you want bacon or anything “warm” it is an upcharge of $7.95. 

Hillary and I were here a few months ago on Adventure of the Seas, so we decided to stay on board and enjoy the ship.  Our first stop was actually the gym to burn some calories off and I’m happy to report all the equipment is brand new. 

Most of the day I just lounged around the pool deck and took advantage of my drink package.  I was surprised to see how many people stayed on board, the pool deck wasn’t packed but every chair taken.

I decided to surprise Hillary to a spa treatment, so I used my Crown and Anchor discount of 20% off and made her appointment.  She was so surprised, and reported back it was a great experience.  To avoid the end “up-sell” she said she just left the room after getting dressed. 

We hung out on the pool deck until 3PM, but I noticed they never played any live music today, I suppose since it’s a port day.

My first stop after cleaning up for the night was the diamond lounge up on deck 13.  I wanted to see what menu they had, since a few new options have been showing up across the fleet.  They did have the new menu so it’s nice to see Royal Caribbean adding more options to happy hour. 

 

Tonight I decided to have dinner in the main dining room.  I noticed the new modern looking chairs they added during her dry dock last year.  Our service was really great, they knew we did not want a very long dinner so the keep things moving.  I was happy to come back to the dining room and surprised they had the very French onion soup served in Chops Grill. 

The main event tonight was the 70’s disco party in the Centrum at 10pm.  I was surprised to see how many people came out tonight.  The party was so much fun, I think it’s been my favorite event all cruise.  I was out dancing having fun with the cruise staff and even ran into the cruise director Chris!  I also noticed many of the passenger dressed up in 70’s theme attire. 

 

After the party it was time to wind down and call it a night.  Tomorrow is our last day as we make our journey back to Tampa, Florida. 

 

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day Three - Cozumel

In:
29Jan2019

Today was our first port of call in Cozumel, Mexico.  We arrived at 8am and I was surprised to see Mariner of the Seas docked next to us, as she’s usually just in the Bahamas. 

We arranged to do the Cozumel Bar hop yesterday via email with the owner, since we had a flop in our schedule.  The cost for this five hour tour is $57 per person.  That includes a tour guide, a driver, transportation around the other side of the island and a welcome shot at the four bars, and a t-shirt. 

The name itself sounds like a crazy bar hop for hours, I suppose you could make it that.  But its more about seeing a side of the island with no Wi-Fi, no electricity and always closed at sunset.  We also learned how it’s helping the sea turtles lay eggs due to no lights on at night, and they just finished a very successful season. 

Each stop you get 50 minutes to explore, have lunch or order a beer.  The beers were $3-$4 at each stop and lunch was $11-$13 at each stop. You do need to meet the driver downtown, so a taxi was $3 per person to the downtown area.  Once it's over, they return you to the ship.  

It was really fun having a group of 12 friends with us on the hop.  I liked spending more time with everyone and laughing over some beers in Mexico. 

If you are looking to do something in Mexico that’s more budget friendly, I would not recommend this option.  I spent around $100 on lunch, beers, etc combined plus the cover charge of $114 with two adults. 

All aboard was 5:30PM and we were dropped off a little before 5pm and took some group photos at the Cozumel sign.  It was such a fun day and I’m really happy I got to experience the stop with this group. 

Back on board

Most all of our group decided to get some sleep from all the fun in Mexico.  I pushed through and hung out in the Schooner Bar mainly just for he views enjoying coffee.  I love how large this venue is on Brilliance of the Seas, and great views for sailaway. 

Hillary woke up around 7pm and we enjoyed the ship, listening to music.   It seem like a lot of people were still tired from Mexico all day.  The group went to the main dining room for dinner, but Hillary and I just opted for the Windjammer.  I went with the sampler platter and tried everything! I liked being able to eat in 15 minutes and not having a long dinner and we were back on our way.

We didn’t see any shows or even the pub singer tonight, we decided to call it at 9:30pm.  I did not nap, so I was pretty beat.  Not to worry, tomorrow we have a full day in Grand Cayman. 

 

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

In:
28Jan2019

Today was our first sea day and I’m happy to report I slept in until 9am!  Well ship time 9am, still shifting time zones.  The weather today was very poor, high winds and rain.  Due to the weather being so poor the captain decided to change the order of our ports.  We are now doing Cozumel first tomorrow and then Grand Cayman.  No impact to our cruise, Royal Caribbean just finding the best weather and headed that direction. 

The Solarium was the popular place today since it was covered and warm.  I spent majority of our day in the solarium hot tub.  As the day went on they actually closed the top decks due to the bad weather.  The ship was also really rocking; the captain said we have 50mph wind. 

Since we were in the Solarium already, we ended up having lunch in here again.  They open at noon and people were lined up today for the roast beef! I went with the same lunch, I just wish the salad bar had ranch!

Since the weather was getting so poor we decided to head in early afternoon and make our first trip down to the pub.  I always seem to forget about the pub on Brilliance because it’s down on deck 4 beside the casino.  Made some new friends at the bar and enjoyed a few pints.

Tonight was formal night so most men were wearing pants and a jacket and ladies in their cocktail dresses.  I actually saw very few ties, so it was more like business attire than formal night.  We took advantage of taking photos and all the back drops and plan to use our Crown and Anchor perk to get two for free. 

We ended up sititng down at the R Bar for awhile, they were playing some weird games with solo cups and straws.  I thought this was strange being formal night vs having live music.  I suppose they were on break for an hour and they were doing the games to entertain people.  Once the music came on Hillary and I got up and danced. 

Dinner tonight was back in Givoanni’s table, though tonight it was just Hillary and I.  I had asked them last night to save some of the lasagna from lunch for me.  This is something on their lunch menu but not on their dinner.  They brought me out like 2lbs of lasagna! No way I was finishing that much, but it was so good.  We were only in the restaurant for a little over an hour tonight.  After eating all the pasta we decided to skip dessert, just couldn’t handle it.  That of you wondering the charge is $30 + 18% per person. 

Tonight we ended up in the silent disco at 10:30, it was fun since I was with a group of 10 friends.  Though the club was very empty maybe 20 people attended.  We had a blast singing away.  Around midnight we decided to get some pizza and call it a night.  I was surprised to find they also had a nacho bar open.  The late night food is in the solarium on Brilliance of the Seas. 

Tomorrow is our first port of call in Cozumel, Mexico.  I’m happy to report, I’m doing something brand new! Stay tuned…

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

In:
27Jan2019

Cruise day has finally arrived! I was sailing with my fiancé and her family.  They live around 25 miles from the port so we all took a quick uber to the port around 11AM.  I did notice pretty long lines at check-in but it was the peak hour to arrive to the ship. 

I spent most of the morning just walking around exploring the ship, that excitement of it finally being cruise day.  I was wondering if I’d see anything new since Brilliance went into dry dock last year, but everything looked the same. Living on the West coast we were still struggling with the time change, so our first stop was actually the coffee shop on board. 

 

It’s been almost a year since I’ve sailed on Brilliance of the Sees so it was awesome to get back to the ship.  Many of the same crewmembers are still on board.  First things first was a glass of Champagne.   In my previous sailings, Chandon brut is $2 up charge from the drink package, however they have lowered the cost and it’s included in the beverage package now.

Park Café opened at noon, that’s a food option in the solarium vs the windjammer.  They have salads, roast beef sandwiches, and pasta salads.  I really recommend if you can wait until noon to have lunch to eat here.

At 1PM our cabins open, I had mentioned in the preview post that I had a balcony on the hump, 7108.  Well I can report our balcony is huge! In fact, it’s larger than my aft balcony I had last year.  I just wish I had a lounger, but I do love being the first room in the hallway. 

Dinner tonight was in Giovanni’s Table; we had a table for eight.  The server brought everything out family style, so our only decision was the main course.  I just love dining here, the food is outstanding and to be able to sample everything on the menu is pretty awesome! With a table this large dinner did take three hours, once I asked if they could speed up the service.  We had a few prior birthdays so the waiter brought out some cake with their names on the plate.

Overall the dinner was outstanding, best steak in the high seas if you ask me.  I loved it so much, I’m going back tomorrow night!

After dinner we did some dancing up in the night club, but it was empty.  I didn’t stay too long and called it a night.  Tomorrow is our first sea day, so looking forward to exploring Brilliance of the Seas. 

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