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RCI fans - Brilliance of the Seas (Refurbished) - May 2013

On 14th May, we were invited aboard the newly revitalised Brilliance of the Seas for a special 1 night sailing. Although it was only for 1 day, we managed to pack ship loads in! From touring staterooms to meeting 'cruise celebrities' we did it all within the space of 20 hours!

After checking in, we went to our cabin to drop off our bags. I was slightly disappointed that the actual rooms hadn't been refurbished. The rooms did have new ultra-slim televisions though.

Next to the lifts are the new digital signage. Here you can enter your room number to see how you get back to it. You can also find your way to different venues as well as read the daily Cruise Compass.

We then headed to the Centrum to see the enhancements. It was spectacular! The area now feels like the heart and soul of the ship. At the bottom of the Centrum is the new R Bar. A sophisticated and stylish bar for pre-dinner drinks or to socialise in the day. Two decks above the R Bar is Vintages, the new wine bar. Various other facilities that were situated in the Centrum have moved, such as the Library and the Future Cruise desk.

We then ventured out into the rain to view the new movie screen on deck 11. It's a great addition and wonderful for movies by the pool sipping a cool cocktail in the sun – but when it's raining, it's the last thing you'd want to be doing! We quickly went back inside and had lunch in the Windjammer. We then were given a tour of the suites such as the Grand Suite and Owners Suite. Unfortunately I don't think we'll be cruising in one of them just yet!

We then toured the rest of the ship, seeing the new dining options and lounges. Giovanni's Table is inspired to make you feel like you're in Italy. The waiter's treat you as family and the food is excellent! Chops Grille, is a fleet favourite and features mouth-watering steaks. Izumi is located at the aft of the vessel on deck 11. The area was once the location of the Seaview Café. Rita's Cantina is also located at the aft of the vessel.

We continued our tour to the Vitality Spa where we met Derek from the Holiday and Cruise Channel. The Spa and Solarium are very much unchanged. The Park Café now stands where the Pizzeria was situated. Park Café features gourmet sandwiches and pastries.

It was then time for the muster drill before setting sail at 5pm. We departed Harwich and headed for the North Sea.

For dinner, we dined at Giovanni's Table where we were bombarded with dish after dish! Our waiter wanted us to try nearly everything!

After a full stomach, we headed down to the Theatre where The Bohemians, a Queen tribute band were performing. The theatre was very much unchanged.

If you have never cruised on Brilliance of the Seas before, then you should definitely check it out now that it's been refurbished. If you have cruised on her before, then there is not that much that is different about her, so don't go expecting it to look like a complete different ship.

RCI fans - Brilliance of the Seas - June 2012

We arrived at the PTA cruise terminal in Amsterdam to be greeted by crowds of confused passengers all wondering where to go. That along with the confusion that we didn't actually know where we were cruising to, added up to a negative first impression of our cruise holiday. Julie Sherington, Guest Relations Manager, who you may have seen on Discovery Channel's 'Mighty Ships' informed us that at 10am, the Norway port pilot strike was over and that we would continue on our scheduled itinerary to the Norwegian Fjords.

We boarded the ship and went straight to the Windjammer. We toured the ship looking at the pool deck and centrum before being given a guided tour of the Vitality Spa and Gym.

Sailing away from Amsterdam, we said goodbye to Holland America's Eurodam and departed for Norway. We had a balcony stateroom. The size was the usual Royal Caribbean standard. Large enough to feel comfortable, but slightly crammed in. A good example of this is the gap between the bed and the TV stand. When the beds are split into a twin, you have about 30cm to get by, so getting to the balcony was quite a squeeze. 

Evening came and we headed down to the Pacifica Theatre on Deck 5. We were introduced to the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers and our cruise director, Paul Lancaster. 

After the show, it was time for dinner in the Minstrel dining room. We were greeted by our waiter, Cesar, from Chile. He said he recommended the Caesar Salad (no pun there then!)

Day 2 was spent at sea. We did most of the exploring of the ship throughout the day.

Evening came and we dined in Portofino's, the Italian specialty restaurant. Our waitress was called Nisha and she served us very lovingly and attentively.

After the delicious meal, we had a drink in the Schooner Bar, where the Jubilee Party was being held. 'Camp Chris' and 'Jubilee Julie' were joined by 'Majestic Manda' on the piano. Manda also performed whilst we were on board Grandeur of the Seas They performed classic British songs and a lot of audience participation with prizes of British flags and tiaras up for grabs. 

We spent day 3 in Geiranger. It is a small village situated at the end of the impressive Geirangerfjord. Being Crown and Anchor members, we were invited to an exclusive event on the helipad. We watched the ship anchor in the fjord near to ex-Royal Caribbean ship, Empress, who is now owned by Pullmantur. Tenders were lowered into the water from the ship, which would transport guests from the ship to the quayside. It was the first time we had been on a cruise where tendering took place, so it was interesting to experience it.

Although the port is very small, many ships were docked whilst we were there. Brilliance of the Seas and Empress was joined by Costa Voyager and Hurtigruten's Nordnorge. 

As evening came, it was time for the show. When the act came on we immediately noticed it was the same act we saw on Grandeur. The 'World Champion Juggler' David Hochsteiner. He was embarrassing to watch the first time, so to see him perform again was shocking! The performance was followed by Reuben and Tracy, two of the Royal Caribbean singers. They performed a selection of classical songs from the 60's.

On Day 4, we were in the port of Alesund. The town is very Art Nouveau, but still in keeping with the traditional Nordic style. Whilst in Alesund, we climbed Mount Aksla. Located in the heart of the town, 418 steps lead up to the lookout point, which offers splendid views of the town, fjords and mountains.

Day 5, we arrived in Molde. As we opened our balcony door, we were greeted by picturesque views of untouched and uncivilized land. Clouds rolling off the hillside and small tiny islands on the water made our first glimpse of Molde very impressing. Unfortunately, the impressiveness didn't last. The view on the other side of the ship was of a busy industrial port. It was a simple walk into the town center, but a free shuttle bus was provided if you didn't want to walk. The main square was busy with life and local cafes.

Bergen was our final port of call. Once we arrived, we walked by the famous row of shops called the Bryggen, past the fish market and headed towards the Floibanen funicular railway to admire the magnificent views of Bergen city down below from the top of Mt. Floyen. We were greeted by long queues that went half way down the adjacent street. The view was worth the wait. All 4 ships that were docked, which were Brilliance of the Seas, Holland America's ms Rotterdam and ms Ryndam along with P&O's Azura could all be seen from the top. 

One more day at sea followed before arriving back into Amsterdam, late. Captain Henrik sailed past the terminal and did a tricky 180 degree turn using the ships azipods and bow thrusters to smoothly dock at the PTA terminal alongside Costa Romantica. We had booked an excursion to pass the time until our return flight home at quarter to five. We boarded the coach, which took us past some of the best sights in Amsterdam such as the Heineken brewery, the Van Gogh museum and Anne Frank's home. It was then time to board the canal boat, which would take us on an hours canal cruise seeing more sights along the way. After the tour, the coach dropped us at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport where we had 3 hours in the executive lounge before our flight home. 

All in all our cruise was wonderful and the staff, service and entertainment were second to none.

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