Sunday, January 16, 2022

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - 16 January 2022


 
MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  MSC Meraviglia, first of its own MSC class @ 176,000 tons.
Sailing:  January 16, 2022 - 4 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral
Captain:  Masimiliano Rossi    Cruise Director: Sarah Rossi
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Nassau Bahamas - Ocean Cay, Bahamas

I am sailing with the Dear Wife, a rarity of late.  We have a premium balcony and beverage package so a fun short get away cruise.  This is my 6th cruise on the MSC Meraviglia, my 15th MSC cruise, and my 171st cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  January 16th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation 
The day began early at the Florida Villa with an early thunderstorm and heavy rain. We delayed leaving until the weather front had moved across most of central Florida, ruling out the 10:30 scheduled arrival time. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral and we were away about 8:15 am. This is my third time driving to this port so becoming more familiar with it. We arrived at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($45) on Merritt Island about 11:00 am and soon on a shuttle to the ship. We carried our bags as usual and was through Security easily, but next was something new…EVERYONE had to take a new Rapid-antigen covid test, even though everyone had just had one within 48 hours. They had a lot of testing stations but still a big job to test everyone. After the test, we had to wait from 20-30 minutes for the test results. Once you are confirmed as negative you then proceed to the MSC check-in. It was 1:00 pm before we got on the ship. Fortunately, not many guests sailing so the process could have been much worse…overall not a deal-breaker experience. We went directly to our aft-facing balcony on deck 12 and dropped our bags, then to the Lido Marketplace buffet on Deck 15 for lunch. You have to show your Sail&Sign card to enter and they take your temperature as well. The staff serves you your food selections some of which are pre-plated so you do get a tray for your visit to the food stations. I had Roast Beef for the Carving Station with Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, a Green Salad, a Cole Slaw salad, and a selection of small desserts. Terry had Pizza, a custom Green Salad, and Cheese. It was a very good lunch. We did a walkabout as this is Terry’s first time on the Meraviglia. We walked the two levels of the beautiful Promenade deck and settled at the Champagne Bar for several cocktails while we waited for the scheduled afternoon Boat Drill. It is different, you watch a safety film on the TV then dial in a code on the phone from your cabin. You do have to go to your assembly area, but only to have your card scanned…we went to Muster Station K located in the Carousel Lounge at 5:00 … easy peasy. We then went up to the Sky Lounge on deck 18 for the sail away and cocktail. About 7:00 we went to dinner in the Waves Restaurant. My favorite waiter Julius was home, but Pru was there and came by to visit. We had a nice dinner and then went to the Broadway Theater for the production show: Meravigloso Amor,(photo above) it was very good! All in Italian. Unfortunately, they had two fewer singers and fewer dancers than just last month. Not sure if it is a cut-back or if covid protocols are thinning the available entertainers. The final number was Con Te Partiro is always Amazing! It was an interesting embarkation day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Day Two -- Monday --  January 6th, 2021 -- Nassau, Bahamas  
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well and later than usual. We were so busy yesterday we never really unpacked or set up the cabin so did so this morning. Our cabin is a larger family balcony with a bathtub and bunk beds set up in a separate space. I’m using that area as my closet/dressing area. The DW can have the closet/wardrobe. A unique floor plan for this premium balcony cabin. We went to breakfast in the Marketplace Restaurant at about 10:00ish. It was not busy at all, we had fried eggs, an omelet, bacon, danish, croissant, sausage, milk, and assorted fruit. We did a walkabout stopping in the Solarium Bar for a Bloody Mary, still, a lot of spaces for the DW to see on the Meraviglia. We estimate the guest count at under 800 guests after confirmations from reliable sources. We will enjoy the service. We had cabin time and watched us approach Nassau about noon, we have no plans to get off the ship here. About 2:00 we went down to Hola’s for snacks: Guacamole to order, Pico de Gallo & Chips, El Champo (bean & cheese dip), and a Carne Asada taco. After another walkabout, we made reservations at the steakhouse and had cabin time. We watched a movie: 
Mary Queen of Scots from the good selection of videos on demand on MSC. We enjoyed watching the various cruise ships sail away from Nassau…the aft balcony is ideal for it…Celebrity Edge, Caribbean Princess, and finally the Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras seems to be everywhere I go lately. We went to the Edge Cocktail Bar at Deck 6 Atrium for aperitifs about 6:30 pm, we sat by the Swavorski steps and enjoyed watching the guests and listening to the piano music from Deck 5. We went to the The Butchers Cut Steakhouse for our 7:30 dinner reservation and decided to eat outside along the Promenade, The LED screen ceiling light was the New York skyline so very nice. My 6th time to eat here and I don’t recall eating out, but I also had a lovely date so it was all special. Dinner was delicious. We each had the wonderful Hearts of Palm with Avacado salad and assorted bread. I had the Filet Mignon and a NY Strip Steak with Onion Rings as a side dish. Terry had Macaroni & Cheese and a Creme Spinach…that she enjoyed. For dessert a Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Lava Cake with Ice Creme. It was a great meal and the service excellent. Since we sat in both the Atrium area and the Promenade tonight it was very noticeable that there is more crew on board than guests. We enjoyed a stroll back to the cabin and retired. It was a great day on the MSC Meraviglia.
 
Day Three -- Tuesday -- January 7th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We arrived at Ocean Cay by 9:00 am but I’m no longer a beach nor beach games person so it not rushing anything this morning. We went to the Marketplace for breakfast at about 9:30 am. They have bacon and both scrambled and fried eggs available on the buffet as well as custom omelets. I had an omelet, danish, bacon, fruit, potatoes, and hot milk. After breakfast, we went onto the island and did a nice walkabout. The architecture was a Key West or southern plantation shutter style. The Lagoon is an ideal place to swim with beautiful beaches. We sat at sunset beach (no swimming) on the south side enjoying the direct Atlantic waves for a time then walked over to the Lighthouse and Lighthouse Bar where we sat and enjoyed Mojito cocktails and the beautiful views of the various blue colors of the water. We were also entertained by two Pelicans diving for fish and the view of the ship and island. About 1:30 we walked over to Seakers Food Court for the Island Buffet. We had two unique Island Salads, one with Rice, Sweet Potatoes, & Veggies, The other with Couscous, Pineapple, and Veggies. I also had Fruit, Jerk Chicken, and Ribs. We had Brownies & Banana Bread for dessert. It was a great Island luncheon with a view of the main swimming lagoon. One of the reasons for such a wonderful island day was that the weather was nice and cool even with the bright sun. A perfect day. We went back to the ship and had Cabin time and a nap. At 7:15 pm we went down to Waves Restaurant for dinner, it was French night but I ordered the Green Grilled Asparagus with Pancetta Chips, The Rigatoni Meatballs as my Pasta starter, the Chicken coq-aux-vin entree, and Warm Apple Strudel for dessert. The Rigatoni and sauce were excellent. After dinner, we walked back onto the island and I enjoyed a Mojito as we waited for the 9:00 pm light show at the Lighthouse. It was a nice show and stroll but as it was getting cool we returned to the ship and soon retire for the evening. It was a great day at Ocean cay.
 
Day Four -- Wednesday --  January 8th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas 
We were docked overnight and I slept very well.  We slept with the balcony door open to enjoy the cooler temperature and slight ocean breeze.  Did some online work before breakfast.  I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and had Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Potatoes. I did have my Hot Milk and Danish this morning.  I went to the Marketplace and picked up some items: Fruit Bowl with Cranberries, Danish, and Cheeses to take to the cabin for the DW.  Balcony time the rest of the morning, the waters have so many shades of blue here at Ocean Cay.
 
 
 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review - January 8, 2022

  Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Brilliance of the Seas,  RCL Radiance Class, Launched Dec. 2001 @ 90,000 tons.
Sailing:  January 8-12, 2022 - 5 day cruise - Sailing out of Port of Tampa, Florida
Ports: Tampa, FL / Cozumel, Mexico / Puerto Maya, Mexico / Tampa, FL.
 
I am sailing as a solo guest.  This is my 2nd cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas, my 30th Royal Caribbean cruise, and 170th cruise overall.

 

Day One -- Saturday -- January 8th, 2022 -- Port of Tampa — Embarkation 

This is the overall easiest embarkation day I have ever experienced (other than the 2nd leg of a B2B cruise) in my long history of cruise travel. The day began about 8:30 am at the Florida Villa when I began packing for my cruise. I have plenty of time as boarding doesn’t even begin for the Brilliance until noon and it’s less than an hour's drive to the port in Tampa. Although I have cruised from Tampa in the past, this is my first time driving to this port. I left the Villa about 10:30 am and arrived at the Channelside Parking Garage ($48) by 11:30 and literally walked across the street to the port terminal. Very few were in line and most were early and sent to designated holding lines to wait for their assigned boarding times…I walked directly to the entry. After a brief health screening, it was to security for bags and carry-ons. Then to the Royal Caribbean agents for the last health screening and boarding identification. Never had to stop and went from station to station with ease. Within a few minutes of completing the process, they opened the ship at noon and I went aboard. Cabins were to open at 2:00 pm but since I rolled my bag on I wanted to drop it off…luckily my cabin was ready so I stayed and unpacked. I love my balcony upgrade location on deck ten forward. Just one deck below the Solarium, Swimming Pools, and the Windjammer buffet. I had a nice lunch: Steak, Prime Rib, and Stir-fried Vegetables in the Windjammer, then went to set up my internet Wifi on deck 4 (15% discount today). Boat drill is super easy, just watch the video on the Royal Caribbean App, then go to your Muster Station and have your card scanned. Easiest boat drill of the three lines I have sailed since the restart. After relaxing in the cabin/balcony I went down to the Solarium and had a snack…a nice roast beef sandwich on a roll. I went to the Solarium Bar to inquire about the perks for Diamond+ as I know they have changed…we now get five drinks per day, any time of the day, loaded on our Sign & Sail card. No longer unlimited drinks at the D+ lounge, but seems fair enough to me. Glad I inquired early as I had two Welcome Cocktails with Marsha at the Solarium Bar. I have heard from a source that there will be less than 900 guests, but we will know soon after sail away. It makes it very nice for the guests who are on board. The Carnival Pride sailed away at 5:00 pm and we followed about 15 minutes later. It was very nice sailing away from the port at sundown. I went up to the Diamond Club located on Deck 13 in the Viking Crown Lounge. They have a very nice Hors-d'Ĺ“uvre Bar (they serve you) and Cocktail Service. Yes, they serve from your 5 daily drinks. I enjoyed two Cosmopolitans as we approached and sailed under the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge (photo above). I was nicely lit up at night. I have now sailed under it more times (3) than I have driven over it (2). About 7:15 pm I went down to the Windjammer for dinner. I had a nice Salad, Baked Potato, and a wonderful thick Prime Rib that I had cut at the Carving Station and then grilled on the hot grill in the Burger/Deli section. They did a perfect grill over an open flame for me, it even had ideal grill marks…perfect and delicious. I splurged with two pieces of pie for dessert: Key Lime and Boston Creme. I then retired to the cabin to watch the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles football game. It was a great and easy embark day on the Brilliance of the Seas.
 
Day Two -- Sunday --  January 9th, 2022 -- Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well and late. I updated this blog this morning and then went to the Windjammer for breakfast at about 10:30 am. Shane, the greeter, scans your card as you enter and she called me by name remembering me from last evening. She was dressed in a very unique sequined jacket last night and as Snow White this morning…very personable and perfect for this job. Not busy at all so I ordered an omelet from the Omelet Station, they give you a number then bring you the fresh hot omelet to your table. I got Fresh Fruit, Bacon, and sliced Ham from the carving station. All good. I then went to Guest Services to get a hole punched in my Sail&Sign card (as were others), I wish they were pre-punched. Then stopped by the Voom WiFi desk on deck 7 to get my iPhone added so that I could do secondary security log-in on several internet accounts. They were very helpful. I also had the guest count confirmed at 883 guests. Very nice for those of us sailing on this cruise, so easy to get service with so few guests. Juan, my cabin Steward, had my cabin cleaned by the time I returned. I am a very happy cruiser so far.  I had cabin and balcony time most of the day.  I went on a walkabout and the outer decks are busy but not full, the guests are enjoying the low passenger count.  I watched some NFL football at the outdoor Rita’s Cantina, I like the concept here as does the crew as there were a lot there on break.  I had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had my favorite small Pork Cutlets that I enjoy.  Today I had two with Mashed potatoes, Salad and Vegetables.  Hopefully, they will have them again as they are great for making a sandwich too.  I went to the Solarium Bar to have a cocktail with Marsha, not busy at all.  I enjoyed a nice sunset from the balcony before going up to the Windjammer for dinner.  I had a small mixed Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Green beans. and the Lamb from the Carving Station.  The Lamb, with Mint Jelly, was excellent.  The Carrot Cake for dessert was very good.  After dinner I went to Vintages, the cocktail bar and enjoyed two Cosmopolitans with Suzy, and meeting guests.  I went to the feature show in the Pacifica Theater featuring Mark Preston (photo above).  Preston is a former member of the Letterman musical trio and was backed by the nine piece Brilliance Orchestra.  A full ship orchestra is a rarity on ships now days.  It was an excellent Vegas style musical show.  I did stop back by Vintages for a Elderflower cocktail nightcap before retiring for the evening.  It was an easy enjoyable day on the Brilliance.
 
Day Three -- Monday -- January 10th, 2022 -- Cozumel, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were already docked in Cozumel when I woke this morning. Fortunately, we are docked near downtown at Punto Langosta since there are two Royal Caribbean ships filling the International pier. Nice for me since I always go into San Miguel and today I will save the taxi fare. After updating my blog and doing Monday morning business online, I went up for breakfast. I was almost the only guest since it was late on a port day. I had a very nice fresh Omelet, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Fruit. It was almost 11:00 before I debarked and walked to town. Five ships today but I doubt they are anywhere near full, who was full was my Barber, I took a number and spent 40 minutes in the Church before getting in the Barber chair. All good though, as I always stop at the church. It was afternoon before I got to Woody’s Bar & Grill but I was able to get my table 7. Just a few minutes later the sky’s opened up and it was pouring rain…Woody’s then filled up as they have both indoor and outdoor seating. The live music Duo was out of luck until the rain stopped, but did the rest of their sets, pretty good too. I started back early stopping at a few shops along the way. Easier walking back in the cooler weather and ocean breeze. I had some restful cabin time and enjoyed watching the various ships sail away before going down to Vintages Bar on Deck 6. I enjoyed my Cosmopolitan cocktails and listened to some great vintage music from the Atrium below. I then went to dinner in the Windjammer and they had a good variety this evening. I had Turkey from the Carving Station, Grilled Pork Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables, small Mixed Greens Salad, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. It was a very good meal. I just made the kickoff of the NCAA National Championship football game on the Big Screen on Lido Deck on the way to my cabin. At half-time, I quickly got two cokes and some pizza & cookies from the special snack area set up for the game on the Lido deck. It’s nice being just one deck below.  Congratulations to the winner: The University of Georgia.  I'm looking forward to Oklahoma joining the SEC.  It was a good day in Cozumel and on the Brilliance.

Day Four -- Tuesday --  January 11th, 2022 -- Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well and late as we were again docked at the port before I got up and around. I went up to Solarium and got some light breakfast snacks (faster than room service, only one deck up) and ate on the balcony overlooking the aft pool of the Carnival Mardi Gras docked next to us. Coincidently I had just booked the Mardi Gras last evening during the game. I reviewed that and other bookings this morning before going ashore about 11:00 am. I just stayed in the Port area not going into Mahahual as usual. The commercially built Port has improved over the years. There are nice Souvenir & Gift Shops, Attractions such as Dolphins, Flamingos, & Parrots, and Restaurants & Bars. I bought some items and had a few beers before returning to the ship. I had a late lunch in the Windjammer, I took the Pork Tenderloin from the carving station, some freshly baked bread, got condiments and French Fries from the grill, and make some great custom Pork Sandwiches. A trick I learned on this ship during a long Transatlantic cruise. I then had a mojito at the Solarium Bar before returning to the Cabin for nap time. It was Italian night in the Windjammer so I went all Italian: Chicken Parmesan, Linguini Bolognese, Arancini, Eggplant Parmesan, Green Salad, with Tiramisu and Cannoli for dessert. It was good but not as good as Joey’s my local Italian place. I enjoyed two Cosmopolitans at Vintages before going to the theater for the 9:15 feature show Center Stage. It was a full Vegas-style production show with the Brilliance Singers & Dancers, the Orchestra, and several of the other feature entertainers. A very good variety of music and themes. Very entertaining and worth attending. After the show a nightcap before retiring for the evening. It was a nice day in port and on the Brilliance.

Day Five -- Wednesday --  January 12th, 2022 — Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight. I woke early and did some work online as the WiFi has been generally so slow, but a bit quicker in the early morning hours. I went to the Windjammer for a very nice breakfast and Shane, the greeter/scanner/washy-washy girl had on another unique outfit this morning (photo). I had a great fresh Omelette, Bacon, Ham, Grapefruit, Hash Browns, Toast, and Milk. I ate outdoors on the back of deck 11 and enjoyed the morning sea air. Juan had cleaned my cabin after my morning walkabout, I have enjoyed the twice daily cabin service, something I had forgotten. Housekeeping, over the entire ship, is excellent, I haven’t experienced a ship this clean since I returned to cruising. I had a nice morning nap, but I did get up early. The weather is nice and sunny and guests are enjoying the outer decks. About 1:30 I went to the Park Cafe for two great Roast Beef Sandwiches (Au Jus, Spicy Mayo, Horseradish) on Baguette Rolls. They finally had Oatmeal Raisin Cookies today too, my favorite of Royal Caribbean’s signature cookies. So back to the cabin with three cookies and a Coke for dessert. I was able to get in some balcony time and enjoy the sea air once some shade appeared and it cooled a bit.  I watched some Television this afternoon, there are live News and Sports available in addition to movies. A much better selection than Carnival. I did watch Band Pitt’s 2019 movie Ad Astra, it was good.  I went up to Vintages Bar for my cocktails and it was fun tonight, I had my five cocktails plus one to use up the balance of my OBC on the Sail Account. By 9:00 pm I had a choice of the Final Show in the theater or dinner and went with food. I had Roast Beef, Green Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables, and a partial Mississippi Mud Cake for dessert. I did not eat in the Main Dining Room this entire cruise, I like the MDR venues on Royal Caribbean, they are much nicer than say Carnival, but the Windjammer is convenient. They also have theme menus and the food is very good. After dinner, I retired to the cabin. It was a very relaxing day at sea on the Brilliance of the Sea.

Debarkation — Thursday --  January 13th, 2022 -- Port of Tampa 
Smooth seas overnight, but sleep was sporadic. I was actually up when we went under the Skyway Bridge about 3:45 am so took some photos. I was packing about 5:30 and about 6:30 I went to the Windjammer for breakfast.  Debark scheduled for 7:45 am but I noticed guests on the gangway about 7:10 am so i went to the elevator to head for deck 5, as I was in the elevator they made an announcement about self-debark so I was out the door and on the gangway strait away @ 7:15 am.  Walked to the parking garage and in the car by 7:30, hit the road and at the Villa in Pasco County by 8:15 am in time to walk the dog.  Amazingly easy debark.

Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruise
Food in the Windjammer - especially the Grilled Prime Rib
Vintages Bar, Bartenders, and the Regulars…
Production Show: Center Stage
Cozumel Port Day
Costa Maya Port Day
Mark Preston