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'œuvre 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

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