“ One of Royal Caribbean's huge 13 deck ocean liners, based in Dubai the ship sails to ports around the Middle East and India „
Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas - Scandinavia and Russia Cruise, August 2013
We have been on five Royal Caribbean cruises, now including this one, and we have been all around the med including Italy, France, Spain, turkey, Greece, Scilly and more but we haven't been to northern Europe or Russia before which is why we picked this cruise. We booked with the coop travel and the cruise sailed from Harwich near Essex from the 7th to the 19th august 2013, so my 21st birthday and my sisters 18th birthday were celebrated on this holiday.
- Getting to Harwich, Harwich International port terminal and check in
Firstly, getting to Harwich, as we are in Manchester and we didn't want to drive for around 7 hours (well I would have preferred to go by car) we had to take public transport - Royal Caribbean do offer a coach service that has pick up points around the country but we booked our holiday after this service was available, also our nearest pick up point for this service was Bolton. We decided to take the train, well there were five trains on the way there and four on the way back - a lot of changes! Harwich, being an international port is fairly big and busy so we thought it would be fairly easy to get to but it isn't and I definitely wouldn't recommend getting the train with lots of luggage - nowhere near enough luggage storage on a train and far too many changes, we were exhausted at the end of the day and it wasn't the nicest start to the holiday, in my opinion. We travelled the day before the cruise and stayed in Harwich overnight and finding a hotel or B&B wasn't that easy too, most were fully booked (months in advance) but we found Highfields farm which is a B&B and they picked us up from the small station of Wrabness (at night) and they were a really nice couple and the rooms/house was gorgeous - although personally I felt a little bit uncomfortable staying over at a strangers house but they were very nice, as was the farm in the garden! The next day, they dropped us off at the port terminal and then you leave your luggage with the port staff who put it on the ship and we went to the terminal to check in and get our sea pass cards. For all of the other cruises we have done (four of them, all with royal Caribbean) we have flown, this is the first one from England that we have done and the previous ports have been quite busy, chaotic and not very nice, if I am honest so we expected the same at Harwich - we were wrong. The Harwich port terminal we were in was clean, there was information about the surrounding cities, the staff were helpful and it wasn't really busy, loud or chaotic! The check in was quick (it took about ten minutes in total and then we walked to the ship) and at the check in you have to fill out a couple of short forms, sign things and you get your sea pass cards too.
- The room (9558)
We always get a superior ocean view stateroom which is a four person room with a balcony which is the cabin type that we have had for the past four cruises, and this one was very similar to the others apart from: tea and coffee making facilities, flat screen TV (which we haven't had for all of the other cruises but a couple of them), a larger wardrobe, a full length room diving curtain and a larger sofa bed. The room is fairly spacious although at times with the four of us it can get a little crowded. I think deck nine is the highest we have been, we have been on deck 5, 7 and 8 before and deck 9 is close to the windjammer and solarium so it was great. Our stateroom attendant was called Michael and he was really nice and helpful, also when we asked for extra pillows or more coat hangers etc, he brought them. The stateroom attendant also makes towel animals while making the room up in the evening, which is cute although we didn't have as many as usual. After boarding and getting in the room, you can't unpack because the luggage does take a little while to arrive and it could be up to 8 in the evening before you get your luggage and usually ours comes quickly but this time it took longer than usual, around 6 I think. A hair dryer, soap, shampoo, drinking glasses, phone, tea/coffee/milk/kettle were included in our room. Also my parents emailed royal Caribbean a couple of months before our holiday saying that it was mine and my sisters 21st and 18th birthdays while on holiday to see if there was anything RC could do to make the cruise more special (a little bit cheeky but if you don't ask you don't get) and they gave us a $33 bottle of sparkling wine in our room! However, there were a couple of minor negatives about the room in general for example, the drawers were a bit dusty and there was a fabric shower curtain. Also, one day, myself and my sister after dinner went back to the room to pick up my iPad and when we got there our room door was open and there was a sign on our door saying 'men working on the balcony' etc which we have not experienced before and it was a bit strange - I think we should have been asked or told - if we wanted to go on the balcony later in the day we couldn't have because they had painted the balcony!
- Safety drill
The safety drill is the most boring part of the cruise, it is compulsory even if you have been on the ship before and it took place at 4:15 - it is boring but it is obviously important. The safety drill and meeting points, if there is a problem, differ from ship to ship with some points being inside and some being outside on the decks. This time it was outside on the decks, in the shade, with the wind - it was a bit chilly and we had to be there for what felt like an hour but it was probably about 30 minutes. Unlike all of the other safety drills we had to be in single file lines and we had to have our room number ticked off which I don't remember happening on the other cruises with RC. The communication from the staff on the deck to the passengers wasn't great, there was some confusion about were to stand etc but thankfully you only have to do this once. And at one point one staff member came up to me, right in my face actually and asked how old I was - like I was a child, and after I said I was 20 she walked off...not a great start to the holiday.
- Main dining room, Deck 5
We have the My Time dining option, which allows you to dine at the time you want and my time diners are all situated on the deck five dining room. For the past couple of cruises we have always tried to get a table next to a window when possible and you have to book a table every time - you can ask for a table next to the window or a specific table but you do have to book it every day which has led to us not being able to have the table we want every time but it was fine because we were next to or very near to the window every day when went to the main dining room - and we had the same waitress and assistant waiter every evening because they were just so nice, informative and they seemed so genuine! The maitre d' was nice, and our waitress Luisa (from the Philippines) was so nice as was the assistant waiter Mckoy (from Jamaica). I am always so impressed with the range of languages the staff have to be able to speak on board, with some staff members being able to speak five languages which I think is amazing. The tables are laid out nicely and it is so amazing to sit next to the window and watch the coast line and sea while eating. The only slight negative I have is that on this ship the dining room, next to the window, is on the same level as a deck so you did get people walking past and the table can get a bit crowded with everything such as the flower, wine list etc. Anyway, the food, in the past I have always been so impressed with the range of vegetarian options on royal Caribbean ships (the voyager class) and I expected the same on this ship but I have been so disappointed by the very poor range of vegetarian options in the main dining room. The vegetarian options are indicated by the V sign next to them and some options sound like they would be suitable for vegetarians but they do not have a V next to them because they are made with meat stock etc which is a shame because vegetarian food obviously isn't just for vegetarians.
The majority of the evening there was the same linguine with tomato sauce or a curry which is so disappointing as I don't really like curry or spicy food but it was the only option for me - granted one/two of the curries were really nice, although I had to have water top ups (I can't handle anything spicy!) and I had the same linguine a couple of times. One night I really wasn't impressed with the menu again, just a curry or the same tomato pasta, and Luisa saw that I wasn't happy so she asked the chef if they could make something vegetarian for me - so she brought me pasta with a white sauce which was gorgeous! The majority of the staff on this ship have been so helpful and amazing at solving small issues such as this, and our waitress was so nice anyway. For a couple of nights there were other vegetarian options (no curry, thank goodness!) such as crepes with artichoke inside which I loved, sweet and sour veggie/tofu and a mushroom and goat cheese pizza which was great too. There is just one point I would like to make about the vegetarian options in the main dining room and also in the speciality restaurant Giovanni's Table - parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians and the staff didn't seem to know this and parmesan was included in some vegetarian meals, I don't know if they use a vegetarian version of parmesan or a vegetarian cheese that tastes similar to parmesan but I had to ask for meals without parmesan just to be sure. Now onto deserts, the deserts on the ship have been really nice, one desert that I hadn't tried before but I am so glad that I did was a grand mariner soufflé which is freakin gorgeous, it tasted like Christmas! It just reminded me of the German/international markets in Manchester during Christmas, I loved it and I am going to try and make it at home. Overall, some of the food has been amazing (such as the crepes, starters and deserts) but the confusion about the parmesan, veggie or not veggie and the poor range vegetarian options was quite disappointing!
- Giovanni's Table, speciality restaurant
Now, this is quite a long winded story but I will try and shorten it - the cruise compass you get every evening (which tells you all of the activities that are happening the next day) has a section on the back were you can give a shout out for a special event or day etc such as a birthday or anniversary and as it was my sisters 18th and my 21st while we were away my parents went to the guest service desk to put a shout out for mine and my sisters birthday (on the 8th and 15th) which they did. We were then looking through the RC TV where you can see your bill for the things you have bought on board (such as a perfume or wine or an excursion) and it said that we had spent $50 on something and it was the first day and we hadn't. So in the end we found out that the shout out in the cruise compass is $25 per shout out, hence the $50 spent on our account and because the staff member hadn't told my parents that there was a charge we were given a complimentary booking at Giovanni's table for free - and it is usually $20 per person so we went to Giovanni's instead of the main dining room one evening for dinner. As I said before the staff on this ship, on the whole, have been amazing when there have been small issues. So we were getting ready for Giovanni's (smart casual dress code) and my dad cut his lip shaving and it will not stop bleeding so myself, my mum and my sister go down to the restaurant and wait for him, anyway he can't make it to dinner so the host, Gary from Australia, said that we could come back another day to the restaurant for lunch or dinner and he will only charge us for one person! So we did end up going to Giovanni's twice and it only cost us $20 for the four of us to go twice (well and the wine charge) which was great.
Giovanni's Table, formerly Portofino's, is an Italian family style restaurant and the first time myself, my mum and my sister had dinner there we were served by a really nice Ukrainian waiter but he didn't explain the whole ordering style very well because we had a starter each and then we had a main course each but he also came with two extra main courses (slightly smaller portions) which went in the middle on the table for us to try as well - a kind of full size meal tapas! So the three of us had five plates on our table, I had a gorgeous mushroom risotto which can usually be really blend and very boring but this one was gorgeous! The spinach and ricotta crepes were so nice too. My mum had scallops and my sister had jumbo prawns which they both loved. Also when we sat down the waiter came over and made up a little dip for the bread on our small side plate which was nice and it was made up of olive oil, with balsamic vinegar in the middle (so it looked like an uncooked egg, because the oil and vinegar do not mix) and then parmesan on top - I didn't eat mine because I don't eat bread before a meal but my sister loved it! Overall, I really liked Giovanni's even though the second time we went I felt a bit cheeky but the décor, staff and food was great. Also the second time we went my dad was talking to the waiter and casually mentioned that it was mine and my sisters birthdays while on holiday. At the end of the main course four of the staff members, including the host and our waiter, came over with two pieces of chocolate cake with candles in them for myself and my sister and they sang happy birthday to us which is so so nice, especially because it was unexpected!
- The windjammer and Ritas Cantina
The windjammer is a large self-service buffet style area where you can go for breakfast, lunch or dinner - I think it stays open until 10 in the evening although opening times for all places such as cafés, restaurants and the shops changes depending on the time when you dock in port and when you leave and if it is a sea day or not. We didn't go to the windjammer at all for breakfast; we went to the main dining room on deck four every morning where you could be sat on your own or with others. We did go to the windjammer for lunch on all but one day because it is just so easy to get some quick food and the food is nice, especially the pizza, fries and pasta. The windjammer on this ship was not where near as busy or chaotic as it was on previous ships, maybe because the ship isn't as big and there are not as many people. There is a large section of the windjammer that is inside and then about 40% of the windjammer is outside, we usually sat outside because there were seats and it is nice to see the views, even if it was a bit chilly. However, there was a small section inside the windjammer called Rita's Cantina which from the very first day on the ship we have used to sit in and eat as had many other people and the windjammer and Rita's cantina staff didn't say anything - then on the 9th day I think, a man who we had never seen there before (with a Rita's cantina uniform on) said that it is not part of the windjammer (even though it is in the windjammer) and we couldn't eat windjammer food in there - although so many people had been doing for nine days and no one else said anything. Myself and my sister did feel like we had been told off, but we said that no one else had said anything for nine days so he just walked off. The Rita's Cantina bit only ever had people in it eating windjammer food, no waiters came and asked for to order from the Rita's cantina menu and the Rita's Cantina seems to serve no purpose!
- The centrum and aerial performances
The live music and theatre shows on all of the royal Caribbean cruises we have been on have always been great! The live music has been good this time, unlike the other ships we have been on where there is a kind of street which is the main area (with the shops, bars, pub and café), this ship doesn't have that. The main area is the centrum which is a small dance floor with a tiny stage at one end and the R bar at the other end and on the floors above and around the centrum there are cafes and bars - I don't really like the layout of this ship as I do with the other voyager class ships because all of the cafes, shops and bars are scattered around the ship, there is no central place and the centrum area can get really crowded and there are nowhere near enough seats most of the time, in my opinion. The performances at the centrum have been great though, for example, there were thriller dance classes on sea days on the ship where you could learn the dance with Steve one of the cruise director staff members and on one evening Steve and the guests who learnt the dance performed it in the centrum which was really great - although again not enough seats/space. One highlight of the cruise entertainment has to be the aerial shows which they have NEVER had on the ship before we went on the ship - if we had booked the cruise for the week before (which goes to Iceland etc) we wouldn't have seen the aerial performance so we were quite lucky. There were two aerial performances, as you can imagine the dancers were in harnesses and the centrum goes from deck five to deck 11 so it is really high! The first performance was 'jack and his magic beans' and the last one was 'aquatronica' which was amazing - people flying around on harness and hoops, dancing, music, lights, confetti/streamers, it was fantastic, although to get a seat you had to sit down where you wanted about an hour or so before the show!
- Other entertainment (pool movies, theatre shows, cooking demonstrations)
This time round we have participated in more activities on the ship and there seems to be a lot more to do as well - also the range of activities is amazing too from cooking demonstrations, sushi making classes, dance classes, napkin folding and rock climbing to pool side movies, mini golf, basketball, theatre shows, wine tasting, spa treatments and so much more, everyone will find something they want to do. Also one thing that hasn't been on other ship apart from this one includes the destination presentations - eg presentations on the buildings and sites of Russia which we have never experienced before on the previous cruises. Although we did go to one presentation on Russia and the speaker said she was a lecturer of criminology in Canada, and having just graduated from university I know how lecturers are supposed to present information etc and she was just reading from the slides continuously and there were short video clips with music - the information was good as were the visual aids but she was no lecturer, print out copies of the information would have been just as good. However, there were so many activities that we loved, I for example loved the pool side movies - sitting by the pool in the evening watching the waves go by and a recent movie on a big almost cinema sized screen!
I also really liked the indoor movies, myself and my sister watched Argo in the theatre one evening and it was just like a cinema - well, it was better than any cinema I have been in (Argo wasn't great, in my opinion). We all like the cooking demonstrations too, which again we hadn't experienced on any other RC ship, we managed to go to the apple strudel making demonstration as well as the sushi making demo both of which we really good. And you got some samples of the food at the end too - we were a bit late for the cupcake decorating demo as we had to stand at the back but it was good, although that can't be said for the standard of some of the icing! The theatre shows are also great, because we don't get to go to a theatre show almost every evening at home, and the range of entertainment is great - for opera singers and Russian folkloric dancing to comedians, magicians (the magician was British and he was amazing, he looked like Lee Evans) and on the farewell show there was a bmx entertainer - amazing! The casino is also good, I personally love the décor of the casino it looks amazing and the sliding money machine is addictive! However, smoking is allowed in the casino which I don't think is fair for the other passengers and the staff who have to work there and it definitely put us off going in there - also the minimum amount of money you can charge your sea pass card with to get physical American money to use in the machines is $20 which is a bit too much in my opinion.
- TV and Internet
The TV in the room is great, there are a lot of TV shows in English such as hotel inspector, Stephen fry gadget man, Ramsey's kitchen nightmares and more - there are also news channels, however we went away during the Moscow athletics and none of it was shown. There are also recent movies on the TV, cinema and theatre such as Jack Reacher, Les Miserable, Argo - I didn't really like any of those films particular but they were entertaining to an extent. There were not as many foreign channels and there is a RV TV channel were you can book excursions, see your bill etc. Now, the internet, I know that internet is expensive anyway and it must be for an international ship (on the captain questions someone asked why the internet prices are so high and they replied saying something along the lines of, the internet is via satellite but it is something they are looking into - along with the smoking policies). The internet is around 65 American cent per minute but you can buy packages. When we first arrived in our room we found some coupon booklets for each of us and they had money credit for the internet so I used the $15 worth of coupons for the internet which is great - we used the coupons a lot more this holiday and they do help. However the computers on this ship kept breaking with some keyboards not working or the mouse not working or my card not being recognised. My sea pass card stopped working in the door within a few days, the card just wouldn't open the door for me so guest relations gave me a new card and then a few days after that my card wouldn't let me go on any computer so guest relations gave me a new one again so I ended up having three cards.
Excursions on all of the ships we have been on have been expensive to an extent, especially because there are four of us and the range of excursions has always been great but I find that on this cruise the price of some excursions has been really high with some excursions costing $112 or $98 each which for four of us would be too much to spend, in my opinion. Also for one or two of the places, the range of excursions wasn't amazing. However, there were quite a few walking tours for some of the places where you walking around with a guide which is what we did in Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg (well one of the tours we did for Russia) and Helsinki. I personally loved all of the tours, but the one for Finland at the start of the day was raining heavily so we had to do the first part of the tour on a coach but the rest of the day was gorgeous. Overall, the excursions have been really good especially for Russia, Finland and Copenhagen - but the guides for the tours in Estonia and Gothenburg were a bit strict and kept saying that if you are not at a certain point at a certain time that she would leave without you - which is what happened to one couple from our group in Estonia. I am going to do separate reviews for some of the places we visited such as saint Petersburg.
Overall, a cruise or holiday of any type is going to be fairly expensive but you get what you pay for with royal Caribbean and from what other people have said about some cruise lines and from what I saw of the other cruise ships, I wouldn't want to go with any other cruise line. The staff, entertainment, food, activities available, facilities, décor and ports of call on the whole are fantastic in my opinion.
*Excellent service in the main dining room and also in the windjammer (our waiters Luisa and Mckoy were amazing, so helpful, friendly and they seemed like genuinely nice people!)
*Lots of activities, my favourites were the: cooking demonstrations, the farewell show, the evening pool movies and the aerial shows)
*General helpfulness of the majority of staff members at solving issues such as my sea pass card, the limited veggie options, charges
*Room was great, beds were comfy and there seemed to be more storage
*Great ports of call, my favourite was definitely Saint Petersburg! The tours we picked were great too, especially the walking tours
*Harwich check in was quick, easy and fuss free, unlike some international ports we have been to
*Quizzes, live music, the welcome back party, pool side movies, sales (although extremely busy and crowded)
*The ship in general was clean, it has nice décor, and it looked inviting - especially when compared to the Thompson cruise ship we were moored to in Estonia (the Thompson ship looked very basic, like a cruise ship version of a prison, in my opinion!)
*Entertainment on the TV was great too with a lot more UK TV shows, it also has recent movies on the TV such as Jack Reacher (awful film), Argo and more. Also the 'morning show' with Susan and Steve, two of the main cruise director staff, was fantastic - funny, friendly and very informative about the next days activities/ports of call. And captains questions was funny and very informative too - it was a live activity but we forgot to go but it was filmed and played on the TV - the captain and some other staff members answered questions from the passengers, the latter two points are new to us, they haven't occurred on previous ships
*Rita's Cantina - staff, no explanation as to what it is, under utilised
*Vegetarian options which isn't usually a problem at all but it was on this ship unfortunately
*Computers kept breaking - either our cards didn't work or the keyboards were broken
*Small, cramped shopping area - especially when there is a sale or raffle on
*Some excursion prices were high as are the phone/internet prices but I can understand why
*Not as many seats as needed in the centrum! Also no library really
*Smoking is allowed in the main areas of the ship! We had to leave one activity because of it! (Also we were walking around the ship on the decks one day and we went to the back of the ship where there were some staff members smoking and they didn't seem to like passengers walking by, we received some not very nice looks)
Thank you for reading my review - I know this review is really long but there is a lot more I could talk about, if you have any questions about RC and the ship then you can just leave a comment and I am going to write some reviews of the ports of call as well.
Brilliance of the Seas
We spent seven nights and eight days cruising on the Royal Caribbean ship, 'The Brilliance of the Seas'. We boarded the ship in Dubai and then visited Fujairah, Muscat in Oman, Abu Dhabi and then returned to Dubai. This was our first cruise and we chose this as it was short so if we hated it we would not ha eto suffer too long and secondly because we really wanted to explore the area of the Gulf a little and this gave us the opportunity to visit a few places without having to pack and move on to a new place each day.
Prior to arriving in Dubai we checked in and got our 'Set Sail' pass and booked a boarding time. I'm not sure why we bothered as we had to queue for quite some time to get through all the boarding formalities. Maybe it did speed it up a little but it still seemed to take ages. We were collected from our hotel in Ras Al Khaimah at 12 noon and we were finally in our cabin at about 3 pm and the drive tool about an hour and 15 minutes.
During the check in process drinks were available and our luggage was whipped away by porters to be taken to our cabin. We had carefully labeled them with the labels provided pre leaving the UK. Once at the desk we exchanged our passport for a small credit card which had all our details and they kept our passports which we were a little concerned about but there was little we could do. This credit card was our room, key, our card on board for charging drinks and also our passport to get on and off the ship when it came to port so DO NOT LOSE IT!
Our Cabin or Stateroom
Not quite sure why they call them state rooms but that is what they called them. Ours was a cheapy inside cabin as we thought we would prefer to spend the extra money on doing things in the different places rather than on a room where we would just be sleeping and washing. It was more than adequate with a good sized double bed and four pillows. A bedside light either side that as well as a small bedside table with a drawer. There was a sofa which may have pulled out for a child but I didn't investigate but it was quite comfortable. There was a TV that swiveled so you could watch it from bed or from the sofa.
There was storage space everywhere, two wardrobes , shelves, drawers and a safe in a cupboard above the T V, we didn't fill it all even with two suitcases of stuff. The cases fitted under the bed when they were empty so we had no problem with space or storage. There were mirrors everywhere in the room so we were able to see our backs, sides and everywhere we looked there was some part of us reflected. I suspect this was so that the light was more effective and it made the room look bigger but it was a little disconcerting.
The bathroom was quite tiny, think caravan and you have the sort of size. It has a shower, toilet and small basin. It was adequate and did the job but was not a room where you would chose to linger for hours. There was no electricity in there so you had to use the hair dryer provided outside in the main cabin.
The sockets were two pin straight or two pin rounded but wider that our toothbrush charger so not a standard shaving socket which was a bit annoying as our tooth brush died on day 5, However there were two sockets so we able to charge my laptop and our camera batteries easily. There was also a kettle provided which used the rounded sockets and tea bags and sugar were left in the room with two large cardboard cups. Extra milk or sugar or other tea bags had to be collected from the dining area I discovered.
Other options were suites or rooms with balconies but there were quite a lot extra, I believe 200 per person upgraded us to an outside cabin. We paid less than 1000 pounds each including flights and the extra three nights in Ras Al Khaimar so we felt that was quite a lot extra for just a different room.
The ship is huge, it isn't their biggest but this is still a 13 story building floating on the ocean. It employs 875 people on board from many different countries doing a wide variety of jobs so this is a quite a big employer.
What can you find on the ship?
There are three pools, one at the back seems to be mainly for children with water slides and brightly coloured dolphins around it. The main pool with water spouts at one end, a Jacuzzi and simply hundreds of sun loungers on the decks around it and then the solarium pool which has a roof over it which can be opened when it gets too hot which also has a Jacuzzi and is decorated in a dull sandstone colour with huge elephants in relief on one wall with waterfalls and all sorts. There were also three Jacuzzis on board the ship at the different pools.
There was a 9 hole crazy golf course and a golf simulator which cost about 25 quid so I'm not sure what that entailed. The climbing wall was also on that deck near the top of the ship but I never saw anyone using it. You could also play basket ball, ping pong, deck tennis, chess or draughts on a large board on the deck plus tic tac toe and other deck games. There were also gyms and a running track around the deck for those feeling even more guilty than I was about how much they had eaten!
There was a huge casino with all kinds of ways to separate you from your money. We only walked through this as I really cannot see the attraction in casinos. You could also smoke in here which is enough to put me off as I hate smelling of smoke and it gives me bad asthma too.
The Pacifica theatre had different shows and held 800 people so was quite a size on two main levels. If I am absolutely honest none especially appealed to us but we did go and see Hilary O Neil one night which was okay but I'm glad I didn't pay to see her. The Tango Argentina Show was much better with great dancers, musicians and costumes and I would have paid to see that. The seats were really comfortable and you could take drinks in or order them at the bar in there too. They have to make their money somewhere and the drinks were very expensive so this was another opportunity to squeeze extra money from the punters.
There were a number of bars and cafes around the ship but as drinks were not cheap we avoided visiting these too often. The drink of the day was $6.95 US and beer just under a pint was about $6US. All prices on the boat were in US$ so required you to do a little maths every time you ordered something. Bars on board were Hollywood Odyssey Nightclub,The Pit Stop,Schooner Bar,Champagne Bar,The Colony Club,Jakarta Lounge and Singapore Sling's. We tested a few but by no means all of these!
The spa offered a wide variety of treats from hair was, cut and dries to massages, facials and also teeth whitening was offered and we could have had ours done as a couple for $350 but we didn't come on holiday to have our teeth whitened we came to see some different places however I guess others must get tempted.
A small library and various internet areas and an internet café were also found on board but not too many people were making use of the internet at 65cents a minute.
The main dining room called 'The Minstrel Dining room' on decks 4 and 5, offered waiter service and an a la carte menu. There were two sittings 6pm and 8.30 pm and you had to choose which you wanted when you booked the cruise. For an extra payment you can opt for anytime dining and then you can go in at any time but you need to book the times of your choosing for each day. If you chose this method then you also had to select to pre pay your tips which are set for you. This was a major bug bear for my husband who abhors tipping and feels people should be paid a decent wage for doing their job and tipping should be banned. There is already a service charge added to every drink you buy on the ship and then you tip on top! Anyway we had had sufficient decisions to make so we just opted for the later sitting but this meant we ate very late and were often not finished our meal by 11pm. The food was always good and piping hot but the deserts were a bit disappointing in here in my view.
We were put on a table of six and I was very interested to know how they choose who to put you with. We were all of a certain age and all English and they were pleasant enough people but I didn't especially want to eat every evening meal with them so we opted for the 'Windjammer' on a couple of occasions.
We had two formal nights while we were on board and the rest were either themed (in our case wear white night) or were smart casual. On the formal nights men had to wear suits and tie and women nice evening type clothes although it was only a suggestion, most people did wear what was suggested.
The 'Windjammer' café on the 11th deck had constant buffet food which changed throughout the day. It started with breakfast at 7am until 11am and gradually during the day the food changed. At lunch which was from 11.45 to 3pm there was always a wide range of salads and different sandwiches but there was also curry, dim sum, sushi, fish and chips and so much more. The desserts in the 'Windjammer' were wonderful and every day there were at least a dozen different ones to choose from. You could also help yourself to fresh lemonade, iced tea, water or tea (many types) or coffee and even pour yourself an ice cream cone from the machine at any time of the day. The evening menu started at 6pm and continued until 9.00pm. There were also snacks available from 3.30 till 5pm so as you can see the food was there pretty much all day.
There were two other restaurants which we did not go to as you had to pay extra. The first was 'Chops Grille 'where you could enjoy steak and for that pleasure you paid an extra $25 per person fee. We could also have a steak in the main dining room at an extra cost some days whereas it was one of the choices on the menu on other days for no extra cost.
The final option was 'Portofino' which offered a 'wine dinner series' but as it cost an extra $54.50 per head we never discovered what that meant. They did other dinner choices on different evenings for different supplements too. On the daily 'sheet of information it said to allow two to three hours for dining there so it obviously was not a rushed affair.
During the day if you still felt a bit hungry then apart from the 'Windjammer' you could also gets snacks at the 'Solarium café' from noon until 6pm or the 'Sea View Café' between 4.30-6.30 and then again from 9pm till 1 am. If ever you still haven't had enough to eat the coffee station at the 'Windjammer is open 24 hours or you could even order room service. One thing for certain is that you are unlikely to go hungry and I felt that I put on so much weight in that week that a diet is called for once I am home and not supplied with huge meals three times a day plus tempting snacks as well.
This was our first cruise and I am not sure I will rush to do another. I certainly would never do a cruise for the sake of a cruise holiday but as a way of getting to a number of places close together that you could see a fair amount of in one day then it suited us. A round the world cruise holds no interest for me at all as you really only have about 8 hours in each port and that gives limited opportunity to explore.
We got excellent value for the price we paid for the cruise of 7 nights as the food was really good and there was plenty of it and our cabin or 'stateroom' gave us comfortable accommodation so we were able to see Dubai, Fujairah, Oman and Abu Dhabi easily without driving long distances and constantly packing and unpacking. It served its purpose for us but it is not a holiday in itself for us as we couldn't stand the fact that there were always people everywhere we went and we spent a lot of time queing for different things.
People obviously do enjoy them and go for the whole package with formal professional photos to prove it at $19US a pop. The shop was full of all the photos taken around the ship at different times. Even a postcard of the boat was $5US. Needless to say we didn't buy a single one.
The shop was supposedly Duty Free but prices were quite expensive even on the last day when they were drastically reduced. People who cruise a lot must realize that prices drop at the end of the cruise so they must sell very little until then. Maybe I'm just too much of a cynic and we are careful with our money, it took a lot of hard work to get it so we are not about to throw it away on unnecessary frivolities. We like our holidays and, enjoy good food and experiences rather than buying over priced T shirts and souvenir mugs etc.
I trust I have not been too miserable about cruising as I know there are those who love it but it really isn't my idea of a holiday, more a means to an end. It allowed us to see places we wanted to visit reasonable and easily in a comfortable manner with good food but the places were the holiday experience rather than the time on the ship.
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