Margaret & Alan Lunn
Number of Cruises: 11
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Brilliance of the Seas
Sailing Date: July 15th, 2002
Itinerary: Inaugural cruise to the Norwegian Fjords
This was our eleventh cruise, (we’re cruise addicts!) the fifth with RCI, the other RCI ones all being on the Legend of the Seas, which we like very much.
We were quite excited to be sailing on an inaugural cruise, and to one of our favourite countries.
We were pleased to sail from Harwich this time as it meant we didn’t have any baggage restriction and could drive to the port in just four and half-hours. We could see the ship as we neared the port. She looked quite an unusual shape, and towered above everything else around.
We parked in the allocated parking area, our baggage was taken away in trucks and we were bussed to the embarkation terminal. We arrived about 11.30am not realising that embarkation had actually started at 10 am. There was quite a long queue, but there were a lot of check in desks, so we didn’t have to wait very long. We were in our cabin by about 12.30 p.m.
It was a long walk to our cabin as we had chosen one with a balcony at the stern of the ship, as we knew there would be lots of beautiful views and we would be able to see the full panorama along the fjords. From the ship’s plan in the brochure, we thought there would be a staircase quite near to our cabin, but it was only the staff stairs and emergency exit, so we had a long walk to and from the cabin. It would be good exercise after a meal!
The cabin was very nice, quite large with plenty of storage space, three-seater sofa, coffee table, fridge, TV, and a large balcony. It was good to think that we were the first people to use it.
While waiting for our baggage to arrive we decided to explore the ship. It would have been nice to have had a leaflet with a plan of the ship as we had on Celebrity’s Millennium.
We headed for the dining room first, to find where we would be seated for dinner. We were very disappointed to discover that we had been allocated a table for twelve in an annex to the main room. We asked about changing, but there were a lot of other people waiting and we decided to leave it as it was.
We found all the bars and lounges etc. and were quite impressed with them all. We thought the solarium was a bit ‘over the top’. It was rather ornate, with elephants all over the place. At night the illumination changed colour continuously.
We had the emergency drill before sailing. This seemed to be a bit more chaotic than on other ships, as some passengers seemed to be going up stairs and some down, which didn’t seem quite logical – still it was the first time it had been done with over 2000 passengers.
We had expected a special send off as it was the inaugural cruise, especially as we had read on the Harwich Web site that they had all those facilities, but there was nothing. At least the weather was good for us.
Our baggage arrived around 4.30 PM which was rather longer than on previous cruises.
We had requested late seating dinner, as we found it to be too much of a rush on main seating if you’d been on a tour. We went down with our usual apprehension, wondering if we would get on with our table companions, but we had no need to worry, as they were all very pleasant company. We have never actually had any problems. As there were twelve of us we moved about round the table to get to know everyone during the cruise. Although it was quieter in this dining room we did miss the atmosphere of the larger room and didn’t hear any of the music. The first night’s service was extremely slow, but we put this down to the waiters being unfamiliar with the ship, although they should have had some time on board before taking on passengers. It did improve for the rest of the week.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer café. The design of this was different to other ships, having various food stations. This did get rid of the usual queuing, but did mean that hot food was going cold before you’d found every thing. It was also very difficult to find seats as it always seemed crowded, and as trays weren’t provided it was quite difficult carrying things whilst searching for a seat. (We like Celebrity’s idea where the waiters help to find you a seat).
We didn’t book any tours with the ship as we have spent a lot of holidays in Norway and knew the places we were visiting. In Amsterdam we saw the city from a canal boat and then explored on foot.
In Bergen we went on the ‘Bergen in a Nutshell’ Tour which we booked at the tourist office near the market – the cost being Nkr120 (about £11, or $US16). This included a return ‘antique’ bus ride (at half-hourly intervals) to the Mount Ulriken cable car terminal and the cable car to the summit. As there were six cruise ships in port that day it was quite busy and elbows were an asset in ensuring a place on the bus! The view of Bergen and the surrounding area from the top is spectacular, better even than that from Mount Fløien.
In Flåm we went on the Fjord sightseeing boat up the very narrow, spectacular Næroy Fjord to Gudvangen. This used to be a car ferry, but since the building of a tunnel linking the two places there is no need for a car ferry. This return trip takes four hours. In Geiranger, again we did our own thing, just happy to be in this beautiful country.
For any one who hasn’t seen any part of Norway, it would probably be good to take a ship’s tour to see the spectacular scenery. People who had been on them said they had been excellent.
We didn’t try the speciality restaurants as we enjoyed the food in the dining room. Talking to people who had tried them, we got the impression that the Portofino was good, but the Chops Grille not really worth the extra cost, as the steaks in the dining room were excellent. We wish we could get such good ones in the UK.
Our only real complaint was the price of wine. We enjoy a bottle with our meal but the cost of a decent bottle is extortionate. There is usually a package ‘Wine and Dine’ but although this was advertised in the ‘Compass’, it wasn’t available. We did buy the ‘Royal Cocktails Card’, which made a saving on most of the cocktails, glasses of House wine and beer.
We enjoyed most of the shows and Margaret was thrilled to find that Jane McDonald was on board, as she has followed her career since the documentary series ‘The Cruise’ on British TV in which she starred. She took part in an interview with the cruise director and gave an excellent show, and then stayed on board for the rest of the cruise as an ordinary passenger.
The captain was Thomas Wildung, whom we had met twice before on the Legend.
We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and thought the ship was beautiful, although not quite as easy to get around as others we’ve been on. Although it is a big ship with over 2000 passengers, it never seemed crowded, except in the Windjammer café, but we never managed to get a seat in the solarium. The weather was kind to us and the only poor day was the day at sea on the way back. On the ships information program on TV the weather report said that the winds were force nine at times, but the ship was so stable that even at the stern of the ship you didn’t feel any adverse movement.
We are now looking forward to our next cruise on the ‘Splendour of the Seas’ in October to the Mediterranean