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Amy Hardy

Age: 32

Occupation:Special education teacher

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Brilliance of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 20th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

My best friend and I sailed for our first time last year on the Monarch of the Seas. This year we decided to go all out and book a cruise on the newest Royal Caribbean, Brilliance of the Seas for 10 days going to Cozumel, Aruba, Curacoa, Grand Cayman, and Ochos Rios. The ship itself was beautiful and our room was an inside stateroom and it was spacious. We could walk around the room without bumping into each other which was not the case on the Monarch. The theatre was immense but we really didn't care for the shows because they were more geared towards an older crowd. After you have seen the Lion King, Madame Butterfly or Cats everything else is just a let down. The performers were very enthusiastic about their work and they did a variety of different shows throughout the trip. The ships lounges and bars impressed us much more than the shows. The had a bar for every fancy you could imagine, Karaoke, Piano, a rocking Disco. The disco had a revolving bar and they had a 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's night. The ships activates were numerous and varied for our days at sea. The spa and gym were state of the art and if you could afford it you could get just about any kind of spa treatment under the sun. However the minimum for a treatment was 100.00 which paid for a 10 minute facial and neck rub. The spa also offered beauty classes on a variety of topics that were free but they main purpose was to sell you their services or products. The aerobics instructors at the gym were fantastic. They offered classes from Spinning to Yoga, you name it they had a class for it. After all the food you will eat a work out is well needed.

The restaurants on board were a delectable treat. We were so impressed with the Italian Bistro and Steakery which were so worth the 20.00 the charged for dinner. I have never had better service or food in my life! The main dining room had good food but the pay dining was 10 times better. There were several nights where we just didn't like anything on the main dining menu so we went to the alternative dining and had our every whim catered too.
I really want to review our day trips because these can make or break your cruising experience. The trip I would not recommend that was highly recommended by our cruise agent was in Aruba at DePalm Island. They had an all you could eat barbeque style lunch and free Arubian Beer (which is nasty). Neither myself nor my friend liked anything they were saving. The island itself had a barricaded wall around its shores so you could not take a swim in the 100 degree weather. The snorkeling was in 2-3 foot of water and neither of us wanted coral critters living in our flesh from bumping the coral so we didn't attempt snorkeling. It was quite a let down because we had heard so much about the beautiful beaches of Aruba and we did not get to see them on this tour. A tour you must do at Aruba is the Kukukanoo Bar Hop. It was the funniest thing I ever did in my life. You board an open air bus lined with maracas and your tour guide escorts you to 3 of Aruba's night life spots. You sing and dance the night away. The trip consists of a stop at a lighthouse for a champagne toast then to dinner at an outdoor mansion (fabulous food), then to 3 bars. The bus drivers and bus party girls made sure everyone had a great time. The last bar was Carlos and Charles and it was wild. If you are young or young at heart you have to stop at Carlos and Charles. People dance right on the tables. I have been to clubs all over the United States and nothing compared to this experience. Leave your inhibitions at the door! When I go back to Aruba I will book this tour again and again.

The other day tour we didn't enjoy was the Grand Cayman Combo tour that took us out to snorkel then to the sting ray city. The sting rays were very intimidating because they come right up to you (their huge) and you could not admire them from afar. The snorkeling was choppy and everyone was excited to see a moray eel and shark but we later found out that these are both signs of a bad snorkeling spot. The islanders told us you do not want to see these two things at a snorkel sight. The trip ended up at a very beautiful beach where lunch was served but we had missed all the good sun rays. We wished we could have been at this beach all day long instead of out at Sting Ray City.

In Ochos Rios we took a champagne yacht cruise to the falls and we loved the yacht so much we never even got off the boat. I can not remember the tours name but it is the only champagne yacht tour listed. The yacht was beautiful and the staff waited on you hand and foot. I did get off the boat briefly to snorkel but I enjoyed my spot on the bow so much I spent my entire day there drinking Red Stripe Beer, which was free all you could drink. I had a fabulous time shopping in Jamaica after of yacht ride was through. The islanders waited on me hand and foot and I told them what I wanted to buy and they took me exactly where I needed to go to get it. Jewelry shoppers be sure to barter with the clerks because we were able to get the prices down by a couple of hundred dollars every time. Jamaica's people were very friendly and me and my friend are beautiful blondes and no one bothered us. I spent tons of money in Jamaica and had the best time shopping there.

A quick shopping review seems appropriate because we are pro shoppers and on every island we shopped till we dropped. Cozumel was awful. The street venders hounded you to no avail and they were at every store. We could not relax and spend our money there even though the items were very cheap. Grand Cayman had good shopping as far as make-up and perfume goes but jewelry was expensive there and the retailers did not barter. Aruba was experiencing roaming power outages while we were there so shopping in 100 degrees weather with no air conditioning was horrible. We walked what seemed to be miles to buy some exclusive perfume only sold in Aruba to find we didn't like the smell for 100.00 a bottle. You can get any fragrance you want on most of the islands so spending 50.00 more for an exclusive fragrance hardly seemed worth it. Shopping was expensive all over Aruba. Their was a ship director who had a seminar everyday before you entered port to tell you all about the shopping on each island. We went to everyone of her seminars to find out the best buys, what a job she had!

In Curaco we took a boat to the beach and laid out all day in the sun. There beaches were the best on this cruise!

The last day trip I have to review was in Cozumel. I do not know the name of the boat but it was white with a rainbow across the back and it was a snorkel & glass bottom boat tour. The snorkeling in Cozumel was breath taking. Their were tons of fish and coral formations and it was deep water (25 Ft) so you could swim all over and enjoy. The glass bottom boat was o.k. but choppy and the diesel fumes made my friend sick. This day trip made up for the poor shopping experience.

I would highly recommend the Brilliance of the Seas but the island itineraries of the Western Caribbean were not as exciting as our last cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. This year I am going on the brand new Carnival Spirit for a 14 day Panama Canal cruise so I will write a ship by ship comparison afterwards. I am curious to see if there is much difference in cruising Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

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