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Susan

Age: 49

Occupation:Exec

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Brilliance of the Seas

Sailing Date: 2012-12-22

Itinerary: Caribbean Christmas cruise

This was my first cruise and i was a bit skeptical. Our 3-generation group of 10 family members picked this as a relatively economical option for a Christmas outing and it was really excellent overall. I am not much of a joiner and prefer to get onshore and explore the islands we stop at, rather than just staying on the ship, so i did not partake in much of the onboard activities. But there was something for everyone and on any given day, those who wanted adventure could go ashore and those who didn't could stay aboard.

The itinerary was packed - we stopped at St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Antigua and St. Croix during the 7 day cruise and it was great to visit so many different places.

Overall, food was quite good. Lots of variety and even my very picky 14-year old son found food he liked at each meal. I preferred breakfast in the dining room when we weren't in a rush to ashore for an excursion-- it offered some a la carte choices that weren't available in the windjammer and a better granola bar too. Just more civilized to have table service. But takes longer because you are being served so allow extra time for dining room option. I was pretty pleased with the wine selection at dinner as well.

Windjammer is a good choice when you are eating quickly to get to an excursion or activity. At lunch, there was a different regional cuisine each day at the back of the food station area and i had some very good Indian and Chinese dishes there on days we were aboard for lunch.

Lemonade and iced tea and water are available free 24/7 - a way to save money on beverages. Highly recommend buying soda package beforehand (must order at least 4 days before sail date) if you have soda drinkers - much more expensive once aboard.

It was nice - comfortable bed, loved the balcony, plenty of storage space. In general, quite comfortable. I was on deck 7 and would recommend a stateroom on that level or higher - lower levels might afford worse views from balcony. One great thing about the rooms is that the beds can either be configured as a queen or two twins - this was excellent as our kids all prefer separate beds.

We were pretty busy with our shore trips during the day so didn't participate much. I took a Pilates class on our one day at sea which was really lame (i doubt the teacher was even certified as there was virtually no Pilates technique) so i would NOT recommend spending $ for the class. But we enjoyed the meringue lesson we took one night, and I also enjoyed the hip hop class offered on our day at sea. My kids were traveling with their cousins so didn't use the kids club at all, they just enjoyed roaming the ship and playing mini golf and swimming together.

I researched the onshore options before we went, as i'm an avid snorkeler and beach goer. The trips we did through the ship were great, although i will say that our research helped us to choose the best options for our group. Stingray city in Antigua and the Segway tour with Lucian Style in St. Lucia were particularly memorable. I like to use my own snorkel gear but all of the trip providers provide gear if needed.

In St. Croix, note that you can walk to some nice beaches right from the port if you don't want to spend $ on a shore excursion. Everywhere else, it is best to get out of the port area to experience the beauty of the island.

Pros: good food, GREAT service by all staff we met particularly Shekhar our dinner waiter, he was so accommodating and so great to our kids. Tons of nice Christmas touches throughout the week - music, decor, activities (all kids even got a christmas present!), holiday menu. they did a really nice job with the Christmas theme.

Cons: do not buy the wifi package, it was a total waste of money as half the time we couldn't connect. This was an issue for my husband who had a work emergency to deal with during our cruise. We complained but only got a partial refund. Pools are salt water which some of our group did not enjoy. Drinks vary in quality, we found the champagne bar to be the best one on the ship.

Our kids were disappointed with the video game arcade - but that was a positive for me as i prefer they don't spend the whole trip playing video games anyway!

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