In the Spring of 2013, Brilliance of the Seas underwent a major refit or revitalization. This revitalization was part of a fleetwide program that all of the ships in the Royal Caribbean International fleet will or already have gone through.
The purpose of this project is to give all of the ships in the fleet some of the features that have proven successful on Royal's giants Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. “They looked to the Oasis class and tried to take some of the ideas and put them on the smaller ships,” confirmed Captain Stig Nilsen, Master of Brilliance of the Seas. “This is the long term goal for the company - - to keep the ships looking fresh and new for as long as possible. The enhancements are fantastic. The ship looks fresh and new. The impression is as a completely new experience. I think it was a great enhancement of the ship.”
“The revitalization definitely gives our guests more choices whether it be from a dining standpoint or an entertainment standpoint, it definitely gives our guests more choice,” added Hotel Director Dean Bailey. “We listen to our guests and our guests want choice aboard the ship.”
While the need to keep the ships looking new and at the cutting edge of the cruise industry with regard to having an array of features are strong motivations for carrying out such a revitalization, Brilliance and her three Radiance class sisters were very popular ships. Wasn't there a danger of unintentionally losing what made them attractive by making major changes?
“There is always room for enhancement,” explained Cruise Director Steve Davis who has worked on sister ships Serenade of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas as well as Brilliance. “These ships are great, they are gorgeous but they get tired. I think the enhancements that have been made are truly that - - enhancements. They have taken areas that we have found over years haven't been well-attended - - bars that are not very busy, things that maybe did not quite work with the original concept - - and changed them. For instance, I never saw the Sports Bar on any of the ships in this class have many people in it. But the new pub is busy every night.”
“I think it is Brilliance with a facelift. You come on, it is still the Brilliance. It still has the charm, the smaller crew, the smaller ship where everyone knows everyone, that family atmosphere that defines this class of ship and that people keep coming back to. Even though there have been all these changes, the Brilliance is still the Brilliance.”
The enhancements to Brilliance fall into two categories: entertainment and food and beverage. A few new staterooms were created and flat screen televisions were added to cabins that did not already have them but otherwise there were no significant changes to the accommodations.
With regard to entertainment, the biggest change was to the ship's towering, multi-story atrium, the Centrum. The décor has been changed. The glass stairs by the lobby have been eliminated and the large sculpture that hung in the Centrum has been removed. “What you get in return is much more spectacular,” commented Mr. Bailey.
What makes it more spectacular is the shows that are now performed in the Centrum. The Centrum has now become an entertainment venue. While it had been used in the past for dance parties and the like, it now hosts the Centurm Wow Experience featuring shows by aerialists and the ship's production cast.
“We have three different production vignettes onboard.” Mr. Davis pointed out. “We have the Captain's Toast which is during the Captain's welcome aboard reception. It is an enhanced welcome aboard reception with the dancers and singers and also some flying in between the captain doing his introduction and talk. So it gives a much more entertaining picture than just the captain talking and the band playing in the traditional way that we used to do it. Then we have the other flying vignettes - - Aquatronica and Jack and his Magic Bean.”
“[The Centrum] is not meant to be a place where everyone sits and watches the shows. The flying shows are only about seven to 10 minutes long so you can stand on any deck and watch. It is meant to be experience this activity going on. So there is a big focus on the Centrum.”
Prior to the refit, Brilliance had a large library overlooking the Centrum. That area has now been converted into staterooms. “The way society is going these days, everyone has their Kindles, their digital books. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are reading actual hard covers or soft covers anymore. They bring their own things with them. So the company decided to use that space for other things as opposed to using it for a big, giant library.”
Another significant change to Brilliance's entertainment features was the addition of a large screen to the main pool deck. “ We try to show movies up there three times a day. One in the afternoon and then two in the evening. We try to utilize it as much as we can but also still have time where guests can relax by themselves and not have things going on on the television.”
Above: Captain Stig Nilsen at a question and answer session on Brilliance.
Below left: Hotel Director Dean Bailey
Below right: Cruise Director Steve Davis
Turning to food and beverage, Brilliance's restaurant line up has changed with the transformation of existing venues and the addition of new venues.
In the area previously occupied by Portofinos, Brilliance now has Giovanni's Table (see our review). Like Portofinos, Giovanni's is an “Italian restaurant but it is more of a family style. You can order things for the table. It is a different kind of feel when you go in there. I found Portofinos to be a very formalized dining experience whereas Giovanni's is more of the Italian family aspect you find in Italy.”
Replacing the Sea View Cafe (see separate article) is Izumi, an Asian/Japanese inspired venue. “It is now my favorite of all the specialty restaurants by far. There is a five dollar cover charge when you go in. Then you have a full menu of all different types of sushi items with very inexpensive sushi rolls - - three or four dollars. It is a very minimal cover charge but then there is the ala carte pricing.”
A new addition is Rita's Cantina. Part bar and part restaurant, this venue has a Mexican theme. Like Izumi, there is a five dollar cover charge and then ala carte pricing for the various menu items.
Another new venue is the Chef's Table, which occupies the space that used to be the Card Room. (The Card Room has moved to Deck Four by the main dining room). “You have wine pairings with a multi-course meal. It is nice for a big family or big group to take part in that.”
Taking over from the Solarium Cafe is the Park Cafe. “It has extended hours and a much wider selection on the menu. The Park Cafe now has the different sandwiches and the salad section.” This casual venue attracted few guests the first few days of the cruise that we were on but by the end of the cruise, it was difficult to find a seat.
Several of the bars were also changed during the revitalization.
The Lobby Bar at the base of the Centrum has become the R Bar. It features mixologists who will create drinks for you that are not on the bar menu. “[They] can create cocktails for any kind of palette. They can create martinis that aren't on the menu based upon the ingredients that are there.”
A few decks higher on Deck Six, the former Champagne Bar is now Vintages, a wine bar. “ I am a big fan of Vintages from other ships,” Mr. Davis commented.
A major change to the bar line up is the substitution of the King and Country Pub for the Sports Bar. “I prefer the pub a million times over. They have really done a good job in turning it into a pub. They have a pub entertainer in there to perform. It is just a nice bar area.”
Another significant change was the creation of lounges for guests in the upper tiers of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society.
First, the existing Concierge Lounge was turned into a family suite and a new Concierge Lounge was created in the area that used to be occupied by the Hollywood Odyssey, Brilliance's jazz and cigar bar. “The Hollywood Odyssey wasn't very well attended. It is so far up [on Deck 13], you put some jazz in there and there would be 10 people listening. It is much more useful as a Concierge Lounge. Much bigger,” Mr. Davis said.
Second, the Sea Quest Disco has been divided so as to create the Diamond Lounge. The Diamond Lounge can be opened up so that the Sea Quest area can also be used when there are a large number of Diamond level Crown and Anchor members aboard.
“For people who have cruised with Royal Caribbean a lot and are part of that program, those two locations provide them a different aspect which is definitely comparable with some of our other ships.” Mr. Bailey noted.
Overall, we found that the changes made during the revitalization did enhance the cruise experience on Brilliance. The ship retains its character as a more intimate and sophisticated version of the Royal Caribbean product. While we were sad to see the departure of the Sea View Cafe, the new line up of restaurants provides a good variety of choice, which is particularly nice during long cruises.
Cruise ship article/review - - Royal Caribbean - - Brilliance of the Seas - - Brilliance of the Seas Revitalized