Royal Caribbean International's new 90,000-ton Brilliance of the Seas is smaller than the line's Voyager-class ships, but it has many of the bells and whistles of the larger vessels, such as a climbing wall and multiple entertainment venues. But it doesn't have an ice skating rink or in-line skating track.
The 2,500-passenger Brilliance is filled with richly appointed rooms and is decorated in bright colors without being gaudy.
Glass elevators rise up the sides of the ship, offering spectacular views. On a recent voyage I saw passengers taking the elevators just for the vistas.
Most public rooms are on Decks 5 and 6. The steep, three-deck Pacifica Theater and its wraparound balcony provide excellent sightlines from every seat. The theater's well-produced Vegas-style shows are augmented by variety artists and special guest stars. A small cinema shows first-run films.
The Casino Royale's Art Nouveau decoration shines through the distracting slot machines and blackjack, craps and roulette tables.
Bars on Deck 6 include the Champagne Bar, with floor-to-ceiling windows; the Scoreboard Sports Bar, where large and small TVs on the walls and over the bar display sports events from around the world; and the Schooner -- a mainstay on all Royal Caribbean ships -- decorated with ship models and rigging around a piano bar. Smokers tend to gather in the Schooner.
Alongside the bars are two restaurants. Chops Grill, a steakhouse with dark-paneled walls, serves steaks, chops and other grilled items. Nearby is Portofino, which has a fine Italian menu of pastas, baked lobster, saltimbocca and desserts such as tiramisu and the custard-like zabaglione. Both require reservations and carry a $20 surcharge per person.
The main dining areas include the Minstrel Dining Room, which has two decks with tables and a marvelous stairway entrance that descends beside a piano and waterfall. The Windjammer Cafe, perched high on Deck 11, has multiple serving stages -- a large salad bar, a deli-bar with sandwiches and soup, a carvery with a different choice each day, and a station that serves chicken teriyaki, pasta with chicken and, curiously enough, hot dogs. Besides the usual breakfast and lunch menus, there is open seating for dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Food and service have improved over the years on Royal Caribbean ships.
The trademark Viking Club Lounge, which wraps around the ship's funnel, is divided into two rooms, the Hollywood Odyssey and the Starquest Lounge, which offer late-night entertainment and a disco, as does the large Colony Club, with its Jakarta Lounge and Singapore Sling bar.
Just outside the Colony Club is Bombay Billiards, with two full-size billiard tables mounted on gyroscopes to keep them level at sea.
The top deck is the center of sports and fitness activities. It has a miniature golf course and a golf simulator, a climbing wall, two pools -- one outside with whirlpools and fountains, and the Solarium pool, which has a retractable dome and is dominated by huge stone elephants, waterfalls and lots of lounges.
Multiple treadmills, exercise bikes and other fitness machines surround an open space where aerobics and yoga classes are held. The Shipshape Lounge has a beauty salon and offers spa treatments from massages to thermal baths and wraps.
For kids, there is Adventure Ocean, a program divided by age groups, each with its own area. Group baby-sitting is offered nightly for a fee to children in the Adventure Ocean program, who must be toilet-trained and at least 3 years old. Teenagers have their own lounge, Optix, with disco, soda bar and computer stations. The kiddie pool, decorated with vivid cutouts of fish, can be a respite for adults.
Among the ship's best features are the 512-square-foot Royal Family suites with private balconies, two bedrooms and two baths for $870 per person per day; they can sleep up to eight. The 1,001-square-foot top-of-the-line Royal, with a piano in the living room, goes for $1,209 per person per day. A 170-square-foot ocean-view outside cabin with balcony can average $144 per person per day. All cabins have an early-booking discount.
The Brilliance of the Seas will be sailing 12-night Mediterranean and Greek Islands cruises this summer. For brochures and more information call a travel agent or contact Royal Caribbean at (800) 327-6700 or www.royalcaribbean.com.
Harry Basch travels as a guest of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears twice a month.