Tampa, Florida dawned bright and sunny the day I boarded Brilliance Of The Seas for the 2018 Singing At Sea cruise. Though it felt strange to be wearing a sleeveless blouse in February, it felt rather good to be somewhere hot. (When I left home that week, it was 15 degrees.) I’ve been a big fan of the shuttle bus Templeton Tours offers at their host hotels as a way to get from the hotel to the ship, and this year was no different. My luggage was outside my door at nine o’clock in the morning, the bus left at ten and just after one o’clock in the afternoon, I was on the ship.
If you’ve been on a cruise or two, you know that accessibility to your stateroom won’t be open until 1:30 pm. This year, that worked out for us perfectly. We happened to board the ship just after one o’clock and figured if we waited about twenty minutes, we could merge into the line for the elevators and make it to our room at the right time to drop our carry-on luggage so we could grab lunch up on deck, luggage free. The plan worked flawlessly. In no time, we were walking into the Windjammer (the ships buffet restaurant) and scouting out a place to sit and eat. Because it was prime time for getting on the ship, the Windjammer was busy, but we still managed to find a table inside and grab lunch.
After the lifeboat drill, we made our way to the pool deck for the “Sail Away Concert” with Brian Free & Assurance. The concert was a 30 minute set of BFA’s new songs like “The Voice of Jesus” and signature songs such as “Praying Man,” “Tell It Like It Was,” “Long As I Got King Jesus” and many more. For the concert you had the option of sitting in a lounge chair on deck, walking around or standing at the rail and enjoying the view while the ship left port. It was a beautiful afternoon…the sun was shining, the Tampa skyline was a picturesque backdrop and the atmosphere onboard was stimulating. A peek over the rail showed us that our ship, Brilliance of the Seas, was following the Carnival Paradise out of the channel and people were lined up everywhere watching the scenery pass by. When the concert ended, I wandered to the front of the ship and enjoyed the view until it was time to go to first seating in the dining room.
The Minstrel Dining Room is located on decks four and five. The beautiful restaurant features a grand staircase which encloses a waterfall over royal blue tile in the center, a mosaic at the end of the dining room that spans from the floor of the fourth deck to the ceiling of the fifth and has a lot of natural light from the windows. Our table was on the lower deck and we had two great waiters for the week. Because cruise ships rarely change their menus, I do my best to try different dishes every year. For Monday night, I ordered the Watermelon and Raspberry Soup for a starter and the Steak and Spinach Salad for my main course. Cold soups on Royal Caribbean (RC) have a consistency that reminds me of a thin fruit smoothie. (I always prefered RC’s cold soups to Carnivals, which are more creamy.) The Steak and Spinach Salad was quite enjoyable as well. It was a light entree, which worked great for me because I wasn’t very hungry that evening. For dessert, I think our whole table ordered the Carrot Cake, which was delicious! You can’t compete with cream cheese icing!
The rest of the evening I spent connecting with friends who were also on the cruise and walking around the ship to learn what theaters were on which decks. It ended up being pretty simple…with the exception of the pool stage, they’re all on deck six! We also saw the Mark Trammell Quartet in the Colony Club at 9:30 pm and then we turned in for the night. The next day we would come to port in Key West, and needless to say, I was a little excited about that!