The brilliance of fly-cruises
Our cruise specialist Roger Mallock recently enjoyed a voyage on Royal Caribbean who operate a wide- reaching fly-cruise programme within Europe and worldwide.
Our mini cruise onboard 'Brilliance of the Seas' set sail from Barcelona, Europe’s second busiest cruise port, visiting just the two ports of call Ibiza and Sete, near Marseille in the South of France.
Fly-cruises are the perfect way to reach the sun quickly, ideal if time is limited. They also offer the opportunity to add some nights before or after the cruise which means you get the best of both worlds with time to experience the local culture on land and at sea.
The flight - should I pre-book my seat?
The first point to mention is the flights which were with Easyjet from London Gatwick. It is widely known that most guests with Easyjet tickets do not pre-book their seats (usually at an extra cost of just under £20 per person, which also includes Speedy Boarding). Travellers are allowed to take just the one bag as hand luggage otherwise the luggage will need to be checked in.
If you pre-book your seats (which gives you speedy boarding), you can take a further bag in the cabin, and this way you will also be among the first onto the plane. The legroom seats also offer greater comfort on the flight, especially if the flight gets delayed and you are stuck on the runway!
As we had hand luggage only, we were directed straight to the departure area and were the first to board at the gate. This also means that at the end of the holiday you can cut out the lengthy queues for hold baggage.
On arrival to Barcelona airport, El Prat de Llobregat, the transfer time to the port was around half an hour by taxi (traffic permitting) and a distance of 15 kilometres. There is a set price each way when using the official taxis. More cost effective is the option to pre-book the transfers as part of your holiday booking.
We joined Brilliance of the Seas at the port, and after an efficient check in and boarding process, were shown to our tastefully furnished Balcony cabin on deck 7. A perfect location on the ship, with reception, the Main Dining Room and the public areas just a few decks below, and the buffet restaurant, Solarium, pools and open decks just a few decks up.
Top Tip: It is always worth trying to book a stateroom with cabins both on the deck above and below. Otherwise it is possible that music from bars or restaurant tables being moved could disturb your peace and quiet. A midship location is also the way to minimise the effects of ship motion when at sea.
Brilliance of the Seas is one of four Royal Caribbean Radiance class ships, with a passenger capacity of 2,100 guests, mid size in relation to the cruise market today where the most recent cruise ship launch has a whopping figure of more than 5,000 guests.
The size of the ship makes getting around the vessel very easy, and there is a remarkable amount of space on the ship overall. Many bars, restaurants, and general shops are at the guest’s disposal.
For guests in a balcony stateroom, there is the opportunity to enjoy some added open air privacy as you sail into or away from port without the need to join the masses on the open decks.
Onboard the ship all charges will be assigned to your room card received when you board and the currency on this ship is the US Dollar.
One of the reasons cruises are so popular is the quality of cuisine, and the Speciality Dining onboard the ship reflects this. Whilst the fare paid includes the buffet Windjammer Cafe and Main Dining Room, the Speciality Dining options offer some of the finest dining experiences at sea.Two signature dining experiences with Royal Caribbean include Giovannis, Fine Italian Tuscany influenced dining and Chops Grille where you can enjoy the finest cooked hearty steaks and seafood. Rita Cantinas offers good value a la carte pricing with a Mexican ambience and menu, and for lovers of Asian cuisine, the a la carte priced Izumi on deck 12 is the place to go.
Speciality Dining restaurants often come with a cover charge where the dining is all about the experience and is perfect for those special occasions and celebrations too, this will vary from $20 US dollars per person, up to $85 per person for the most intimate dining experience onboard the Chefs Table. This is a private dining room for just 16 guests where diners enjoy a five-course wine pairing dinner, hosted by an Executive Chef and Sommelier to help you select the best wines.
Gratuities, unless prepaid are added to the final onboard account, depending on the category of stateroom where Suites will attract a higher daily amount. The Mytime/flexible Dining option of dining is only available where the gratuities have been prepaid. Guests will otherwise need to select early or late dining, where they will sit at the same table and with the same people for their evening dining.
Our mini cruise offered a variety of excursions in Ibiza, a favourite Balearic island and Sete, often known as the Venice of Languedoc, due to its stunning canals. Whether your choice was to explore the island’s Spanish culture, visit the capital or relax on the best beaches there are excursions to suit all travellers.
It is well worth knowing that if you choose to go off the ship independently, you will be able to return to the ship for lunch and then to disembark once again if you choose.
Top tip: Alcoholic drinks purchased off the ship cannot be consumed whilst on board and will be handed to you at the end of the cruise. You can however bring onboard as much soft drink including water as you wish.
Guests have the option onboard either to purchase a drinks package, also done beforehand as part of the booking, or to pay their way as they go. It should be noted that an 18 percent service charge will be applied on all drinks so the drinks package which includes this can prove very worthwhile. If the prepaid drinks package is taken, all guests in the same cabin must have it too.
Why take a fly-cruise?
The ship offers so much to do both by day and by night, and with Royal Caribbean the family options, activities and holiday options are second to none. The evening shows and performances are of the highest Broadway quality and are always very well received.
The choice of cruise durations on offer make these very attractive, as they range from mini cruises, from 7, 10, 11 or 14 nights.
You can make maximum use of your holiday time by boarding in the Mediterranean and meet guests from across the world.
The price of fly-cruises can be very competitive as the choice is vast. In contrast, the no-fly cruises will tend to fill rapidly given the convenience of joining from a home port. So special prices, especially in the peak season, may be more difficult to come by.
The value of a cruise cannot be overstated when you consider everything that is included in the price. Quality accommodation, fine dining, day and night activities, swimming and water activities. Not to mention the opportunity to travel from port to port and country to country in a safe and secure manner.
This also extends to excursions where the fact that group tours are offered is very reassuring to many guests who prefer to travel in numbers.
Royal Caribbean offer a wide selection of staterooms from Inside cabins all the way up to the top suites. It is worth considering how long you will spend in the cabin and comparing the respective value across the board. Family suites are naturally very popular.
The quality of service onboard Royal Caribbean ships is of a very high standard. As a guest onboard the ship, we felt we had been looked after with VIP service throughout and left feeling thoroughly relaxed with wonderful memories.
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To talk to Roger and his team about fly-cruises or for a quote, call us on 01243 213213.