Thursday, July 14, 2016

Barcelona: Excursion to Monserrat

On the last day of our trip we planned an excursion to Monserrat, a monastery high up in the mountains.
We met our tour guide at the travel agency and we all boarded a bus for a 30 minute drive up to a train station and we took a cog wheel train for the rest of the journey up the mountain.
When we arrived at the monastery our guide explained the history of the site and then we went into the basilica.
A lovely place and still s place of pilgrimage for the locals.

The monastery is built on the side of this fantastic mountain. The rock formations are amazing. 

After a stroll around using our free time we joined our group again on the bus for the trip back to Barcelona.

Another long day and 13.2 km walked!

Later that evening we went to get dinner at an Italian place before turning in for the night. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

End of cruise :(

After two days at sea and me having the flu, it was time to leave Brilliance of the Seas today. We got off the ship and found our luggage without any hassles. 
We then waited for our transfer to our hotel, Avenida Palace.
So no we are going to do some shopping before having lunch and then we have a tour to Monserrat this afternoon. 
Tomorrow we fly back to Australia.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kotor, Montenegro

Today we are going to Montenegro to our next stop, Kotor.
To arrive here we have had to sail through a narrow fjord passing little mountainside towns as we go, really pretty sight.
This is where your own balcony pays for itself. Sitting out here contemplating life as we view the marvellous scenery ....whoever knew these places existed. So many places in the world to see ....just are some photos of the sail up to Kotor....

And here we are: 

Kotor is a tender port so passengers go ashore using ship's tenders and today there are also some local boats assisting with taking passengers ashore.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Port of Ravenna - Excursion to Maranello - Ferrari Museum

Seeing as Trevor loves his formula one racing we thought that a visit to the Ferrari museum was not to be missed.
We set off from the port at around 8.30 and had nearly a 2 hour drive by bus to Maranello.
We had a guided tour of the museum and then some free time before heading off again back to the ship.

A good experience.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Venezia (Venice) - shuttles and other transport from the ship into the centre of Venice

The ship docks somewhat outside of central Venice but still on the island so it's important to know your options to go into the city from the ship of you are not taking an organised excursion.
When you get off the ship, it's just a few minutes walk out to a range of transport options:

RCI shuttle
This service is organised by the cruise line and cost $25 pp per day for as many trips as you like. We bought tickets from the shore excursion desk but you can also buy them ashore. Best to check before getting off though. It's a large motor boat.
It's the blue and white boat you can see in front of the red building.

Venetian public transport - the 'vaporetto'
You will see a boat stop where you can take this service. Not sure if you can buy tickets on board but would assume so and would be very economical.
Here is one showing the boat stop

City Sightseeing Hop on hop off boat
Yes that's right, there is a Venice equivalent of the big red bus we take in other cities...except it's a boat. It also stops at the port so this would be a great way to get to all the main attractions.

Cruise review - half way mark - Brilliance of the Seas

Here we are just over half way through the cruise on Brilliance of the Seas.
As I sit here writing this on our balcony overlooking the city of Venice I am reminded how fortunate we are to be able to travel the world and see beautiful places like this.
Brilliance of the Seas is a Radiance class ship so it is familiar to us having sailed on Radiance of the Seas many times before.
From the moment we got on the ship it was like coming home.... We knew what to expect from RCI and it has been just as expected, no major surprises or changes we were not aware of.
Our grand suite has been a great base for this trip, the size is ideal and well worth the extra $$ in our view. Our stateroom attendant, Johann, has been very good and attentive. 

The ship is well appointed and still looks great regardless of its age.
We chose my time dining and this has worked well for us again on this trip.
Our table servers have been great and we always find something we like on the menu. No cold food here....not sure what people's complaints were about!
We have also dined at Chops Grille a few times. It was ok but not worth the $35 per head they now charge. The menu is reduced and really doesn't offer much variety. 
The Windjammer buffet has been ok for lunch.
We have had our breakfast each day in either the Concierge lounge or the Diamond lounge which serves a continental breakfast each day and we enjoy the cappuccino machine there also. It's a nice quiet way to have breakfast away from the chaos of the Windjammer also with a great view.
We understand suite guests also have the option on this ship to have breakfast in Chops Grille from the a la carte menu but we haven't tried that yet, maybe On the next sea day....
Shore excursions have all been good and reliable which is why we pay the extra money for these when we don't know the places we are visiting. 
Overall everything has been really good so far.....I will do a final review when we finish the cruise. 

Venezia (Venice) - Visit to Murano Island

The day before our arrival in Venice we received a special invitation from Royal Caribbean International to participate in an excursion to Murano. The excursion was complimentary and for a small group of 10 VIPs.
Whilst we were astonished we were VIPs, we called the Excursion manager and confirmed our places!!
We arrived in Venice at around 2.30pm so we met the excursion manager at 3.00 pm for our departure on a private motor boat to Murano.
Here is a photo of Michael and myself on the boat.
I was concerned about going on the boat  due to motion sickness but given this was an opportunity not to miss, I took my tablets and hoped for the best!
The ride to Murano took around 25 minutes and the boat was fast and not for the faint hearted!!
We arrived in Murano to be greeted by the director of a glass making factory and showroom. 

We had a private demonstration of glass making by the Master of the factory. It was very interesting to hear about how they make their beautiful pieces which are known all over the world. 

We were then given a private tour of their showroom where they hold their very expensive pieces. I wish I could show you some photos of these but they were not allowed. Intricate chandeliers and other huge pieces that were unbelievable. 
Whilst I am sure the purpose of this tour was to sell us some of these, it was well worth the visit.
We bought an item to have as a family heirloom and they are shipping it home for us. It was expensive but will be a nice addition to our home. Given that we had bought it, we were allowed to photograph it, here it's an aquarium. It is all made of glass including each fish inside! It's amazing to see in different light, the photo doesn't do it justice:
Then we went to their retail store and bought a few more gifts and souvenirs. 

After this we were met again by our boat driver Fabio who then dropped us off at Piazza San Marco where we wandered around and took some photos. 

The bridge of sighs

Afterwards we wandered around to find somewhere to have dinner, we found a place along the grand canal not far from the square, probably expensive given its location but hey....we are in Venice and when do we get the chance to have dinner along the grand canal??
Michael had calamari fritti and we both had pizza. €74 ....most expensive we have had yet....

After a bit of souvenir shopping we caught the ship organised shuttle boat back to the ship. 
Another big afternoon and a good exercise day, 12.6km walked!!