Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas has cut short its current South Pacific sailing and limped back into Sydney with propulsion issues.

The cruise was cut in half five days after departure, according to one passenger post on the Facebook page Royal Caribbean Australian Cruisers. The ship is expected to head to Newcastle to see if the repairs can be made on what is believed to be a faulty Azipod propulsion system.

Brilliance, which debuted in Australia last year, departed from Sydney on March 19. It had an 11-night South Pacific itinerary of five ports of call throughout New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

The ship arrived at a scheduled stop in Lifou Isle, New Caledonia on March 22, but was 90 minutes late due to the technical issue, with the ship sailing at a much slower speeds than normal.

The passenger said their stop at Lifou was for just a few hours. Crew members tried to fix the propulsion issue while docked in Fiji, but they did not succeed. 

Brilliance heads into Newcastle for repairs. Photo: Royal Caribbean Australian Cruisers, Dylan Steel
Brilliance arrives at the Port of Newcastle for repairs. Photo: Royal Caribbean Australian Cruisers, Dylan Steel

Ports of call cancelled

Passengers were then informed port calls to Noumea, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, which included Mystery Island, Port Vila and Luganville, would be cancelled.

Brilliance of the Seas was scheduled to arrive back in Sydney, Australia on March 30. But the 11-night sailing was cut short to seven nights with only one port stop. The ship arrived in Sydney at 8pm on March 26. 

“We’re currently on Brilliance, limping back to Sydney at 12 knots…” posted one passenger. “And enjoying the bar service. No point complaining about things you have no control over.”

Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas is escorted back into Sydney by tugs after experiencing propulsion issues.
Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas limps back into Sydney with propulsion issues.

Said another after it arrived at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney: “Disappointing, yes, but most of us managed to enjoy ourselves despite it all. The staff onboard were incredible, and looked after us all very well.”

Royal Caribbean International released a statement saying Brilliance of the Seas had developed a technical issue resulting in the ship being required to sail at a slower speed. 

“As a result, Brilliance will not make its scheduled itinerary calls to New Caledonia and Vanuatu and will arrive back in Sydney on Tuesday 26th March. The following cruise set to depart on Saturday 30th March has been cancelled. Guests will be contacted directly with compensation information due to this change. The safety of Royal Caribbean’s guests and crew remains paramount.” 

Brilliance of the Seas Pool Deck
Brilliance of the Seas passengers had seven days at sea after the itinerary change.

Royal Caribbean offer 50% refund

In a letter to Brilliance passengers, Royal Caribbean explained the maintenance issue and said compensation would be provided.

“As the captain previously shared, Brilliance of the Seas is experiencing a technical issue resulting in the ship being required to sail at a much slower speed. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to make our scheduled calls for the remainder of our sailing. Please note, our ship remains seaworthy and safe as we have redundancies in place to keep us sailing,” the letter stated.

Passengers have been promised a 50% refund, but some are not happy.

“50% refund is not acceptable,” said one. “We have not received 50% of what we paid for. Had I wanted a cruise with basically sea days it would not have been this one with many thousands of dollars spent.

“We will be requesting a full refund. When we booked this cruise it was specifically for isle of pine and Mare. The itinerary changed 5 days after booking. Dropped 2 ports and gained 1. Now we got 2 hours in Lifou and 7 sea days.” 

Passengers have been advised to email [email protected]

“We want a full refund,” the passenger continued. “If everyone emails and requests the same we might have some fighting power.”

Tasmania itinerary cancelled

Royal Caribbean has also cancelled Brilliance of the Seas’ 5-night itinerary to Tasmania on March 30. Guests were notified of the cancelled cruise today, March 23, in an email sent from Royal Caribbean. Despite the early return, passengers were asked to debark in Sydney. Unplanned maintenance is now required with the ship expected to head to Newcastle. 

A five-day cruise to Tasmania on March 30 has been cancelled as the ship will undergo repairs, the publication reported. Guests booked on that cruise will receive a full refund. They also get a 50% future cruise credit toward any future sailing, departing within one year. Guests will be reimbursed for nonrefundable, prepurchased travel fees, including flights, hotel, train tickets or car rentals up to $250 per guest for domestic changes and up to $400 per guest for international changes.

Where to from here?

Brilliance is at the tail end of its Australia season. It will reposition to Honolulu on April 12 before making its way to Vancouver in May to sail Alaska itineraries.

According to the Royal Caribbean Blog, Brilliance of the Seas is not the first Radiance class ship to have propulsion issues. Sister-ship Radiance of the Seas had ongoing propulsion issues in September last year. Radiance had two Alaskan itineraries cancelled because of technical issues with the ship’s propulsion. 

Guests had already boarded the ship for their scheduled itinerary on September 1, 2023 when they were told the sailing would be cancelled because repairs were needed.

Both ships were built in the early 2000s.

Last updated 9am, Thursday.

An Azipod propulsion system is mounted to Odyssey of the Seas. Picture: Royal Caribbean Blog