The RCI Breakdown:
Let me begin by saying that we are first time cruisers and I have a mixed review that I hope you will take the time to read thoroughly through.
My finance and I have never experienced a cruise and after a month of reading reviews and getting input from friends and family we finally decided to take a Western Royal Caribbean for our Honeymoon. We were married March 1 and scheduled to board on March 3rd. All my wife could keep telling me was about how beautiful Cozumel and Costa Maya Mexico are, and that's all I could think about from the day we married until the day we boarded the Jewel. With that being said here is my break down of our first cruise experience.
We boarded around 1:30pm on March 3rd and our first objective was to get to our Stateroom and get our carry on luggage put away. Upon arrival some of our luggage was already waiting for us, so we quickly put away what we could and took advantage of walking around the ship since we still had a few hours before departing Tampa. Being avidcoffee drinkers we thought it would be nice to get some java and explore the Jewel. So we proceeded to start at the AFT part of the ship and work our way forward, surprisingly every restaurant and coffee machine we saw was closed, now being first time cruisers we didn't know the difference so we continued on exploring. The Jewel was beyond our expectations for a cruise ship we were in astounded by the beauty and architecture we seen â€“ it was truly a fabulous ship and I envisioned a fantastic honeymoon a few hours away from beginning.
With no luck on the coffee we continued to walk in hopes of finding some kind of refreshment or open restaurant, and as we got closer to the center of the ship on Deck 12 we heard music so we worked our way in the same direction figuring something would be open. Upon arrival at the main pool my hopes of a romantic honeymoon crashed and burned. The complete pool deck was filled with 21 year old college students at which time half or better percentage of them were already hammered from drinking and here it is only 2:30 in the afternoon, looking around we seen all the sun bathing lounge chairs â€“ pools and hot tubs were completely taken over by college students who at this point could careless who else was on the ship. It was their world and nothing was going to stop them. Now for the record I am not opposed to anyone of legal age having a good time, however there are still rules of engagement and clearly these young adults were far from understanding the words "Respect and Courtesy" and being drunk was all they cared about.
Emergency Evacuation 4:15 March 3rd At 4:15 The Captain called for the must have emergency evacuation drill. Being first time cruisers we were very interested in understanding the process. We arrive at E16 our evacuation center and along with us were half the drunken college students talking and yelling above the crew and the PA system completely ignoring the safety protocols that were being announced. Also during the evacuation drill it was brought to our attention that a group of College students were kicked off the ship and 4 were arrested stemming from obnoxious behavior to other passengers and smuggling drugs through customs. This delayed us from leaving until almost 5-5:30pm. Again, the only unfortunate issue here is that none of the RCI personnel stepped up to control the unruly crowd.
Food: Being that the culinary staff has to feed 2,000 plus people from several different ethnic back rounds I feel they did an adequate job with the food â€“ but not necessarily superb. It was your basic buffet style food â€“ we did go to one formal dinner but nothing wowed us to go to any others so we mainly ate at the buffet.
Eat when you want? â€“ No such thing on this cruise â€“ All the main restaurants closed at 11pm and you were left with Pizza and maybe some nacho chips â€“ and the worst part was, it was only available at one location at the bow of the ship which made it even more difficult to fight the crowds, and if you wanted a Soda â€“ good luck finding it after 11pm. However, you can opt for room service with a little more on the menu however one and half hours waiting wasn't worth the extra money you had to pay.
Entertainment The entertainment at the Center of the ship was absolutely fantastic â€“ it was where most of the older generation couples were hanging out because the pool areas and lounges were being overrun by the college students, but as soon we thought we found a nice quiet area where we could talk and enjoy a late night drink while listening to some very good live music â€“ while dressed in our casual evening clothes here comes the College kids staggering across the dance floor in their swim suits / no shirts or shoes to one of the bars.
The Motown show featuring the Horizons was beyond Fantastic â€“ Kudos to Royal for having them on board.
The 70's Dance Party that was held on deck 4 inside was Excellent â€“ However it slowly crashed and burned when (Yep) the drunk college kids got into the party wearing their bathing suits, screaming hollering and using profanity.
Excursions All canceled due to inclement weather â€“ The cruise line did absolutely nothing to try and compensate with on board activates and or offer other excursion options.
Service Service from the wait staff was good â€“ but again not superb as I thought I would suspect or read from other reviews â€“ again I contribute this too the college crowd and their lack of respect for others, It almost felt like the crew was intimidated by the actions of this young crowd and preferred to let them just do what they want so they wouldn't have to deal with the insubordination or derogatory remarks.
State Room Our Stateroom 9636 was fantastic with a nice balcony and view located in a pretty decent part of the ship where walking to the stairs or elevators was very convenient. Final Day of Cruise: My wife and I inquired with the some of the crew about purchasing some wine so we can go back to our stateroom for a last cruise evening toast â€“ we were told that if we purchased a bottle at the Ship store we would be able to take it with us because it was the final night of the cruise â€“ However after our purchase we were informed that because there was so many college students on the cruise the Ships staff was suspending any liquor purchase back to the rooms and we would have to wait until morning to pick it up. Another amenity taken because of the college gathering, with that we assumed we could just go buy a drink and take it back to the room however upon arriving on the main pool deck â€“ everything was closed early, so that the college crowd didn't get out of hand partying all night and ensuring they got off the ship on time the next morning. How sad it is that the responsible passengers suffered for the inadequacies of these younger persons.
Over all our first cruise experience was dreadful â€“ I expected a lot more interaction from the RCI staff and security to ensure everyone on the ship had a pleasant experience â€“ I felt as if this cruise was geared strictly for Spring Break College Students and that we were simply the people that filled the empty cabins â€“ I completely understand that this was bad timing for weather and spring break activates â€“ but it was extremely unfortunate that RCI wasn't more involved with security and managing the unruly â€“ disrespectful younger generation.
Overall a very fun trip. Service, food and entertainment up to par with other cruises I have taken with RCL. Embarkation was quick and took about 20 minutes from the cab to the cabin. (I arrived at the pier just after 1:00). I was upgraded from a D1 balcony to a Junior Suite (Cabin 1596). The JS was clean, well appointed with lots of closet space for clothes and electronics. My wife loved having the bathtub. Great service from the cabin steward and wait staff. The head waiter was at our table every night, which was the first time that has happened to me on a cruise. I was impressed by the friendliness and service attitude of all the staff, even when passing maintenance staff in the hallways. The seas days always had activities, and the ports (aside from Columbia) were great. The weather (out of control of the cruiseline) was sunny and warm every single day. Getting off the ship was easy (although too early for me).
Itinerary Day 0: Arrived in Miami a day before, stayed at the Holiday Inn downtown Miami. Old hotel, but close to the pierand the market. Day 1: Leaving Miami. Usual assembly drill, to the bar for a pre-dinner drink and then dinner. Day 2: At Sea. Relaxing day by the pool. First formal night. Day 3: At Sea. Another relaxing day by the pool. Day 4: Aruba. Walked on our own, did some shopping, stopped for drinks at Senor Frogs. Day 5: Columbia. Stayed on the ship. All tablemates regretted getting off at this port (even on RCL organized shore excursions). Day 6: At Sea. Day 7: Panama Canal cruising. Day 8: Costa Rica. Did a private tour. Murder Mystery at Portafino's. Day 9: At Sea. Got to do a bridge tour. Second formal night. Day 10: Grand Cayman. Day 11: Last day at sea. Day 12: Leaving the ship. One last day in Miami before coming home.
The Good Murder Mystery Dinner Staff Three smoke-free nights in the Casino The ship itself Lots of deck chairs in the sun The length of the cruise
The Not So Good Older crowd (the disco was empty at 11:30 on some nights). Theme nights not as good as on other cruises Columbia port of call
Tips Except after the evening show in the Coral theatre, the forward elevators are never busy. If you can, use those. The Centrum elevators were always busy and crowded.
Unless you like adventure, stay on the ship in Columbia (based on the feedback I got from all our tablemates who took RCL shore excursions).
If you are already booked on a RCI cruise, or if you are an ardent fan of RCI, you may not want to read this review. If you do and disagree or think it will spoil something, I have warned you.
It is long.
First cruise on RCI, 20 something total cruises.
I will not talk about the ports visited, only the ship. It is a cruise review, not a port review.
Sat. Oct. 11, 2008. Jewel Of The Seas, Boston to Canada.
Parked in Port Of Boston parking garage. Sign said $27.00 per DAY. However upon leaving the garage, the fee was $15 a day. Whew.
11:30 arrived at check-in. No wait, took 10 minutes only because the woman who checked us in was training a new person. Thru security and on board by 11:45. Rooms not ready until 1pm, so off to the Windjammer for lunch. Food OK, quality comparable to that of a buffet at a medium priced Las Vegas hotel.
1pm, to the room. The cabin steward was still working on his section of cabins, and ours had not been vacuumed yet. I know this because of the toenail clippingsleft on the floor. This seemed really unusual when Reuben, the cabin steward, told me that the cabin was vacant on the previous cruise. If they don't use it, they don't clean it? Strange.
After dropping off the carry-on luggage, time to explore the ship. Long level corridors in the cabin areas unlike the cruise ships of the past when the corridors had a noticeable sway to them.
The cabin was the generic cabin of today, with a nice window. The bed turned out to be so-so as to comfort, and was two twins pushed together to make a queen.
The ship is a handsome vessel and its fairly easy to navigate about it. Muster drill went off fairly quickly, and it appeared that the people who are always real late for these things or don't think they have to participate, were not on this cruise.
Dining Well, we tried the 'My Time Dining', and can say we tried it and didn't care for it. Turns out you can only make your reservation for dinner between 9-10am, and 4-5 pm. And nowhere did I see anything about how to make that reservation, so it was a phone call to the operator to get a number to call, and after a bit of a wait, she found the number. Then of course, if you don't have dinner close to the traditional early or late seating, you will not see the scheduled evening show. Very few people were doing the MTD deal as it was were using only a small portion of the upstairs of the dining room.
The wait staff was inconsistent in their service, and the first night's dining experience was underwhelming to say the least. Took forever to get anyone to stop by after being seated, and then it was the headwaiter who came and filled the water glasses. Waiter and assistant waiter were friendly, but sloooow. Different set last three meals and they had a terrible time the last night with the orders at our table for six with two meals totally messed up.
Breakfast was taken in the Windjammer. Same items everyday, but enough selection to be interesting. Tend to eat the same thing for breakfast anyway, so it was OK. actually the best meal of most days.
Lunch also taken in the Windjammer. Different cut of meat at the carving station each day, but most of the rest of the selections seemed to repeat day after day. Second best food of most days. Like I said, comparable to a mid-priced Vegas joint. Deserts a big letdown with an equal number of sugar-free and the kind I like (with sugar and calories), but not much taste (I know the Europeans have a different concept as to sweet than us Americans). Fruit also at the desert station.
Tried the Seaview Café for the fish & chips (two small pieces of fish, fries) OK but once was enough.
Dinner in the dining room was a huge disappointment. A step up from fine dining at Denny's, but I won't go much better than that. A basic three course offering, starter, main course, and dessert. The starter selection made no separation between an appetizer and a salad so it appeared most chose one or the other. Five choices for main course, one of which was a steak (the default entree) of strange flavor.
I have been on 20+ cruises and this is the first time that I have left the dining room hungry. Actually skipped the main course one night because I didn't like what I ordered at all, didn't see anything else I wanted, and could not face another of the steaks. I know times have changed, but from a meal of appetizer/soup, salad, (perhaps sherbet to prepare the palate) meat/fish, cheese, dessert, coffee/expresso/capachino, and mint/truffle to Applebee's on a tablecloth. Come on people.
Thursday sea day dinner was the best meal we had in the dining room, lobster & prime rib main course selections (took lobster as appetizer, prime rib as main). Not gourmet by any stretch but good.
Spent the extra twenty pp on Portifinos and was treated to excellent service and a fine meal. Impressed my bride and me the most of anything else on the ship. Just like the service you used to get in the dining room in days past. One tacky thing was the extra charge for the espresso and other dessert coffees (Seattle's Best), please don't ruin such a nice experience with ol' Mr. Greed.
Entertainment Didn't care for the cruise director at all, but again she was not our cup-of-tea as the Brits say. The cruise directors staff seemed to be really disorganized, late, and generally a mess, never seemed to really get it together. Not a whole lot to do as for activities, especially on the sea days, unless you were into spa stuff, or physical activities with the fit n' trim staff. (fee for spa/fitness) Oh, the odd trivia, bingo, art/jewelry sales and such, but this is the first time we were bored. Very small tacky prizes form trivia and game winners. So it was a lot of time at the bar. Very friendly bar/wait people at the Schooner bar. When they know your name after day 2, you are drinking way too much.
Movies in the theater are somewhat old. If you want first run flicks, they are available on pay-per-view TV. Don't want to miss out on revenue, now do we.
Saw a magician/dancer dude, a production show with the ships dancers/singers. Forgettable. Saw a comedian who was a funny guy. Missed the Tango dancers. Gymnast was good. The usual singers, who are from Poland and sing phonetically, not really understanding the song. Most of them fair. Same for the dance quartet, who were really a trio because the drummer missed the ship. Pianist/guitarist, miscellaneous music maker pleasant in the background throughout the public spaces.
Thirty-one dollars to play four games of bingo on Thursday. It was more the last game, I didn't go.
Of the activities listed in the daily to-do-list, several were a pay-per-do event (spa), and a lot were an outside physical-activity activity, and a few were telling us that so-and-so venues were not available for us common passengers to use. Sometimes I was bored, so the choice was nap or drink. Big bar bill.
Photos Boy do they take a lot of photographs of you. Leaving the ship in St. John, there were three photographers on the gangway/exit walkway, all within 50 feet of each other, all with different props, all clamoring to take our picture leaving the ship. Take my picture, break your camera. Better half actually bought several of the photos and they are pretty good.
Ever notice on a cruise ship that there are people whom you never see until the last day no matter how few passengers on a ship, then there are those who you see all the time no matter how many on board. Everyday, everywhere. Sandy and Gerry were those people for us. Saw them all the time.
Tendered into port one day, went off without a hitch.
I was amazed at how many people did not dress for formal nights. Amazed. Kudos for the crew when they stopped people from entering the area where the Captains reception was occurring who were not appropriately dressed.
Also was amazed at the amount of people who ate at the buffet every meal, never set foot in the dining room. Pardon me, but why cruise?
Peeve If you want to sell me a bottle of booze while I am on your ship, let me take it back to my cabin, and not 'hold it for me' until the last night of the cruise. Ah, can't let any opportunity to make a dime off of the passenger now can we.
One thing of note: If you are a soda drinker and don't want diet, say regular Coke, etc., cause if you don't, the default is diet. Same with beer, lite unless you speak up. Guess they think we are too fat. Well they are right, but I'm on vacation.
Went to the Meet & Mingle, met and mingled, won a nice prize in the drawing. Met some terrific folks there and got together several times during the cruise.
Gambling Tight slots. Blackjack gave me some. Saw someone selling pull-tab lottery tickets outside the showroom entrance, thought that was tacky. Then of course heard that someone won a grand from a pull-tab, so...
Tuesday sea day was dead calm waters and fog so thick I hoped the navigator had a knife to cut it with. Thursday sea day was windy and 6-8 foot swells. Ship rolled quite a bit.
Not too much brasswork on the ship, mostly stainless steel. Low maintenance, but not the same. The crew kept the ship very clean.
Fifty cents per minute internet access fee. 30 bucks per hour. Ouch.
Highs and Lows The ship was nice and the crew did their job very well. Chef not so much.
Took no ship's excursions.
The smoking areas on the ship were very smoky. How about NO SMOKING throughout the ship.
Disembarked using the express method. You carry all your bags and stuff off yourself and thus get to get off first. They said between 7 and 7:15 for express folks, actually was about 7:40 (glad for Indian summer because we waited outside), but then bam, and we were lurching down the sidewalk to the car.
Overall, 2 1/2 stars out of five. Will we return to RCI? Probably not, but I won't say don't go, only chose wisely. With the exception of the dining, not too much seriously awful, just to me there is that little something missing.
I know that many people who were on this cruise will have a totally different perspective of this adventure, this is mine.
We repeated the same cruise twice on September 27 and October 4 because we had taken a similar one several years ago and missed several ports due to two hurricanes. This time we thought we would see all the ports even if we missed some on the first or second cruise. Fortunately all went well and we saw every port twice. We still had two hurricanes come through the general area where the cruise went, but they passed to the east when we were still in the west. The captain did a great job of keeping us informed about the weather and any problems that might be caused by the hurricanes.
We spent two days in Boston before the cruise. The weather was horrible. They expected 3 inches of rain in Boston the day before the cruise and we think is all fell on us as we tried to walk the Freedom Trail. After 3 hours and being soaked to the skin, we gave it up and returned to the hotel for a hot shower and an afternoon nap. That was the best idea we had all day.
Embarkation The nextday we had breakfast at the hotel and took a taxi to the ship. When we arrived, the place was in total confusion. Somebody said to go in one door to register, but they told us there that we had to take our bags down the street to another door. My wife stayed at the registration table while I took the two large suitcases about 200 yards down the street to another door. I had to fight my way through crowds of people getting off busses and out of taxis and they all seemed to be going the other way. I finally was able to get the bags checked and returned to the other building. The registration process went quickly as soon as the clerk was able to find out how to handle back-to-back cruises. She had never had back-to-back guests before and had to get help from her supervisor. Even the supervisor was a little unsure about handling the registration. A few minutes later, we were on our way through the security line and onto the ship. Since it was only about noon when we got on board, the cabins were not yet ready so we went up to the Lido restaurant and had lunch. After lunch, we went to the Solarium pool area and relaxed until a few minutes before 1 PM. Then we sneaked down to our cabin and checked it out.
Cabin We had bought an outside cabin, but it was not as good as those that we have had in the past. RCCL is notorious for having small cabins and this was one of them. There was very little drawer space and very limited closet space. The bathroom had only one small area for storing our things and we were hardly able to get our stuff on the shelves. Fortunately, the safe was large enough to accommodate our valuables. We were happy to see there was a refrigerator. Not all RCCL ships seem to have them. The bed was against the window, requiring one to climb onto the bed to look outside. The cabin arrangement is just not as good as Carnival or Princess ships. The room attendant did an excellent job of caring for us and our cabin. She made up for the cabin deficiencies.
Food The food was better than a previous cruise we took on this same ship. However they seemed to serve the good stuff (prime rib and lobster) on the same nights and on some other nights nothing seemed that interesting. The service in the dining room was very good and the waiters did everything they could to keep their guests happy.
I ordered a sandwich one evening when we stayed in the cabin and it was soggy and stale. I did not order anything more from room service on either cruise.
We prefer to take all our meals in the main dining room. Unfortunately, the dining room was not open for lunch on the days we were in port. It was only open on the two sea days. Service during breakfast and lunch was extremely slow, but the assistant waiters were very attentive while we waited for the food to arrive.
Entertainment The production shows were very well done with some surprises that we had not seen on ships before. The comedians were also quite good. The magic show was OK.
Ports We did not take any shore excursions. I had done some Internet research and found that free hop on/hop off busses were available in Bar Harbor and Halifax. In Portland, Maine the all day bus costs $5.00 per person, but it was well worth it. The drivers were very nice and provided some interesting facts about their city as we rolled along.
The Island Explorer bus that runs from Bar Harbor into Acadia National Park was wonderful. We were too early to catch the right bus and had to wait about 1/2 hour for the next one, but had a very nice chat with one of the drivers who was waiting to get a ride to the bus yard to get her vehicle. She gave us some good advice about how to best see the park. Her suggestion was to get off the bus at a certain point just inside the park and walk a coastal trail for about two miles. She said we would be able to flag down the next bus or wait at the next scheduled stop for a ride. We took her advice and had a wonderful walk along the trail. The views were superb.
The bus in Halifax is called Fred and starts its loop of the city very near the cruise ship dock. It hits all the highlights of the city on each loop. The Citadel on top of a downtown hill is well worth a visit. Halifax also has a boardwalk along the water's edge that starts near the cruise ship dock. The cruise ship dock has an abundance of vendors selling locally made items.
St. John has a shopping mall that runs through upper stories of various downtown buildings starting near the water and ending several blocks up the hill at a market selling fresh produce and ethnic food items. It is an interesting walk through the various buildings including the St. John city hall. An interesting museum is in the same building where the market starts near the water.
Portland has an excellent art museum that is about a mile from the pier. The bus stops close by or you can stroll through the shopping area on you way to the museum. The Victoria Mansion is also worth a visit and the bus also stops just outside this building. There are a number of fish restaurants along the water's edge and in the downtown area.
We had hoped to see some fall colors, but were again too early. Each time we go to the east coast, we go a little later in the season, but have not yet been able to see an abundance of colors. I guess later in October would have been a better time for this trip.
We had a long wait at the airport in Boston. Our flight was not until 6:30 PM and it was almost an hour late. We were off the ship by a little after 8 AM, so we were at the airport for 10 hours or more. Fortunately they had some comfortable rocking chairs near the window where we were able to sit and watch the planes come and go.
This was our first time on Jewel of the Seas, although we have cruised on her sister ship Brilliance OTS. This also was our 30th cruise and I will say RCI is still one of our favorites. It was also the first time for my husband to have a handicapped room, which was so well laid out and everything was so handy for him, he didn't need my help most of the time. The bedroom was spacious and plenty of room for his scooter. Also plenty of closet and drawer space. The bathroom was huge, and the shower had 3 different ways the water could be used, a high shower head, spiket and a hand held shower spray. The fold down seat was perfect for him, and he is a big man. Toilet was higher and plenty of grab bars around the room. The beds, (we had them separated) were very comfortable, since they have put in new bedding and mattresses with toppers.
It was a nice easy cruise for us because we have been to these islands many times before so no tours -- just walking around the piersor towns. St Thomas is always a favorite, and we heard from our Cruise Critic friends that taking the water taxi to St John's Island and then going to Trunk Bay for swimming and snorkeling was great. They also recommended going to The Baths on Tortola. If you have never been to St Thomas, St Martin, Tortola, Puerto Rico, or Nassau, I would say try the ship's tours for the highlights of each island. It will give you a better taste of what is available to do and see while there and also good information for the next time you go! Come on, we all know once you cruise you will be back!
The service onboard was excellent, and we never wanted for a thing. Our waiter and asst. waiter, Jose' and Steven, were excellent, and remembered right from day one what we liked and not. Amazing how they can remember such little things, like not using pepper. The food was good, but not to our tastes at times, so we ate more beef than usual. Desserts was always delicious. We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer buffet. They had such a selection that we couldn't eat every variety of food available in 8 days. Their system and layout of the buffet is the best, comparing it to Celebrity, Princess, Costa, NCL, and Carnival -- in our personal opinion.
Embarkation and disembarking was made very easy for us and being Elite members on Celebrity, also makes us a Diamond member on RCI, with little added perks, like free gifts on certain evenings on retiring. Captain's parties are another added perk, with free beverages/drinks and tasty finger foods. When you have 10 cruises or more, you also are invited to use the Concierge Room, which is another great perk. Free continental breakfast in the mornings, free drinks and orderves in the evening before dinner. And, the Concierge hostess was available to book tours, specialty dinners, etc., for us as well.
The shows were good to great. Our favorite was seeing the Coasters singing their all time favorites, too many years ago for most of you to remember. The magician and juggler were good, but once was enough. The singers and dancers were good, but we thought some could have been a little better than what we are used to seeing. The costumes were outstanding. Clodaugh "Clo" is the Cruise Director, and she is by far the best we have ever seen. So personable and even remembered our names after meeting us once. We enjoy playing Trivia, and had a very fun filled time doing that with the activities staff, who were fun and friendly anytime you met up with them around the ship.
The ship is beautiful and laid out very well. The only thing we wish is that they had elevators in the rear of the ship. They do have 6 elevators in the middle and 4 elevators in the front and of course stairs in the 3 areas if you can do them. They are always cleaning and a little tip, they have the day of the week displayed in each elevator on the floor. So you will not be trying to guess what day it is!
I hope I have covered most of it, but if you want more information I will try to help. My email is email@example.com
San Juan St. Thomas St. Marteen Tortola Cruising Nassau
Overall this was one of our best cruises ever. This was our first time on RCCL and it will definitely NOT be the last. As far as we were concerned, they outdid Princess in every aspect with one minor exception. I still think Horizon Court has the best selection of buffet food but Windjammer was still very good. The service, cabin and beauty of the ship were amazing. The staff truly seemed to enjoy their jobs. We had the best waiter we have ever had on any cruise. His name is Walther and he is transferring to the Independence of the Seas in May, so watch for him. He is from Peru.
Dinners were probably the best food we have had on any of our previous cruises.
We stayed at the Renaissance in Fort Lauderdale on 17th street. We knew we liked this hotel as we have stayed there before. It is adequate, nice and clean and a good location. There is a Walgreens right across the street for any last minute items you might need. The hotel is going to undergo extensiverenovations starting in May 2008. Not sure what this would mean if you are staying there after May, but just know it sounded like there was going to be a lot of construction.
We boarded the gorgeous Jewel of the Seas at 12:00 on 2/9. We were not able to get into our cabin until 1:00. So we wandered to LatteTudes and loved their coffee. The gal that worked there was very friendly. The price of coffee included a nice pastry as well -- including cookies.
Our cabin (9576) was a bump out and had the largest balcony we have EVER had and the nicest balcony we have ever had. There was a huge overhang which provided great shelter from a bit of rain every now and then, but not too often -- typical tropical weather. Temps were in the upper 70s to 80s and nice breezes. I would book this cabin again anytime. It was also the quietest cabin we have ever had. It is amazing how close we were to the Centrum and heard nothing in our room. And some nights the music was pretty loud, but the cabins are totally soundproof. I did hear another toilet flush every now and then when it was quiet.
The casino was great, especially on the first night when I won $600 on the quarter slot machine after only putting in about $2.00. I kept it all and put none back. I bought a beautiful John Hardy bracelet with the money in St. Thomas. We had fun jewelry and watch shopping in St. Thomas.
St. Thomas and St. Marteen and Tortola are very clean and friendly. Nassau was friendly, but not so clean. We took the Discover Atlantis tour and thought it was very enjoyable. It was worth the $56 pp. You got great access to the aquarium. It did involve a lot of walking so if that is a problem for you, it might be tough. The only glitch was that it was a bit unorganized getting everyone onto ferries to get to the Island. It took about 45 minutes just to get organized and get everyone over to Atlantis. This is the only shore excursion we did on the cruise.
We did not attend the production shows but did see the Comedian and Juggler. Can't remember their names at the moment but they were HILARIOUS. The juggler was the best juggler I think I have ever seen. The illusionist Charles Bach was so-so in my opinion. The Coral Theater was great and there was plenty of room for everyone. There were separate showings for first and second seating.
This itinerary was great because we really had a total of 3 days at sea as we arrived in San Juan around 2:00 (I think) and Nassau around 12:00. It was most enjoyable. I have included a link to our pictures -- sometimes the site loads slowly. I took some pics of the extra large balcony but it was hard to get good angles. Our towel animals were wonderful as well.
There are no hand sanitizing machines anywhere, but I think that RCCL has realized that these are not effective in preventing noro so they urge everyone to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. There are signs in the restrooms regarding this. Since we had noro on the last cruise we were very conscious of this.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. If I think of anything else, I will add and respond to any questions.
Well, this was my first time ever to Europe and my first Transatlantic cruise. Even with the awful exchange rate due to the weak US dollar, I truly enjoyed my precruise stay in London. I flew on Virgin Atlantic from Chicago to London leaving 10/26 and arriving in London on 10/27. We arrived over an hour early at Heathrow, to find that there was no gate available for us. So we sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes til they found us a gate. It was the farthest one out on Terminal 3 (the terminal from hell at Heathrow.) We taxied to the gate only to find the jetway wouldn't work! After 15 minutes they told us we might have to exit the plane on a stairway, but then they got the jetway to work. So we actually got off the plane at about the time we originally were supposed to if we had been on time. Personally I think it was a plot on the part of BAA! LOL! Walked the millions of miles from the gate to Immigration, waited in line for 20 minutes and wasthrough without any problems. Friends of mine who were with me did this trip last year and said they waited over 2 hours on a Saturday morning to get through immigration, so we had it pretty easy. We then went out and meet our driver who took us to our hotel.
I stayed at the Hotel Russell in the Bloomsbury section of London. I think it was a perfectly great area to stay in. The Hotel Russell was built in the 1890's and is a massive Victorian building. The lobby and first floor area retain the feel of the Victorian era. The rooms have all been recently remodeled and upgraded. I had a single room -- the rate included breakfast. I had a twin bed (with a really nice mattress and a wonderfully light but warm duvet), a chair, a desk, a credenza and tv and a wardrobe. The room was the size of an balcony cabin on a cruise ship.....but the bathroom was not included in this area......there was a small hallway behind the wall where the head of my bed was and it entered into a large bathroom with all new fixtures and a walk in glass walled shower with a large shower head with great water pressure and a heated towel rack. The small room was worth the large bathroom! The hotel is also centrally located, less than a block from the Russell Square Station on the Piccadilly line and very close to shopping, and within only 2 blocks, and the West End theaters.
London is really a wonderful city....the sights and the history are awesome, but it is so expensive. I did the cheapest tours possible....the HOHO busses....hop on, hop off busses. Food was expensive, but if you find a Tesco store or a Tesco express you can get food and beverages for a decent price.
On the 30th we took taxis from the hotel to Waterloo Station to catch our train to Southampton. The train was modern and smooth and ontime........when they say they leave at 11:39.....they leave exactly at 11:39! Arrived in Southampton to catch a taxi to the pier...not a very long ride.....and dropped of our luggage and checked in to board the Jewel of the Seas.
The Jewel is a beautiful ship. I had an E3 balcony cabin on deck 7....nice size room with the usual small bathroom and shower and a nice balcony. Only problem with this cabin is that the balcony overlooks the covers for the lifeboats. So you could not look directly down into the water. Room Stewardess was Karthini (rhymnes with Martini) from the Philipines. She was wonderful. Every request was met promptly and the room was immaculate every day.
We were at table 510 in the Tides dining room -- the upper deck -- a table for 10 with 9 people at it. I want to thank Suzy, Curran, Kim, Jack, Carole, Victor, Karen and Don for being wonderful tablemates. Philip, we missed you! Maybe next time we do a TA you can join us! Our waiters were Ashvir and Mangesh, both from India. They were absolutely wonderful. Recommendations were spot on....we never had to wait for anything to be offered or refilled. Shashi was our cocktail water.......knew our drink preferences after the first night. Always prompt and service with a smile. Food was good.......some dishes were great, some were not so great. I was a bit disappointed with the dessert selection. Nothing was really outstanding.....not even the warm chocolate cake. But, we did not go hungry and none of us lost weight so it couldn't have been too bad. I did not go to either Chops or Portofinos this cruise. I also did not eat at the Windjammer very often for either breakfast or lunch. I usually went to Tides for breakfast or did room service. I never had lunch up at the WJ...but I did do late afternoon snacks a couple of times. I loved the pepperoni pizza from room service.....usually had that mid afternoon as my lunch after returning from an excursion or from some rousing trivia games.
My nightly stop for drinks pre and post dinner was the Schooner Bar......Gerardo and Pavmir were the bartenders there and they were wonderful....they make a mean martini!
I did not participate in alot of activites, but usually did the afternoon Name That Tune Trivia, General Trivia and the Evening Trivia in the Schooner Bar before dinner. The cruise staff was really great.....especially assistant CD's Brendan from the US and Lissandro from Argentina. They really engaged their audiences and made us laugh.....and not with the standard corny CD jokes. I also participated in a putt putt golf tournament with our CC group.....4 rounds on a rocking and rolling 9 hole golf course. Let's just say it was fun trying to put the ball with the movement of the ship and the wind. Tiger Woods I am not!
This was a 12 night cruise with only 3 port stops. Le Havre, France.....our CC group did a private excursion to the beaches of Normandy and a stop in Honfleur on the way back. In Normandy we went to Pointe du Hoc where the 101st Airborne took the cliffs from the Germans' Omaha Beach; The American Cemetery at Colleville (one of the most awe inspiring and spiritual places I have ever been) and then on to Arromanches which was one of the beaches the British forces took on D day. At Arromances you can see the remains of one of the two artifical harbors that were built by the Allies that were wiped out about 2 weeks after being built by a monster storm that hit the Normandy Coast. We then went on to Honfleur which was very pretty, but very expensive.
Next stop was La Coruna, Spain. Not really much here except a lighthouse from the Roman Era......3 of the 4 excursions offered by RCCL went to Santiago de Compestela to the cathederal there to see the remains of St. James - one of the apostles. Most passengers thought this stop could have been skipped.
The last stop before the 6 straight sea days was Funchal, Madeira. What a beautiful place! So lush and mountainous. I did the half day tour that stopped at Cabo Girao, the highest seacliff in Europe and the second highest in the world, and a couple of other places. Got a chance to sample some Madeiran wine and cheeses and a specialty bread. Next time I return to Madeira I want to do the whole island tour, not just this half day one. The people here are so friendly and warm. The weather is just perfect but prices are quite high. I could live here!
After 6 wonderful days at sea......5 of those days were 25 hour days as we slowly worked our way back to eastern standard time.......I just took it easy and relaxed. I have never come back from a cruise so refreshed and relaxed. I would only do westbound TA's because of the extra hours of sleep....you have 23 hour days doing eastbound TA's and I don't think I could handle that.
More westbound transatlantics are in my future for sure! I can handle the long flights over if I have those long relaxing days coming back.
This was my fourth cruise on RCCL out of 17....this cruise was one of my best despite the average food.....the friends I made from CC, the crew on board and the extra long days were wonderful.
I took my 30-year old and 15-year old daughters on the Jewel of the Seas for a 6-night Western Caribbean cruise. I had cruised once before on the Voyager, but this was my daughters' first time.
Boarding was extremely easy. From the minute you get to the port, everyone is friendly, accommodating and patient. I had read other reviews that indicated they boarded earlier than the stated boarding time, so I called RC to see if that was correct; however, they gave me the same boarding time as was printed on our itinerary. I think they do this because your room is not guaranteed to be ready if you board before the stated time. Our time was 2:00 but we boarded at 12:30 and some had said they were on as early as 11:00. Going early not only helps avoid the crowd, but it gives you that much more time on the ship!
The Ship was beautiful and very easy to get around on. I read other reviews that complained about the only elevators being centrally located, but we didn't find that to be an issue. The elevators can be verybusy and you may find it quicker at times to take the stairs. The main pool and the Adult pool in the Solarium are salt water. The Solarium is beautiful. It contains many plants and comfortable lounge chairs and with morning and night sounds playing over the speakers, it makes a wonderful place to relax. You must be 16 or older to be in the Solarium. We went through the children's area – looks like a lot of fun and we heard many passengers raving about the wonderful staff there. They have several computers available for email or surfing at 50 cents per minute; teenagers can use the computers in "The Fuel" (a club for teens only) for 25 cents per minute. The coffee bar was nice with prices similar to what we pay at home. I think my daughters would have enjoyed the shops on Voyager's Promenade more as there were more of them than on the Jewel. There is beautiful art work throughout the ship. We did not use the exercise facility but did use the jogging track which is okay in size (6 laps = 1 mile) but sometimes winds through deck chairs which is an inconvenience except for early morning.
The Stateroom was very comfortable. The king-size bed was very comfortable for my daughter and me – there was a fold out couch or a bunk for my other daughter and the attendant said the bunk would be more comfortable plus give us more room in the cabin. Despite the 3 of us sharing this room with all our "junk" for 6 nights, we were all quite comfortable and our attendant did a great job taking care of our room. We had a balcony which gave us more room as well. I think a balcony room is worth the money – not only does it make your room feel bigger, it's a wonderful place to relax in the evening, watch the sun rise in the morning, and watch the waves go by anytime. I watched dolphins racing alongside the ship on my first cruise!
Dining was excellent in every facility as was the service. Many reviews boasted the $20 charge was worth it for eating at Portofino's or Chops, and maybe it was but I felt The Tides had absolutely excellent cuisine. The Windjammer provided a great variety and all was very good. We had a burger and onion rings at the Sea View café and it was delicious!
The Shows were incredible! From comedians to Broadway shows to some dancers from Argentina that incorporated a lot of humor in their act – they were awesome and I was impressed that Royal provided such high caliber shows. The show schedules are very accommodating as well, but if you have to miss one, they are shown later on your stateroom television. The theatre is quite spacious and with the schedules, everyone could find seating. All the shows were entertaining and appropriate for my youngest daughter as well.
Activities - The staff does a great job coming up with activities for all ages and interests. Everything from Bridge lessons to cooking demonstrations! I participated in the long-drive contest and my girls took some hip-hop dance lessons to name a few! All the day's activities are listed on your Cruise Compass you receive each night – some of them are noted as "Ship Shape" activities which means if you participate, you get Ship Shape dollars that you can redeem for prizes at the end of the cruise. My youngest also received each night the activities planned for 15 to 17 year olds exclusively.
Excursions - I don't think Royal has a bad excursion. They have contracted with the best tours and their staffs can still make it fun even if the weather is bad! You can reserve an excursion on-line after making your reservations, you can book them through the excursion desk or you can, on some ships like the Jewel, book them on the TV in your room. Your excursion tickets are delivered to your room the night before and the process of getting to your excursion could not be easier. I would not do an excursion that was not through Royal – I know you pay a little more, but it's so easy and the companies work really hard to keep Royal and their guests happy. Don't forget to bring a beach bag! Some of the excursions ask you to bring a towel (which you can take off the ship). I didn't find this information anywhere but asked if I could go on an excursion as an observer and not a participant (i.e. I wanted to watch my daughters swim with the dolphins, but I didn't want to swim with them). There are "Observation Only" tickets you can purchase from the excursion desk. For example, the dolphin excursion was $139, but my observation ticket was $38.
The Ports - If I had to do it over again, I probably would not choose these ports – Cozumel and Costa Maya were the same and many of their excursions were similar. The ports were all pretty clean and well kept – we could not dock in Cozumel I believe because of hurricane damage. If you can get ports where you are docked versus tendered it's much nicer because it's easier and quicker to just walk off the ship versus having to board a tender boat, although they did make that process very smooth as well. There is shopping at all ports – we found it best in Grand Cayman although it was the most crowded. There is a person on the ship dedicated to helping you shop, although it's mostly for high price items such as diamonds – we asked her if there was a Ron Jons in any of these ports and she had no clue. At all these ports, everything is available – from shopping, to restaurants, bars, taxis, and excursions. In Grand Cayman, catch the bus to 7-mile beach for $2.50!
Disembarkation was almost as smooth as boarding although more crowded since everyone is leaving the ship at about the same time. Since we had a late flight out that day, we took advantage of an excursion in Ft. Lauderdale so we not only were escorted off the ship ahead of everyone, but the tour bus held our luggage all day and dropped us off at the airport so we didn't have to pay for a shuttle.
We had a great time -- feel free to email me with any questions and happy cruising!
My husband and I booked a winter cruise with JOS three weeks before the sail date as a break between job changes. We've sailed with RC once before on an April cruise to the Western Carribean. The Jewel was a beautiful ship, much bigger than the Rhapsody. We had a balcony for the first time and will never sail any other way-the views and privacy were well worth the price.
Since food is important on a cruise, I'll begin there. Food in the Windjammer was only so-so, as expected. The Seaview Cafe was excellent, and provided terrific views at sunset. Everything we ordered there was terrific-beautiful fruit plates, Ceasar salad with grouper, brownies. We usually went there for an afternoon snack after working out at the gym, since we had the late dinner seating at 8:30. Dinner in the Tides dining room was inconsistent. The lobster and shrimp were great and one night my husband had a chicken marsala and warm chocolate cake that were divine! However, sea bass and salmon on other nights were disappointing and tasted a bit off. We ate one night in Chops and Portofino each. Whata treat! The ambience was very romantic, we had a private booth in Chops and a table by the window in Portofino. The service was excellent and all of the courses were delicious. It was definitely worth the extra $20 in my opinion.
The weather was rainy and gray in Cozumel, so we did not go ashore. Costa Maya turned out to be very disappointing. The beaches were rocky and there were only some bars/restaurants and very aggressive natives hawking their wares. I don't know why Royal Carribean thinks this is an acceptable port of call. I would not return here ever! We tendered into Grand Cayman, but were expecting that to be canceled at any minute because of the windy weather. Stingray city and many other beach excursions were cancelled. That left us again with just shopping, and I can look at jewelry and trinkets for only so long.
The ship was beautiful and had many attractive public areas. Dancing at night was our main entertainment, either to big band or counry western in the Centrum, or to disco in the Vortex. There was a good mix of ages on the ship, and it seemed to have an international feel with many foreigners on board, moreso than when we sailed from Galveston, TX on the Rhapsody.
Overall the cruise was relaxing and we loved the ship. However, consider the possible rougher seas and stronger winds when sailing in at this time of the year. We will not do a Carribean cruise in the Winter again for this reason.
Packed wine for cruise!!!
Just recently got back from a wonderful cruise....FYI...we packed 6 bottles of wine bubblewrapped in our suitcase & it was still there when we unpacked...We bought 2 glasses of wine in day 1 and then reused them with our wine & took them into the dining room with us...saved us lots of $$$ plus we didn't care for their limited wine list...Moral of the story don't be scarred off by RCL's no alcohol policy.... Happy Cruising....J.S.
(ed. note: John, the Royal Caribbean Security Gurads are at your back door!)