Hi! Hopefully this review will be helpful in deciding YOUR cruise!
So on this trip its me (Dad, 43) and Son (15 going on 21) from SC/Augusta Ga. I'm taking my post Masters week off to regain my sanity; DS has his spring break this week. LOTS of people from the Carolina's as this was spring break for most school districts. Not a lot of college spring breakers left so the cruise was not a "Party Drunk Cruise" on the whole thankfully.
Prep and embarkation day start:
Driving down the day before (Easter) to be ready to enjoy a full week. Took I95 to I4 then all the way to the end to downtown Tampa. We did a Priceline search and got the Hyatt riverwalk for a grand total of $75. Not bad at all! Great hotel with a good view. We walked around downtown and were very impressed with the DT area. Felt very safe, even at midnight. Not much open due to Easter so just looked around and then went to sleep to get ready for the Cruise. Woke up around 9am and went around the corner for Cuban coffee and Cuban cheese toast at a cafe we had seen while the boy grabbed his shower. He ate and explored while i did mine; then we did final prep for packing and realized we needed a few things that were easily acquired at the CVS a block away. Its now noon and time to head for the ship! Decided to park at the terminal to avoid cab fare back (price was pretty much equal in total). Pretty drive a few blocks to a nice shopping area where the terminal is (nice place to explore!) and parked. One thing you should know: Tampa Port has you pay parking AS you park; not when you leave. Different from the other Ports. Nice covered garage. a short walk across the street and we are on the escalators headed up!
Embarkation: Very efficient and easy. Tampa does take the Homeland security seriously. No open bottles of drink or food; and make sure you have your documents IN your name and the names MATCH! Heard a few stories of people who could not cruise due to names not matching due to marriage, etc. The entire process took 15 min. and we were on deck 4 entering the ship! It was parked backwards to me; so had a really hard time as we toured the ship. kept getting port and starboard confused due to how the ship was docked. We grabbed some lunch at the Windjammer and then headed to our room.
Stateroom: almost an exact replica of our SR aboard the Navigator. well maintained and we got a bonus upon looking at the balcony: it was MUCH larger due to our floor and position aft. plenty of room for the furniture of 2 chaise loungers, a table and two chairs. it was partially covered so there was both shade and sun depending on ship position of course. there was another bit of space before our ocean view began, but not any real blocked view.
Muster drill was normal, not fast or slow; it does take a little longer due to only having 2 main stairwells (forward and midship; the aft stairs are crew only???) but it was done quickly and professionally. Now on to the cruise!
Cruise night 1: DO NOT MISS going under the Skyway bridge if you depart from Tampa. WOW. Your have only 6 feet of clearance! It is an experience! It takes about 2 hours to get out of the Tampa Bay and to the bridge, so plan accordingly. 2nd dinner seating is best. After sailaway we changed and went to the welcome show. the standard show, unfortunately the comedian on this cruise was, well; terrible in my opinion. DS loved the comedy on Carnival last summer, so he had high hopes. Bomb. His "adult" show the 3rd night was just as bad. nothing different, just dropped a few cuss words. Afterwards we went to the 2nd seating. Note on first night: the line to get IN the dining room will be ridiculously long! we wound halfway down the stateroom corridors! Seating did at least move swiftly and we were at our table. Seated in the middle of the main floor at a 10 top; great seating!!! we were joined by George, sailing solo due to last minute cancel, DeDe and Katie (mom and Daughter) Amanda and her Mom (name escapes me at the moment :( ) After a few minutes we were joined by a group of four whose table was overbooked next to us. Tampa locals Jesse, Tiffany, Brad, and another forgotten name. Life of the party in hand was Jesse and his ever present bucket of beers! He was over the top fun and helped break that first night ice quickly! great dinner then we turned in to get some rest before day 2: Sea day#1!
Day 2: At Sea. We slept in and then enjoyed room service breakfast on the balcony. Afterwards it was time to explore the ship some more. We really liked the schooner Bar area on Jewel; it was extremely well done; theming was Disney class Nautical. The entire area was very well laid out with the two for fee venues off of the main bar area, then back into the club room areas that had an African theme. we spent a good amount of time playing pool on the self leveling tables. good fun, but bring your own cue stick if possible. the sticks were roundly boo'ed by players. we participated in the shopping talk hoping to win some prizes but it was very well attended so no luck this sailing. we did lunch at the main dining room and enjoyed good company with a nice lunch. Afterwards we both wandered and met up to play Putt Putt and have a snack at seaview cafe. This IS a spot to know. It is in effect the Johnny Rockets for this ship, but without the theming or the prices. Its included in your fare. great snacks, fish n chips, chili, and burgers, etc. Afterwards more exploring and some reading on the balcony. No big desire to hit the pools. They are always overcrowded and we had a water day already set for Day 4 so no big loss. I would say that the Sanctuary area is VERY pretty on this ship. It looked more like it belonged on Celebrity than a RCL ship. So at this point its time for Formal night! Ummm, no! we decided we were forgoing formal night this cruise and booked Portofino's for dinner where we wouldn't have to overdress. so we just pulled on slacks and a collared shirt and went to Showtime at 7 for Broadway. Not bad. singing was good; but the dancers lacked.. well.. eye candy appeal on the whole. After we did Portofino and it was well worth the $20 fee. the tiramisu and B52 shot alone are worth it! After dinner we just hung out and enjoyed the ship until about midnight. Clocks were set back, so time to get some real sleep before Day 3.
Day 3: Cozumel. No plans as we were just here 2 months ago, so we just went downtown and looked at the new Disney Fantasy and explored the stores. DS had a blast at the "Wall of Fire" hot sauce shop. He sampled every hot sauce and I bought 4 of the best along with the rum cake collection. These are MUCH moister and "rummy" than Tortuga. I highly recommend. Got a great recommendation for lunch from a local and headed a block over to La Candela. they have a menu but ask for the daily special. OMG the food was great and very authentic. Highly recommend!!!! Shopped around some more (lots of free Tequila shots and collecting free trinkets) then finally back to the ship. We both crashed after such a large dinner so slept some more then woke up still full. decided against dressing for dinner and chose today as our "windjammer night". Really missed our table though. we had let them know we wouldn't be there for Day 2; but missing two in a row was bad form. Luckily, we ran into them at the show and discovered it was just the 5 of them as not only us but Jesse's foursome was a no show that night as well. Too much Tequila at senior frog's!so tonight was the Love and Marriage game show and the comedy show after. L & M great as always, comedy show was horrible. Hope they got rid of that guy; he was just painful to watch. well, it was time to turn in, an early day tomorrow for beach day!
Day 4: Costa Maya. Pulled into port and had breakfast on the balcony as the NCL Sky pulled in beside us. showers and we are off to Maya Chan resort. (see Ports for details). this was our new favorite Port!!! Maya Chan was awesome! I'm so glad I booked it! after getting back on board we showered and got ready for the show "City of Dreams" Beautiful sets; but the main singers voice was giving out so not a fantastic performance. Good, not great. then on to dinner and the gang was all here! fun times and bonding with stories shared of our last 2 days of adventures. It was Lobster night (this has changed a lot; very skimpy sized tails now) but once again we ate so well for lunch the food was an afterthought. After dinner it was on to the Atrium for 70's night! what a spectacle! Seeing the centrum floors all the way up packed to the rafters was very impressive! I hate to admit but I pooped out after bruising my foot on some coral rock; so I retired to the balcony while DS and Katie went off to try to get into the dance club. They ended up roaming the ship until 1am curfew (club Nazis would not let them in to dance and the teen club had movie night). sleepy time as we head toward our last day at sea.
Day 5: at sea: slept in as the time was moved back forward. today was all about doing the favorites and just having some fun. worked out in the spa area, more Pool and Putt Putt; lunch in MDR (chicken sliders were strangely good) and met many fellow Carolinian at lunch. DS finished his book; then we took in Transformers 3 in the cinema. (surprisingly good for the size of ship). all too soon it was packing time and dressing for the last night. We then went down for the show and it was the best of the cruise. 2 drummers from Argentina who did a comedy/skill/drum revue that was very crowd involved and interesting! loved it! followed by the obligatory cruise staff rollout. CD Dennis was good; not super perky good but a mature good. Assistant Marlon was ....interesting. especially on 70's night. yup, he dresses as the Indian Village people guy. Huh? say what!! yep, that was him! Hilarious! OK, time for last dinner. More hilarity ensues as we have the traveling sombrero hat that makes it to all of our guys tables and we have to be the most raucous table in here. I must admit it was a blast! Can you get the lime in the chandelier?? OMG1 yes! It sounds more Spring Break than it was. but a great time was had by all. Even the Maitre D got in on the action and encouraged the antics! Tips were passed out, we took our pics, and said our goodbyes.....NOT1 It's RCL! Time for the Quest!!!!! The quest is not to be missed. I will not spoil the surprise for you but it is mandatory participation on the Jewel, and was requested to be Adults only. um, yeah right. Our table participated as a group and most of the "skits" were done by my 15 yr old and Katie who was 17! (they both pass for 18 so it works) Hilarity ensues at one point when Dennis says "wow, they must be brother and sister or have significant others at home". Well, no, they were underage you dummy! We came in 5th anyway. not bad for a table with no guys with back hair! afterwards we all headed up to the viking crown Lounge to finish our Sailing into the wee hours between the dance club and the Cigar Bar; where we guys retired to with our purchased cohibas and Scotch. (or root beer and a half a cigar for the young one) We all finished the night together about 2am and sadly retired for a few hours sleep before we headed home.
Day 6: debarkation and Orlando
8 am came far too early! dragged ourselves out of bed and showered. headed up to the C & A Society waiting area to find the ship was cleared early and most everyone was already gone. We made our way off saying goodbye and easily found our luggage and breezed through customs in under 20 minutes. Ran into Jesse and Tiffany in the garage and tried to get Facebook set up but my phone was not cooperating. Unfortunate because now i can't find the card with every one's info. :( so sad as we had a great crew. Next year; same ship it was agreed by all! Here's to Spring Break '13!