Overnight flight from Boston to Harwich - stayed in the charming Tower Hotel in Harwich the night before the cruise. Embarkation was smooth and efficient. There were more people in the "priority boarding line" than in the regular line and I laughed as I breezed right through and waited for THEM! Once on-board,I had lunch and explored the ship a bit before the "drill". Then I had the pleasure of meeting some additional members of my Cruise Critic family at the Sky Bar.
Mother Nature was kind to us - and all ports except St. John's NF greeted us with decent weather. Two days in Iceland was a dream come true for me. It was just as amazing as I had imagined. My favorite was the Blue Lagoon of course. Thanks to the generosity of several CC members, I was able to book excursions that others had set up. I took no RCCL excursions so I can't address the value of any of those. I liked that there were never any long lines getting back on the ship as I witnessed personnel quickly opening up another gangway when large numbers of people were waiting to re-board.
The Jewel's staff as a whole were among the best I have ever experienced! My cabin attendant treated me like I was the most important person on the ship. The cruise directors staff had to be the hardest working bunch of people on the entire ship - they were a small but mighty band of energetic specimens who were truly committed to making sure we had a good - no great, time. The Customer Relations staff were always polite and very willing to answer questions and assist in any way. The bar staff were all very friendly. The genuineness of the staffs' interactions with passengers was the most positive I've ever seen on any cruise as well. All staff seemed very approachable.
Okay - now for how RCCL disappointed. First the food - no way for me to put this except for how it came across to me. In my opinion, RCCL did food "on the cheap". A lot of the food was bland and one-note. Rarely were the portions hot(temperature-wise) enough. I did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants. The good news is I lost 3 pounds on the cruise.
Second disappointment was the entertainment. RCCL, what were you thinking?
The Schooner Bar which should have been a favorite "hang out" place was a venue that was painful to even pass through. This was because the singing piano player should NEVER have been allowed to sing! And two violin acts within 3 days in the theatre? Really?? And, yeah - that so called hypnotist? That would be funny if it wasn't so pitiful.
Third disappointment and, again, this is no reflection on the wonderful staff on-board the Jewel, is the "divisive atmosphere" created by RCCL among tiered members who often verbalized their snobbery with having to interact with others not of their status. I travel solo and always pay double - so being able to afford to cruise means I have to book the least expensive cabin I can. And I have done this willingly with no issues ever! Until this cruise. I was on Deck 2 - and I had pressed the button for the elevator. I got on from Deck 2 and there were 5 others on there. One woman said to the other "oh there are cabins on Deck 2?" The other woman said "yes, but they are sub-standard. They are "steerage" - and she started laughing. I bit my tongue for 10 seconds and said - "Ya know, those of us on Deck 2 are having a really wonderful time and are very happy to be on this cruise on any deck". A man not with them, patted me on the back and said "atta girl". Thank you RCCL.
This cruise was a dream come true for me. These issues didn't spoil my cruise in any way. The staff and the passengers will always have special places in my heart. But what this experience did open my eyes to - is the fact that for me, RCCL doesn't really give me the "bang for my buck". I have already booked two future cruises with another cruise line.