Royal Caribbean? Never sailed her, but why not, we thought. We have friends who want to try a cruise of fewer than 7 nights and Tampa was convenient for all of us. We had heard from friends that Tampa Terminal was doing a superb job facilitating embarkation and disembarkation with ease. And so we booked it.
As for Tampa Terminal, we totally concur. This was an extremely passenger friendly experience and the Terminal rates an A+.
We evaluate a cruise experience by reflecting on the basics: cabin, service, staff, food and entertainment with CLEANLINESS influencing everything. And so
CABIN...The Junior Suite was spacious with top quality bedding, a good size balcony, well designed bathroom with tub and amazing closet space. For anyone who enjoys spending some time in his cabin, we think the additional cost of the roomy and comfortable JS is justified.
SERVICE AND STAFF...It seems logical to lump these together. Our cabin steward did a very good job keeping the cabin
clean. Obviously, his service is a direct result of the supervisors and officers who run the ship. That is where the JEWEL OF THE SEAS shines the brightest. Captain Thor has assembled a top notch team to run this ship. Hotel Director John oversees almost everything the passengers see and it is obvious the other officers, staff and crew respect him and genuinely like him. We certainly did. Tony, the Director of Food and beverage Services, is another well polished jewel with 54 years at sea to his credit! Dennis the Cruise Director is an amazingly high energy person. Talk about a Buy One/Get One Free deal! RCCL got a bargain here. He organizes, he sings, he dances, he tells jokes and he still remembers the names of many he meets. Finally, let me mention Rosa, Guest Services. This is one of the most radiant and out going people we have ever met. She exudes warmth and sincerity and welcomes guests while listening to and solving situations.
There was a high percentage of Eastern European staff and crew that we found to be most interesting. It is always positive, we think, to learn a bit about their home country and thereby better understand the world.
FOOD....Embarkation Day did not impress us in this area. The Windjammer Cafe was the only place to eat lunch and the serving stations had not been replenished when we arrived. We were greeted by picked over trays of food and very few attendants at the stations. Yes, it did not take a lot of time for the stations to be refreshed but the initial impression was far from positive. I spoke with the Cafe Manager who assured me that day was an anomaly and was caused by a tower installation that delayed boarding. Likely that was true, but since we are not fans of buffet meals, we chose not to return to the Windjammer Cafe.
Room Service breakfasts were pleasant even though menu offerings are limited. The coffee caraf they send up is very good and keeps coffee hot for hours.
The Main Diningroom was very good. Nightly offerings were varied and each entree we tried met our expectations. Our wait staff, Alona and Vukasin, listened and remembered. For example, I like vegetables and Alona would bring me an additional serving of the night's vegetable with my meal. We had lunch in the Dining Room and loved the salad bar experience. We had breakfast there one morning and it was just OK. I am used to light and fluffy pancakes and these resembled English Muffins in appearance, texture and taste.
On a short cruise many may not want to try one of the specialty restaurants but we had occasion to dine at CHOPS on the last night. The 4 of us agreed...this was well worth the upcharge. It was a Ruth's Christ Steak House level meal that did not disappoint.
As I stated, CLEANLINESS is part of everything I looked at and here the JEWEL rated A+. We saw no extrerior rust or peeling paint, no worn carpet or dusty displays, no wear marks in the bathrooms. This is a well maintained 9 year old ship worthy of her name.
ENTERTAINMENT in the Showroom was good, not great in my opinion. The production show, comedien, juggler were fine, but the musicians playing in The Centrum were excellent.
Now when we factor price, convenience, quality and comfort into the picture we conclude THE JEWEL OF THE SEAS FROM TAMPA CRUISE IS A WINNER.