Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by lpic1: Great ports - Great ship!
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Great ports - Great ship!
The Jewel of the Seas is the sister ship to the Serenade which we have cruised on in previous years, so we knew what to expect in terms of layout. The ship is SPOTLESS --- The crew was constantly cleaning public spaces both inside and on deck. Purell stations are EVERYWHERE and RCI has recently developed a 'no handshake' policy in order to avoid the spread of germs. All public restrooms have huge signs regarding hand washing. We saw sanitizing going on regularly. Since I am a germaphobe -- this was ALL good to me!!!!
The ship is smaller than the larger mega ships, but I didn't really feel that we sacrificed anything because of the size. We had plenty of room on deck and the shops onboard were adequate. We enjoyed the "Centrum area" very much. Although it is not a "Promenade" area like the larger ships, the Centrum is open to all floors above deck four so that passengers could enjoy the music and the entertainment from almost anywhere inside the ship. Because we sailed from San More Juan, the ship had a decidedly Latin flavor which we really enjoyed. The Latin band that played in the Centrum was EXCELLENT and many people were dancing. The asst. cruise director offered Latin line dancing several times throughout the cruise (both on deck and in the Centrum), so everyone could participate.
Our cabin was two rooms away from the business center and the Centrum elevators. While we could hear the band playing, it was never "too much noixe" and we enjoyed having the sounds of the music filter into our cabin. We were never disturbed by hallway or elevator noise. Our cabin and the cabin next to ours had extended balconies because of their location on the ship. We enjoyed having the extra room on our balcony!
We enjoyed the food onboard and the service was very good. RCI has changed their gratuities policy so that all gratuities are charged to your seapass account. You have the option of offering an additional amount for excellent service, but the ceremonial handing of envelopes on the last night of the trip no longer exists. We chose to give our room steward an additional gratuity because our room was always spotless!
The ship's captain was very strict regarding the mandatory life boat drill. we waited until every passenger attended and when there were stragglers, he came on the loudspeaker to announce that the drill would continue until ALL passengers were present. I liked this!! It was clear that they took safety very seriously (evidenced, I think, by the successful evacuation of the larger Grandeur of the Seas due to a fire). The crew was always present and visible at events, on deck and around the ship.
I have two negatives regarding the ship. The first 9and most important because it affects all passengers) was the Cruise Director. While her staff was engaging and very pleasant (especially her Assistant Cruise Director Elvis - yes, that is his real name!) - the Cruise Director herself was TERRIBLE. She seemed to be going through the motions for much of the trip, her delivery was off putting and she seemed to have an attitude of superiority. One example I can provide is during the Walk for Make a Wish that RCI sponsors. Keep in mind that this is a walk for charity and NOT a race of any kind; therefore, one would expect the cruise director to chat with people as she is walking with them around the track. Instead, she chose to PASS up passengers as if she were running a race and needed to get ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, I have seen what a good cruise director can do for a trip. On the sister ship, we had a gentleman from Jamaica who was absolutely excellent. He put his whole heart and soul into his work and it showed. He interacted with people all the time and never seemed "above it all". By comparison, I would have to rate the Cruise Director of the Jewel as a D.
The second complaint would concern an event we attended in the specialty restaurant Portofino. It was our anniversary and we decided to splurge on a dinner at Portofino that was also a Murder Mystery Dinner entitled "Badda Bing, Badda Bang"... We typically do not go to the specialty restaurants because we have always found the meals in the main dining rooms very good; this made our disappointment that much greater!!! First, we were ushered into one of the lounges outside of Portofino where we were served wine and hors d'oeuvres. They were HORRIBLE and no one at the table could really eat them. This part of the evening took way too long. It was close t 7 before we were even allowed to enter the restaurant. Because this was a special murder mystery dinner, the menu was limited to two choices. I chose the filet and it was very good. My husband chose the shrimp - the serving was very small and we ended up heading to the windjammer so that he could eat dinner after leaving Portofino!!! The service was slow and the food was "light" considering we paid an extra 20 per person OVER their typical surcharge. It was billed as a five course meal, but the courses were very small. Dessert was Tiramasu, but it was really just a glorified sundae. We were also expecting the 'theater" portion of the event to be entertaining and well -acted. It was neither. The acting was WORSE than a high school play. Worse still was the use of mulpitle stereotypes regarding Italian Americans (they are all in the Mafia, the men all have mistresses, the women are loud and cheaply dressed with big breats and exaggerated buttoms). As an Italian American female, I was offended and my husband (who is not Italian) pointed out that had they chosen another culture to portray in this stereotypical way, they would have never been able to get away with it. So ..my STRONG advice is AVOID Porofino and DO NOT spend money on the Murder Mystery Dinner theater. It was MORE than a waste of money!!! Less
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Cabin review: E17092
We were in cabin 7092 - category E1 balcony stateroom. The room is a standard cabin size. The balcony is a bit larger because of where the room is located on the ship. We had been in cabin 7090 on a previous cruise but there was a smell of sewage coming from the bathroom area. We complained at first - it seemed to get better , then ti was back again. This cabin (on the sister ship) , still had a bit of that same smell, but it was not as bad. We had one problem with the shower drain getting clogged, but it was fixed immediately (within an hour or less). We had no other problems and enjoyed the room overall! Lots of storage for both of us with room to spare!
Port and Shore Excursions
St. Croix has a lot to offer but they do not do a good job of self promotion. Several other people from the ship commented that it didn't seem like there was much there, when, in fact, there is a LOT on the island! We have spent some time in St. Croix, so we took a taxi to Christiansted (on the other side of the island). We arrived in time for church (it was Sunday and many of the shops in Christiansted stayed closed even though a ship was in port) at Holy Cross in the downtown area. It is a beautiful old church with interesting stained glass windows. Downtown Christiansted has a lot of historic sites, but on a Sunday, there were no park rangers or other tour guides to show them off. Our driver did not do much to point out interesting points of interest; in fact, we were pointing things out to the other passengers. For example, he passed Whim plantation and St. George Botanical gardens without even a mention. He did not offer to show us Columbus landing which we could have accessed on the way to town with only a slight detour. I LOVE St. Croix, so I hope others will take the opportunity to check out some what the island has to offer.
Because we had never been to Protestant Cay during our stay, we decided to take the ferry over (it costs 6 dollars per person round trip). DON"T BOTHER -- it was a waste! The beach is small and not very nice. There is a restaurant on the cay, but the service was very slow (even by island standards which we are familiar with) and the food was NOT good! I would opt for another beach (the one in Fredericksted just off the cruise ship pier is bigger but also not really pretty). For souvenir shopping, the straw market on the square in Fredericksted is probably the best bet when a ship is in port. If you travel to Christiansted, you can visit the Purple Papaya which has a LOT of souvenirs, t shirts, etc.
We took a taxi first to visit the French harbor in St. Martin. This is a bit costly ($18 pp one way) but we found out from fellow passengers that we could have negotiated for a round trip price that would have been a bit cheaper. They have an open air Market on St. Martin when cruise ships are in town. The prices are a bit high and they don't do a lot of negotiating. We were told by our return taxi driver that a lot of this has to do with the fact that St. Martin switched over the euro and it has caused many stores to close and prices to remain high in order to compensate for the exchange rate of the euro vs. the U.S. dollar. The French side is very pretty and worth a look. We then returned to Philipsburg and did some shopping. The beach is right behind the downtown area which can both be accessed via water taxi (cheaper than a cab. BUY a ticket for five dollars and go back and forth all day on the taxi). The taxi stand is located to the Left of the pier as you exit the ship. It is BEFORE you enter the mall area of the port.
We went to the African Market Store in Philipsburg and then spent a couple of hours on the each. Two chairs and an umbrella was $15.00