This was our first cruise aboard an RCCL ship yet is our ninth cruise overall. In the past, when planning our cruises, we always took cost as a major decision in planning our vacation. For instance, if another cruise line was offering a cruise from the same port with the same itenarery, yet the other line was $200 less than RCCL, we chose the lesser priced cruise line. Although, for many years we have wanted to cruise with RCCL because of the reviews we had read about the staff and amenities being premier to other lines. We booked a cruise aboard the Brilliance of the Seas for this upcoming November but on a last minute decision, I also booked a cruise on the Jewel of the Seas for May 2, 2013 sailing from Tampa to celebrate our 23rd anniversary. We were so excited about this cruise not only because it was going to be our 23rd anniversary but because we love to cruise and were looking forward to finally sailing with RCCL. Unfortunately, RCCL did not live up to our expectations. For example, our cruise agent arranged for an anniversary celebration or announcement during our Jewel cruise. We received nothing. It wasn't until another passenger that was sitting with us at our table in the MDR told the headwaiter about our anniversary on May 6th that they staff brought out a "slice" (yes, ONE slice) of chocolate cake with one candle in it and sang "Happy Anniversary" to us. It was more embarrassing than celebratory. Allow me to explain some of the other things we found to be lacking as well as exceptional on our recent sailing on the Jewel of the Seas.
Embarkation in Tampa was flawless. We were onboard the Jewel in about 10 minutes which is the fastest we ever were able to board a ship. We had an extended Balcony cabin (7022) and found the cabin to be smaller as compared to other balcony cabins we have sailed in. This was not a major concern to us as we were aware of this prior to our sailing so we expected it. We noticed that there were multiple areas on the balcony that needed some touch up paint to hide the rust that we could see. We also later found that our cabin door needed to be pushed hard to have it close completely. If the cabin door was not closed all the way, and we opened the sliding glass door to the balcony, the door would blow open and it would create a type of wind tunnel that would blow all papers and light items in the cabin around like a hurricane. There was also a problem where one of the closet doors was falling off from the hinge. We reported it and a crew member came and removed the one door and explained a fabrication had to be done to repair it and the door would not be replaced during our sailing. REALLY? Now, the cabin was starting to look like a sailing on a barge between the rust and the closet door missing!
The ship sails like a limousine!! No question about that. But again we noticed that there are areas of the ship that need attention. The banners that fly when the vessel is in homeport are either tattered or missing completely. I understand that the ship is nine years old but my thought was "This is RCCL, it should look better than this"! The Jewel of the Seas isn't dated to go to drydock for another three years (2016) and it should really be better maintained until then to live up to what passengers expect from RCCL. The staff we experienced, for the most part were no better than on other lines we have sailed. A few deserve mention though such as our cabin steward "Lenny". He was always available if we needed him and ALWAYS friendly. We wanted to fill out a "WOW" card for him but no one seemed to know where to get one. He told us to get one from the Pursers desk and they told us to get one from our cabin steward!! Also, "Sebastian" at the pool bar was exceptional. Always smiling and singing. Both crew members always greeted us with a "Fist Bump". We called room service one day and asked how we get a room service menu. They told us to tune to channel 39 on the cabin television. Channel 39 directed us to call the room service number for a menu. That's a bit disorganized! There was one formal night during this cruise. On previous cruises, we would dress up for formal night expecting a gala event but we felt this night was not even worth getting dressed up for! No Lobster (unless we paid extra). No Prime Rib. Just a basic menu. The passengers on formal night were even dressed better than the MDR staff!! I was later told that RCCL doesn't offer Lobster or Prime Rib on the formal nights on sailings of less than seven days. My question, is why bother having a "Formal" night at all. All it did was force me to dry clean my suit and drag it with me for what I now see was needless! And what's with the powdered eggs in the Windjammer? Yes, their powdered. Being a cook, I know the difference. The scrambled eggs consistancy in the Windjammer tasted more like grits than eggs.
All in all, under the advice from our cruise agent, we will give RCCL one more try and will keep our planned booking on the Brilliance for this coming November. I was not truly impressed overall aboard the Jewel. I truly hope that the sailing on the Brilliance will live up to what we have expected from RCCL for all these years.
We ventured out on our own and went to Paradise Beach. A short 10 to 15 minute ride from the port. DEFINITELY the highlight of the cruise.