We flew in to San Juan a day early and stayed at the Marriott Hotel & Stellaris Casino with our group of about 16. Nice hotel, nice beach but expensive. Arrived at the port around 1:00 pm and sailed through check-in thanks to our Platinum status. Our cabin was ready, so we headed there immedialtely to drop off our things, then headed to the Windjammer. Lunch was good, most food was hot, although on subsequent visits lots of the food was lukewarm. Very happy that RCL lets you bring wine aboard now.
Our cabin was immaculate. We had an aft cabin, 9260, which was in good shape, and we really appreciated the extra-large balcony and spent a lot of time out there, even at night. The on-screen interface to order room service, check your account and order excursions seems out of date and could use an upgrade (very slow).
Dining in the main dining room was nice. Our server, Samantha da Silva, was fantastic, funny and very sweet, and her assistant Philmore, was also More
attentive. Food was on par with past cruises, although some in our group were very upset about the absence of escargot on the menu. One standout meal was the tenderloin of beef on Day 2 or 3, which was excellent. Desserts were good except for the creme brulee; the sugar crust on top was so thick and hard it was virtually impossible to eat. We did not eat in the specialty restaurants. Breakfast in the main dining room was hit or miss - one morning the eggs in my Eggs Benedict were nearly raw, and no one ever check in on us, so I just didn't eat that day.
One interesting food venue is the Seaview Cafe, which is open in the afternoons and evenings (and lunchtime on sea days). Here you order from a very limited menu of things not available elsewhere on the ship - Nathan's hot dogs, onion rings, Cuban sandwiches, wings, grouper Caesar salad, etc. Service here was spotty; on our second visit we were told there were no beverages other than water, unless we wanted to order something from the bar. When we did order beer on our first visit, they didn't have the first three choices - all of which appear on the Seaview Cafe menu!
The ship is immaculately clean and is constantly maintained. Night or day, there is someone cleaning glass, wiping down handrails, polishing floors, etc. The Solarium pool was closed for part of our cruise for some repair work, and we ran into workers one night around 1am painting decorative elements in the pool.
We spent a beach day at Sapphire Bay Beach in St. Thomas, well worth the money for a lovely beach, chairs, shady spots and a free cocktail, plus a bus tour back to the ship at the end. In St. Kitts we rode the scenic railway since we've never visited the island before - a little hokey but still nice. In Aruba we booked trikes with Trikes Aruba (privately) and had the best excursion of the week - what a blast! It rained most of the day in Curacao so we just wandered around a bit, then returned to the ship. I would like to visit this port, and Aruba, again. I wish the cruise lines would offer more nature-oriented excursions like bird- or wildlife-watching.
We came back very relaxed and happy, but with two major complaints. First, the onboard entertainment was terrible - no other way to say it. There was a juggler and his wife/assistant who did a cringingly bad show. This included the juggler spitting ping-pong balls into the air and catching them - with saliva spraying into the first 2 rows. luckily no one was sitting there! It appeared to me that he was sick, too; he sounded hoarse and sweated a lot. There were no production shows on our cruise at all due to some kind of mechanical problem with the sets, so I guess they scrambled and got whoever was available. Entertainment in the lounges was also not very good, not up to the standards of other cruise lines.
The second complaint involves fellow passengers. We heard secondhand that there were a lot of vacant cabins on our sailing, so they upgraded who they could, then re-sold the interior cabins to local PR residents for $200/pp. There were so many Spanish-speaking passengers on board that all announcements were made in both Spanish and English, which was no big deal. What was a big deal, however, was that it was clear none of these people had ever cruised before and had no idea how to behave. Numerous times we ran into large family groups blocking access to elevators, walkways, stairs and areas of the buffet, with no consideration for others - they WOULD NOT move. We also found numerous groups of pre-teens left to their own devices running around the ship apparently looking for trouble. Last, we nearly tripped over a group of small children left to color at the foot of a main stairway! Where were their parents?
Disembarkation is always time-consuming and a little frustrating, but it went well enough. I don't think we will sail from San Juan again, but the ship and its staff were lovely - I hope they move it to a different port. Less
Jewel of the Seas Cruises to the Southern Caribbean