We have just returned from a glorious two weeks around the Southern Caribbean on Jewel (B2B) and want to share our thoughts and comments. Hope this will help with any future planning….
Who we are: We are a family of four from Scotland. We are Mum, Dad, Matthew (13) and Louise (9). We generally do a B2B when travelling to the US due to the costs of flights. We are Platinum members and have travelled on Freedom and Oasis class ships. We also travelled with Granny, Granddad and Auntie Doris
The ship…Jewel of the Seas: We didn’t know what to expect having not sailed on a ‘smaller ship’ before. We were pleasantly surprised and after our two weeks, have fallen in love with the Radiance class. Having sailed on Oasis two years ago, hubby and I were wondering what the kids would think of a smaller ship. No concerns there! The kids and the adults love the size of the ship. There was an amazing ‘family’ feeling during both our sailings and the staff on board were phenomenal! All of our group agreed there was an incredible atmosphere and everything was so accessible. In particular we all agreed that the Centrum area of the ship was brilliant for the live music and entertainment.
The stateroom: We stayed in 9856 which is a hump cabin. The location was fantastic and a quick walk up to the Windjammer or pool deck and only a couple of flights down to the Champagne Bar, Schooner Bar, Safari club or main dining room.
The crew: As stated above, we found the staff to be some of the best we have ever had on any of our cruises. In particular, we were all impressed by the visible presence of senior staff members who took the time to ask how things were going. We met the staff at a few Crown and Anchor events and at one point made a minor point about our daughter having to wait in the queue (line) for a brownie when everyone was ordering special coffees. Next thing you know, the Manager of food and beverage (Gunter) suggests to his staff to make sure all kids are served goodies in line if they are waiting. Gunter met us a couple of times during the following week to see if Louise was having to wait (She didn’t mind ‘testing’ this out!) Both weeks our wait staff were fantastic as was our stateroom attendant. No complaints at all.
The food: We are ‘foodies’ and enjoy good food. We have eaten at some fantastic restaurants around the world and aren’t shy at saying when we don’t like something. All of us enjoyed our food on the cruise. We ate each night at in the main dining room and enjoyed fabulous service. On a B2B the menus are the same but we saw this as a good thing. During the second week, hubby and I went ‘off piste’ and enjoyed some of the varied dishes on the menu and of course returned to the ‘old faithful’ ones like escargot and prime rib. Our first cruise was in 2009 and we personally don’t think that the food quality has declined. I think we are realistic and recognise that the kitchen serves more than 2000 people during each dinner service each night let alone all the extra requests etc. so of course, don’t expect 2 star Michelin quality. But each night the food arrived hot, cooked to perfection (especially the beef) and there was a huge variety. If we want 2 star, we go to a 2 star restaurant and pay those prices… The Windjammer food was also fine. We liked the salad bar and egg stations in the morning.
The drinks package: We debated about this long and hard before we went and decided to try the Premium package for the first leg of the B2B and see if it was worth it. For us it was! We are moderate to heavy drinkers on holiday and generally would enjoy a cocktail or two before dinner, 3 glasses of wine at dinner then some after dinner drinks. We found the additional soft drinks package of coke a bonus and the ability to grab water on the way out for an excursion was great. We had heard that service was different for those on the package but never found this to be the case. All wait staff were fantastic and provided excellent service. As with all our cruises, certain staff got to know our names and our favourite tipples. We generally signed for receipts for alcoholic drinks but found that we could sign for each other with no difficulties. More often than not, we didn’t need to sign for soft drinks. As we were travelling with three others that weren’t on the package we weren’t sure how this would work but it wasn’t a problem. We would order 2 on the pack and 3 not on the package. At dinner, we ordered wine by the glass that came as soon as we asked.
The itinerary (ies): We absolutely fell in love with the Southern Caribbean and would rebook these cruises again. Beautiful islands and fabulous beaches. Here is what we did…
1 San Juan, Puerto Rico Boarded ship
2 Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas RC Trip to St. John’s
3 Basseterre, St Kitts Self-arranged island trip at pier
6 Willemstad, Curaçao Self-arranged island trip at pier
5 Oranjestad, Aruba Self-arranged island trip at pier and then visited beach
Day 1 San Juan, Puerto Rico Taxi to Old San Juan and then visit to shopping mall
2 St. Croix, US Virgin Islands Island tour including visit to rum factory and beer swilling pigs then beach
3 Philipsburg, St. Maarten Visit to Maho Beach to see planes landing and then beach
4 St. John's, Antigua Island tour and Valley Church beach
5 Castries, St Lucia Island tour then beach
6 Bridgetown, Barbados Island tour then beach (Carlisle Bay – Harbour Lights)
8 Return to UK
We generally arranged a tour from the taxi rank at the pier and average cost was between $20 - $30 per person. Because there were 7 of us we usually got a private van but occasionally we had to pay extra for this. We found that the tour arrangements at St. Croix were more chaotic with very rude staff but this was the exception to the rule.
We only did one RC based tour, to St. John from St. Thomas. This was the second time we have done this and it is well worth it. We researched getting to St. John via private taxi, ferry etc. and it wasn’t much more to go by the tour. The tour picked us up right at the pier and delivered us over to St. John on a fabby catamaran boat. Free soft drinks and water were available on the way there. Some of us headed straight to the beach (Trunk Bay….my favourite beach in the world!) while some of our party stayed on for a bit longer island tour. We arranged for the return pick up time with the rest of the passengers and had a great day on the island. The return trip was lots of fun with music played and lots and lots and lots of rum punch served. We were delivered right back to the pier and headed right back on board. Well worth it!!!
The entertainment: We have mixed reviews about this. However, we cannot fault the cruise director, Denis James….he and Elvis (activities director) were absolutely BRILLIANT. Denis seemed to appear at every event and was very personable and extremely funny. The range of events that were available in the Centrum, the Pool Deck and in the Safari Club were very enjoyable. Our only disappointment was the entertainment in the main theatre. Some acts were very good but others were a disappointment (comedy act, Broadway to West End dancing night). However, I think that our expectations were very high having been on Oasis last. Nevertheless, due to the high quality of events elsewhere, we weren’t too bothered missing out the main shows. We did mention to Denis about the content on one show (anti-family jokes) and he expressed his disappointment in this and said he would look into it. It was this personal touch that we really were impressed by.
Meet and Mingle: We were lucky to have a Meet and Mingle during our first leg. We met some fantastic folk and it was nice to catch up with them during the rest of the week. Due to the size of the ship, this was something we did regularly. Thanks everyone!
Adventure Ocean: during the first week, neither of our kids decided to go to the clubs initially so by mid-week it was too late and our youngest didn’t enjoy it (said it was too shouty which is ironic!) The second week they both went on the opening night and from then on, we lost our 13 year old as he met a bunch of lovely young folk to hang out with. He had a curfew which sometimes was after we were in our jammies (11:00pm) and really enjoyed meeting new friends. Our daughter was self-sign out and our only concern was that at 10:00 pm she was never reminded that her official session was over. When we went to pick her up (when she hadn’t shown up at our arranged place) at 10:10 she was about to be charged and said she didn’t feel she could leave because people would ‘boo’ her. Our gain as we had a fantastic time learning how to play backgammon, Chinese checkers and getting the grandparents to play cards!
Disembarkation: Definitely would recommend getting a porter. For the price, you can get into a quicker line and have your bags carried out. It probably was the least smooth process we have been through.
Overall impression – FANTASTIC. We really enjoyed our cruise (s) and would sail on RC and indeed Jewel of the Seas in a flash. ..