Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by English Jane: Jewel of the Seas - Northern Europe
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Jewel of the Seas - Northern Europe
My family recently returned from a 12 night Baltic cruise on Jewel of the Seas.
Us Jane - 43 year old Primary School Teacher. Brian - 51 year old Engineer. Rose - 17 Jack - 16
Embarkation As part of the deal from our travel agent, we were picked up from our home in Northamptonshire at 9.30am and driven to Harwich. This was a great idea in principle but the guy turned off the SatNav and got lost twice. He also took to speeding at up to 80+ miles an hour in a 60 mph area so we would probably drive ourselves in future. Harwich is a very easy port from which to depart - you pull up alongside the ship almost. We had arrived at about midday, we showed our internet completed set-sail passes, stopped for the photo and were eating in the Windjammer by 12.15. For those of you who will drive yourselves, the long stay car park is right alongside the pier also - as is the train station. Porters also are plentiful and helpful. If you want to buy last minute provisions, there is More a large Morrisons supermarket in plain view, just down the road.
Our Staterooms We had two superior outside staterooms right at the end of the corridor (forward) on deck 7 (7506, 7508). When we opened the doors (we went at 1pm after lunch and it was ready) we were pleasantly surprised. We had previously had regular outside cabins on Splendour and Majesty and these on the Jewel seemed noticeably more spacious and pleasantly designed. We took in the lovely quality bedding and noted the larger shower cubicle with the sliding door so loved by other posters. There was a knock on the door and we met Issey (sp?) our charming attendant from Panama. We couldn't fault this gentleman - he catered to our every need and was always cheerful when we ran into him in the corridor (Hello Mr Brian, etc.). We were also pleased to note that he had left toweling robes for each of us.
The Ship As others have commented, the ship is lovely to look at with the large open atrium -'centrum' which is a focal point of the ship. I felt that the ship reminded me of The Splendour of the Seas in atmosphere rather than a larger ship like the Freedom of the Seas which I have also been on. There is always somewhere to sit, either inside or out. The only time I felt aware of the sheer volume of people onboard (we were full) was when milling around and having photo's taken at formal nights.
The facilities I didn't use the spa or room service so I can't comment on either of those. I did use the gym almost every day and was very pleased. I only noticed one piece of equipment that was out of action and I could always get on my equipment of choice. The staff were visible and friendly and it was a great place to be during some of the extended sailaways - I can say that I have cycled down the middle of the Oslo fjord. I used the cinema once (a packed viewing for Casino Royale) and was a little disappointed by the rowdy behavior of a few teenagers who were eating and drinking and left with a big fuss half way through. There were other disappointments to come - the film was quite clumsily cut and now made a lot less sense (Luckily I had already seen it) - I was gutted to discover that the extended sequence whereby Daniel Craig rises from the Bahamas surf was now merely a snapshot (I think you're with me there ladies - and friends of Dorothy!!!) The last 20 minutes of the film was further marred by the unfortunate emanations arising from a neighbor of mine (as our family call them - 'silent but deadly') unfortunately this gentleman to my right was also wearing skimpy shorts so I felt I was receiving 'the full blast' if you will.
Talking of 'friends of Dorothy', I noticed that regular meeting were advertised along with daily 'friends of Bill W' and several other groups. On our first sea day we were given a meet and mingle in the disco with drinks and fancy 'nibbles' served. Quite a few turned up and I could put a few faces to names - especially as we were all given a little notepad to hang round our necks from which we could display our screen name. I made a few firm friends the company of whom added greatly to the enjoyment of our cruise.
If I may mention a few names - hello again to the 'Phishfaces' and 'VA Cruisers'. Hi to my quiz buddies 'Matherwood'. A big hello to Mick also. Lovely to meet you Dennis and Diane from New York and a very, very special mention to my marvellous new friends Cookie and Larry from Florida - I'm planning my visit to Naples as we speak!
The Food In my opinion the food quality ranged from average to very good - in the Windjammer, main restaurant and Portofinos also. I always found something that I liked to eat. I would single out the quality of the pork on this cruise which was very good and caused my to choose pork dishes on several occasions - they obviously have a good supplier. All my family enjoyed our meals but my friend Cookie didn't agree and didn't care for the food. Either we are less fussy or chose more wisely - either is possible.
The Entertainment The quality of entertainment varied also. Most of the musicians around the ship were fantastic although there was one slightly dodgy female vocalist in the centrum each evening - I never want to hear 'I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden again'! The shows were (not necessarily in the correct order) • Flash & Fever a novelty acrobat, plate-spinning pair. We enjoyed this show because the main guy had a likeable personality and was very athletic. • Duggie Brown, comedian. On behalf of the UK (from whence he came) I apologize. I especially cringed at the racist overtones in his 30 year old act. • Comedy juggler from England (can't think of his name right now). He was fantastic - even if he hadn't done the juggling he was just a naturally hilarious chap. • Tango Buenos Aires (production show). Of course it was stunning but (sorry, shoot me) an hour of tangos does get a little old towards the end. • West End singer that we didn't go to so I can't comment. • A Four Tops / Temptations (and others) tribute band - very good but then I love Motown. • An Elton John tribute act - an amazing sound-alike but deficient in personality in my opinion. • A violinist - he wasn't billed as such because he thought he would put people off - in the end he got a unanimous standing ovation. He played everything - blue grass to classical - fantastic. • We missed the Russian folkloric act because we were at Portofinos. • From West End to Broadway (production show). Talented people but a slightly odd show because they would perform a top show hit and then follow up with a lesser known show filler. • City of Dreams (production show). I'm afraid I didn't get this at all. It was all over the show - cirque du soleil mixed with every other production you'll ever see including at Disneyland. A real mish-mash which, in my opinion was badly planned however, some others coming out of the theatre seemed to love it!
The Staff / Crew Everyone we had the pleasure to meet was lovely. I have to give a special mention and particular credit to the following. • Devorah - our lovely assistant waiter from Chile. She even looked after us in the Windjammer if she spotted us at breakfast or lunch. • Budi - our waiter from Indonesia. The best waiter you will ever be fortunate enough to have. Every recommendation was spot-on and nothing was too much trouble. He also gave us extended advice about each port. Budi hopes to transfer to Liberty of the Seas next year so look out for him and be very happy if you are at one of his tables. • Jayesh - 'booze man' from India. The most delightful young man who stopped to chat to us whenever he spotted us anywhere on the ship. A fantastic barman and lovely person - look out for him too if you are planning a trip on the Jewel.
I know I'm largely on my own here but I didn't care for our Cruise Director Clo - she just struck me as insincere. I know you'll be queuing up to tell I'm wrong but that was my feeling. By the way, she was on board with her husband and toddler son. We did warm to Sin the Spanish host who accompanied Clo for each of her stints - we found him very funny and likeable.
We LOVED Captain Thor - his daily bulletins were great, informative and with a dry wit that we appreciated. One day he told us that it would be, 'peddle to the metal'! We attended the information talk he gave and it was obvious the pride he had in the ship having originally been its first master.
The Ports - oh yeah, I knew there was a reason I took this cruise!
In each port I had down-loaded a street map from the internet and this, combined with the ship map and shopping guide was more than sufficient to find our way around.
We took £20 ($40) of currency for Denmark, Sweden, Norway Estonia and Finland, and were glad that we did as we could just buy a drink or ice-cream. If you are reading this in Britain, my local village post office had all these currencies delivered for collection in just 2 days! We took dollars for Russia - and also for some tipping on-board ship - and the Russian stall-holders and shop-keepers were happy to accept these or Euros (also used in Helsinki).
Oslo - Possibly my least favorite but that's only because the other ports were so fantastic. I just found the city center a tiny bit bland. On a positive - you just walk off the ship and into the city via a lovely dockside castle. We walked around for about 4 hours - up to the royal palace and all around - and made it back on board for a late lunch.
Copenhagen - Took the shuttle bus for a short ride into the city center and wandered again. Where you get off the bus if you look to your right at a large hotel (Hotel de France I think) that is the bottom of a mile-long pedestrian shopping street. We especially loved the Royal Copenhagen china shop. We got back for a late lunch again and then left the ship to walk to the Little Mermaid statue - about 15 minutes along the shoreline. When we got there, there was a rather idiotic coach party there - each one of whom clambered onto the statue for a photo opportunity thereby hampering anyone else who wanted to take a photo but, surprise surprise, didn't want a random tourist captured for posterity. Well, perhaps there is a God because my prayers were answered and one of the twerps fell in! By the way, there are a few shops by the pier also.
Stockholm - Lovely again - guess what, took the shuttle bus and wandered. We managed to be at the Royal Palace for the particularly impressive changing of the guard and were amazed when a gentleman walked up and stood straight in front of us just as the parade was starting - we had stood patiently in place for about 20 minutes previously. I decided against a fist fight - the guards were armed - and hoped that Karma would do its job. (Blow me if he didn't turn out to be from our ship and tried to stand in front of me on the bloody sail away from Stockholm - I just 'accidentally' elbowed him in the ribs - sometimes Karma needs a helping hand!) Do go to the crystal shop recommended by the ship (I usually take these recommendations with a small pinch of salt) but this was a winner - including a glass-blowing demonstration. There were stunning pieces available from about $20 up. I have quite a lot of glass at home already - and now I have three pieces more. For our American and Canadian friends, there were some deals with shipping included. By the way - don't miss the sail away from Stockholm (or the sail in for early risers) - 4 hours of stunning scenery and a highlight of the trip!
Helsinki - We absolutely loved it. You've guessed it, shuttle bus and wander - this time with our new Cruise Critic friends. There are two beautiful churches to visit and a fantastic market - which I particularly liked because it wasn't just for the tourists but had stuff like fruit and vegetables for sale. In my opinion this is the place for knitwear - we found a large shop and went nuts - bring on the winter!
St Petersburg Day 1 - The port where you dock is a real hole, a scruffy commercial port - they are hoping to open a dedicated cruise port next year. This is also the only port where you have to pass passport control. We took a ship tour - 'Lenin and the Russian Revolution'. We really enjoyed it despite the fact we were accompanied by a family who seemed the type to have stumbled onto the cruise ship fresh from an appearance on Jerry Springer. How this family ever chose this cruise is beyond me - they must have won a competition or something. The nearest they had previously been to culture was eating yoghurt. The tour was a quite intense history lecture - but then I liked that. We visited key places such as Lenin's office (with his things still laid on a desk). We had a very pleasant and knowledgeable guide. She also stopped at the street market at The Church of the Spilled Blood and my daughter and I each bought a little lacquer box.
Day 2 - Ship tour - 'Rivers and Canals of St Petersburg'. We absolutely loved this tour. First of all we took a coach ride to the island where the Church of Peter and Paul is (burial place of all imperial rulers of Russia). They are doing up the whole area and it will be more and more impressive than it already is. Then we boarded a boat (like a Parisienne Bateau Mouche) and toured for over an hour. There are so many places to see - 'left Pushkin's house, right the restaurant where Tchaikovsky celebrated an opening night then drank contaminated water from which he later died' etc, etc. St Petersburg is a fascinating place and yet a century of Turmoil has left what would undoubtedly have been the cultural capital of the world as a faded shadow of its former self. You get the best view of certain sited from the river Neva - like the battleship Aurora which fired on the Winter Palace to signify the start of the Revolution. We had another charming local guide. I would definitely recommend this tour.
Tallinn - Charm itself. If you love to wander picturesque cobbled streets of delightful stone buildings then this is the place for you. You can walk right off the ship and head for a large tower ('Fat Margaret'!) which takes all of 5 minutes - one of many defensive towers you will see (our favorite tower was called 'Kiek in de Kok' - I'm now slightly ashamed to admit to the mirth that sign brought to our infantile party). This tower (FM) is the start of the old town. From there you just weave up and down little streets following the helpful street signs. We bought some lovely Amber in Tallinn and thought the prices were probably the best we had seen. Do find your way to the town hall and square which is lined with restaurants with tables out front - all very pretty indeed. At the port itself an open-sided truck had parked-up from which was being sold very tasty Estonian chocolate at a very reasonable price - we used up our remaining Kroons on goodies (they also took Euros as did many other vendors).
Disembarkation A breeze - off at 7.45, bags collected and in the car home (with another Neanderthal) by 8.00.
We had a brilliant time and I hope you enjoy my review. I will post a link to some photos when I can spare a little more time
Jane x Less
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