We just got back from our Eastern Caribbean cruise on Jewel of the Seas. We drove to Port Everglades and our first problem was finding the right parking lot. Our information had indicated that we would have covered parking, but it was open air and not well marked. We had to haul our luggage quite a ways to the shuttle, but latter learned that we probably could have dropped our luggage off at the ship and then parked. Embarkation went ok, but since this was our first cruise, we were always the last ones through customs, etc. We had a stateroom without a balcony and the room was small. The bathroom was very small and it felt like we were in a camper. We appreciated the window. There was lots of good storage space for our things. Our travel agent had told us it didn't matter where our room was on the ship, but it did matter. We were in the very front of the boat, and since I tend to get motion sickness that was not good. We later learned that it is better to be in the middle of the boat so it doesn't rock as much.
The dinners were very good if you ordered the right thing. Desserts were exceptional! The service all over the boat was also exceptional. Staff were always working and cleaning. The first day we had trouble finding a lounge chair since everyone seemed to have reserved them. The best kept secret was that on deck 5 you could get a chair in the shade under the life boats. We didn't figure this out until the last couple of days of the cruise. You had to be very careful not to spend too much money on the ship and to know what was extra and what was included. People were signing slips spending money and not paying attention to how much things cost.
We enjoyed our excursions! On Puerto Rico we took the tour of the rain forest and then walked around old San Juan. We had signed up for Surf and Turf on St John for the next day, but it was cancelled due to lack of participation. We had a lot of trouble finding out about this excursion, not getting any help from phone calls to Royal Caribbean before the cruise and little help from staff on board. This was apparently because it was a new excursion and the people running it were not giving the ship much information. Royal Caribbean refunded our money and then let us choose another excursion free of charge. We chose Kayak, Hike and Snorkel and had a wonderful time. I especially enjoyed snorkeling in the nature preserve. If you went up real close to the mangroves you could see lots of brightly colored fish. The next day we went on the 3 Stop Snuba and Snorkel excursion. It was wonderful! I was afraid to Snuba but with lots of individual attention did fine. The people running the excursion were the most wonderful people and we truly enjoyed ourselves. We learned that the excursions planned by the ship for touring the islands were probably not worth the money. You could go in an open air taxi for less money and get close to the same tour. So that is what we did in Tortola and the driver let us stay at the beach longer than planned and came to pick us up later. The beach and water were beautiful! I got sea sick on the way north and missed a good dinner and show. The shows were very good. We liked that we could eat a 6:00 and see a show at 9:00 and still get to bed early enough to get up for early excursions. On the Bahamas, we went for a five mile hike to find a hotel we'd stayed at 32 years ago, then enjoyed the public beach. The bus only cost "one dollar a head" on our way back to town.
Disembarkation took forever because we were the last ones off the ship. We learned later that since we had driven we could have taken out luggage off ourselves earlier. They said that we got in at 7:00 AM, but the ship actually got to Ft Lauderdale around 3:30 AM and that woke me up. We got up early only to wait until about 10:30 to get off the ship. The shuttle was right there for us and worked out well.
All and all, it was a wonderful vacation and we're glad we went. We're undecided at this point about another cruise due to cost and my sea sickness.