We were a party of 8 which including 4 teenage children. We travelled down from Wigan the day before and stayed overnight in Oxford which meant we just had a 2 hour drive to get to Southampton. As mentioned in a previous review from someone we followed the directions our sat nav gave us after inputting the postcode and missed all the traffic which followed the docks signs. We dropped our cases off, parked on the long stay car park and went into the terminal (the ship towered over all the buildings and was very impressive). We hadn't registered online as last year for the Jewel the queues were far longer for that then just going to the desk and again it was the same. We were there just before 11am, went straight to a desk, linked both cabins per family to same seapass card and went through to wait to be called. Only had chance to nip to the toilet and then we were being asked to board. We were on ship by 11.15am and it meant we could use all the facilities and have virtually a full day before we left.
After walking around with our mouths wide open - it really is very impressive - we had lunch in the Windjammer and again found the food excellent. Yes it is busy but as the days go on you can generally judge the best times to go. The fruit punch is lovely and the views from the back of the ship fantastic. Dirty plates were cleared quickly and the staff friendly. You can buy drinks but we never felt the need to as the soft drinks were sufficient.
We walked down to our cabins on deck 9 about 12.45pm just to get our bearings and found our luggage was outside so we were able to sort that out. We had 4 internal staterooms (2 berth) and even though you couldn't walk around the bed when it was made up into a queen we found the rooms were sufficient. (We have booked a 4 berth on the Voyager next year but are thinking of changing it to 2 x 2 berth again - just as my husband thinks it would be a nightmare having 3 girls getting ready!!) The shower was so powerful you didn't want to get out. Our stateroom attendant was brilliant - Anguis - and emptied bins all the time, did our towel animals, turned beds down, made beds - excellent service. I even had to ask for a needle and thread and it was there within 10 minutes. I used the laundry service to press my dress for formal night - excellent - just fill the form out, hang your item up and they collect it and return it the day after - pressed for $4.75.
The pools were fantastic and even though there were a lot of children on board you weren't really bothered. Our lot loved the pools while we sneaked in the adult cantilevered jacuzzis or pool and then went in there's as well - water as warm as bath water. Waiters walking round all the time if you want drinks or cocktails or you can go through to Windjammer to get juice or coffee. When we got on we got all the kids the soda fountain package for $18 each and this was a god send - they put a sticker on their seapass card and they can go as many times during the day and night that they want - that is one of the things when you go on holiday that makes the cost mount up. Sprinkles ice cream machine was great as well - we thought this was just for the kids but it's not.
4.15pm is the muster drill and that is quite weird seeing everyone going down the stairs to deck 4 (i think) in life jackets. Over and done with in half an hour though.
We were on early sitting for evening meal but used to go down for 6.30pm. We were in the Macbeth dining room on table 476 in the window. Table for 8 which was lovely. Our waiter Neil and assistant waiter Georgiou both from the Philippines gave EXCELLENT service throughout the holiday and nothing was too much trouble. Elyssa wasn't keen on her starter so he took it away and brought another. If they hadn't liked anything on the menu he would have sent out for a burger etc (they loved everything). We didn't feel the need to eat in chops or Portofino's as the food was excellent in the dining room. They remember your names and use them and you just feel this is the personal service (even though they do it with everyone it just makes a difference).
In the evenings we used Schooner Bar, Olive or Twist, Champagne Bar, Boleros Bar, Dog and Badger, Pyramid lounge (in fact I don't think there was one we didn't go in). Every night we ended up in the Pyramid lounge watching the fantastic Rock the Boat - we had seen these last on the Jewel out of Oslo last May and again they were brilliant. We went in the Labyrinth nightclub a couple of times as well and as with every place it's hard to remember you are on a ship. During the days we spent by the pool because even though the weather wasn't brilliant it was okay and we were on holiday!! We docked in Cobh and only got off on the Sunday night just to have a look and had a glass of Murphys in a irish pub - we didn't feel the need to spend time away from the ship as there was so much to do and the kids wanted to stay on board. We watched 2 shows in the Alhambra theatre which were really good. The first night had all the staff and that poor Russian woman was up and down on the piano on the stage - excellent entertainment by all the staff. The second night was a comedian who was so bad he was really funny, if you know what I mean. Then there was an Australian singer who was very good. We got tickets for the Freeze Frame ice show on the Tuesday afternoon at 1pm but make sure you get there about 12.30pm to get good seats. Amazing show and there were a few moves we had to cover our eyes. God - what didn't we do!! We went into the casino and lost but hey ho!! Brilliant night anyway, everyone in formal wear and feeling special. We didn't watch any of the parades on Royal Promenade because it was a little bit busy but we could see them as they made their way up the stairs whilst we sat in Schooner Bar - get there early if you want to watch it from the Promenade. Formal night amazing and even though the queues were long for the photos we had some done which turned out lovely. $19.95 each and for 4 you get a holder with picture of the ship. If you are Crown and Anchor members use your vouchers which are left on your bed the first night - some good benefits. Each night there is the Compass left on your bed which tells you whats going on the day after. You can be doing something every hour if you want. The kids didn't want to use the clubs but there is something going on all the time for them if they do. The boys used the Flowrider and that was great entertainment.
There had been a problem with the Seapass interactive accounts during the holiday but you could go and get a statement each day (sometimes they weren't up to date though). We didn't use a credit card and just put cash on and then kept topping it up when we were getting low. I went at 2am on the last night to close the account and get any money back but it still was down. They checked all my receipts I had for that day and worked out I needed a refund of $80. The queues were long the morning after but staff very friendly and helpful and didn't deserve the aggro some passengers were giving them. We had left our cases out the night before and just kept an overnight bag and that worked really well as we have found before you struggle with lifts but at least you can walk down stairs with just one bag.
On the morning of departure we were up at 6.30am and went to the Windjammer for breakfast and then disembarked at 8.00am. Everyone got off but my card bleeped and when they rang up I was told I still had a balance on my account. I went back onboard, joined the queue, got an up to date statement and was told I owed them $230. When I got the statement the photography section had charged me 4 times for photos instead of once at $79.80. (one of the tills had been down when I bought them but he kept putting my card through until it worked - watch this as it meant I had been charged four times!) Quick visit to the photo shop for them to refund my card and then back to guest relations for them to just close the account and we were able to leave. This could have been aggro but all the rest of our party had gone down and collected all the cases so it only put us back about half an hour. We left the departure hall and went straight out to our car and that was the end of our holiday. All in all this was an amazing trip - yes we did hear of some people complaining but they sounded very petty things and the guest relations team were excellent and couldn't do enough to help. Julie's sense of humor was wicked! The people we dealt with who deserve a special mention are Anguise, Neil, Georgiou, Julie, Rock the Boat (guys you do rock the boat!), Graham the entertainments manager - made us laugh all day every day - just watch him on your cabin tv! Thanks again Royal Caribbean only 422 days until our journey on the Voyager - can't come quick enough!!!!!!!!!!!