If you are already booked on a RCI cruise, or if you are an ardent fan of RCI, you may not want to read this review. I am serious. If you do and disagree or think it will spoil something, I have warned you. Really.
It is long.
First cruise on RCI, 20 something total cruises.
I will not talk about the ports visited, only the ship. It is a cruise review, not a port review.
Sat. Oct. 11, 2008. Jewel Of The Seas, Boston to Canada.
Parked in Port Of Boston parking garage. Sign said $27.00 per DAY. However upon leaving the garage, the fee was $15 a day. Whew.
11:30 arrived at check-in. No wait, took 10 minutes only because the woman who checked us in was training a new person. Thru security and on board by 11:45. Rooms not ready until 1pm, so off to the Windjammer for lunch. Food OK, quality comparable to that of a buffet at a medium priced Las Vegas hotel.
1pm, to the room. The cabin steward was still working on his section of cabins, and ours had not been vacuumed yet. I know this because of the toenail clippings left on the floor. This seemed really unusual when Reuben, the cabin steward, told me that the cabin was vacant on the previous cruise. If they don't use it, they don't clean it? Strange.
After dropping off the carry-on luggage, time to explore the ship. Long level corridors in the cabin areas unlike the cruise ships of the past when the corridors had a noticeable sway to them.
The cabin was the generic cabin of today, with a nice window. The bed turned out to be so-so as to comfort, and was two twins pushed together to make a queen.
The ship is a handsome vessel and its fairly easy to navigate about it. Muster drill went off fairly quickly, and it appeared that the people who are always real late for these things or don't think they have to participate, were not on this cruise.
Well, we tried the 'My Time Dining', and can say we tried it and didn't care for it. Turns out you can only make your reservation for dinner between 9-10am, and 4-5 pm. And nowhere did I see anything about how to make that reservation, so it was a phone call to the operator to get a number to call, and after a bit of a wait, she found the number. Then of course, if you don't have dinner close to the traditional early or late seating, you will not see the scheduled evening show. Very few people were doing the MTD deal as it was using only a small portion of the upstairs of the dining room.
The first nights dining experience was underwhelming to say the least. Took forever to get any service after being seated, and then it was the headwaiter who came and filled the water glasses. Waiter and assistant waiter were friendly, but sloooow. Different set last two meals and they had a terrible time the last night whit the orders.
Breakfast was taken in the Windjammer. Same items everyday, but enough selection to be interesting. Tend to eat the same thing for breakfast anyway, so it was OK. actually the best meal of most days.
Lunch also taken in the Windjammer. Different cut of meat at the carving station each day, but most of the rest of the selections seemed to repeat day after day. Second best food of most days. Like I said, comparable to a mid-priced Vegas joint.
Dinner in the dining room was a huge disappointment. A step up from fine dining at Denny's, but I won't go much better than that. A basic three course offering, starter, main course, and dessert. The starter selection made no separation between an appetizer and a salad so it appeared most chose one or the other. Five choices for main course, one of which was a steak (the default entree) of strange flavor.
I have been on 20+ cruises and this is the first time that I have left the dining room hungry. Actually skipped the main course one night because I didn't like what I ordered at all, didn't see anything else I wanted, and could not face another of the steaks. I know times have changed, but from a meal of appetizer/soup, salad, (perhaps sherbet to prepare the palate) meat/fish, cheese, dessert, coffee/expresso/cappuccino, and mint/truffle to Applebee's on a tablecloth. Come on people.
Thursday sea day dinner was the best meal we had in the dining room, lobster & prime rib main course selections (took lobster as appetizer, prime rib as main). Not gourmet by any stretch but good.
Spent the extra twenty pp on Portofino's and was treated to excellent service and a fine meal. Impressed my bride and me the most of anything else on the ship. Just like the service you used to get in the dining room in days past. One tacky thing was the extra charge for the espresso and other dessert coffees (Seattle's Best), please don't ruin such a nice experience with ol' Mr. Greed.
Entertainment. Didn't care for the cruise director at all, but again she was not our cup-of-tea as the Brits say. Not a whole lot to do as for activities, especially on the sea days, unless you were into spa stuff, or physical activities with the fit n' trim staff. (fee for spa/fitness) Oh, the odd trivia, bingo, art/jewelry sales and such, but this is the first time we were bored. So it was a lot of time at the bar. Very friendly bar/wait people at the Schooner bar. When they know your name after day 2, you are drinking way too much.
Movies in the theater are somewhat old. If you want first run flicks, they are available on pay-per-view TV. Don't want to miss out on revenue, now do we.
Saw a magician/dancer dude, a production show with the ships dancers/singers. Forgettable. Saw a comedian who was a funny guy. Missed the Tango dancers. Gymnast was good. The usual singers, who are from Poland and sing phonetically, not really understanding the song. Most of them fair. Same for the dance quartet, who were really a trio because the drummer missed the ship. Pianist/guitarist, miscellaneous music maker pleasant in the background throughout the public spaces.
Thirty one dollars to play four games of bingo on Thursday..
Photos. Boy do they take a lot of photographs of you. Leaving the ship in St. John, there were three photographers on the gangway/exit walkway, all within 50 feet of each other, all with different props, all clamoring to take our picture leaving the ship. Take my picture, break your camera. Better half actually bought several of the photos and they are pretty good. Ever notice on a cruise ship that there are people whom you never see until the last day no matter how few passengers on a ship, then there are those who you see all the time no matter how many on board. Everyday, everywhere. Sandy and Jerry from the RCI board were those people for us. Saw them all the time.
Tendered into port one day, went off without a hitch.
Formal nights. I was amazed at how many people did not dress for formal nights. Amazed. Kudos for the crew when they stopped people from entering the area where the Captains reception was occurring who were not appropriately dressed.
Also was amazed at the amount of people who ate at the buffet every meal, never set foot in the dining room. Pardon me, but why cruise?
Peeve. If you want to sell me a bottle of booze while I am on your ship, let me take it back to my cabin, and not 'hold it for me' until the last night of the cruise. Ah, can't let any opportunity to make a dime off of the passenger now can we.
One thing of note. If you are a soda drinker and don't want diet, say regular Coke, etc., cause if you don't, the default is diet. Same with beer, lite unless you speak up. Guess they think we are too fat. Well they are right, but I'm on vacation.
Went to the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle, met and mingled, won a nice prize in the drawing. Met some terrific folks there and got together several times during the cruise.
Gambling. Tight slots. Blackjack gave me some. Saw someone selling pull-tab lottery tickets outside the showroom entrance, thought that was tacky. Then of course heard that someone won a grand from a pull-tab, so...
Of the activities listed in the daily to-do-list, several were a pay-per-do event (spa), and a lot were an outside physical-activity activity, and a few were telling us that so-and-so venues were not available for us common passengers to use. Sometimes I was bored, so the choice was nap or drink. Big bar bill.
Tuesday sea day was dead calm waters and fog so thick I hoped the navigator had a knife to cut it with. Thursday sea day was windy and 6-8 foot swells. Ship rolled quite a bit.
Not too much brasswork on the ship, mostly stainless steel. Low maintenance, but not the same. The crew kept the ship very clean.
Fifty cents per minute internet access fee. 30 bucks per hour. Ouch.
Highs & lows. The ship was nice and the crew did their job very well , Chef not so much.
Took no ships excursions.
Disembarked using the express method. You carry all your bags and stuff off yourself and thus get to get off first. They said between 7 and 7:15 for express folks, actually was about 7:40, but then bam, and we were lurching down the sidewalk to the car.
Overall, 3 1/2 stars out of five. Will we return to RCI? Probably not, but I won't say don't go, only chose wisely. With the exception of the dining, not too much seriously awful, just to me there is that little something missing.
I know that many people who were on this cruise will have a totally different perspective of this adventure, this is mine.