To start, we missed our embarkation in Miami due to the unusual weather we had in Vegas. We met up with the ship in Cartegena, Colombia, the second port of call, after we decided to take a diversion trip to Epcot while the ship sailed towards Cartegena. We were told we could not board the ship in Labadee, Haiti, the first port of call, since it was a privately RCI owned island. I wonder why not?
In the future, we will plan our cruises away from the Holidays. We were told that this cruise had up to 800+ children which was a minor annoyance since we are a pair of DINKS and travelled with another couple that left their children at home. The kids, including teenagers, were running rampant (in packs) at times. The most annoying part was that every night, they clogged the entire staircase on the 12th deck leading up to the disco/bars on the 13th deck (we had to use this route because the SeaView Cafe is located on deck 12 which we frequented). RCI ship security is way too nice in comparison to our hotel security here in Vegas. To be fair, there were some well behaved kids.
This is our first RCI cruise. We have cruised on Carnival once and Princess five times. So, I can only compare RCI vs. our experience with Princess.
-Very nicely laid out. -Central elevator very elegant. Can see both inside and outside of the ship. -Rock climbing wall and miniature golf course were highlights. -Higher quality gym equipment in comparison with Princess. -Library is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum where it is noisy. -Computer center is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum.
-Inside cabin. Very nicely appointed and laid out. Nicer than Princess. -Sizeable in comparison with Princess. Small love seat and coffee table. -Nice shower with glass/plastic enclosure. -Overall, IMO, nicer than Princess. -Cabin 2005 is noisy since crew quarters are behind it. Several times, the crew was playing loud music with a heavy bass beat from 11 pm and on. Had to call security a few nights to have the music turned down.
-Dining room food on par with Princess. The NY strip from Princess was tastier and available every night (not sure about RCI since we only dined in the dining room three times and out of the three, it was only offered once. -Buffet offered quality food on par or even better than Princess. Too bad buffet not open 24 hours like Princess (we like to hang out with friends late night and chat). This alone is a major CON for us. -We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers. -Service charge for late night usage (gratis on Princess). -Coffee was bad. But same on Princess! -Free lemonade! -Soft serve ice cream in the buffet. -Limited late night food. Sea View Cafe (salads, sandwiches, soups) only opens till 11 pm and Solarium Cafe (pizza & hot dogs) only till 1 pm.
-Production shows on par with our experience with Princess. -Disco. DJ did not seem to play a variety of music to inspire various taste to dance. Though he did take requests. Not much happening here. At one point, he was clapping to his own music without anyone on the dance floor. I guess since this is a Holiday cruise, most families stayed together? -Ping pong paddles are plastic molded units that have a textured plastic hitting surface (no rubber surface). Lack of ping pong balls available. -Separate movie theater (nice) but not recent first run movies like Princess.
We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers when we feel like being served and liked the convenience of the 24 hour buffet as well. It is too bad that RCI does not offer this. The cabin is nicely appointed vs. Princess. Everytime we travel with Princess, the cabin steward makes it a point to remember our names. Our steward on the Jewel did not once address us by name. Perhaps I am being a little picky here. We still favor Princess for all future cruises. The one exception is that we may want to cruise on RCI's Oasis of The Seas due to it's sheer size and novelty.