We were first timers on this cruise. Having been to 2 caribbean islands before (Jamaica and Aruba) on 1 week get aways and seen cruisers get off and run to do their thing, we were not sure that a cruise was our thing. This cruise changed all that and we will probably cruise for life! We were traveling with 2 other families - in all, 6 adults and 5 kids ranging from 1 to 9.
Hotel Info (if any)
We stayed in downtown Miami at Hyatt Regency the previous night to save on last minute anxiety due to flight delays etc. Well worth the extra money. Fabulous hotel.
The Jewel of the Seas has so much to offer! It is the last of the 4 ships in the radiance class which is the largest cruise ship that can traverse the Panama canal. The ship has room for approx 2500 passengers and 1000 crew. It has 10-12 bars - a decent mix of smoking and non-smoking ones; 1 casino; 1 disco; 3 pools (1 for adults only; 1 for families and 1 for kids only); 3 hot tubs; a 2 storied formal dining hall; 1 very large buffet cafe (Windjammer); 1 large rear cafe (Seaview); 1 small cafe that is open till 5 in the morning (Solarium); 1 auditorium; 1 cinema; gift shops; duty free; huge 9 deck atrium; glass elevators; etc.
Too many to list: You can watch movies; see shows; take dancing lessons; participate in or watch "beauty contests"; go to the disco; climb the rock wall; chill in the pools or hot-tubs/sauna/steamroom; exercise those calories away - whatever! kids had their own pool with 2 slides too; There is something to do for every one all the time!
Awesome: The staff goes all out to make sure you have a good time. The room attendant and the dining wait staff were exceptionally well trained and helpful. All other staff (in guest relations, bars, casino, pool side, cleaning, etc.) was courteous and helpful too.
Port & Shore Excursions
Overpriced: Do not take them from the ship unless you have to. We visited 5 ports on this cruise and on 2 of them we had pre-arranged local tours; on 1 port we just shared a mini-van with others and did a city highlights tour.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
No complaints: We flew with Continental Airlines to Miami the night before. Well worth the extra expense of a night in the hotel with some time to roam around Miami in the free mono-rail.
Great: The room was well appointed; on the first look it looked tiny but we were able to fit everything in the closets and in the bathroom without overflowing stuff from the shelves :)
Awesome: The main dining was awesome with excellent selection of appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts. We only discovered towards the end of our cruise that in addition to the selections from the main course, you could order 1 day ahead of time from any number of special menus. We also liked Windjammer for the convenience of almost any time snacking/dining and selection. On the whole excellent meals all thru' the cruise.
A bit disappointing: Parents had to accompany and stay with kids under 3 to their club. For older kids there were 3 clubs, separated by age group. However, the number of counselors seemed low and the activities were fairly limited. They did have a special Easter hunt on Easter Sunday.
A bit disappointing: Of the 9 nights, we found the main shows worth watching only on 3 nights. There was a very good juggler show by Jeff the Juggler on the last night; a performance by Glenn Smith and a performance by Harry Reed; a decent but not fantastic broad-way vignettes by RCCL entertainers; every thing else was passable. Besides the main shows there was 1 nightly adult themed show in a bar. Disembarkation
Ok: RCCL had organized things very well but due to delays at the US Immigration counters, we had some anxious moments before finally reaching the baggage claim and finding our bags.