Our group was ourselves and another couple that we have cruised with previously. This was our first trip with RCL and was our seventh cruise. The other cruises were with Celebrity – a sister line.
We arrived in London at Terminal 4 one day ahead of time and spent the night at the Thistle Hotel near the airport (not a great place, but adequate, and it included breakfast). It is a 20 pound taxi ride between the two – each way. (The Hilton near Terminal 4 may not have cost much more.) The next morning found us back at the airport to meet our purchased shuttle bus to the pier in Harwich. After about a 2 ½ hour ride we were at the ship where embarkation was by far the easiest, smoothest we have experienced.
The Ship – Jewel of the Seas was a bit of a disappointment to us. The biggest negative was the Centrum area on Deck 4 that extended up several decks. There were many activities that took place there and the sound carried up this center portion. This area was often very congested, also, because there are so many things here – guest relations, a dance floor, a bar, and the onshore excursion desk. It was difficult to find a quiet, comfortable place to read anywhere on the ship. We were disappointed that the main dining room did not open to windows at the stern of the ship as we have had previously. The ship was well maintained, had lovely art work, and was easy to navigate. However, there are no elevators toward the stern – only sets at midship and forward.
The Ports – This was a cruise with 9 port and 2 sea days. I will try to comment on each port. In the ship’s first day newsletter there was a list of the ports and which ports would have a shuttle. Keep track of this because you won’t find the info again. Normally we mainly do the ports on our own. This cruise I booked the ship’s onshore excursions in most ports and was pleased with nearly all of them. Our first port was LeHavre in France, the port for Paris. It is a 2 ½ hour bus ride each way to Paris, so consider this when making your plans. We chose to tour the Beaches of Normandy which also went to the American cemetery and a museum, for lunch. It was an 8-hour tour and very informative. Cherbourg was our next stop. I just stayed onboard to rest while my husband took a shuttle uptown, walked around, and walked back. Our friends took a country tour. Cobh/Cork in Ireland came next. We took a trip to Kinsale and saw lovely countryside. The town was only OK for us. (Don’t kiss the Blarney Stone in Cork – the locals do nasty stuff to it.) Dublin provided us with a city trip mainly to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College (the book of Kells is here and there was a long line waiting to get to see it.) Grenock/Glasgow is a very friendly port. Some people were offered a free tour by a group that was promoting their city. We took a tour of four lochs that included Loch Lomond and made a round trip, returning us to the ship via ferry. The day was rather overcast, but was well worth the price. On nearly all of our tours, the guide was excellent. After a day at sea we woke up just outside of Geiranger, our first fjord port in Norway, and what a fabulous scene outside our cabin! The next several days had terrific scenery and were the highlight of this trip. We took a bus trip to the top of Mt. Dalsnibba – lots of hairpin turns and wonderful photo stops. We were lucky enough to come across a small herd of reindeer. I did a bit of shopping here. It is a tender port and there are several shops just as you get off the tenders. (Norway is expensive! – no real need to change money on this trip, except that we did to pay for the taxi in London.) Flam was the next stop and again lots of scenery. This is a very small village and the ship docked right there. It is a very short walk to the shops. We went to Stalheim Valley and Tvinde waterfall. Alesund, even though not in a fjord, provided us with a great excursion – the Valley of the Trolls. Trolls Ladder is not to be missed, whether you do it on your own or through the ship!! No picture could do it justice. It is something you must see for yourself. If you don’t mind heights, make sure that you walk to the overlook at the top. A new one just opened the day we were there. Our last port was Bergen. It was 80 degrees when we were there – very warm for Norway. My husband found a free hop on/hop off bus near the visitors’ information center and rode two of the routes. I stayed onboard and kept cool. The weather on this whole trip was wonderful and just added to everything.
This and That – The meals were average. We ate in the main dining room every night, and our waiter was poor. The assistant was excellent, so made up for it a bit. However, we were at a table for 8 and our tablemates were outstanding. We had great conversations and wonderful fun with them, at other times, too. We ate most of our other meals in the Windjammer buffet. Sometimes it was very busy, but there is a lot of seating. Our room steward was attentive and provided us with shampoo, extra towels, robes, whatever we asked for. (I didn’t bring any shampoo, as it is provided on Celebrity, as are cotton balls and Q-Tips – just a couple of little things that I missed on RCL.) We went to the theater every night, but the entertainment was only average. The evening sunset show was better. We enjoyed our balcony a great deal. It was a quiet sanctuary, and despite all of our other activities we each read three books. We made use of the gym. I had planned on getting a pedicure, but checked out the chair that they use and found it to be very uncomfortable, so saved a few dollars on that. Since we are part of the Celebrity loyalty program and that transfers to RCL, we are at a high enough level to enjoy the Concierge Club. This provides a quieter place for a continental breakfast and also evening drinks and appetizers in a private area. Since we were new to this amenity, we were surprised to find out that alcoholic drinks are also complimentary. We were happy to find out that we could get our daily ‘fix’ of a soft drink without having to purchase the very expensive soft drink option. I have since heard that RCL is modifying this program to offer free wine and soft drinks, but to offer a percent off the cost of hard liquor.