Although I am not a fan of the short cruises we had a chance to go on the Jewel of the Seas for a Friday to Monday 3 night cruise. Not a regularly scheduled cruise it was a one time chance to see this ship. Since we live in Ft. Lauderdale it is an easy trip to the Port of Miami. We booked this cruise 2 weeks before sailing. We have been on several cruises with RCCL before but never sailed the Radiance class ship. We sailed on the Liberty of the Seas, The Voyager and The Majesty. We also have been on several cruises with Celebrity, NCL and Carnival. Now that the background is out of the way, here is my review:
Embarkation - We arrived at the port around 11:00 AM. It was the perfect time to get there. We beat the crowds and basically walked right into the terminal and then on the ship. They had a small problem with the seapass machine and it delayed us about 10 minutes, but by 11:30 we were on the ship. We could not go to our cabins until 1:00 so we headed for the Windjammer. To our surprise it was no open yet. It did not open until noon.
Cabin - We had a standard balcony cabin about midship. Based on the fact that we did not book this cruise until 2 weeks before sailing I think we were pretty lucky to get a cabin with this location. The cabin was very nice and very clean. The bathroom was small, but most of them are. My wife did not like the shower, she called it an MRI shower as she said it was like being in an MRI machine. Overall the cabin was very comfortable and the balcony was great. Only problem is that RCCL allows smoking on the balcony. My neighbor was a chain smoker and when they were in their cabins they kept going out there to smoke. Everytime they did that while i was sitting out there relaxing I had to come in. They should do like Celebrity and not allow smoking on the balcony. It is very dangerous and really takes away from the enjoyment of the fresh sea air to those of us that do not smoke.
Ship - I had heard many good things about the Radiance class ships. I have to say all of it is true and then some. The ship was one of the nicest I have seen. We have sailed on some very nice ships lately including the NCL Pearl, Celebrity Solstice, RCCL Liberty of the Seas and a few others. The Jewel was right up there with the others, maybe even nicer. The decor was very nice and the ship was spotless throughout. It looked brand new and was always clean in all areas. Very impressive. The public areas were all nice. I give this ship 5 stars on the appearance and layout.
Food - Now time for the bad part of this review. I know all about the budget cuts and they are always obvious to me each cruise I go on as time goes by, but what is RCCL thinking? They have basically cut the food quality down to the bare basics, even lower than I could have imagined. What a shame. Such a beautiful ship with good service, but very poor food. The selections were very limited and what they did have was horrible. Maybe the quality was bad because we were only on a 3 night cruise, but most of the food was just not edible. We ate in the main dining room for dinner each night. The selctions were very limited. Forget about all the creative appetizers, soups and salads that were once offered, they were not available. Caesar salad was the salad each night. If you do not like Caesar salad, they you would be out of luck. Other than the staple herb chicken that you can order each night, there were no other chicken dishes at all during the cruise. There were also no veal, shrimp or other seafood other than Salmon and a couple of very lame fish dishes that the cut of fish was not identifiable. The desserts were very limited and were terrible. I had what they called a white chocolate fondue the last night. It was some berries with cool whip on it. I only saw a pasta dish on the last night. It was a cheese tortolini. I ordered it and it was terrible. I have had better frozen entries from the grocery store. I had duck on the formal night. It was a duck breast. The top half had the skin on it. It was full of fat and it tasted like someone had spilt salt on it by accident. It was the waiters suggestion to order it. I can only imagine how bad the other dishes were. I give the main dining room and the food zero stars. Another big problem with the food was the fact that the main dining room was not open at all for lunch. We were forced to eat at the buffet at the Windjammer. Several things about this that bother me. First of all the chance of getting a stomach virus or other sickness is multiplied highly when you visit the buffet. Ever watch what happens at these buffets? People touch food and put it back, sneeze on food and tables, sweat all over the food and tables. Should I say more? RCCL should be more concernced with the threat of viruses and they do not seem to be. There was a hand sanitizer as you walked into the windjammer, but nobody was using them and there was no staff asking passengers to use them. Very bad. It would have been much preferred to eat in the dining room during lunch, but that option was not available. We did eat breakfast each morning in the dining room. I can only assume that this option will be over soon as well. The only thing more disgusting than lunch at the buffet is breakfast at the buffet. Don't get me started on this one! The food at luch was very basic and most of it looked unedible. The only thing I did like was the pasta and the cookies. Overall, zero stars for the food and very disappointing.
Entertainment - The entertainment was very good considering what some of the other lines have done with budget cuts. There was plenty to do and live entertainment all over the ship. They had on a couple of comedians that were very good. The production show was fine, although not my taste. The singers and dancers were very talented. RCCL does do a good job trying to make sure that everyone has a good time.
Ports of Call - Key West and Nassau. Not much to say here. I did not get off the ship in Nassau. Key West is always fun. Nothing exciting here, but where can you really go just for a weekend? This cruise was not about the ports.
Overall this was a fun weekend getaway. We went with some friends that we have cruised with before. All of us had a great time, but were very disappointed with the food. The thing is,,,all of the mass market cruise lines will continue to cut the quality of the food as long as we all keep coming back. The first question on the comment card asks if you would cruise with RCCL again. As long as yes is answered here I get the feeling the rest of the answers on the card do not matter. You can complain about the quality of the food and other budget related cuts as much as you want, but as long as we all keep coming back,,,you see where this is going.