Just two of us went cruising back eight years ago. It seems like we kept adding friends to go until we now have six of us - who get along famously and are very compatible (Lisa & Marty from Ohio, John and Sandy from Canada and Greg and I from Tennessee). We chose Panama/Central America because we had already tried East, West and South Caribbean and wanted to stop at some different ports. We also picked the Jewel of the Sea because we like ships under 3,000 people....and really love Royal Caribbean! It seems to be a size ship that gives us the most of what we want!
Just a reminder that the opinions I'm about to give are totally MINE and not to guarantee that you will feel the same. We have gone on eight cruises in as many years and have tried Celebrity and Princess Lines also (liked both of those lines). I feel we have a good feel for quality and services offered, along with fun ports......so here goes!!!! I won't go into much about excursions....just that it seems hiring a cab to take you around shows you the most for a lot less money than some of the ship excursions offered!!!
THE SHIP: Jewel of the Seas This is one of the most beautiful ships we have ever been on!!!! TONS of glass and beautiful views out to the sea no matter where you go. The ship was immaculate, the dining room beautiful, the pool area (with a band-of course Caribbean music) very lovely and well maintained and the lounges were very relaxing and decorated beautifully and tastefully!!! The Centrum wasn't as fancy as other ships we sailed on.....but very nice, nonetheless. the pictures in all the stairways were very unique and almost made you want to walk down a few flights just to admire them! the rooms were very nice with plenty of room to put away all your suitcases and souveniers! (cruise rooms are always small....but this one was very nice!) We had an outside room on the port side of the ship and we were very happy with it. It's a lovely ship that I would recommend to anyone!!!
FOOD: Excellent This is also some of the best food I've had on a cruise. The dinners were divine with plenty of great choices (along with desserts to die for!).....the Windjammer cafe is never a disappointment (love how they set it up where everyone is NOT standing in a LONG line waiting to get food)..all the seperate "stations" set around the Cafe allow you to go right up to the type of food you like. At breakfast they had an omelet station (omelet's or fried eggs made to you specifications) which is always nice. We ate in the Windjammer for lunch and/or breakfast so I can't tell you anything about their dinner provisions. But I'll bet they were great! This ship also has an outdoor eating area (behind the Windjammer) which we just love!!! the only other time we had this was on Celebrity Cruises...and we've missed it ever since. So this was a really pleasant suprise!!! And they had coffee and beverage stations all around the Cafe so everyone wasn't waiting in one place to refill their coffee!!! It was great.
The Windjammer also had an ice cream station in the afternoons to satisfy your sweet tooth if you chose to take advantage of it....Yummy!!
The Seaview Cafe was very nice. By itself with indoor or outdoor seating. It is NEVER crowded and the food (if you like what is on the limited menu) was good. BUT there are no complimentary beverages available up there. All the beverages are to purchase....which I didn't like. How hard would it be to put a lemonade/punch or coffee station in this little bistro? I think that would be an improvement. I'm thinking they may have avoided that to keep the children out of there!!! Which is a great idea.....it's just not big enough for a lot of children!!! It's kind of a nice intimate, get-a-way place to have a bite to eat.
SERVICE: I have to start by saying that EVERYONE that waited on us was exceptionally pleasant and fun!!!! Juri, in the Vortex (where we went before dinner to have pre-dinner cocktails) was from Astonia and just TERRIFIC!!! Tried to see him almost every night once we found him!!! Great service and with a smile and sense of fun! Bernadine was also pleasant in the Safari Lounge. Except the Safari Lounge always has something going on in it....so not the quietest place to stop before dinner.
Our Waiter and Ass't waiter (Nicki and Nina) were the best. I wasn't sure about a woman waiter as we have always had men........but they turned out to be a lot of fun and a pleasure. Just a tip.....most waiters and their assistants start the cruise off by being very formal and extremely proper. I'm sure there are people who expect this! But once they know you want to have some fun and laughs......they join right in and make your cruise even more memorable!!! They were both a delite and our dining experience was EXCELLENT! We like assigned dining times so that we can really get to know our waiters and interact with them throughout out cruise. Sometime the dining experience is one of the best parts of the ship...and having the same waiters every night is great!!! Our cabin stewart was right on the ball and kept our room shiny and sparking. His name was Rueben and we were very happy with him also. The one thing I did notice though, is that it seems Royal Caribbean has cut down on their staff. Service wasn't as available as we are used to on this line...and that was a little disappointing!!! They need to add a few more servers back by the pool and on the pool decks and a couple more in the lounges. When we got service it was better than ever....but the service staff can only do so much and they seemed to be short handed.
PORTS: Cartegena, Panama, Costa Rica and Cayman Islands along with a stop at Labadee (RCCL's private beach in Haiti)
Labadee....Been to Labadee before but a long time ago. A lot of changes, but all for the good. The buffet they have for you, while you are at the beach, is great! Don't miss it. And the zip line is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay fun!!! A little pricey but a chance to ride the longest zip line over water!!! Yahoo!!! Some good shopping deals too...but the people are EXTREMELY pushy!!! Almost to the point of being annoying. If you shop INSIDE the one large building, no one bothers you....much better than the outside markets.
Cartegena was a cool city. The old section was very quaint and interesting. It's a beautiful old city with a lot of character!! We took a city tour...which took us to the inquisition Palace, showed us Fort San Filipe and allowed us to shop. It was worth the money. A good port to stop at.
Panama (colon)....did NOT like the city. I thought it was dirty and very unappealing!!! We did grab a cab and go see the locks which I enjoyed ... as you've seen pictures of the Panama Canal your whole life and it was nice to really get to see them up close and personal. Our cab driver also took us to a private zoo (maybe only ten/fifteen animals) but it was really cool to get extremely upclose pics of toucans/parrots etc... But if I never go back to Colon, that would be fine with me!
Cost Rica (Puerto Limon) Grabbed a cab and did a little tour!!! Very fun!! Banana plantations, Monkeys wild in the trees, beautiful countryside. A great port to stop in and some fun shopping!!! There are a lot of things to see here. Would like to go back and see some more!!!!
Cayman Islands ... ALWAYS good shopping. Not the cheapest port to shop in, but some very nice shops. We've been there several times so we stayed in port for a limited amount of time. If you've never been there..you can go to seven mile beach, Hell (you only need to see it once....but's it's a riot!!!) and just tours of the island. It is a very beautiful island!!!
THE CASINO: LOVED THE CASINO!!!! Stopped in every night to have some fun!! It's well set up and has games for everyone....even penney machines!!!! If you like to gamble, I don't think you will be disappointed!!! Take some money after dinner and GO HAVE SOME FUN!!!!!!!!
We didn't see any of the shows. I heard some were good and some were not...but that's something you'll have to explore and form your own opinion on!!!
All in all we loved the cruise. If we had to do it again it would NOT be during Easter break. We thought we were going to cruise right BEFORE Easter break, but we didn't figure it properly. Some things were closed in ports because of Easter week........WAY TOO MANY KIDS ON THE SHIP - LIKE FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY OF THEM!!! I love and have kids and even grandkids...but, as far as I was concerned there were just too many and UNSUPERVISED. RCCL needs to make sure these kids are not in the elevators pushing all the buttons and overrunning the pool. the first time I couldn't sit at the edge of the pool and just dangle my feet and sit in the sun. There were kids everywhere and AND NO PARENTS TO BE SEEN!!! And the hot tubs each had at least ten or more kids splashing around in them (I think the jacuzzis should be adult only). That is my main gripe of this cruise. There IS a kids pool.........and the kids should use it!!! I also didn't like the kids at bingo. I'm sorry, I don't go on a cruise to be overrun by children. Maybe they could have "kid friendly" ships and "adult" ships. This is just not my opinion....but the opinion of all in our group...Lisa, Marty, John, Sandy, Greg and I!!!! And the opinion of TONS of adults I talked to while we stopped at every floor because a child, alone in the elevator, had pushed EVERY button!!!!
But Royal Caribbean knows how to build a beautiful ship. They are our favorite line to this point in time. They are little less "stuffy" than Celebrity and I believe offer better food than Princess.....but all three of those lines would be a good choice.
Enjoy your cruise. Sorry this was kind of long, but I hope this has been somewhat helpful!!!! Live Life Large 24/7