First off, I must say that Jewel of the Seas is an amazingly gorgeous ship! I just returned from my 7th cruise, 1st with Royal Caribbean. It was a 7 day roundtrip Canada/New England cruise out of Boston, Mass, Sept 11-18. I will just give a brief review of my cruise and I will try and answer any questions anyone may have.
Embarkation: We arrived at Logan Airport after a red eye out of LAX on Saturday at around 9 am. We sat around the airport for about 2 hours until 11 and then took a taxi to the Black Falcon cruise ship terminal. We arrived around 11:30 to find only about 100 people ahead of us. They check you in according to what floor your cabin is on. It went very smoothly and quickly. I was on board before noon. They had said that our cabins wouldn't be available until 1 pm. But we were able to go to our cabin and at least put our carry on luggage away. We set off to explore the ship. Jewel of the seas is an absolutely amazing and gorgeous ship. All the glass is beautiful and the layout of the ship is really nice. I must say out of the 7 ships I've been on, jewel is the most beautiful. I forgot to mention that while flying into Logan airport, we flew right over the black falcon terminal and saw Jewel docked at port. That was amazing. After a quick lunch at the windjammer we went back to our rooms and all of our bags were delivered by 2:30 pm. The muster drill went quite smoothly. Also the Capt. came over the PA system to welcome us aboard and made some really nice and touching comments regarding 9/11 since we were sailing on the 3 year anniversary.
Food: the food on the ship was ok. not great and not horrible. the chilled soups are superb and the lobster was good. also the salmon dishes were quite good. for the most part the deserts were delicious as well. one day for lunch in the tides dining room there was banana and chocolate strudel for dessert which was wonderful. also in the morning for breakfast there were banana pancakes which were good. the steak was eh... not great not bad. the windjammer was really nice for all meals. they had great belgian waffles with strawberries and whip cream for breakfast, as well as strawberry shortcake in the afternoon for snacks. the seaview cafe was also really nice, but completely underused! we went there 3 or 4 times and never saw more than 10 people there! great selection of food. good chili and fries up there.
service: the service was pretty good. our cabin steward, Anthony, was good about cleaning our cabin in the morning. it was usually made up by about 9:30 every morning. and in the evening the cabin was always clean by the time we finished dinner, except on the first night. the dining room waiter and assistant waiter were pretty good. they were friendly and always had a smile on their face. the one complaint I think everyone had about service in the dining room was that it was slow.. on the first night especially it took us almost 2 and 1/2 hours to finish dinner. we had early seating at 6:00 pm and it was almost 8:20 pm by the time we finished dinner. and second seating started at 8:30! needless to say they had only one show that night at 7:45 pm and we missed it! the service every where else on the ship was good. the bar staff always had a smile and the people up in the windjammer were great! entertainment: the nightly entertainment on this ship is great. it seems that every night up until about midnight there's always some sort of band playing live music. there's a really great couple called Deja Vou which played many nights in the Centrum. They were really great and I noticed a lot of couples out on the dance floor dancing away to their music.
The nightly entertainment was pretty good as well. We had the Celtic Tenors one night and they were fantastic! We also had Herb Reed and the Platters. Herb is an original member of the Platters. They were fantastic and truly entertaining! I went to watch Quest and that was hilarious as we had a couple of guys who decided to moon the audience! And the 50s 60s sock hop was fun as well!
ports: Bar Harbor - it was a tender port. since we had a morning excursion booked we had no problems with the tenders. We did the coastal sea kayaking in the morning. It was a bit cold out, but sunny. We kayaked out to sheep island and bar island and it was just gorgeous. We saw a harbor seal along the way and we also saw a baby bald eagle. The town of bar harbor is just so quaint and pretty! I did a lot of souvenir shopping here as the prices were great! In the afternoon I did the "Best of Acadia National Park" tour. We went up to Thunder Hole and up to the top of Cadillac Mountain where I got some great pictures!
Halifax - I did the "Famous Peggy's Cove Fishing Village" tour. It was a nice drive from Halifax over to Peggy's Cove. Peggy's Cove is a fishing village with a population of 60 residents. No one is allowed to move to the village anymore. At Peggy's Cove there is a lighthouse which is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the world. It was gorgeous out on the rocks there. The fishing village is cute. In the afternoon I took the free bus that the city provides called "FRED" into town from the pier and up to Citadel Hill and the fort that is there. From there I walked out to the Public Gardens which are nice and then walked back into the shopping area called "Historic Properties." From there it was a 15 minute leisurely stroll along the harbor front boardwalk back to the ship.
Sydney - this port was originally listed as a docked port, but it turned out to be a tendering port as HAL's Maasdam was given priority docking at the pier. It was a very cold and windy morning with a bit of drizzle. We took the "Fortress of Louisbourg" tour and it was very good and informative. The Fortress is a completely recreated fort based upon the documents and drawings they have from the original fort which was destroyed by the French and British while fighting over control of the fort. The fort as it currently stands is only 1/5 completed. There are people dressed in period costumes going about their business as their counterparts would have back in 1744. It was very interesting. In the afternoon we just walked the 5 minutes it took to get from the pier to downtown Saint John. Then we waited in line to get back on the tenders. The line was ridiculously long and took probably about 30-45 minutes!
Saint John - this is a great town. They have a nice downtown area. We took the free shuttle in the morning to the center of town. We walked up King St. to the City Market. This is a great little market to just walk around. We were able to buy some nice souvenirs. Then we walked up to Kings Square and over to the Trinity Church. This is a beautiful church with some great stained glass windows. We then walked back to the pier for our "Ride the Rapids and City Sights" tour. Saint John is located at the Bay of Fundy which as the highest tidal changes in the world. When the tide comes in it causes the river to flow in the reverse direction created some small white water rapids. We drove out to the rapids got outfitted with protective rain gear, but that wasn't enough to keep us from getting wet! I would highly recommend this tour if you are up for adventure. Riding the rapids was a lot of fun! Afterwards we were treated to a great lobster roll!
Portland - Portland is Maine's largest city with only 62,000 residents. Today we did the "Best of Portland and Kennebunkport" tour. We had a great tour guide who showed us all over Portland. We then drove out to Portland Head Light which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in America and you can see why by looking at it. It's absolutely gorgeous! From there we settled in for a 45 minute drink out to the tows of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. These are really 2 quaint little towns situated right by the ocean. We had gotten word that President Bush was due to arrive in Kennebunkport later in the afternoon to spend the weekend at his family's estate at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport. We were wondering whether we would be able to even drive to Walker's Point due to the security. But in the end we were lucky, we got there just a few hours before he did, so we were still able to drive up to the estate. We even saw former President George H. W. Bush's speed boat Fidelity parked at the family's estate. We were then given 2 hours on our own to wander around Kennebunkport. We bought some great lobster rolls for lunch. They were to die for! We also did quite a bit of souvenir shopping here as well. From there it was back to the ship....
Debarkation: The debarkation process went very smoothly. We actually docked in Boston at around 6:00 am and they began letting people off the ship at 7:45 am. They called people every 15 minutes or so according to their colored luggage tags. We were off the ship by 8:45 am. We found our bags and grabbed a taxi and were on our way. The only horrible part about today was that it was pouring rain in Boston due to what was left of Hurricane Ivan, so that kind of put a damper on sightseeing in Boston!
Overall impressions: I was blown away by the beauty of the Jewel of the Seas. The itinerary we had was fabulous as well. The cities were all very different and unique and all the tours we took were great! The scenery was gorgeous and the people were extremely friendly. Although the food could have been better and the service could have been more efficient, it wasn't bad enough to really bother me. Afterall, I was on vacation! I wouldn't hesitate to go on another Royal Caribbean cruise, especially on a Radiance Class ship. I'm already looking into the Mediterranean on Brilliance next year.....