So we decided to try cruising again and chose the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas because the dates, embarkation port and the ports of call matched what we wanted to do. But we had no idea we were sailing with the "No You Can't" cruise line....
Jewel of the Seas is a beautiful ship with lots of light, space and lovely areas to relax. The crew was uniformly wonderful - attentive, polite and professional. But the RCI rules were frustrating and insulting. First, my husband about blew a gasket when he found I had booked us on a ship that would not allow him to take his favorite single-malt scotch on board. He isn't much of a drinker, but relaxing at the end of the evening with a really good Islay scotch is his thing - and there was no such thing aboard this ship. Their best $15 a shot whisky is a very middle of the road drink that just annoyed him more than anything else. I had traipsed across Boston to buy a rare special whisky for him, just in case it would be let through by a sympathetic screener, but no such luck. We had to go to the "naughty room" to have it confiscated for the duration of the cruise. If they are going to be so stringent, they should at least offer something worthwhile to drink on board!
Secondly, we purchased the top of the line wine package, but could only get a bottle of wine from room service or in a dining room. No relaxing with a bottle in a lounge chair unless you want to wait for room service, then carry a bottle and glasses through a pitching ship. Generally, we confined our wine consumption to dinner, but it still would have been nice to have the option.
This same obsession with restricting alcohol seemed to cause lots of holdups and delays when re-boarding after a port stop, as well. Besides checking every bag for booze (I don't think they were worried about more serious items) they spent a ridiculous amount of time arguing with people who wanted to bring their partially consumed drinks back on board. What a waste of time and effort.
Food: Food was mediocre in both the main dining room and the buffet. The only dishes with any flavor at all in the MDR were the soups - which were always good. The Seaview Cafe food was very "fast-foodish" and there was no tea or coffee available there(?!?) Portofino was TERRIBLE! Bad food and worse service. I ate two bites of my entree and was never even asked how it was nor was any comment made upon removal of the dishes. Chops, however, was very good. Again, the soups were outstanding and the steaks excellent. (Back on the wine rant...when in Portofino, I asked to buy a wine listed on the MDR menu every night. They couldn't figure how to do that!) Room service food was quite good, but menu choices were very limited.
Cabin: Small, but adequate and very comfortable. Our excellent cabin steward kept it spotless but had to literally smuggle us robes under an extra blanket, because "they are kept only for Diamond and Platinum members".
Entertainment: Did not attend any shows, but the musicians performing around the ship were always great. We especially enjoyed the classical guitarist and the Black Pearl Strings duo when they performed serious pieces, but it seems they were told to primarily concentrate on elevator music...Lots of fun and games throughout the ship that drew lots of participation. 70s night and Karaoke were a hoot!
Spa: Bought a couple of day passes for the Thermal Suite, which is lovely, but who decided that each of the five thermal lounges should be at a different temperature? No one wanted the two coldest chairs, so people just perched and jumped like fleas on a dog whenever anyone on one of the three warmest chairs even twitched like they might move. And the warmest chair was so hot it burned any flesh not lying on a towel. Why not just permit users to select their own temperature so each chair can be used and enjoyed??? I indulged in a reflexology treatment that might have been very nice had the therapist's very long, hard thumbnails dug into my feet.
Ports of Call: We caught the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia, so Portland was a deluge, and the weather was not much better at the other stops. But the excursions seemed to be very well planned and were as enjoyable as could be expected under such weather conditions.
All in all, a so-so experience. If we ever cruise again, we will save up for Crystal or Seaborne!