My mother and I booked this cruise with hopes of seeing some beautiful New England scenery full of colorful fall foliage. Unfortunately, the foliage disappointed us, but the ship itself certainly did not.
We are a 3.5 hour drive from Philadelphia, so we drove into Philly Friday evening and stayed at the Wyndham Garden hotel where we had a park/stay/fly package. For the very reasonable cost of the hotel room, we were permitted to park our car there for the entire week, and were provided with shuttle service to and from the airport. Everything went very smoothly, and we would definitely use this hotel package again in the future!
Saturday morning, we woke up and had a light breakfast in the hotel's cafe, then gathered our luggage and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. We did have to consult our airline tickets to tell the driver what terminal we needed, although he probably could have figured it out by the name of the airline if we didn't have that information. It was a quick trip to the Philadelphia airport, where we quickly discovered that our flight was delayed by almost an hour! This is when I decided that, in order to save myself a lot of stress, I definitely should have woke up IN Boston that morning--from now on I will always fly in to the actual debarkation port the day before! Fortunately, however, our new flight did leave the airport at the newly promised time, and the pilot must have made up some time in the air because we somehow arrived in Boston only about 30 minutes later than our original flight had been scheduled to arrive.
We had reserved the transfers to and from the pier by Royal Caribbean, and this experience went quite smoothly. We had spent the morning wondering how we would know what to do once we got to Boston, but there were 2 nice ladies waiting at the entrance to the baggage claim area, holding signs that said "Jewel of the Seas." They kindly pointed out where our luggage would be, and where we could wait for the shuttle. Within probably 20 minutes, all passengers had gathered at the waiting area and the shuttle had arrived. The bus driver loaded all of our luggage under the bus and whisked us off to the Black Falcon cruise terminal in Boston.
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 2:30 PM. There were lines, but it wasn't too horrible. We were in our stateroom checking for available excursions on our in-room TV by 3:00 PM.
We loved our stateroom (3128), which was pretty far aft on deck 3. Tons of storage space in the room as far as the closet, shelves, drawers, as well as smaller "nooks and crannies" like behind the corner mirrors. As two women who did not travel all that lightly, we had plenty of storage space to completely unpack for the week. There is plenty of room under the beds to store your suitcases. We opted to place the small coffee table inside the closet, as we didn't foresee using it for anything and it made for much more usable walking space in the room. The room was a "large oceanview" and we loved having the window. I personally saw no need for a balcony, especially on such a chilly itinerary. But my mother would probably opt for one in the future, as she is a smoker, and designated smoking areas on the ship are few and far between (FYI, if you do happen to be a smoker, the best locations she found were a covered area behind the main pool on Deck 11, and the starboard side of Deck 5). Anyway, continuing with the stateroom review, it was very clean, beds were very comfortable, linens cozy, lighting nice. Things we wish it had are a dim nightlight setting in the bathroom and some sort of clock (maybe a digital clock/alarm on the nightstand would be good). Also note that there are no receptacles in the bathroom, so you'll need to use the hairdryer (which is provided) out at the vanity in the room. Bar soap was provided, and there was a dispenser mounted right on the shower wall which was labeled "CONDITIONER SHAMPOO" but I opted to use it as body wash, and thought it was quite nice as such. Water pressure was AWESOME (wish I had it at home), and the shower head easily adjusted up/down/side-to-side as needed. The shower had actual rounded doors, not a curtain.
The service on the ship was beyond top-notch. Every RCCL employee was so polite. There was only 1 single exception to this, which was a girl who worked at the Latte-Tudes cafe. She seemed to be all business, and had no tolerance for special requests. I witnessed her being rude to a co-worker, and to a passenger who was in line in front of me. I started jokingly referring to it as "Cafe Attitude." They made awesome coffee though! My only "complaint" about this cafe is that the coffee of the day is typically "spirited" and as such, they are not allowed to sell it while in port (because it would then be technically selling alcohol). I found this very disappointing because I wanted to grab one in the morning, not at 7 PM after we sailed away. Anyway, other than that, we were highly impressed by the attentiveness and friendliness of all service people on the ship. In fact, later in the cruise, we dialed "0" from our stateroom to ask if the Guest Relations desk was the appropriate place to pay some cash on our seapass account (yes, it is). When I asked her to confirm that it was on deck 4, she was pleasantly surprised that I hadn't visited the Guest Relations desk yet. When I told her we simply haven't found reason to, she was so pleased that she told me she was sending us a bottle of wine. She asked my stateroom number and what kind we liked. The next day we found it chilling in a bucket of ice with 2 glasses and a corkscrew.
As far as activities and entertainment aboard the ship, I personally found them to be geared more toward an older population. It was no matter to my mother because she was content in the casino, but I don't personally get much enjoyment out of it. I went to a few of the headliner shows and I did enjoy them (a comedian/juggler, and West End to Broadway most notably). I tried to attend an accupuncture seminar, but as it turned out, the accupuncturist wasn't actually on board for our cruise, and nobody cancelled the seminar. There were about 10 of us who sat there and waited almost 30 minutes before an RCCL employee who was just happening through the lounge agreed to call someone for us, and then told us the seminar was cancelled. So, I did find myself bored a few times during the cruise, but I suppose it was mostly my own fault. If I had just made myself go to something, I probably would have enjoyed it. But just scanning the Cruise Compass, not much stood out to me.
We only ate in the Main Dining Room twice during the cruise. Our waitress was extremely nice and attentive, but the food was just a little too "fancy" for my liking. The food in Windjammer was much more our style, and they always had mostly the same choices as the specials in the MDR for the evening, plus many, many more. We also ate in the Seaview Cafe several times and found it to be quite good as well. One word of caution, however, is that the chili in the Seaview Cafe is extremely spicy! I loved it, but probably wouldn't order it again unless I was feeling pretty brave. It really had my mouth on fire! We also loved the convenience of being able to breeze through the Windjammer just about any time we felt like it. We were assigned the 8 PM seating in the MDR and that was just too late for us.
Our first port was Portland, Maine. We took a lighthouse tour through RCCL and thought it was a good value for the money. We were most interested in going out to the Portland Head Light, and this was the primary stop on our tour, so we were very happy with it. Our tour guide was entertaining and provided us with lots of history on Portland as well. Our second port was Halifax, Nova Scotia. We explored this port on our own, walking to the Maritime Museum as well as the Citadel. Both are interesting. It was a level walk on the boardwalk to the Maritime Museum, but the Citadel was QUITE a hike up through town. Also, we had to dock at a secured pier in Halifax, but Royal Caribbean provided a free shuttle down to Pier 22 and back, and it worked quite smoothly and was nice. Lots of shopping at Pier 22. Third port was Saint John, New Brunswick, but we barely got off the ship here. It was cold, windy, dark, dreary, and raining very hard here all day. Luckily, we didn't have anything reserved here anyway. The city is undergoing a lot of construction, and we didn't find it to look very inviting (my apologies to anyone who lives in Saint John and loves it--it could very well have just been my perspective that day). There was a large tent at the end of the gangway with a small local flea market type thing set up inside, so we did walk down to that, but didn't stay long. We decided to get massages in the ship's spa this day instead. Our last stop was Bar Harbor, Maine, which we absolutely loved. Extremely beautiful town! We had pre-reserved a 2.5 hour tour with Oli's Trolley online a few weeks ahead of time--booked directly through their website. In Bar Harbor, we had to tender since they don't have a pier to accommodate large ships. I heard some "older" folks saying they weren't feeling brave enough to make their way down to deck 2 and get in the tenders, so unfortunately for them, they skipped the port. I personally found the tendering experiencing quite fun. We used 4 covered lifeboats as tenders. So anyway, we tendered to the pier, and the Oli's Trolley counter was inside of a small shop at the top of the pier. We checked in, got our official boarding passes, and then walked further down the pier to the actual trolley. Our tour took us through Acadia National Park, up to Cadillac Mountain, and down to Thunder Hole. Once again, our tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. We really had a good time and got a lot of beautiful pictures. I would return to Maine, specifically Bar Harbor, in a heartbeat!
By this time, I was missing my husband terribly, and ready to go home. Since we had purchased the transfer from terminal to airport through RCCL, we were among the first group of people to be able to disembark the ship (after the self-disembarkers). The flier we had been given about disembarkation stated to be in the Coral Theatre at 8:40 AM. Luckily, we went early because we were walking down the gangway by 8:30 AM. Found our luggage with just a little bit of searching (one of Mom's bags was on the far outskirts of the area where our luggage was supposed to be and we were overlooking it), and then quickly found a nice lady holding a sign about transfers, and she told us which bus to head to. We made our way to the bus with no trouble, the driver loaded our luggage, and within about 5 minutes we were on our way to the Logan airport. The trip home was very smooth.
We were not traveling with children, so have no experience with that sort of thing. However, one night as we were exploring the ship, we passed through the Adventure Ocean area and found the RCCL girl manning that desk looking quite bored (haha). We asked her how many kids were on board, and she said 8. I think that must be the number of kids actually enrolled in the kids' program there, however, because I saw several babies. There was only 1 time in the Windjammer that we were a bit annoyed by a screaming baby, however. All other times, you would never know there were any kids on board if you hadn't seen them with your own eyes.
Overall, I loved the ship itself, and loved being on the ocean and being able to see the ocean so readily from our room. Unfortunately, the best foliage we saw was on Interstate 80 on our way home to Central PA! haha. But that's OK. It was a great experience, and I would sail Royal Caribbean again, no question--just probably not without my dear husband.