This is the third year that I have made this trip from Boston on Jewel. Jewel is one of RCI's Radiance class ships which are my favorite as they "look out" to the ocean thru glass walls etc., as opposed to their larger ships which all seem to be oriented "inside" towards their "mall" areas.
We left Boston as a howling northeaster was approaching, and thru the night had winds sustained over over 110 mph while crossing around the tip of Cape Cod. Seas of 40' plus continued thru the next day. There Was a picture of a 5' wave rolling down the promenade deck, some 40'+ above the water line which was widely circulated. This was the same Halloween storm which dumped over 30" of snow on much of mid New England. There was little violent motion on the ship as the seas were on the starboard quarter and thus little damage or injury during this violent very early winter storm. After the first at sea day weather improved and was excellent for most of the remainder of the trip.
Embarkation in Boston was a breeze, on board at 11:30, to balcony room about 1:00 pm, ship completely full with 2174 pax. This is a very popular trip each year and many pax return, as do I, year after year. Next fall's trip is already almost "sold out".
I have made approx. 50+ RCI cruises and always enjoy being with them especially as the amenities for frequent cruisers are very good. On this trip there were 225+ Diamond Plus members (their highest category), and 450+ Diamond members (their second highest category). Thus the Concierge Lounge was over crowded and an additional lounge had to be set up; along with a separate Diamond Lounge.
Perhaps I have been lucky enough to be on Royal "too many" times; but their "nickel and diming" practices are really getting on my nerves. They are charging for "everything" - even a $20 fee to say Happy Birthday to a loved one on the daily program. The other problem is the food. Although there is nothing wrong with their food preparation, and service continues to be excellent - the quality of the foods they are buying seems to be the cheapest possible, whether it be in the main Dining Room, Buffet area, or even their "gourmet restaurant" Chops. As a result vegetables are the cheapest "root" vegetables, meat is universally fatty, full of gristle, dry, lacking flavor will all the hallmarks of "CHEAP". Another problem is the proliferation of Indian and Vegetarian entrees. Frequently 3 of the 5 dinner entrees were vegetarian or Indian - again meat is more expensive. Although RCI's Galley personnel are heavily from India, I did not see a single passenger on the entire ship who looked like, or dressed like, they may have been from India. And yet at each lunch/dinner and entire section of the buffet area was given over to Indian food, and there was at least one or two "Indian" entrees on the Dining Room menus. Again Indian food is mostly vegetarian and thus cheaper to purchase and serve.
Entertainment - the same old, tired three Production Shows that I have been watching for about 5 years it seems. When will RCI spend $ on new shows for the benefit of their repeat guests? Other "Headliners" were mediocre at best.
Had visits to six ports, all of which have been "destroyed" by "mass cruising" of ships such as the one I was on. At St. Lucia the combined total of pax from the ships in port may well have exceeded the population of the island itself.
Disembarkation in Tampa on Day #14 was easy, although no "carry off" was allowed but first groups were off the ship at 8:15 am and off to TPA for most people returning to NE.
In conclusion - a good trip, I am signed up for next year again; but will I go - I don't know. I'm tired of RCI's "nickel and diming", food quality is worst of any mainstream line, ports will be the same again next year - so we will see.