Hey - I'm from Vancouver, Canada -â€“ thanks for reading my review:
Having had a previously positive experience on NCL - repositioning from New York to New Orleans - my wife and I decided to book ourselves onto the Jewel of the Seas to reposition from Boston to Tampa on this 14-day journey.
Note -â€“ this is an extremely popular cruise -â€“ and has all sorts of alumni who book this cruise every year. In fact, I believe that next year's cruise is already fully sold out. We reserved our balcony stateroom, #1014, in early December last year -â€“ and it was one of the last balcony's left at that time. We had never been to Boston before and were looking forward to exploring this historic city for the first time.
Even though the Boston Bruins thumped the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup this past spring -â€“ I managed to keep an open mind -â€“ and refrained from cancelling our cruise and putting our deposit elsewhere. I'm glad I did -â€“ because Boston is truly a beautiful city. Being a citizen of another beautiful city -â€“ I'm qualified to judge!
We stayed at the Sheraton Prudential Center -â€“ very convenient when it's raining -â€“ because it's attached to two malls -â€“ including a Cheesecake factory, California Pizza Kitchen and a famed fish restaurant (Legal Seafood). It's also walking distance to Fenway, REI store, Filene's basement and downtown Boston. Highly recommended. Loved the 0% sales tax!
TIP: For those staying at the Sheraton -â€“ don't pay for wireless in your room. Simply plug your laptop into the Ethernet jack located on the desk and your Internet is free! (Must be a glitch) Sorry iPad users -â€“ you're out of luck. Internet is also free in the lobby.
Smoothest check-in I've ever experienced and I've cruised 24 times. I was basically jogging and couldn't keep up with the line. We were moving so fast -â€“ the welcome aboard photo was completely blurred!
Be forewarned, Royal Caribbean x-rays every piece of check-in luggage for prohibited items. Shortly before supper on the first day -â€“ we started to be concerned when only 2 of our 4 suitcases had been delivered to our stateroom. This is when I noticed the flashing voicemail light on our bedside phone. The message summoned me to the deck 2 hold where about 100 pieces of luggage and a line-up of nervous looking people were being processed.
I watched as bag after bag of luggage was opened to reveal a bottle of wine or liquor -â€“ or in one instance a case of coke zero (this was allowed). To say the naughty people were irate about losing their bottle(s) would be an understatement!
In my case (no booze) -â€“ I was told there were illegal scissors in my wife's bag -â€“ which we never found. In my bag, the security person, who spoke very poor English, told me he was looking for an electric 'wire'. I thought he was referring to my various camera battery chargers and laptop cables -â€“ essential equipment for me -â€“ and therefore denied I had an electric 'wire'. Because they could find neither of these items -â€“ I was apologized to profusely by staff -â€“ and allowed to go on my way. I subsequently discovered my wife DID have a large pair of scissors and I DID have a brand new extension cable -â€“ both of which are apparently a no-no on RCI.
For those of you who are contemplating smuggling stuff in your suitcase onto an RCI ship, you can forget about: scissors, extension cords, knives, toasters, kettles, irons, and any kind of booze or blow-up dolls. (Just kidding about the last item -â€“ but it could prove to be an embarrassment if your bag is searched in front of your fellow passengers). Warning: The naughty room is a very public display of the contents of your suitcase! The guy in front of me had one suitcase stuffed with the entire inventory of aisle 3 at Walgreens!
During the muster drill -â€“ a very serious sounding captain announced we would be heading into hurricane force winds -â€“ with 30-40 foot waves! When I finally realized he wasn't kidding I proceeded to swallow 5 Gravol (motion-sickness) pills over the next 5 hours. The good news was I didn't get seasick during the storm. The bad news was that after the storm had ended, I slept for 36 of the next 48 hours from the residual effects of the pills.
And what a storm it was: the captain revealed in a later Q&A session with the passengers that it was the worst storm he had EVER sailed in -â€“ after 40+ years!
He said the biggest waves coming over the bow were topping 85-90 feet! He also mentioned we were skirting a hurricane by just 8 miles. Had we been any closer -â€“ we would have had to divert our course. Another ship, the Caribbean Princess, was scheduled to leave New Jersey the same day and elected to stay in port over night.
Our balcony was on deck ten near the bow. The spray was coming up over the top of our balcony to the deck above! Water was leaking in through our sliding door.
RCI promises 'adventure' in their ads -â€“ and boy do they deliver!
This cruise takes place over Halloween and many many folks get into the spirit and bring a costume on board -â€“ lots of ghosts, vampires, witches, pumpkins and cross-dressers. Fun! My first impression was that way too may folks dressed up as 'fat people' -â€“ but eventually realized -â€“ these weren't actually costumes. In any case, given another chance in the future -â€“ I would definitely bring a costume. A great party was had by all.
Ports and Excursions and Activities:
Not recommended: any purely boat or bus to the beach type trip. (Just take a cab). Also in St. Lucia -â€“ don't take the 4-hour boat cruise to the Pitons -â€“ the cruise ship does this route when it leaves! (And it's beautiful). Any Royal Caribbean dancers shows -â€“ (except for Tango Buenos Aires). Comedians are either brilliant or totally lame -â€“but I can't remember their names so it's about a 50-50 chance.
Recommended: St. Kitts train ride, St. Lucia Jeep safari, snorkeling from a catamaran in St. Thomas (not a beach), any beach on the gold coast of Barbados, Barbados Rum tour, Curacao snorkeling by boat over the sunken tugboat. Mystery Murder Dinner, Tango Buenos Aires, Elton John Tribute, Johnny Thunder (of the Drifters). Revolution Beatles Tribute, Make a Wish Foundation Walk-a-thon (even if you don't walk -â€“ it's a nice 10$ tee-shirt and a great cause).
RCI Cruise Staff:
Incredible in every way. I don't know how they do it.
Royal Caribbean Customer Service:
Vastly improved and it shows. Extremely attentive to our one complaint about one of our shore excursions as well as problems we were having with the Internet. RCI is clearly making every effort to achieve complete customer satisfaction. Kudos!
This is a great cruise -â€“ happening only once every year on the Jewel -â€“ my favorite (radiance) class of RCI ships. The total sea miles traveled is very similar to driving from Miami to Los Angeles and back -â€“ except on the ship there is almost no access to McDonald's, Denny's or Whataburger.
Fun things to say to your dinner table mates:
1. I always bring an empty suitcase and Styrofoam balls on board - because I'm collecting RCI dinner plates and stemware.
2. Zagat rates Carnival dining as far superior to this ship because of the 24-hr pizza counter.
3. I hope the bedbugs from our apartment didn't sneak into our luggage again.
4. We're hoping that this is the first cruise our dinner mates don't ask us to move to a different table.
5. I've decided to not do any shore excursions -â€“ because I heard the ports were filled with foreigners.
Fun things to say to cruise staff:
1. I think the waiters were 'lip-syncing' during their song last night. Should I knock 10% off their tips?
2. Should I take a hotdog to the mustard drill?
3. If my wife fell off our 10th floor balcony, would she survive?
4. At the embarkation check-in -â€“ point to the port terminal roof and say: "this is the cheapest-looking cruise ship I've ever seen."
5. Do cruise ship passengers have immunity from crimes they commit during shore excursions?
If you have any questions about this cruise or the Jewel of the seas -â€“ feel free to email me at peter_agnew at yahoo dot com.