Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd w/ Royal Caribbean. Previously we'd been on RCCL's "Sovereign of the Seas" and on the Celebrity "Century" & Celebrity "Millennium". I can now report that the "Jewel of the Seas" is by far more luxurious and breathtakingly beautiful than any of the others. We were awestruck at the glittering chasm of the 7-story atrium in the center of the ship. On decks 4 through 10, there are numerous viewing platforms and spacious glass elevators offering glorious views up, down, and in every direction imaginable, each level tastefully trimmed in the classic Christmas style. To further stimulate the multi-sensory experience, each floor contains a sitting or reading area which allows you to rest or read quietly while Christmas carols & soft piano music echo upward, calming the soul.
The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate. Radiating out from the center atrium, most of the public areas are quickly accessible and near at hand. The Schooner Bar, The Safari Club, and the cleverly placed Cinema are just some of the attractions that share Deck 6 with the Casino and the Coral Theater. There is also a billiard room, complete with hydraulic self-leveling billiard tables. High up on deck 13 amidships, overlooking the pools and the bow of this luxury liner, the Hollywood Odyssey is another lovely evening hideaway to sit in before the disco crowd arrives. But our favorite night club was The Safari Club, far astern on deck 6. This richly appointed and cavernous room features warm earth tones, oak and cherry wood throughout, soft and romantic lighting, and the coziest private corners anywhere on the ship.
Of the many swimming pools and whirlpools, we frequented the Solarium's whirlpool and large salt water pool every single day and thoroughly enjoyed the therapeutic and relaxing waters. Its close proximity to the Windjammer Cafe made it a popular but not overcrowded location for many. It also helped that children under 16 are not permitted in the Solarium pools. We didn't use the nearby Spa, but it certainly looked first rate and well furnished for those who did. There was a mini-putt golf course on the sun deck, ping-pong tables, the rock climbing wall, shuffleboard, and so many other places to recreate and have fun.
Food was excellent, generous, always available and easy to find. At the Windjammer Cafe, the menus featured a wide variety of American, European, and other ethnic offerings, all of which were tasty and fresh. Especially scrumptious was the chicken curry, the Christmas Turkey Dinner, the strawberry whip dessert, and a low-fat passion fruit pie. Breakfast too was abundant and hearty. Our only issue with the Windjammer was that all of the buffet islands were located together in the center of the room, which kind of forced everyone to crowd together as they helped themselves. There wasn't a food line per se, and it just required a bit more caution, patience, and courtesy than had it been arranged otherwise. The Windjammer Cafe itself is a place of great elegance; spacious, with very upscale tables & chairs, fine wood and brass furnishings, linen napkins, plentiful window seating, and a helpful and alert staff. It truly felt like being in the main dining room. It made the Celebrity Century's Islands Cafe look something like a very nice Ryan's Steakhouse or other cafeteria. We only ate in the main Dining Room once, that being Christmas Brunch. Lovely room, wonderful personalized service, and again, very good soup, steak, and Mahi Mahi entrees. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are open seating, and you order off a menu, whereas the Windjammer simply had more choices. Never used the specialty dining rooms but they too looked spectacular.
Embarkation and disembarkation: Wow! Fastest, smoothest, easiest experience EVER! Better than Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, or Miami. Maybe it was just because it was Tampa, maybe it was a new system they've created, but we were parked across the street and on the ship within 30 minutes. Getting off was even faster. Literally within 15 minutes of being called from the Coral Theatre waiting place, we were in our car and on the road by 8:30 am. Doesn't get any better than that.
The Song and Dance troupe shows were slightly disappointing as a whole. One called "City of Dreams" was downright ridiculous; outlandishly silly costumes, nonsensical thematic flow, and it even degraded into moments of rap & hip-hop. A full one third of the audience had walked out before the blithering spectacle was half over. The other show, a standard sort of cruise ship Broadway revue, was much better received and done with more taste. But Celebrity Cruises definitely does this sort of entertainment better. On the plus side, "The Temptations" tribute band was first rate and a highlight of the cruise. Los Pampos Gauchos was also a fantastic hit; high energy drumming, dancing, and stunts, all laced with bawdy Latin flavored comedy and audience participation. Perfect show for a cruise ship!
Our room was a 9th deck stateroom with a private balcony. Gorgeous spacious room, no problems whatsoever with plumbing, HVAC, or anything of the sort. I'm a light sleeper and easily awoken, and although we could hear the beat music from the pool deck, it never kept me awake. What did disturb me were our neighbors on the adjoining balconies. One side was a bunch of chain smokers, the other side a rambunctious and talkative family with kids. I called security at 2am to tame the latter group, and the warnings were effective. But I won't bother with a balcony ever again. We didn't get our money's worth out of it. You can't control who you get stuck next to, and too much noise comes in even when the door is closed. (Note to people in 9068: Learn how to behave yourselves in public before you go on another cruise!)
Now for the Christmas miracle. At some point during the last full day of the cruise, the diamond stone from my wife's engagement ring fell off somewhere in the ship. As she went into hysterics, I spent two hours retracing our steps from the previous evening and morning's activities. The Coral Theater, the Cinema, the Windjammer, the Safari Club; I went over every spot with a fine tooth comb and flashlight. But no luck. I finally went to Guest Services, Lost & Found, etc...and reported it. I told them I needed a Miracle. She was only able to offer the services of some security personnel who volunteered to go over our stateroom as closely as possible, something my wife had already done. I accepted. Three Indian and/or Nepalese gentlemen proceeded to turn the stateroom upside down and inside out, and finally, after 20 minutes, far in the corner under the upturned couch, they FOUND IT! My wife burst into tears and so did they, thrilled that they were able to help us recover our lost treasure, our Jewel of the Seas! They were rewarded for for going above & beyond the call of duty. This could have been a tragic loss for us, but these gentlemen were our heroes!
We have no hesitation in giving this lovely and elegant ship our highest recommendation. We'll certainly consider it again in the future depending on where she's going. But to be honest, I think we might be through with the typical Mexican and Caribbean ports of call. They're just not all that interesting anymore. I think it might be time for the Baltic or Mediterranean Sea this summer..!!
Costa Maya was fun and lively. We ignored all the typical trinkets and junk, but then found an artist who paints gorgeous tropical scenery on little 6" square ceramic tiles by hand (by fingertip actually). Authentic handmade crafts are the way to go! They also have dolphin encounters, a Senor Frogs, a huge pool w/ swim-up-bar, lots of available excursions into the interior. A tram is available all day to + from ship or else you can walk the 10 minutes to the little shopping plaza.
Cozumel....pretty as ever, and crowded as ever, full of honking taxis, and a new huge shopping plaza right as you get off the pier. It took us a few minutes to remember that we needed to take a taxi to San Miguel itself, 3 miles north of the cruise ship pier. Shopping is better there and so is the local cultural interaction. Chankanaab park to the south is now a higher priced tourist trap, so we chose the smaller Playa Corona to snorkel instead. Much cheaper, fewer people and still a great snorkeling experience. Not sure why, but the colorful tropical fish population seems to be less than when we last went in 1999. Margaritaville Restaurant was fun and affordable. We felt pretty safe in the taxis even though the countryside between destinations was pretty rough looking. Coz is pretty I guess, but we've been here twice now, and we're ready for a better experience.