My husband and I won our first cruise and as we have never travelled anywhere together we did not know what to expect. Here is a little bit about my experience aboard the Jewel. (Please bear with me this is the first review I have ever written and it will probably be very long.)
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and were taken to our hotel via Greyhound bus. It was quite a wait for the shuttle to arrive and our driver got lost going to our hotel but we were on our first day high so who cares! We stayed at the Hilton Hotel. It is a nice place but there really is nowhere to eat at the hotel and the choices close are only McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell. We decided to take a cab to the pier instead of waiting for the shuttle because we did not want to wait until 12:30, the cab cost us around $20.00 and we got to the pier around 10:45.
Embarkation was very smooth, our cab driver took us directly to the baggage area, we left our bags and went inside, sat down in the More
waiting area for about 1/2 hr until they let us board. We were one of the first people on, so we dropped our bags and toured the ship starting at the top and going floor by floor taking pictures. First impression of the ship is very overwhelming! We can't get to our stateroom until about 1 p.m. so we take in the welcome buffet in the Windjammer.
The Ship: Every aspect of the ship is amazing, the decor is beautiful I loved all the glass and the fact that you could look out at the ocean from so many vantage points. The Centrum is a spectacular sight to see and is quite beautiful at night all lit up. There is lots of artwork to see so take a different set of stairs or walk down a different hallway to take it all in. Plenty of watering holes are available to suit every taste, I loved the Safari Club. The staff was very friendly and helpful and made my trip very enjoyable. David who ran the Karaoke in The Safari Club was funny and entertaining. The Cruise Director's staff was very good and all the activities appeared to be well organized.
Stateroom: I am very surprised by the size. I was expecting it to be much smaller with no storage at all after reading the message boards but for us just the opposite is true. The closet is the same size as the one we have at home, maybe a tad smaller and fit all of our clothing perfectly. The vanity has 6 good sized drawers and 1 smaller one for papers. The mirror has shelves as well, a cupboard with 3 shelves, 1 is for the safe and 6 open shelves on the end. There are also 4 side tables with drawers as well. The bathroom also has storage in the vanity mirror that was also sufficient. Our room overlooked the helicopter pad and was an excellent view and we got some nice pictures out of our window. If we are able to cruise again I would not get a room that was right at the front of the ship, we felt every movement!
Food & Dining: We were at 2nd seating for dinner which has its pros and cons. Pros are when you are in port you don't have to worry about rushing back to dinner and the cons, I found it conflicted with the activities that we were interested in, i.e.: all the games and Karaoke so needles to say we did not eat in the dining room except for the first night and the 2 formal nights. The food in the dining room was excellent and the service was fantastic. The Windjammer was our main dining experience and I enjoyed everything they had to offer. The crepes are amazing in the Solarium and my husband said the pizza was so/so. For the amount of food they serve in a day I was surprised by the quality. We missed the chocolate buffet but the Gala Buffet was amazing!
Dress: Most people did respect the dress of the day for dinner. I saw a good mix of tuxes and nice suits on the men and even some of the kids and very beautiful gowns on the women. I did not notice any jeans or shorts in the main dining room on the couple of nights we ate there but did in The Windjammer.
Activities/Sea Days/Nightlife and Entertainment: We had 2 days at sea, Sunday and Friday and they were full of activities, like horse racing, belly flop and sexy legs contests to name a few. We had no problems taking a dip in the main or Solarium pools or getting deck chairs on either sea day. I was also impressed with the pool staff in how they ensured that the no children rule was followed in the Solarium area. We thoroughly enjoyed the Safari Club and spent most of our evenings there taking in the Karaoke and the various games, The Quest was hilarious. We went to the Vortex for disco night, DJ Johnny is great. The Rosario Trio is worth taking in, they play very frequently in the Centrum and are a nice treat before dinner. I did not care for the Royal Caribbean singers so we did not take in those 2 shows but we did watch the comedians, gizmo guys and a wonderful Motown group called Spectrum. I took in Bingo the last day, it was $35.00 for 5 games -- the jackpot was carried over so they did another game in the evening $15.00 per card for a jackpot of $7900.00 only 1 number away but 2 others won. Rock climbing was fun, I did not get up very far but hubby made it to the top. You will not go bored on this ship!
Expenses: It can be very easy for you to completely blow your budget on all the little extras. The shops are very enticing and they have a lot of $10.00 items that add up very quickly, drinks are around $5-6 ea. I did get the souvenir glasses for the extra $1 as it does make for a cheap take away if you're going to drink anyway. The photographers are in abundance and do take good pictures, they are quite pricey though -- $19.95 for an 8x10. One way to avoid having to choose a picture is to not go and have any done. I have no willpower and bought too many of the pictures as I did not take my own advice. I did buy the shopping passport as I love a good treasure hunt and the Del Sol bags made it worth it. My 5 year old daughter loves all the little gems I got and the color changing rings were a hit with all her friends, I think I got 15 or so of those.
Days at Port
San Juan was a short stop only 6 hours long, we took the Bacardi Distellery tour, this was a complete waste of money! The tour was 4 hours and included driving to Bacardi waiting around for the tour shuttle to come, this took you to the visitors area where you got to watch a movie about Bacardi and walk through a museum (no pictures allowed) and you had to use a handset to listen to little blurbs about each exhibit. You do not get to see the distillery but do get 2 free drinks at the end. We spent about 2 hours or so there which was about 1 1/2 hours to long. After this we went to an old fort and only got 1/2 hour there which was not enough to go through 27 acres. We got to see a little of Old San Juan and take in a little shopping.
Philipsburg St.Maarten was a full day and we did a beach escape with lunch.The first couple of hours on the tour we drove around both the french and dutch side of the island until we got to the outdoor market in St. Martin, we had 1 hour to do some shopping and then onto the beach. The lunch was excellent that they served and the beach was fun and secluded. The waves were coming in at a good pace and we had a lot of fun playing in them.The tour guide was informative and funny but we did not get enough time at the sights.
Antigua was another full day and we took in the Stingray swim and snorkel, this was pricey $87.00 each for as 3 hour excursion, you can probably do this way cheaper on your own. It was a really neat once in a lifetime experience however. The stingrays are kind of like the puppies of the ocean, they swim between your legs or rub up against you it's weird at first but fun. We managed to get some good pictures with our underwater camera.We did a little shopping but headed back to the ship early nad relaxed.
St. Thomas was the prettiest of all of our stops, we did the Coral World/Magens Bay excursion. Coral World is great, we had about an hour to look around (you need about 2) to see the underwater exhibit with the Caribbean Reef Encounter and Predator Tanks,Baby Shark Tank, Touch Pool and many other exhibits.If you have kids this is a good stop for you to make.Magens Bay is beautiful, we had a bit of a rain shower so we did not get to enjoy it as much as I would of liked.The shopping is good here downtown and it is definatley a place i would visit again for longer to take in more of the sites.
Nassau was our last port and another short day, we did the Pirates and Dungeons tour here,this was the shortest of all our tours only 2 hours. We saw a couple of forts and then went to a real cool Pirate Museum. The museum was well laid out with great exhibits and the signs they posted were very informative about what you were looking at.This is another place that is great for children, if you go on your own it is $12.00 for adullts and 2 kids under 12 are free, it is also not very far from the pier. We also went to the straw market that has a lot of local wares and great souveniers to take home.
Ft. Lauderdale we decided to do the airboat ride at sawgrass because we had a late flight and needed to kill some time. This was a lot of fun, we got to see a couple of alligators on the boat ride and even held a baby alligator. The exhibits were neat and it helped to kill 4 hours that we would have had to sit at the airport.
I enjoyed every port we went to because this was our first trip that's why we decided to go with the ship offered excursions instead of on our own, we would not do this again. I felt that we were just playing the "hurry up and wait game" all day and as I love taking pictures there was not enough opportunities to do this.I would go out on my own next time and just walk around and take it all in at my own pace and on my own terms.
Debarkation went smoothly and we were off the boat very quickly as we took the excursion to the Everglades. We found our luggage very quickly as well as a porter to take it to the tour bus. The sea of luggage is an amazing sight with a lot of black luggage, if you need new luggage buy a different colour we had bright blue and this did help us out. I had a fabulous time on this cruise and would do it again in a heartbeat! I can definatley understand why people get hooked on this type of vacation.The ship did not feel crowded and I barely noticed the kids that were on the ship, as I have 3 of my own that I left behind at home this was an important aspect to us not to have a lot of other children around when you don't have to deal with your own. I did not get to the spa as I found it to be very expensive for what you got. the only bad experience we had was at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, the staff was rude at Northwest and at the restaurants behind security.There was no where to eat or sit,except the floor while we had to wait until 1 1/2 hours before our flight to check in. the flight was delayed 45 minutes and then we sat on the tarmac for about 2 hours while they fixed a lighting issue that their tech did not know how to fix so had to do it over the phone and our luggage did not make our connecting flight but we did get it on the next flight 1 hour later. That is the only complaint I have and it really is not that bad when you think of it. I hope this review gives you some insight to the Jewel, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Less
Jewel of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean