Jewel of the Sea-New England/Canada - Autumn Cruising!: Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by Atlantis Aura

Jewel of the Seas 5
Atlantis Aura
Member Since 2011
145 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Jewel of the Sea-New England/Canada - Autumn Cruising!

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Canada & New England
Embarkation: Boston
We flew from South Bend, IND to Boston, MA with a layover in Detroit. I have flown many times & have never had any issue with delays so we decided to fly in early that morning rather than the night before. While on the runway in South Bend we were advised there was ice on the planes wings so they were going to de-ice it. About ten minutes later the pilot apologized and said the de-icing vehicle did not have gas in it so they were fueling it before it would arrive. By the time we were on the way we were about 40 minutes behind schedule. We flew Delta and they only have about an hour layover in Detroit. By the time we landed in Detroit we literally ran from one end to the other to board the plane to Boston, and were the last to board, making our plane by about 3 minutes. After that experience I would hesitate to fly and board the same day in the future.

In Boston it was sunny and we opted to take the Water Taxi from the airport. There is a free shuttle at the airport More which takes you right to the pier. A CB handset with a direction sign allows you to call the water taxi. They were floating not far off the pier and we boarded easily. The taxi does make other stops on the water front but the ride was great and it only cost us about $12 each. It was definitely a scenic way to arrive in the city and afforded us wonderful photo shots of Boston and the ship when we came around a bend.

We got off the water taxi right at the boat on a boardwalk. There were no lines and we were able to walk right up to check in. Our bags were taken quickly by porters and we only stood in line for about 5 minutes before being attended to by a very nice lady who checked us in. I had been slightly concerned because we do not have passports. We do have Enhanced Michigan Drivers License's which are issued by Homeland Security for the purpose of driving across the border. We also had our certified birth certificates as stated on the website requirements for closed entry loop cruises to Canada. I did not see anyone else around us using these type of documents to check in as most people had passports. While we had no problem with our check in process and were cleared quickly for boarding, I would consider a passport in future Canadian cruises as I think it might have been even quicker to get thru the check in.

As we were approaching the gangplank to board the ship we were shuffled in for the first of many photographs by the ships photographer. I have no problem getting a few pics but there are literally photographers everywhere you turn throughout the week. It is beyond annoying. Eventually we started refusing pictures and going around the photographer stands.

We finally boarded the ship around 2pm. The ship is a nice size but not so big that you can't quickly navigate yourself to the layout or get around in a reasonable amount of time. We went to the Windjammer Buffet to get a light lunch. The tables were all packed so we went to the outside pool area and sat down to eat. It was breezy and a bit chilly but it was nice to be in the sun.

Our rooms were ready as soon as we boarded and our luggage was there by 6pm. We left the port at 5pm and stood towards the rear to watch our departure. Watching Boston slip away in a setting sun was magical.

We spent the day walking the ship and were the only ones playing mini golf at 10pm. There were plenty of things to do on board but we preferred exploring on our own and enjoying our time walking the decks.

We chose to utilize room service for all of our breakfast's. This allowed us to eat leisurely while getting ready to get off at the port of calls. I found on cruise critic an article about a lady who made little tip bags filled with hard candy's and thank you notes to give to the employees who brought room service food. As it was almost Halloween we did these tip bags and they were a hit with the employees. I'm glad we took the time to make that extra effort of appreciation to those who made our trip so enjoyable.

We ate lunch in port. We did not go to the formal dining room for any meals. There were several reasons for this. We do not like to dress up on formal nights, we did not want to be seated at a large table with strangers (I know some people love this part of cruising, we prefer to enjoy the time to ourselves as our jobs at home have us on opposite hours), and we have plainer tastes in food preferring a good Italian pasta and marinara compared to some of the more "fancy" dishes being served. With that said, we found the other places to eat more than adequate in choices, flavors and quality. I believe we would continue to dine in this matter on future cruises. We did not eat at the reservation only establishments which required additional fees. Being our first cruise we felt we would have enough choices with out the additional cost.

We enjoyed the movie cinema which showed fairly recent movies, most of which we had not seen. We also went to the magicians show. We thought it might be a little hokey but we really enjoyed it and were glad we went. We went to the tango show and it was wonderful. The other dancing/singing show performed by the ships performers we skipped. They seemed a little too silly, singing songs that would be more appropriate for a cruise commercial, and you could catch the show on your TV the following night. We had intended to use the rock wall but on the days we could have the weather was not cooperating. Mini Golf was fun, the hot tubs were open but packed so we did not go. The other amenities looked nice (gym, shuffleboard, ping pong, etc) looked fun but we had so much to absorb that we just never got around to it.

Our days at sea were extremely wavy. My partner took Bodine religiously and had not problems with sea sickness. She did not enjoy the constant rocking motion of the ship and the feeling of compression (compared best to a non stop light headed feeling) that came with it. I don't get seasick and the motion did not bother me more than it was becoming annoying by nightfall. Luckily our 2 days at sea were spaced apart and knowing that we only had to endure a day of it before we'd be right back on land again made it easier to deal with.

Our favorite spot was sitting on the interior balconies by the coffee shop, drinking coffee, playing cards and listening to the music coming from the bottom of the centrum. The band they had there were amazing and watching the "older couples" dance at random below was sweet.

The ship never felt crowded although on sea days you did notice more people around however we were always able to find a place to be by ourselves.

I loved the aspect of cruising and being able to wake up, be at port, enjoy a day in port and get back on the ship was fantastic. No driving, no traffic, literally 24hrs of doing whatever , whenever we wanted.

All the employees went out of the way to be friendly. They remembered our names and our likes/dislikes.

I purchased the Romance Package to be waiting in our room on arrival. I had non-alcoholic champagne, red velvet cupcakes, a gourmet breakfast in our room one day with mimosa's, silver picture frame with a picture from the cruise of us, appetizers delivered to our room before dinner one night. Cost wise I felt this was an excellent value. There were a few issues though. The order menu showed the cupcakes were vanilla, my significant others favorite, however red velvet were delivered, not so much a favorite. I think substitutes should be avoided especially when it comes to food/taste. Because we had avoided some of the photographers after a week of being hounded, we did not have a 8x10 photo to put with our frame. I explained to the clerk, this was fine, we would take the frame and if it was OK , a smaller 5x7 pic and I'd find a way to matte it at home. She continued to pressure us into taking another picture. After having just come from a port with rain we did not feel like having a picture taken looking like a drowned rat. I thanked her but assured her I would rather take the smaller picture. She continued to rant but after a few minutes she stopped and supplied the frame and smaller pic. The breakfast served in our room could only be ordered by physically going down to the main dining room and finding our assigned head waiter. Due to the fact we had not been dining in the formal dining room it became a big production and 3 employees to bring our waiter out to us. He then "scolded" us for not being in the main dining room and wanted to know why we had not been there all week, and how our table-mates were disappointed and on and on..I felt like my dad was there ready to ground me. I know they depend on tips but we tipped anyway and being an adult I did not appreciate being made to feel guilty about where I chose to eat on MY vacation. I feel RCI could handle this whole dining situation differently and as far as the breakfast, I should have been able to order it via the telephone like we did for room service, or thru my cabin steward to took our breakfast cards the rest of the week. Due to these two incidents, I most likely would not order this package in the future.

I did all of the planning for the trip thru the Internet on my own. RCI's website is easy to navigate and between that and cruise critic I was able to get any questions answered. I enjoy the process of planning and researching our vacations so being able to have total control during the booking process is important to me. I also booked all our off shore excursions on my own utilizing the internet and Trip Adviser's ratings. This saved us easily 50% off the cost of excursions. If we were to go to a European Cruise, I would rely more heavily on the ships excursions due to language and geographical restraints, but for the Canadian area I felt comfortable navigating the towns on our own.

I would jump at the chance to go on another cruise and would search RCI first for their options. My partner will go also although she is not as fond of sea days, she was relieved to know she wouldn't get sick and I think she will be more relaxed next time knowing what to expect. Less

Published 01/22/12
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review: I Large Ocean View Stateroom

Plenty of room, large porthole, big enough to sit in, excellent storage

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Port and Shore Excursions

Bar Harbor Maine was completely opposite of Portland, in terms of hospitality. The stores were all opening several hours early and many had signs welcoming ship passengers in port. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful. The stores were in easy walking distance of the ship. There were many stores which were filled with low quality typical gifts but we got a kick out of The Christmas Vacation Shop which had hundreds of wood cut outs that you could combine on a plaque to commemorate your vacation. We picked out ones which were personalized for our dog sitter at home. Our tour was Acadia National Park Tours and they took us into Acadia National Park. We went to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The whole area is gorgeous. The tours only allow 20 minutes at each stop, again, it would be nice to have more time but it was enough time to enjoy the area and take some photographs. We ate lunch at Testa's Restaurant mostly because it was affiliated with the tour (it's where we picked up the Acadia National Park tickets at). I had a lobster roll which was good. My s/o had a bacon cheeseburger, nothing special or over the top. For the prices we paid and the simplicity of the lunch, I would not eat there again. A day is enough time to spend in delightful Bar Harbor, but I could easily spend more time in Acadia National Park.

Halifax was a wonderful city. We enjoyed a sunny day and had an easy walk down along the waterfront on a brick pathway. It was early and most of the stores were closed. We stopped at Rum Runners and ordered several rum cakes and a couple books on rum running in Canada and had them all shipped home for friends. The staff was over the top friendly and the rum cake samples made my morning. We visited the Atlantic Maritime Museum which we could have easily spent hours in. But because we had a tour booked we hit the main spots (Titanic exhibit, Halifax Explosion, Hello Sailor) and skimmed the rest. This was the only tour I had booked directly thru the cruise ship (due to price and the 2 stops it made, the price was comparable to other excursions). We boarded a tour bus and made our way to the Fairlawn Cemetery to see the graves of the Titanic victim's. I have always appreciated the history of the Titanic and learned so much more from this excursion. Our guide was wonderful and she sported a kilt adorned in the colors of Halifax. We then ventured for a short drive to Peggy's Cove, a working fishing village. The lighthouse and rocks are picturesque, there was a gift shop and restaurant, and a working artist studio. The little cove is walkable and we had plenty of time (1 hr) to get a cup of coffee, use the bathroom, photograph the lighthouse, talk to the artist and walk around the cove. This is a serene and enchanting place which I would most certainly wish to go back to. We later ate lunch at a nice shack on the boardwalk called The Battered Fish. Outside tables only but the view is awesome. There was an old man playing a sax for tips. He wasn't all that great, but he was so into it and so lively, you couldn't help but appreciate his tune. There was also a mentally ill man who was begging for change, having worked with people of similar impairments I was sad to see him down there. He would only ask once and then leave without problems but I think it would be frightening to a child or person who was unaccustomed to this type of personality. The fish was wonderful and I had Poutine with it (french fries covered with cheese curds and brown gravy) which is a French Canadian favorite. The day went fast and I would love to return to Halifax.
Read 545 Halifax Reviews

Our first port was Portland, Maine. We arrived in port and were off the ship by 8am. Although it was a Sunday I was surprised the stores were closed. Being one of the last ships in port for the year and the economy being sluggish, I thought store owners would take advantage of 2,000+ people flooding into town. We walked town and took some photographs of the wharf but by the time an hour had gone by we were getting board. We were able to check in with Portland Discovery for our Land & Sea tours, both of which were greatly enjoyed. In between the trolley and boat tour we ate at Gilbert's Chowder House. It was good, we had fish, clams, onion rings, french fries & clam chowder, but the batter was very plain and it seems everything was fried in the same tasteless grease. I would recommend dining elsewhere. We had more time in the afternoon to explore the shops. The shops are a couple blocks up and in, not sure we would have found them if we hadn't passed them on our bus tour. One shop, which I would recommend, is on Fisherman's Wharf. Even though I had looked it up before hand it took awhile to find because it just looked like the end of a worn down alley. Sea Bags is the business and they make assorted bags from recycled sails. They happily accommodated custom orders from us and we had them shipped home. There were a lot of typical tourist stores, but we were impressed with Lovell Designs. We purchased several high quality Christmas ornaments for friends (around $20-25 each)which came in a nice box and bagged with a nice Maine gift bag. With the exception of the 2 business's mentioned above, we did not encounter any other friendly store clerks. Some were down right rude even though we were purchasing items in their store. The town itself is all brick and not very architecturally charming. We did encounter one homeless person sitting outside a corner Starbucks. He kept to himself and did not bother anyone. I watched one lady buy him a coffee and give it to him. A short time later another lady took out a danish. The man then got up and left. The town is dog friendly, so I give it credit for loving animals. There was even a pug in the Starbucks. Overall I would book a longer excursion and skip walking around town. Port Head Lighthouse was the highlight of our tours and is a must for your trip. Our trolley only allowed us 20 minutes to see the lighthouse which is not enough by the time you get thru the other tour bus's of people. In retrospect, I would have tried to find a tour to allow us more time at the lighthouse.

We arrived in Saint John on a cloudy day with light sprinkles of rain. We brought our umbrella's so it wasn't really a problem. There was a nice wooden boardwalk along the water from the boat that leads to city hall and a mini mall. Everything was closed except the mall downtown which we ducked into and got a cup of hot coffee/donut. I had researched the bus system and it left from the front of the mall. I had the bus number but never saw it. After about 20 minutes I asked a bus driver and he nicely gave me the new number for the bus we needed. We had booked Saint John Zip Lining Adventures which was at the Reversing Falls area. The bus took and dropped us off just over a bridge. The only thing around was a tourist info building so we went in. The advised us the zipline adventure was still a ways away. We had to walk over and under the bridge, then back on the sidewalk, down a few blocks, turn left, walk a few more blocks and we'd see it. He wanted us to go under the bridge so we didn't have to try to get thru traffic. Under the bridge was only a small foot trail, not marked or landscaped, and strewn with graffiti and trash. The walk down 2 blocks and over 2 blocks was depressing and bleak. The houses were run down, and had it been night time, I'm not sure this would have been a safe place for anyone to walk thru. By the time we arrived at the Zip lining we were tired and wet from the rain. The zip lining adventure itself was awesome. The family owned business was professional and warm, they made the whole experience enjoyable and I would highly recommend them. After zip lining it was raining harder but we walked down to the Reversing Falls area which was only across a large parking lot. I was surprised by the lack of advertising or landscaping. There were no big signs that said "Reverse Falls here" and the attractions all seemed to operate out of trailers. The whole area was over hyped and under-whelming. With nothing to do but watch the tide slowly coming in, we found a taxi driver who had been commissioned for the day by his clients. They graciously allowed him to transfer us back to the mall downtown. Once downtown we walked the main street and admired the buildings but other than an old book store and coffee shop there wasn't much to go inside to see or shop in. We went back in the small mall and took a pedestrian walkway which was a short cut (inside) to the Farmer's Market. The Farmer's Market was packed but it was fun to look at the local produce, some of which is unique, and buy some favorites to take back home. We returned to the mini mall via the same interior walkway. We actually went back to the ship earlier than our departure time. Because we had a coffee/donut for breakfast and a slice of pizza at the farmers market, we did not actually sit down to eat and waited till we returned to the boat. I would recommend the zip lining and the Farmers Market. We did not go to the Citadel but I would want to on my next trip after catching a glimpse of it's walls from downtown. I would make sure I book an excursion for this town as it gets boring quick trying to find something to entertain yourself with all day. Even though some signs were in French and English, everyone around us spoke French. They would all take American cash but if you had change it was returned in Canadian currency. They also accepted Visa, MC, etc.

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Atlantis Aura
Member Since 2011
145 Forum Posts
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