Background: Along with myself (54 yrs) are my wife (52 yrs) and my in-laws (82 and 78 yrs). Minimal physical issues, no dietary issues, and preference for relaxing, reading, and good food and drink. Flew into Sarasota, and stayed with the in-laws prior to, and after the cruise.
Hotel/Rental car Info: No hotel required, but I did rent a Hertz car in Sarasota. Dropped the car off at the Marriot Harborside, and caught the shuttle to the port. It was a 5 minute ride. Very easy. Did the reverse on the way back, and it worked out fine. I believe you can now drop off and pick up the car at either pier, as long as you have an existing reservation. Check with Hertz first, but the Harborside was a piece of cake.
Check In: Incredibly easy! When we were dropped off at the pier curb by Hertz at 11:20 A.M., a porter took our bags at the curb (had our pre-printed bag tags on our bag), we went upstairs, filled out a health questionnaire, stood in a very short security line (where they More
confiscated our wine), checked in (did the electronic check-in 3 days in advance) showing our authorization form, got our ship pass cards, bypassed the souvineer photographer, got our hand sanitizer (get used to it!), boarded the ship and got our ID photos taken, and went to the buffet. Started eating at 11:40! Couldn't be any easier!!!!!!!
Stateroom: Standard size Cruise stateroom and balcony, but for some reason, it felt bigger. Very well laid out. Bathroom and shower are tight, but not any worse than other ships. There was room under the bed to store bags, and all our clothes fit into the closet and drawers. Rooms are very well soundproofed. I am easily awakened and aggravated by noisy neighbors, and I never had a problem.
Ship Info: This is a "smaller" ship, and it was easy to navigate. Public areas were very nice, clean, and well marked. Casino, Lounges, entrance to top tier of theater on deck 6, Restaurant on Deck 4 and 5, Buffet, pool, and spa on 11, gym and track on 12. Simple. The Centrum, which is the main lobby, goes up 9 decks, and there are balconies overlooking the centrum on each deck. There is entertainment in the centrum most of the day and at night. Most places, except the pool area, are never very crowded. The pools get a moderate amount of use, and the solarium pool tends to be less crowded than the outdoor pool. Whirlpools are always crowded, and some people don't abide by the 15 minute suggestion, so they tend to sit in the Whirlpool for a long time. The gym is well equipped, although the equipment is older and not up to par with the equipment I use at my home gym. But, it was more than adequate. There is a running track on deck 12 (6 laps per mile) which is not heavily used in the A.M.. Mini golf course wsa fun and well maintained, as is the rock climbing wall.
Dining: The consensus of the four of us was that the dining was mediocre, and could have been the weak link. The buffet was average, with no standout items. Dinner was good, but there were only a few items that wowed us. The late night snacking options were, at best, poor. One night, they had a poolside buffet that was not worth waiting in line for, except there were no other options. You will be asked to use hand sanitizer every time you enter a place that has food!
Alcohol: You cannot bring any alcohol on board. It will be confiscated, and returned to you the night before you leave. So, if you drink wine, here is my suggestion. Get a wine package, either ahead of time or on the ship. It will save you money. Order the package, and when you show up the first night for dinner and order your wine, ask for another bottle or two to take back to your room. You then have an extra bottle for the next day to drink in your room. The steward will get you wine glasses. We got the 12 bottle gold package and probably saved $100.00 or more over ordering individual bottles.
Coffee: There is a coffee bar on Deck 6 (?) in the Centrum called Latti-tudes. Very Starbucks like (both taste and cost), plus you get a free cookie/pastry with your order. We would sit in the Champagne bar in the afternoon with our coffee, and a great view, with music in the background.
Activities: This is one of the areas where we were not impressed. There didn't seem to be as many activities on this ship compared to the other cruises we were on. My wife and MIL like to play bridge, and the opportunities were very limited. I like lectures, and there was nothing that caught my interest. There were a lot of activities around the pool, such as line dancing lessons, belly flop contests, and similar activities, but we didn't partake.
We spent most of the day reading and hanging out by the solarium pool, which is much quieter than the outside pool.
Service: Outstanding!!!!!!! Our room steward, Mark, was very personable and attentive and got us what we needed (wine glasses, ice, etc). The room was always spotless and well kept! Our Waiter (Janelle) and Assistant Waiter (Norda) brought smiles to our faces every night. They got us what we wanted, were eager to please, and very professional. If any 3 star Michelin restaurants are looking for a good Waiter, hire Janelle! The staff around the ship were very friendly, and almost always offered a hello. Nice Job!
Disembarkation: Pay attention here!!!!!! We put our bags out the night before departure. We told to report to the theater at 9:20 on the day of departure. We got there at 9:05, and our group had already been called. We left immediately, found our bags at the assigned location, and started to get in a very long line to go through customs. A porter came over and asked if we needed his help, and told us the wait would be shorter if we went through the "porter line". What started out as a 45 minute wait became 5 minutes! Get a porter, but you will (and should) tip him. We met the Hertz driver at the curb across the street, and we were on our way.
Harassing Photographers and pesky Artwork Sellers: Not a problem!!!!! The photographers were around, but only at dinner did we feel pressured to take a picture (twice). There is art displayed for sale all over the ship, but we never were pressured to buy or attend auctions.
Entertainment: For the most part, very good. We attended 4 shows; 2 stage shows by the ship singers and dancers, 1 by an accapella group "Home Free", and 1 by a pair of gentlemen called "Los Pampas Gauchos". The singers (4) and dancers (8) were very,very talented, but we thought the productions were weak. Lots of costumes and scenery, but a better story and songs are needed. The accapella group from Minesota was outstanding. Excellent voices, good variety of songs, and very witty. They performed in the theater one night, and gave an extra performance in the Centrum another night. The Gaucho's were very talented and funny. Excellent show. There were multiple performers around the ship to fit the musical tastes of a broad spectrum of people.
Overall: We were pleased with the Cruise. As it was early February, the passengers tended to be on the older side. Lots of walkers, canes, and electric scooters, so some patience is needed. The dance of choice is the Cha-Cha......... But, there were a fair amount of younger people on the ship, and very few kids. The seas were not rough, although we did feel the ship rocking back and forth a little. No obvious seasickness, and no obvious outbreaks of stomach bugs, unlike the Princess ships..... Maybe the constant hand sanitizer squirts are worthwhile after all!!!! Less
Jewel of the Seas Cruises to the Western Caribbean
We took a private taxi ($5.00 pp) to the beach/town area, where we "rented" lounge chairs at the waters edge. Do not go for the unlimited drink, , beach chair, taxi ride that they offer for $30.00pp at the pier. Just get a taxi to the beach area, and get the chaise lounges that the restaurants offer. You only need to buy a few drinks ($2.00 Corona's and Diet Cokes) and you can sit there all day. The beach is beautiful, the water is outstanding, and the beer is Corona, Sol and Dos Equis. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED???? The whole day cost us $10.00pp. Lots of people trying to sell you stuff, some very good stuff, and some junk. We were able to buy some silver jewelry at a very good price, verified by a jeweler.
We took a private taxi for a 2 1/2 hour island tour ($20/pp). Stopped at a nice beach resort, a tequila factory (waste of time), a Mayan Church/Ruin, a scenic beach, and downtown. Very good driver, spoke perfect english, and we felt totally safe.