Jewel of the Seas 10/31/06 Repositioning Cruise Review
I will preface this by saying that this is our fourth Royal Caribbean cruise and we were on this same repositioning cruise on the Jewel in 05, so I have some basis for comparison. ... Read More
Jewel of the Seas 10/31/06 Repositioning Cruise Review
I will preface this by saying that this is our fourth Royal Caribbean cruise and we were on this same repositioning cruise on the Jewel in 05, so I have some basis for comparison. I'm an RN and my husband is an engineer and we began cruising two years ago for our 25th anniversary. Now, of course, we're hooked and here I am, spending my time writing and reading cruise reviews!
Precruise: We had a large roll call for this cruise who had been talking for more than a year. About 60 of us met at Durgin Park in Boston for dinner the night before the cruise and it was really nice to match faces with screen names for our pre-M&M. This group is the Rowdies and it promises to be a great group.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at 10:30am and immediately checked in. They grouped us by either Priority, #1 or #2 tickets and we were called to board in that order. We sat for about 25 minutes before they began boarding at 11am, which was exactly the same time that they had begun boarding the year before. It was all very fast and efficient. They did provide a check-in area for carry-on bags on deck 5, which is nice so that you don't have to keep all of your things with you while you explore the ship.
Meet & Mingle: We had over a hundred in attendance and it was held in the Safari Lounge. For the first time, they had hot hors d'oeuvres and free alcohol. Karen Maybury was present and they raffled off the usual Royal Caribbean Crap, including the famous aqua mouse. It was definitely the classiest M&M that I've been to.
Cabin: We had an E1 cabin, right across from the hump, next to the elevators 8102. I have been anticipating this balcony for 15 months and it is not a disappointment. I was concerned from pictures that I had seen, that it would be long and dark, but that was not the case. It's about 10x14 feet and has two loungers, three chairs and a table. To have a balcony this large, midship, is a dream come true and I would book this cabin in a heartbeat on any cruise I'm going to have on a Radiance class ship. The downside, and it was a very big downside, was that we had a heavy smoker next to us and his constant smoking on the balcony really limited our ability to enjoy ours. This is the luck of the draw I guess, as the only way I can control who my neighbors are is to book several cabins in a row and entice more friends into joining us!
Some people have expressed concern over the possibility of noise in this cabin location, and for us this was not a problem. The fact that you only have people on one side of you is a plus. There is never noise from the elevators. You can hear music from the Centrum, but not loud at all. For the first time, I brought a 9-inch fan with me to create white noise and this greatly enhanced my ability to sleep. I will never travel without it now. I would, in the future, bring my own extension cord for it. This time, the cabin steward provided one.
The next time I cruise, it will be on the new bedding and I look forward to that. However, for some reason, this was the best experience we've had with a bed. We had requested an eggcrate and it was on the bed when we boarded. Maybe it was an extra thick eggcrate? I don't know, but it was a far more comfortable sleeping experience than I have previously had.
Condition of the ship: Beautiful, as it was last year. Always people cleaning and keeping things up. One note of interest I was on the treadmill in the fitness center when the captain came in with a couple of other officers, obviously doing an inspection. The treadmill next to me was not working and the captain came over to it, leaned down and scooped up a cobweb and some dust that had collected on the base and showed it to one of the officers with a scowl on his face. The next day when I went in, that treadmill was working and clean!
Hand sanitizers were always available in the Windjammer, but only on one morning was there a person stationed there instructing you to use them. I never saw or heard anything about anyone on the cruise being sick.
Food: We ate all breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer. We love their oatmeal for breakfast and there was always plenty of fresh fruit available to go with it. They have an omelet station where they will make your omelet or eggs fresh to order. They always had a carving station with meat, but I never tried it. It always looked good. We ate all dinners, except for the two nights we were at the specialty restaurants, in the dining room. These were consistently good, not great. Our favorite remains the warm chocolate cake that is served on the Italian night menu. If you are a lover of lava cake, don't miss this. This was our waiter's first time in this position, so he was only assigned our one table of ten. He did a wonderful job and took his responsibilities to recommend certain foods to us very seriously. He was also very good at telling us when the shows were and when to find the late night buffets. We had one chocolate buffet, one poolside buffet and one grand gala buffet on this cruise. My experience has been that the food always looks much better than it tastes. It's worth going to take pictures, at the very least.
This is the first time I have had a head waiter who did anything for me. His name is Liviu and he arranged for our table to have the warm chocolate cake again on the last night of the cruise. He was also attentive the whole cruise, without being smarmy. It was a refreshing change.
Chops: We had a group of 34 Rowdies who ate together one night. Because we were such a large group, we had a limited menu, which offered three choices of appetizer, entrEe and two desserts. The 10 oz filet was one of the offerings and most people had that. They gave us all the side dishes that they have and the service was the usual top notch. It was a very fun evening.
Portofino: We hadn't eaten here since our first cruise on the Explorer, two years ago. We really enjoyed it. We had the filet and the seafood skewer, which has a very beautiful presentation. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the filet was seasoned well. We had the Caesar salad that they make tableside and the tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake for dessert. My favorite though, was the olive and tomato stuff that they serve with the bread. I could have just had that and been happy.
Entertainment: For the first time ever, we didn't make it to most of the shows. There was no headliner onboard that I was familiar with. Previously, we've had the Osmonds on two cruises and a Temptations tribute band who have all been phenomenal, so this was rather a letdown. We did go to both of the production shows, which I always think are very good. They were West End to Broadway and City of Dreams. There was an illusionist from the Freedom who performed on the final night and he was awesome!
Fitness Center and Spa: We spend lots of time here. I think they have a great assortment of gym equipment and machines. There was always a treadmill or elliptical open in the morning, which is the most popular time. They had the usual morning stretch classes and then we would walk a mile for our shipshape dollars. They offered different fitness class packages for the things like spinning, yoga and pilates. I believe 10 classes were $70 and they were $10 ea if purchased separately.
Last year my husband became a big fan of the thermal suite. This year, they offered a Romance Package that included a Couples Massage, Rasul Treatment and dinner in Chops or Portofino, along with unlimited use of the thermal suite for $365. It turns out that you pay the regular price for the treatments and dinner, then use of the thermal suite for the duration of the cruise is free. Since we were interested in those treatments anyway, we felt it was a good value.
Crew: Always had good service with a smile. We really thought the Loyalty Ambassador was the best we've ever had. Her name is Deborah and she was very visible on the ship and really interacted with the passengers. She actually seemed to be doing more than just booking future cruises. We did book a ghost cruise to use sometime in the fall of 08 and here's something we found out. The LA's get a commission and it is based on what type cabin you book. We booked an OS so she would have a larger commission, even though I would never have an OS when I book my actual cruise. She said we have to keep the booking for 60 days in order for her to receive the commission. Very interesting.
Capt Thor announced at one of the parties that he has been invited to go to wherever and practice with the simulator for the Genesis. Must be a promotion for him!
Excursions: We booked all of our excursions with independent people; nothing through Royal Caribbean.
Bermuda: We took a walking tour with Jo Cook. She is a long time resident of Bermuda and will tailor your tour to what your interests are. She charged $15pp and met us at the pier, drove us to Somerset and walked with us for two hours, showing us the flora and fauna of that area. We also had some wonderful photo ops. She was very interesting and it was a personal way to see some of the island.
We had a Rowdy group reservation for a sunset sail on the Rising Sun. About a week before our cruise, we were advised that the Rising Sun had a broken mast and that our sail was instead, going to be a sunset motor tour. We didn't mind, but as it turned out, the whole thing was cancelled due to rough seas. We heard that this is a common occurrence in Bermuda.
San Juan: The Rowdy group did a Duck Tour together. We had some difficulty reading the map correctly to get to the starting point, but once there everything went smoothly. Many in this group had done a Duck Tour in Boston precruise, and they said that the one in Boston was better. This one provided a tour of the downtown San Juan sites and then went out on the water for a harbor tour. The problem was that the harbor tour mirrored the route that the Jewel had just done coming in, so we saw the same things twice. Would I do this again? No. Would I recommend it? Sure. It was better than just shopping and got us around the city a bit.
St. Thomas: We repeated our daysail aboard the Rumbaba that we had done in 05. Again, it was an unforgettable day. Capt. Bobby and his wife, Karen are wonderful hosts and really provide a great day in St. Thomas. There were only 4 of us on the boat and we wanted to sail more and snorkel less, so we sailed to St. John and moored near the Caneel Bay Resort. They provide mats to float on for those of us who don't snorkel, as well as noodles to swim with. The men snorkeled and the women floated! While we were doing that, Bobby and Karen are grilling our lunch. Filet Mignon and Mahi Mahi, served with greek salad, pasta salad and wonderful garlic bread. Oh, and let us not forget the beautiful appetizer plate that Karen serves up before the meal. A Cajun boiled shrimp bowl with homemade dip and bruschetta, veggies and homemade chips. Yummy! Not your run-of-the-mill lunch. That's for sure. This is $115 cash pp and was more than worth it.
Curacao: I hired Leo (Rent-A-Guide) from the ports of call board to be our private guide. We had 9 people and he provided three vehicles and 3 guides. He will also tailor his tour to whatever your interests are. He picked us up at the pier at 9am and we returned at 4pm. He charged $60pp. We toured three different caves and six of us had lunch in a local restaurant and then did a beach stop, while the other three did two beaches. I wanted to buy Gouda cheese, so our driver stopped at a supermarket and went in with me to choose the cheese. One group did a tour of the city, while the last group did some shopping. I can't speak highly enough of this day spent with Leo. What a terrific value! For those looking for a private tour in Curacao, look no further. Leo is your man.
Aruba: Five of us did the Mi Dushi sail/snorkel in the morning. This was from 9:30-1:30, though I think we got in later than that. This is a first class operation. There were 17 passengers on our sail and the crew was very focused on everyone's safety and enjoyment. They gave very specific snorkel instructions and one of them got in the water with a young lady who had not snorkeled before. We did three stops, one of them being the famous German shipwreck. The snorkeling was fabulous, but the water was rough near the shipwreck and took some strong swimming to get to the area where the fish were. Lunch is catered by La Dome restaurant. It was a chicken and a beef dish, served with rice, corn on the cob and pasta salad. Delicious. The Mi Dushi bartender was very attentive to your drink needs, whether you were drinking alcoholic drinks or water or juice.
My husband had two favorite parts of this schooner - the hammock in the front of the ship and the rope swing. After lunch, they break out the swing and start having fun. One of the crew even put a lady (and she wasn't little!) on his back and did a backflip from the rope. That was something to see! She didn't volunteer to go again, but looked happy after she did! We had done a 4x4 trip on Aruba last year and enjoyed getting on the beautiful water this year even more.
Disembarkation: The cruise concluded in Fort Lauderdale. We chose to do express walk-off for the first time. This usually begins by 8am, but this time was held up by immigration, I suppose. We didn't begin to depart the ship until almost 9 o'clock. We had no trouble getting our bags off and I would choose to do this in the future if I have an early flight. All of the bags were in the terminal when we went through and we saw some people going off with us that did not have all their luggage with them. We were never asked for our express walk-off slip, so I suppose anyone could go off at that time, if they chose to. It's very easy to get a cab and a quick five minute ride to the FLL airport. Cost...$15.
As you can see, we had a wonderful cruise. We met lots of wonderful people who will be our friends for life and had some unforgettable experiences, both on the ship and in port. I hope this has been helpful to you and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have about our cruise on the beautiful Jewel of the Seas.
Alanna Read Less