Sail Date: September 2004
Just got off the ship a few hours ago. Truly a great ship, however I think it needs a bit of help. For meal service you are handled like cattle. First night the dining room kept everyone standing in the passageway for 30 minutes after ... Read More
Just got off the ship a few hours ago. Truly a great ship, however I think it needs a bit of help. For meal service you are handled like cattle. First night the dining room kept everyone standing in the passageway for 30 minutes after opening time. The shore excursions are ok but you best be able to fend for yourself as there no to little help or guidance on the dock. In addition almost everything is extra, i.e. they offer a $60.00 card for soft drinks otherwise it is $3.25 for a coke/Pepsi. The wine list while good is very costly. Shops are pricey; the duty free cost for Ralph Loren after shave was more than I can but it in Dallas. They kept delaying the shows later and later. One must keep in mind I will bet the average age for the passengers was 70. That age they bed down early. On the plus side we spent one day and night with winds of 120 mph plus. Captain, crew and ship did very well. We had to skip a port which was a wise decision. Also, though no fault of the Captain, but we entered St. Johns with a whale stuck on the bow of the ship. Cabin attendant was excellent. Could not connect with my lap top but the personnel tried to help. RCCL should have a TI type to help. Would I go on RCCL again, probably. IN ST. JOHNS, a little restaurant across from the dock, The Steamer Lobster Company, great price!!! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
I booked this cruise for my parents and myself almost one year ago. We live locally to Boston, so at 11 am we left home and by 11:45 we were sitting in the coffee area just outside the Windjammer waiting for lunch. Embarkation had been a ... Read More
I booked this cruise for my parents and myself almost one year ago. We live locally to Boston, so at 11 am we left home and by 11:45 we were sitting in the coffee area just outside the Windjammer waiting for lunch. Embarkation had been a breeze, we had filled out all the documents on-line and check in went very quickly. At check in they were able to set up my sea pass card to my credit card, separately from my parents. We had originally booked cabin 7588, a category E-3, what we didn't realize and what the travel agent hadn't told us was that the third birth was a bunk bed. I am over 40 and my parents are close to 70, so I climbed into the bunk bed on the first night. Getting up is much easier than getting down. The next morning, I spoke with guest relations regarding paying either for an upgrade for the three of us, or paying for a separate inside cabin for myself. Luckily the ship was not filled, however the only options were for $5000 for upgrade to grand suite, or $1200 for a separate inside cabin. Well this was a little steeper than we had hoped for. Finally the guest relations manager offered us room 8500 (a family ocean view). The two draw backs were it's location (far front) and the lack of balcony. These were quickly dwarfed by the advantages. The room was very large, and there was a separate sleeping area for me. Our room steward in 8500 was very efficient. The ice bucket was always filled, the room was always cleaned, and anything we needed was quickly provided. My family and I very much enjoyed the variety in the Windjammer buffet. The food was always fresh and hot. The servers were very friendly and quick to get you any beverage, whether it was soda, water or coffee. The only draw back is that on this cruise, people were always looking for seats. In fact, while eating dessert, people would ask if we were going to be much longer as they wanted our table. Our dining room team was incredible. They worked together seamlessly. The waiter sensed if someone did not care for their food and immediately would replace the selection with another choice. Our water glasses were always filled. Our only complaint in the dining room had to do with where our table was located. We were in the very back of the dining room near the kitchen doors. There was not a much of an aisle behind the table, and this was used by many waiters, to deliver food to the dining room. The bartenders and wait staff in the public rooms were delightful. The service was quick and the staff was friendly. The entertainers in the lounges were wonderful, esp. Rosario Strings and Barry from Boston. The only area which I felt was a little under par were the nightly shows. We attended a few of the first shows and were unimpressed. We found the entertainment in the lounges much more enjoyable. We stopped going to the main shows. Overall this was one of the best cruises we have been on. We thought the service was superior to many of our previous cruises. The food was excellent. We would book again in a minute Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
First off, I must say that Jewel of the Seas is an amazingly gorgeous ship! I just returned from my 7th cruise, 1st with Royal Caribbean. It was a 7 day roundtrip Canada/New England cruise out of Boston, Mass, Sept 11-18. I will just give ... Read More
First off, I must say that Jewel of the Seas is an amazingly gorgeous ship! I just returned from my 7th cruise, 1st with Royal Caribbean. It was a 7 day roundtrip Canada/New England cruise out of Boston, Mass, Sept 11-18. I will just give a brief review of my cruise and I will try and answer any questions anyone may have. Embarkation: We arrived at Logan Airport after a red eye out of LAX on Saturday at around 9 am. We sat around the airport for about 2 hours until 11 and then took a taxi to the Black Falcon cruise ship terminal. We arrived around 11:30 to find only about 100 people ahead of us. They check you in according to what floor your cabin is on. It went very smoothly and quickly. I was on board before noon. They had said that our cabins wouldn't be available until 1 pm. But we were able to go to our cabin and at least put our carry on luggage away. We set off to explore the ship. Jewel of the seas is an absolutely amazing and gorgeous ship. All the glass is beautiful and the layout of the ship is really nice. I must say out of the 7 ships I've been on, jewel is the most beautiful. I forgot to mention that while flying into Logan airport, we flew right over the black falcon terminal and saw Jewel docked at port. That was amazing. After a quick lunch at the windjammer we went back to our rooms and all of our bags were delivered by 2:30 pm. The muster drill went quite smoothly. Also the Capt. came over the PA system to welcome us aboard and made some really nice and touching comments regarding 9/11 since we were sailing on the 3 year anniversary. Food: the food on the ship was ok. not great and not horrible. the chilled soups are superb and the lobster was good. also the salmon dishes were quite good. for the most part the deserts were delicious as well. one day for lunch in the tides dining room there was banana and chocolate strudel for dessert which was wonderful. also in the morning for breakfast there were banana pancakes which were good. the steak was eh... not great not bad. the windjammer was really nice for all meals. they had great belgian waffles with strawberries and whip cream for breakfast, as well as strawberry shortcake in the afternoon for snacks. the seaview cafe was also really nice, but completely underused! we went there 3 or 4 times and never saw more than 10 people there! great selection of food. good chili and fries up there. service: the service was pretty good. our cabin steward, Anthony, was good about cleaning our cabin in the morning. it was usually made up by about 9:30 every morning. and in the evening the cabin was always clean by the time we finished dinner, except on the first night. the dining room waiter and assistant waiter were pretty good. they were friendly and always had a smile on their face. the one complaint I think everyone had about service in the dining room was that it was slow.. on the first night especially it took us almost 2 and 1/2 hours to finish dinner. we had early seating at 6:00 pm and it was almost 8:20 pm by the time we finished dinner. and second seating started at 8:30! needless to say they had only one show that night at 7:45 pm and we missed it! the service every where else on the ship was good. the bar staff always had a smile and the people up in the windjammer were great! entertainment: the nightly entertainment on this ship is great. it seems that every night up until about midnight there's always some sort of band playing live music. there's a really great couple called Deja Vou which played many nights in the Centrum. They were really great and I noticed a lot of couples out on the dance floor dancing away to their music. The nightly entertainment was pretty good as well. We had the Celtic Tenors one night and they were fantastic! We also had Herb Reed and the Platters. Herb is an original member of the Platters. They were fantastic and truly entertaining! I went to watch Quest and that was hilarious as we had a couple of guys who decided to moon the audience! And the 50s 60s sock hop was fun as well! ports: Bar Harbor - it was a tender port. since we had a morning excursion booked we had no problems with the tenders. We did the coastal sea kayaking in the morning. It was a bit cold out, but sunny. We kayaked out to sheep island and bar island and it was just gorgeous. We saw a harbor seal along the way and we also saw a baby bald eagle. The town of bar harbor is just so quaint and pretty! I did a lot of souvenir shopping here as the prices were great! In the afternoon I did the "Best of Acadia National Park" tour. We went up to Thunder Hole and up to the top of Cadillac Mountain where I got some great pictures! Halifax - I did the "Famous Peggy's Cove Fishing Village" tour. It was a nice drive from Halifax over to Peggy's Cove. Peggy's Cove is a fishing village with a population of 60 residents. No one is allowed to move to the village anymore. At Peggy's Cove there is a lighthouse which is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the world. It was gorgeous out on the rocks there. The fishing village is cute. In the afternoon I took the free bus that the city provides called "FRED" into town from the pier and up to Citadel Hill and the fort that is there. From there I walked out to the Public Gardens which are nice and then walked back into the shopping area called "Historic Properties." From there it was a 15 minute leisurely stroll along the harbor front boardwalk back to the ship. Sydney - this port was originally listed as a docked port, but it turned out to be a tendering port as HAL's Maasdam was given priority docking at the pier. It was a very cold and windy morning with a bit of drizzle. We took the "Fortress of Louisbourg" tour and it was very good and informative. The Fortress is a completely recreated fort based upon the documents and drawings they have from the original fort which was destroyed by the French and British while fighting over control of the fort. The fort as it currently stands is only 1/5 completed. There are people dressed in period costumes going about their business as their counterparts would have back in 1744. It was very interesting. In the afternoon we just walked the 5 minutes it took to get from the pier to downtown Saint John. Then we waited in line to get back on the tenders. The line was ridiculously long and took probably about 30-45 minutes! Saint John - this is a great town. They have a nice downtown area. We took the free shuttle in the morning to the center of town. We walked up King St. to the City Market. This is a great little market to just walk around. We were able to buy some nice souvenirs. Then we walked up to Kings Square and over to the Trinity Church. This is a beautiful church with some great stained glass windows. We then walked back to the pier for our "Ride the Rapids and City Sights" tour. Saint John is located at the Bay of Fundy which as the highest tidal changes in the world. When the tide comes in it causes the river to flow in the reverse direction created some small white water rapids. We drove out to the rapids got outfitted with protective rain gear, but that wasn't enough to keep us from getting wet! I would highly recommend this tour if you are up for adventure. Riding the rapids was a lot of fun! Afterwards we were treated to a great lobster roll! Portland - Portland is Maine's largest city with only 62,000 residents. Today we did the "Best of Portland and Kennebunkport" tour. We had a great tour guide who showed us all over Portland. We then drove out to Portland Head Light which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in America and you can see why by looking at it. It's absolutely gorgeous! From there we settled in for a 45 minute drink out to the tows of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. These are really 2 quaint little towns situated right by the ocean. We had gotten word that President Bush was due to arrive in Kennebunkport later in the afternoon to spend the weekend at his family's estate at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport. We were wondering whether we would be able to even drive to Walker's Point due to the security. But in the end we were lucky, we got there just a few hours before he did, so we were still able to drive up to the estate. We even saw former President George H. W. Bush's speed boat Fidelity parked at the family's estate. We were then given 2 hours on our own to wander around Kennebunkport. We bought some great lobster rolls for lunch. They were to die for! We also did quite a bit of souvenir shopping here as well. From there it was back to the ship.... Debarkation: The debarkation process went very smoothly. We actually docked in Boston at around 6:00 am and they began letting people off the ship at 7:45 am. They called people every 15 minutes or so according to their colored luggage tags. We were off the ship by 8:45 am. We found our bags and grabbed a taxi and were on our way. The only horrible part about today was that it was pouring rain in Boston due to what was left of Hurricane Ivan, so that kind of put a damper on sightseeing in Boston! Overall impressions: I was blown away by the beauty of the Jewel of the Seas. The itinerary we had was fabulous as well. The cities were all very different and unique and all the tours we took were great! The scenery was gorgeous and the people were extremely friendly. Although the food could have been better and the service could have been more efficient, it wasn't bad enough to really bother me. Afterall, I was on vacation! I wouldn't hesitate to go on another Royal Caribbean cruise, especially on a Radiance Class ship. I'm already looking into the Mediterranean on Brilliance next year..... Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
For our 7th cruise with Royal Caribbean, this was the most disappointing. A beautiful ship, brand new, but the crew were not up to par. Most of the crew, although many were old hands, did not provide a good and knowledgeable experience for ... Read More
For our 7th cruise with Royal Caribbean, this was the most disappointing. A beautiful ship, brand new, but the crew were not up to par. Most of the crew, although many were old hands, did not provide a good and knowledgeable experience for our trip. Off loading was a scream, especially at Halifax, Nova Scotia. We were sent to the 2nd deck and asked to move to the forward gangplank. The hall was full of cabin carts and many of our guests were on wheelchairs or electric carts. Each person had to get off, fold their chair, walk around the carts, and get back on their transportation. This caused a great delay and many of the people were scheduled for an much earlier excursion. I hope they made it? The food was marginal. Lunch menu in the dining room didn't change. It was the same each day, except for a little box on the lower left corner that allowed a change in a sandwich and a dessert. Many of the passengers we talked with were equally upset with the ship. The words "unorganized" and "not knowledgeable" were spoken often by many passengers. Many of the first time passengers said they were never going on a Royal Caribbean cruise again. Too bad!! We, of course, are Royal Carib people, with almost a Diamond membership. We did make a reservation for another trip in January next year, and we expect that trip to be up to our expectations for this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
My family returned from the July 15 Scandinavian cruise on the Jewel of the Seas. It was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I must say it was the best. I would like to second the observations by VATraveler that almost all the ... Read More
My family returned from the July 15 Scandinavian cruise on the Jewel of the Seas. It was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I must say it was the best. I would like to second the observations by VATraveler that almost all the little negative comments I had read prior to going on the cruise weren't true. By this I mean (1) there were towels by the pool (2) we had turn-down service on the first night, and although there was no Johnny Rockets, the food items at the Seaview Cafe were made fresh, they tasted very good and were free. (They charged for milkshakes and smoothies). The dining room menu remained the same for breakfast for the whole cruise. The same was true for lunch but there was always an additional selection each day that changed. We ate in the dining room for breakfast and lunch for three days each and were not disappointed. We found the food to be excellent. Pre-cruise: We booked our own air and hotel, using frequent flyer miles. We flew for free on US Airways from Phoenix to Philadelphia in First Class and from Philly to Gatwick in Business/Envoy class. Aside from delays in Philadelphia, the flights were very nice. We carried on our entire luggage (three 22 inch carryon suitcases and three "personal items/backpacks." Immigration and Customs in the UK was a breeze. We took quick showers in the US Airways Envoy Arrivals lounge. We purchased tickets for the Gatwick Express in the arrivals Terminal and took the escalator down to the platform where the train was waiting. Placed on bags on the racks near the doors and sat down for a quiet, smooth ride into London. We arrived at Victoria Station 35 minutes later and took a cab (10 pounds) to the Hotel. Embarkation: We stayed at the Hilton Waldorf for two nights before the cruise. It was quite nice and conveniently located. Spent two wonderful days visiting the Tower in the morning (don't forget writing for the free tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys at night when the Tower is locked for the night!). On the morning of the cruise we took another cab to Liverpool Street Station to pick-up the 8:50 boat train to Harwich. The tickets were 20 pounds more to leave before 9:45. By 10:00 we were at the Harwich International train station and only had to walk 100 yards to the cruise terminal. Check-in started at 11:00 and boarding started at 11:20. Embarkation was amazingly quick and easy. The cabin would not be ready until 2:30 so we explored this beautiful ship and had lunch at Windjammers. Cabin: We had cabin 1072, which is a few cabins aft of the "hump/bump" and Centrum elevators. We heard almost no noise from Windjammers, which was one deck above us. The cabin was quite nice with ample room to put everything. There was a full curtain that could separate the queen bed from the sofa bed. The North Sea was rough but not enough to be a bother. The Baltic was smoother. Our cabin steward and his assistant were both excellent and always visible and pleasant. This is a good itinerary for a balcony since there was always something to see, whether it was beautiful archipelagos coming in to Stockholm, unbelievable sunsets, the passage under the bridge spanning Copenhagen and Sweden, or just other ships passing in the night. The time changes had me sufficiently mixed up that I was up at very odd hours of the night. Dining: For dinner, we switched our table assignment for the three of us from a table for six in the middle of the Tides Dining room to a table for four in the Seaside Dining Room that is a smaller dining room attached to the larger main dining room. It is nicknamed "the Pizzeria" by the staff, probably on account of the long food preparation area amidships. It was much quieter than the main dining room. The staff was very attentive and brought my son's food out early since he usually left early (around 7:00) for Adventure Ocean, so my wife and I could have some time alone. We ate at the Windjammer most mornings for breakfast since either we were in a hurry to get off the ship. It was a difficulty finding an open table. The food was good and plentiful. We did not eat at Portofino's or Chop's partly because of the price and the policy of not allowing children less than 13 years of age. We missed the chocolate and grand buffets (too late) but our son did catch the chocolate one and had a great time. Entertainment: We didn't attend the shows. There were constant activities during the day and evening, so it would be difficult to be bored. The poolside, Centrum, and bar entertainers were equally varied and talented. Adventure Ocean: Two years ago we couldn't get our son to go. This time, we couldn't get him out. There were a lot more things for him to do with the 10 year old group. We also spent $80 on arcade credits (no tokens, you can add credits to the sea pass). He made a lot of friends and kept in contact with one (who stayed in the same hotel and flew back on the same plane). Shore Excursions: We chose to follow the Rick Steve's guides in all of the ports except St. Petersburg. We were able to see almost everything that the ship excursions did (since we saw them at almost every venue). At times we would listen in to their guides, and then we moved on. We tended to use "hop on-hop off" bus tours and boat tours in each port. We also researched the local bus/tram system and used them extensively. We used the ship's shuttle buses in Tallinn, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. As a result, we were able to see the sights at a fraction of the cost compared to the shore excursions. We followed a counterclockwise order of ports compared to the other sailings. We started with two sea days then moved on to Estonia. This resulted in some differences in the amount of time we spent in port Tallinn: This is the port for shopping. We were there on a Sunday and took the free the ship's shuttle into town. BUT get yourself a proper tourist map. Again, the ship's map is just good enough to get you lost. The main old town is walled and is quite easy to navigate. Definitely walk up to Toompea to get a good view of the city. There is an onion domed Russian cathedral up there that is wonderful. At 10:00 its bell boomed out, to be challenged by almost every other church bell in the city. The main square has all sorts of shops and cafes. A wonderful place to hang around, rest and have a local beer (very light). We changed only $20 (spent primarily on beers) and used credit cards for our purchases. 'Livonia' seemed to be a good store to buy linen tableware and clothes, and general souvenirs. There were some great antique stores (Antiks) there are quite a few. The "Icons" are VERY expensive. Overall a great place to get limbered up for the more hard-core touring to come. St Petersburg: We opted to tour with Red October in St. Petersburg, and we certainly have no regrets about that decision. I did hear people complaining about the ship tours there—standing in long lines, etc. We were pressed for time and could not do a Metro ride or visit a Russian Department store. We were able to do a canal tour. We stopped three times at the Red October stores, once for shopping and paying for the tour. We stopped twice more for bathroom breaks and a box lunch. For what it's worth, our favorite sights in St. Petersburg were Catherine's Palace, the gardens at Peterhof and the interior of the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood (extensive mosaics). We did the Folklore show with RO and had a great time. Definitely something to do. Many did the ballet. One wife complained that her husband slept through the first half. Helsinki: What a difference after Estonia and Russia. As the home of Nokia, everyone seems to be talking on a cell phone. We picked up the "hop on-hop off" bus right at the dock, thus avoiding an additional $8 for the shuttle. They accepted Euros and Dollars ($22 per person). Picked up the harbor cruise from the Market square (discounted with the bus ticket) and cruised around the archipelago. Returned to the bus and passed the Lutheran Cathedral, Senate Square, Temppeliaukio "Rock" Church (that is carved into the side of a rock hill), and the Silbeius Monument. We passed on the open air museum. Stockholm: There is not enough time to see everything. The key is to pick up a Stockholm Card (on-line or at the Tourist information booth at the dock). The dockside TI does not have children's cards; you have to go downtown (a real pain). The card gets you in to almost everything, allows you to take the 10:30 Royal Canal tour from the docks near the Opera House (where the shuttle drops you off), and also gets you on the buses and trams. The key things to see are the Vasa and the Nordic Museum. Shopping in Gamla Stan is fabulous. The main commercial street is Vasterlanggatan where you'll find a lot of tourist fare along with restaurants (look for menus posted outside) and funky boutiques. Copenhagen: This port had some great attractions. We could have taken a hop on/off bus again, right from the pier for $25usd. However we took the shuttle instead so that we could go to the post office and mail our souvenirs home. Here you needed local currency so we used an ATM there were many at the main square. We picked up a harbor cruise from Nyhavn then picked up the "hop on-hop off" bus tour all the way around once then got off at the main square. This is where Tivoli is and the beginning of STROGET the main pedestrian walkway. Again lots of shops, cafes etc. It was quite crowded but a very nice walk. Rosenborg Castle and the Crown jewels were a delight. Tivoli was the tourist thing to do, but it was really something. The gardens are so old the roses and flowers are huge. Later on when the lights start coming out it is very pretty. There were shows with pantomimes and acrobat that were just amazing. I don't usually go for that and it was great. It was very walkable even in an hour you could walk the entire thing. 2 hours, you could see everything. We didn't go on any rides but they looked fun enough. Oslo: This was only a half day port for our cruise so we knew we wanted to see the Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Viking ship museum. We decided to take the public transport. We walked over to the City Hall Plaza and picked up the boat shuttle to Bygdoy. It cost 20 NOK per person and the ticket was good on the buses and trams for an additional hour. The boat took 10 minutes to cross the harbor. It was then a 15 minute walk uphill through a residential neighborhood to the Viking Ship museum. The museum took credit cards. We passed on the Kon-tiki or the Fram museums that were just down the road (Boat shuttle stop 2) and the Folk museum. To get to Vigeland Sculptures you take bus #30 until you cross the freeway, and then switch to bus #20 to the park. The Vigeland Park was amazing on a Sunday. We then took tram #12 back to City Hall and the ship. If we had more time I would have liked to see their national gallery, they have the original Edward Munch painting of 'the scream'. We did see where it was painted, on the tour. I also would have liked to walk around the town a bit more. It was definitely walkable from the ship. Disembarkation This was a "Royal" mess. We arranged for the first debarkation time (7:15) and were told to wait in the Coral Theater. We were told that a staff member would inform us when to leave since there would not be any announcements on the PA. At 7:30 the PA came on and announced that this was the "final call" for our group. No staff member in the theater!! Everyone moved for the doors in a rush. Past the gangway, a line formed with people from the second disembarkation. We were told to move on ahead because our group was called. A few "hotheads" in line from the second call made rude comments about the rules not applying to us from the first group. One of our bags was missing and it took some time before a staff person assisted us. They made a lot of excuses, etc. While my son watched our bags, my wife and I searched the entire pile and found the missing bag on its side, apparently dumped out since it was not in any of the neat rows the others were in. Took the train back to London and stayed overnight at the Renaissance Chancery Court. We visited Greenwich then returned to have fish and chips at a local restaurant recommended by the concierge. The next day we took the Gatwick express back to the airport and flew home. Summary: This is a great cruise to gain an introduction to Scandinavia. There is not enough time to see the ports in depth, but it gave us enough of a taste to return in the future. We would not hesitate to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
All and all it was a great trip. Ship and cabin. The ship was brand new and beautiful. The cabin (superior balcony) was nice but somewhat small for 2 adults and 2 children. The convertible sofa was very uncomfortable. The bars and ... Read More
All and all it was a great trip. Ship and cabin. The ship was brand new and beautiful. The cabin (superior balcony) was nice but somewhat small for 2 adults and 2 children. The convertible sofa was very uncomfortable. The bars and public areas were beautiful. The ship was spotless. The staff was very friendly and nice. Kids program was the best of approximately 12 cruises with kids. Stateroom attendants: Hardly ever saw them. They never introduced themselves. They kept the room clean. The head stateroom attendant Kevin recognized us from the Explorer and went out of his way for us. He was a wonderful stateroom attendant on the Explorer and very friendly. The attendants on the Jewel appeared to be overworked. Food Was good not great. (grade B) Lobster was good. The salads were good. Steaks and chicken were good too. The fish was sometimes overcooked. Desserts (including reduced calorie were generally good) The coffee was great. The same exact meals were served for breakfast each day in regular dining room. Lunch also didn't have a lot of variety in regular dining room. It had the same menu with a daily special. Windjammer buffet had slightly more variety than regular restaurant. Didn't try specialty restaurants but heard they were good. Coffee bar was good. The waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. They worked very hard. Internet Was slow and overpriced. It didn't work 25% of the time because of satellite "issues" The ports were wonderful. The ships tours were not that great. City tours and "hop on and off" buses were better. Toured with Red October in St Petersburg. It was worth the extra money. Guide and driver were great. We got to see a lot in the two days. Shopping was pretty good (Tour guide also took us to what I believe were non Red October stores.) Red October russian lunch was overpriced. The russian buffet at a local hotel was excellent and very reasonably priced. I can't remember the name but think it may have been the Grand Hotel. Stockholm. Vasa museum was great. Fairy Tale museum was okay (somewhat of a waste) Shopping was good. The city was beautiful. It was not as expensive as some of the other ports. I heard other tours were good. Helsinki, Finland Did city tour (not through ship) on double decker bus. It was pretty good. The price was reasonable. Estonia Took ships city tour. We should have done it on out own. The tour guide didn't realize she lost part of group. Copenhagen, Denmark. Took ships tour. It was pretty good. Saw two castles (including crown jewels). Also saw little mermaid). Castles were as nice as St Petersburg. I would recommend not doing ships tours and doing hop on and off and city tours. I recommend Red October in St Petersburg. The gym and spa were clean and not that crowded. Indoor spa pool was the nicest spot on the ship. It was too cold to swim outdoors. Sea days were very relaxing and there was a lot to do on the ship. The shows were good but typical cruise ship shows. It was a great trip I would rate it a B+. The ship itself gets an A. The food brings down rating a little. Service and ports brings up up. Ships tours brings it down a little. We stayed in London two days after cruise. It was very expensive apparently due in part to poor exchange rate between dollar and pound. We stayed at the Regency in Kensington. (I found it on Hotels.com) It was very nice but the rooms were as small as a college dorm room. The food all over Kensington was very expensive. The best buy were italian restaurants. Did a tour with British tours that was pretty good (but expensive) We saw Oxford (including Harry Potter parts) and some of the city. Embarkation and debarkation were pretty smooth. Some of our luggage for debarkation was put in wrong place. I would recommend the trip. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
What a gorgeous ship! My wife and I sailed the new, spectacular Jewel of the Seas on its Scandinavian/Russia itinerary in July. It was one of our best cruises ever, and our first on RCI. First, the positives: 1) The most beautiful ship ... Read More
What a gorgeous ship! My wife and I sailed the new, spectacular Jewel of the Seas on its Scandinavian/Russia itinerary in July. It was one of our best cruises ever, and our first on RCI. First, the positives: 1) The most beautiful ship on which we have sailed in 17 cruises. Glass, art, color throughout. Music everywhere. 2) Wonderful itinerary. Every port except Helsinki was great. St. Petersburg and Stockholm were two of the most exciting, interesting, and memorable ports we have ever visited. 3) The best theater we have seen onboard, with no pillars; comfortable rising seats, and exceptional Vegas-style staging. 4) Among the nicest, most helpful staff we have encountered, especially our cabin staff. 5) Embarkation within 10 minutes. 6) Debarkation exceptionally well-organized. 7) The Seaview Restaurant is a hidden gem for lunch. 8) Best casino staff we have run into. (We spend a lot of time there.) Got to know you, called you by name, gave advice for novices. 9) Sign up for the Explorations tours. Every one except Helsinki was exceptional. Don't miss Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg, Sigtuna in Sweden (but don't expect a smorgasbord at lunch). Talinn is a hidden gem. And the restored Norwegian village is great outside of Oslo. 10) My wife says the health club/gym was the most modern and complete she has seen and used. (I stayed in the very comfortable bed.) Now, the negatives: 1) Heathrow is the most annoying airport we have flown to, and the RCI representatives were hard to find, not helpful, and kept us waiting nearly two hours. Bus loading was very disorganized. 2) The food is so-so in the main dining room and Windjammer's. We had a couple of terrible meals in the main dining room: overcooked steak, limited selection if you don't like chicken or pork. (The two specialty restaurants, Portofino and Chops Grille, were exceptional, but at these stateroom prices you shouldn't have to pay $40 extra per couple for a good meal.) 3) The internet setup was dysfunctional throughout, everyone got at least partial refunds, and AOL cut out every time you sent an e-mail, if you could connect. On NCL, there was a computer expert at the internet room; no such person on RCI. 4) The cruise director was the most syrupy, superficial, unfunny that we have encountered. If the captain wasn't embarrassed by her often-aired interview of him, I was. "Are the other ships jealous?" 5) While the theater was great, the shows were uninspiring. Magnificent staging, below average voices. Good dancing, but poor song selection. Sound fuzzy. 6) We ordered room service breakfast because of an early AM tour, and it never arrived. 7) Our land tour in Helsinki was disappointing, probably due to the tour guide. Do your own touring there. 8) Our interactive TV was not as interactive as advertised, and we couldn't sign up for tours there as claimed. 9) Land tour departures need work. Someone should be in the back of the theater helping to organize; announcements were infrequent and confusing. Maybe use some additional congregation sites for the land tours; hundreds of people in the theater at one time, waiting for instructions. Summary: Would we sail the Jewel again? Absolutely, with the right itinerary. Hopefully, food service will improve with experience, the internet (our main contact with our kids at home) will be fixed, and the shows will improve. But the ship is a luxury hotel on water, the staff is friendly, helpful, and capable, and the price, while not a bargain, is fair. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
The July 3rd sailing from Harwich was the 5th cruise since Jewel was launched this spring. Having sailed on Radiance before, the layout of the ship was familiar and comfortable. Cocktail service in the Tides dining room was poor...I ... Read More
The July 3rd sailing from Harwich was the 5th cruise since Jewel was launched this spring. Having sailed on Radiance before, the layout of the ship was familiar and comfortable. Cocktail service in the Tides dining room was poor...I indicated a wish to order a cocktail the first evening and had to ask my waiter twice before the bar server came to take my order...and the cocktail was received after the entree had been served. It did not improve, so I generally ordered wine, which the assistant waiter accomplished promptly. The first dinner in Tides was terribly disappointing. I ordered the Chicken Saltimboca, but received a plain chicken breast, dry, of poor quality. But for the remainder of the cruise, the dinner service picked up substantially. The filet mignon's were excellent and quite large; the fish entrees were always presented beautifully and remained moist and flaky. The variety of appetizers and soups, as usual, was excellent, especially the chilled soups, a refreshing change of pace that I've enjoyed on Royal Caribbean in the past. They now combine lobster tails with shrimp on 'Lobster Night', which, I imagine is an economy move for Royal Caribbean. Breakfasts and lunches in Tides were equally pleasant and the open seating offered the option of getting acquainted with a variety of people from different countries. Breakfast in the Windjammer was typical...nothing was quite fresh or hot except for the omelette bar; however on the first morning, I was informed they did not have egg substitute on-board, which was disappointing. Lunches in Windjammer were mediocre at best. Soups were quite good, but the entrees were not fresh appearing or tasting; and some of them, i.e. the sweet and sour pork, were not even chewable. And what we saw as fresh desserts in Tides the evening before, made their tired appearance in the Windjammer the next day. The last day 'at sea' had Windjammer staff telling us they were out of brown sugar, butter and a couple of other items. Disappointing. Another observation in the Windjammer, the use of large Melmac-type platters as plates allows one to over-indulge with just one trip to the buffet. However the cups are already showing signs of coffee/tea staining...so they are definitely utilitarian, but not very attractive. Room service was adequate. I ordered skim milk via the TV Room Service option on several occasions; Room Service called to confirm the order shortly after I placed it; however I was brought whole milk instead. The Coral Theater was beautiful and the seating seemed a bit more spacious and afforded a nice view from most seats. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were an enthusiastic group. In their first show, "From The West End to Broadway", the choreography, while quite athletic, was not well-synchronized. Perhaps after they have been a group for a longer time, that will improve. Their program entitled "City of Dreams", however, was excellent and well-performed. There were too many 'comedian' acts for my taste; Brenda Cochrane, a vocalist from Glasgow, was an excellent program and I would have enjoyed her another evening. She did numbers ranging from Edith Piaf to Donna Summer...quite an interesting range! The Solarium pool area was beautiful and pleasant, and a nice respite from the mid-60's temperatures outside; however, coming from hot and humid Nebraska, those temps were a treat anyway! There was good monitoring that lounge chairs were not 'held' for friends who never would appear. I've enjoyed spa services on past cruises, but the price has gone up and the length of treatments have diminished, so I declined this trip. I got plenty of exercise on the shore excursions. The Centrum Shops were typical with the usual sales...gold by the inch, $10.00 watches, etc. etc. Their special sales such as Russian items and the big amber sale were more like bargain-basement-at-Christmas-time; it was difficult to get waited on or to even ask questions. The elevator service on-board was not good. Particularly approaching sailing time in a port, there were large crowds on Deck 2 waiting for elevators, all of which seemed to be on Deck 10 or 11...and they all seemed to be going the same way at the same time. The departure of shore excursions in the mornings was also problematic several mornings; too many groups would be heading down the stairs at the same time, causing congestion and unsafe numbers of people confined into those stairways for several minutes at a time. On the other hand, the increased security was obvious and much appreciated. Cabin services were quite good. Our steward, Vincente (Vic), was pleasant and efficient; they forgot to give fresh ice a couple of times, and forgot a bath mat once. The addition of shower doors in the compact bathrooms is a great addition; the flimsy shower curtains were never effective at keeping water from getting onto the floor. The storage space in the bathroom seemed more limited, however...perhaps I have an inaccurate memory, but I thought there were storage areas on either side of the mirror...now, only on the right side. Our waiter in Tides, Nafiz, was excellent. He personalized his service very quickly and was always assessing our satisfaction throughout the meal. The head waiter seemed to be comfortable in his role of 'schmoozing', but provided little real service to us. My sister, brother-in-law and 11-year-old nephew were also on the cruise. Nafiz always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for my nephew each evening, which made a hit! The in-cabin TV service, given today's technology, is really very poor. My nephew had seen the full complement of cartoons in about an hour, and it was repeated over and over for the duration of the cruise. The same old 'newly-wed game', no matter what it's called now, was run over and over; the shopping channels took up 6 channels and were all rerunning each other. The same can be said for the movies run, unless you wanted to spend $9.95 for a pay-per-view film. Checking one's folio for appropriate charges sometimes was very delayed...for minutes at times; again, with today's technology this seems inappropriate. The shore excursions offered were varied and those I selected were excellent! I especially enjoyed the walking tours in Copenhagen; the trip to Parvoo in Finland was a refreshing change, and the visit to the horse farm for lunch was very pleasant...I'd recommend it. We opted to take the one-day "Excursion to Moscow"; it was tiring, but well worth the money and the effort. Air service from St. Petersburg was provided on Kulsovo Air Enterprises. I had concerns in thinking about that, but the service was pleasant, efficient and comfortable. Beware of pickpockets, however. And while going through Security to get into the Kremlin, the security guard dropped my new digital camera, breaking it. Be aware and be proactive for yourself! Overall, the entire trip was lovely! We had planned it for several months and it met my expectations very nicely. And now that I'm catching up on some sleep, (9 hours difference between Russia and Omaha's Central Daylight Time), I'm starting to dream about my next cruise... Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
My husband and I just returned from the July 15 Scandinavian cruise on the Jewel of the Seas, and I vowed to myself that I would write a review as soon as possible after returning. This was our 6th cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I must ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the July 15 Scandinavian cruise on the Jewel of the Seas, and I vowed to myself that I would write a review as soon as possible after returning. This was our 6th cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I must say it was the best. I would like to start by saying that almost all the little negative comments I had read prior to going on the cruise weren't true. By this I mean (1) although we didn't use room service, I'm pretty sure there was no charge (2) there were towels by the pool (3) we had turn-down service on the first night. It is true that the dining room menu remained the same for the whole cruise. As we were in port for 7 out of the 12 days and we ate in port on all those days, that didn't bother me. We only ate in the dining room for breakfast one day and lunch for two. I found the food to be excellent both times. Pre-cruise We booked air and hotel through Royal Caribbean and stayed at the Hilton Metropole one night before the cruise. It was quite nice and conveniently located. We were in the East Wing, which I had read terrible things about on another website. We chose not to pay the 60 extra dollars for the one night we stayed there to get the West Wing, and we made the right decision. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with the East Wing. The Royal Caribbean representative was there to meet us at the airport and to get us to the hotel. Once at the hotel, there was another Royal Caribbean representative to answer any questions and to help us in making arrangements for what we wanted to do while in London. Embarkation The next morning our transfers to the ship were quite efficient. We had a 2 ½ -hour drive from London to Harwich, and once there, embarkation was amazingly quick and easy. Then we were able to go about exploring this beautiful ship! I won't go into detail about the ship since it has been done so often before. We sailed on the Radiance last year, and of course the Jewel is newer and a little more beautiful. It had more greenery and a sports bar next to the casino. Our luggage arrived quite promptly, so I was able to get unpacked very quickly. Cabin We had cabin 7018, which is almost as close to the front of the ship as you can get. When I booked, I was only able to get a guarantee, so I didn't have much choice in the location. On this particular cruise it wasn't an issue since the seas were so smooth. The last day they were slightly rough but not enough to be a bother. It was, however, the noisiest cabin I have had in quite some time. On the Radiance last year I never heard a thing, so I don't know to what to attribute the noise this time. Other than that, the cabin was quite nice with ample room to put everything. The biggest improvement was the shower doors instead of curtains. Our cabin steward and his assistant were both excellent and always visible and pleasant. This is a good itinerary for a balcony since there was always something to see, whether it was beautiful archipelagos coming in to Stockholm, unbelievable sunsets, the passage under the bridge spanning Copenhagen and Sweden, or just other ships passing in the night. The time changes had me sufficiently mixed up that I was up at very odd hours of the night. Dining We ate at the Windjammer most mornings for breakfast since either we were in a hurry to get off the ship or on sea days we slept in and didn't make it in time to eat in the dining room. On the one day we did the dining room, it was quite good. As I mentioned previously, we ate in port every day that we could. On the 4 sea days we ate in the dining room twice and the Windjammer twice. At night we ate in the dining room every night except one night at Portofino's. We thought the food and service were excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter were extremely personable and efficient. Each night prior to dinner those of us at the table took turns bringing a little surprise for everyone else, and the waiters and the headwaiter took care of it. The headwaiter was around and about every night and was also very personable. We had second seating. I had requested a table for 8 and got one for 10. We believe we had the best tablemates on the whole ship, and of course that adds to the cruise experience immeasurably. All of us often went to the shows together after dinner, and we all went to Portofino's together one night. Entertainment It is difficult to evaluate entertainment since all tastes are different. Therefore, I think the best barometer for successful entertainment is variety. The Jewel had a very good variety, and I would think there was something for everyone. My personal favorites were Beatlemania and a very funny comedian. I'm sure if you asked 10 other people, you would get 10 other answers. We didn't attend all the shows, so I can't give a totally objective opinion. There were constant activities during the day and evening, so it would be difficult to be bored. The poolside, Centrum, and bar entertainers were equally varied and talented. Our favorite was a duo called Deja Voo. The cruise director was very visible throughout the cruise, and I was impressed with the job she did. Shore Excursions Just as with entertainment, shore excursions are a matter of personal opinion. I did think that on this cruise they were very well organized, and we had enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides in each port. We took four with the ship—Talinn, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Oslo. We enjoyed all of them. Most of these ports could easily be done on your own, but in most cases we wanted to pick up some knowledge as we went. We opted to tour with Red October in St. Petersburg, and we certainly have no regrets about that decision. I did hear people complaining about the ship tours there—standing in long lines, etc. Two of our tablemates did the Moscow tour and were delighted with that one, however. I also heard many favorable comments about the canal tour. For what it's worth, our favorite sights in St. Petersburg were Catherine's Palace and the gardens at Peterhof. Disembarkation This is always my least favorite time and is usually horrendous. This was the easiest and most organized of any of the cruises we have been on. The groups were called on time, and everything proceeded in an orderly fashion. Summary I have not had a bad Royal Caribbean cruise yet, but this was a superb one in every way. I would not hesitate to do it again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2004
ROYAL Caribbean July 3, 2004 JEWEL OF THE SEAS The anticipation of cruising on the Jewel of the Seas was greater than the actual experience. In short, it was singularly under-whelming. The hype from RCCL advertising, both on TV and ... Read More
ROYAL Caribbean July 3, 2004 JEWEL OF THE SEAS The anticipation of cruising on the Jewel of the Seas was greater than the actual experience. In short, it was singularly under-whelming. The hype from RCCL advertising, both on TV and brochures we have read lead us to believe that this was going to be a grand experience. Instead we were greeted with some of the same problems that we have experienced on other cruises. Our trip started with excellent support from your Hotel greeter, Rosanna, who saw to it we were accommodated for transfers and baggage movement to the proper transportation. A good deal of this kudo is owed to Nickie from Trina Tours who initiated the process for us. A point on this arrangement. If we decide to cruise again in Europe we will definitely forego the trip to Harwich and back to London. It is arduous and contributes to a very long day returning to anywhere in the US. We did note that several groups were singled out by RCCL for transfer to smaller vans to transport them. We never did find out what the difference was. The arrival at Harwich was adequate with fairly rapid processing through the check in. Crown and Anchor members were directed to special clerks but receive no different treatment than other guests since so many are now members of the club. We would recommend that boarding passengers who have just spent three hours on a motor coach should have the option of bypassing the boarding snapshot. We were held up by the line directed by your reception crew trying to get everyone to pose for a boarding picture. One of your seasoned guests saw the bottleneck and found a passage around the camera to the walkway. The ship is beautiful and well appointed even spectacular is some areas. We did find some inconsistencies in its design. The location of some venues were crowded and often cumbersome to get to. Specifically Portofino and Chops. The common areas of the Schooner Bar were their waiting areas and were often jammed with people, the piano player, other music groups while people were trying to enjoy a quiet meal. The Pit Stop seemed to be the single most unused area. The Centrum was beautiful but a bad location for dancing and demonstrations. It is too small, crowed with a bar, all the ships offices, and general traffic areas. Our room, although adequate, seemed smaller by the layout and the use of a three seat couch which took up more room than necessary. The end tables were so small that with the telephone on one, nothing else could go on the table like a book and reading glasses. Several times glasses had to be retrieved from under the bed. As we have recommended on other ships, book/brochure holders should be mounted on the wall so that the material and Daily Compass can be filed for future referenced rather than stacked on tables. The addition of two hooks in the hall was a good idea except that all the cabin items (menus/laundry bags) were hung on them. Our first trip to the Windjammer for brunch set the stage for the most consistently blah food for the entire cruise. We opted for salads since that seemed to be the best thing on the carousels. However, when we got to the salad dressings, we were terribly disappointed to see a gooey mess that was supposed to be blue cheese dressing. I brought it to the attention of one of the cooks and was informed that it was bottled dressing just poured into the holder. Not the sign of a quality kitchen staff. Throughout the cruise, dinner menu selections were poor and more often than not were not served hot. The only two meals we had hot at dinner were prepared by the head waiter and served immediately. Having the standbys proved more of a selection then the featured meals. NOTE: When serving escargot, always have french bread. The bright light in the food area was the Seaview Cafe where food was well prepared, hot and varied. It would have been nicer had there been an inside access to avoid walking in the rain to access the front door. NOTE: If you have nachos and cheese as a snack, you should also have jalapenos for this snack. Having to go into the Windjammer for these was annoying. Room service was good with tasty food, although warm, and excellent coffee. Your move to Seattle's Best Coffee was well received. I looked forward to my morning coffee more on this cruise than any other. Entertainment on the entire cruise was disappointing. Only two production shows in a 12 night cruise is vastly different from our last cruise where we had four production shows in a 7 night cruise. We were told that one production show was cancelled because one of the dancer injured herself prior to the cruise. Shows a lack of depth in your talent. The single talents on other nights were good but being late seaters we went to very few pre-dinner shows. We do not like dressing so early for an early show, waiting for dinner then having little or nothing to do after dinner unless you think Disco is for everyone. Your theater is an excellent layout with excellent viewing areas throughout. It would have helped if the drink holders could actually hold drinks other than just wine glasses. The excursion office was well run and very assistive with any problems we had with bookings. The excursions we booked went well with the exception of the rain in Glasgow which forced redirection of the walk and a curtailment of some of the views. Some of the most annoying things on the cruise: Charging a shuttle fee to take you into ports/cities advertised in the brochure. If you say we are going to Glasgow, then I expect RCCL to get me into the city. Not in a short stop port (Greenock) then charge me additional to get where I expect to go. If this means adding $50 to my ticket, so be it. Don't nickle/dime me when I am on board. Provide shuttles to the city. Pre-dinner shows: It continues to amaze me how all entertainment and events on the ship are geared to the "MAIN" seating guests as if second seating guests are second class cruisers. Venues: Use of the best dance floor (Safari Club) for events other than dancing. We had one night of decent dance music in the safari club by the ship's band. Ultimate Coupons: We had a coupon for the wine tasting but never heard of when this was to take place. All in all we were very disappointed in the Jewel. She did not live up to her name. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Being a loyal RCI fan, I found this cruise to be the most disappointing, not in terms of ports, but the cruise itself. Our cabin was a D with a balcony on deck 10. I believe it was about 197 square feet with a small balcony that had a ... Read More
Being a loyal RCI fan, I found this cruise to be the most disappointing, not in terms of ports, but the cruise itself. Our cabin was a D with a balcony on deck 10. I believe it was about 197 square feet with a small balcony that had a table and two chairs. The closet was very small and other storage was quite limited. We were a little cramped with two adults and teen, especially at night with the sofa made into a bed. Getting to the bathroom can be an challenge. The curtains to divide off the queen bed from the sofa bed were a nice touch. Made it feel more private. The bathroom only has one side of the mirror for storage, but the round shower is very nice. They now have a unit in the shower that dispenses the combined type shampoo and conditioner. Hint...bring your own shampoo and conditioner. I found the toilet a little high. I am 5'-6", so anyone shorter might find this a little bit of a bother. One note is that we were under the Windjammer and could hear the carts roll across the tile floor 18 hours a day. If you are going on this ship, go down to the 9th level. The food in the dining room was so bad, we ate half of our meals at the Windjammer, which was only marginally better. I did run into one of the officers and commented on the food, and he shrugged and said that was why he ate at the Windjammer and only ordered food that had to be prepared. I must note that we did have second seating and most people who had first seating said their food was fine. Ours was usually cold, congealed, or in one case did not arrive at all. The parmesan cheese they serve on the pasta marinara was the powdered variety in the green can. What were supposed to be fresh vegetables were dry and wilting, salad greens were brown on the edges to give you an idea. One night my pasta was so cold, I had to send back and it was waved and came back a stuck together lump. My partially eaten broccoli was still on the plate so I knew it was mine and the meal had just been reheated. Our waiter needed to get a new profession as this certainly was not his calling. We did speak to the head waiter about the problems of cold food, wrong food and no food, but after that our waiter was surly. For the first time ever, we undertipped. Our assistant waiter did try make up for the waiter mistakes, however he had his own duties to tend to. On the tables around us (10 person) most nights there were only 2-4 people at each table, and one night we were the only people on the 5 tables around us. They all said the same thing, food is not edible. Lunch in the main dining room now only has one menu which got real old after two days. The Windjammer is now mostly buffet food. On other RCI cruises, you could go to the Windjammer at night and order from a menu. You do have the option of having a few special items made to order. However once again, things are not fresh. I watched them pour salsa out of a gallon jug, pour marinara sauce out of a five gallon can and add a few spices, eggs are the already beat kind in a carton that are sort of a gray color. We used room service a few times, once again, your menu choices are greatly reduced. The cheese and crackers was cheese that was drying out from the Windjammer and Saltines. The cookies were dry and had been around for a while. The grapes were good though. We ate at Portifino's one night and found that to be excellent. I dislike paying for food and service that used to be standard, but was curious about the quality. I was pleased with the food, but back to why can't it be like that in the dining room like it used to be without having to pay $20 extra per person. Our cabin steward was excellent considering him and a partner had 37 rooms. We found our cabin always well taken care of, even with a teenager. The teens club was not really going as there were so few teens on this ship. However our son quickly made friends and was out shooting pool most of his free time. The newsletter always had things for them to do, but my son and his new friends preferred the pool tables to video games and hanging out. Could it have been the fact there were only two teenage girls and maybe 8-10 teenage boys! We only took one shore excursion in St. Petersburg doing all other cities on our own and the first day in Russia with Red October. The tour guide to Peterhoff (RCI Tour) in Russia was only 18 and really had no idea of what Peterhoff was about. However on the drive home she answered questions about daily life in Russia and was very informative. I felt all the public rooms were beautiful, however, if you really look, you will see that almost all of the wood is vinyl or paper coated fiberboard, already showing dents, scratches and tears. If you ever sailed on the Legend or Splendour, this ship is no comparison. The Windjammer is now in the middle of the ship so you no longer have the great 180+ view and the Viking Crown is now separate venues, again, losing the views. The Schooner bar is now connected to two other bars and not cozy like on the Legend or Splendour. One thing I did notice is that smoking is allowed in a lot of places so there was a lot of residual smoke smell everywhere and you can not get to certain areas without going through smoking sections. We were in a cabin next to a suite and they were puffing on cigars all the time. The smoke and smell somehow came right into our room. I would be horrified to find myself on a future cruise in an 10K room full of cigar smells. One complaint from almost everybody you met at the elevators, is there is not enough of them. Also it is very difficult to see which one is going which direction when it comes to your floor because of the way they are laid out. The ocean facing elevators are nice, but most people still look at the door. Many times we opted to walk 5 or 6 levels versus wait for the elevator. Better for us anyway. Shopping Arcade was very good. For those going to Russia, before buying nesting dolls and other Russian items, RCI had better quality at the same or less price. It also is a good idea to go to the informative seminar on buying Russian souvenirs. I know I sure learned a lot. I also bought a Skagen watch on the ship that was cheaper than what I could get in Denmark or here in the US, plus no taxes. We did not use the pool, spa or fitness center. With such a port intensive cruise, you tend to be too exhausted to do much when you get back on the ship. We did go to two shows and found them to be good and enjoyed the port seminars and other educational/historical type seminars. The environmental seminar overlapped with the historical seminar so we had to miss the environmental one. Talking to the environmental officer, I told him our disappointment, and he said he would try and fix that for future cruises. You will see lots of wind farms and oil platforms so it would have been interesting to hear about them. The meet and mingle was really nice and we made some great new friends. We met people from all over the world which was what really made this cruise for us. I did have to use the medical facilities for a bad sinus infection. They were very professional, took a strep test, had antibiotics and a sinus draining medicine on hand and I was out the door in no time. The cost was $199 including the medicine, visit and strep test. One other lady in the waiting room was suffering from a severe allergic reaction to some new medicine she started before the cruise. She said they were very good about getting her shots to get it under control, even calling her doctor and asking if they could change her medicine. We booked our own air and transfers. RCI would not sell transfers from Victoria Coach to Harwich so we opted to do our own. It was a great choice versus waiting for the bus, lugging around luggage and going back to Heathrow or Gatwick to get a transfer. Our transportation service came right to our hotel, loaded us up, gave us a mini tour of London and the country side and brought right to the port. Same for the return. Will I sail on the jewel again? Not sure. If there was another cruise doing the same ports I wanted to see, I would take a really good look at the other ships. Will I sail RCI again? More than likely, but will try something other than the Radiance class ships. Having sailed the Serenade's inaugural transatlantic last year, I should have known what to expect out of the jewel, but was not prepared for the sudden downturn in food quality. In all fairness, most people who have sailed on the Vision class ships do not care for the Radiance class ships. I heard this countless times not only on this cruise, but last year on the Serenade. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Background: My wife and I are in our 50's. We had our adult son, age 28 travel with us. We are seasoned travelers. Our last cruise was on the Star Princess in Alaska last year. We flew in the day before from Phoenix in case there ... Read More
Background: My wife and I are in our 50's. We had our adult son, age 28 travel with us. We are seasoned travelers. Our last cruise was on the Star Princess in Alaska last year. We flew in the day before from Phoenix in case there were any problems with our flight. The next day we met the RCI rep near the baggage claim area at Heathrow Airport at 8am. We were bused to another terminal so that we would be loaded on the regular busses to Harwich. Didn't like being left in a smoked filled room waiting for our bus to arrive. Finally got on board the RCI bus to Harwich. The trip took about 2 ½ hours. It gave us a great view of the English countryside. (Our recommendation is that you book your own van to take you to Harwich. You'll find it cheaper and more comfortable). Embarkation: The embarkation process was very smooth. The cruise line had plenty of help to show you where to go and to check you in. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes The Ship: Absolutely beautiful! ! ! We went to our cabin to drop our carryon luggage. It was clean and ready for us. We went to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. You will notice in each elevator that the day of the week is noted in tile on the floor. There were no lines and the food was good. We found our way around the ship very easily. The Centrum in the middle of the ship was amazing. Try going up to the Crown and Anchor lounge on the top deck. You can look straight down to deck 4. We loved the Schooner Bar. Great place to relax and look out over the water. Be sure to ask for the complimentary cashews. It was too cold to use the pools although many guests sat in the Solarium which was nice and warm. Cabin: We were in cabin 7080, a balcony cabin with one upper bed over ours. It was a little cramped for three adults but we managed. Plenty of closet space though. There were plenty of crooks and crannies to place things. The balcony had two chairs and a small table. It was nice to use to sit and view, very relaxing. The bathroom was typically small, but the shower was very nice. It had a rounded glass enclosure that would keep the water from flooding the bathroom floor. Service: Our cabin attendants, Jesus Kahn and Marie florets did an outstanding job keeping our cabin clean and straight. They would always have a smile and something nice to say when they saw you coming and going. They had the cabin cleaned while we were off in the morning and turned down when we returned from dinner. They were great. If you needed extra towels or anything, they were quick to get it for you. They also did a great job in making towel animals for us. Our wait staff at dinner was just as outstanding. Iskra, from Bulgaria, and Ronald, from Peru, did an excellent job. Ronald always knew what we wanted with beverages, breads and rolls without asking. Iskra made sure we were happy with our meals, if not she would replace it immediately. If we couldn't decide on a meal or dessert, she would bring them all. Food Service: We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. If we were in port, we would make an effort to eat at a local restaurant. Breakfast was great. I enjoyed to omelet bar. They made me lox, eggs and onions daily. The only problems they had in the morning was there was usually no ice and the coke machines were not operating. By the way, get the Coke card, it is well worth it at $82 for the 12 days. Lunch in the Windjammer was hit or miss. They always had a great selection, but several of the times, the hot food was either warm or cold. They did make great mashed potatoes. The pastry chef deserves a medal as the desserts were awesome. A little known secret is the Seaview Cafe which is located right above the Windjammer Cafe. They make great fish and chips, hamburgers, soups and sandwiches as well as chicken strips and chicken wings. It is all made to order and served hot. You can also go to the Lattetudes Bar and just order the desserts out of the case, no charge. The Googlehoft was excellent. Ports: Oslo: We took the Hadeland Glassworks and Viking Museum in Oslo. It gave us a great tour of the countryside. Buy the seconds in the main building at Hadeland. Going on this tour didn't give us enough time to visit the downtown area. Copenhagen: Took the ships shuttle to downtown. Found an Internet Cafe near Tivoli at Boomtown down the street (ask any local). Great rates. Ate lunch at Magasins Department Store, top floor. Pretty good local fare. You'll find a neat grocery store in the basement. Stockholm: Took the ships shuttle again. Walked around the old city. Its small enough to get around without taking a ships tour. Great shopping in the city. Ahlen's department store has great buys in glass and souvenirs. Another good grocery store in the basement. Helsinki: Took the ships shuttle downtown. Found a Big Red Bus tour bus at the shuttle stop. For 25 euros they would take you on a 2 hour tour of the city. It gives you a good overview of the sites. Lets you back off downtown at the shuttle stop Go to Stockman's Department store for shopping right down the main street. St Petersburg: Take as many tours as you have time for. If you don't have a special visa, it's the only way off the ship. We loved the City Highlights and Pushkin. The palace at Pushkin was beautiful and the lunch provided was very good. We had a wonderful guide named Tatiana. She spoke impeccable English. She was an English professor at the local university. She was always putting a neat spin on her commentary. She would also be a great help when we were negotiating with the local merchants. We took a water tour on the second day, but would've liked to go see the technology tour but it was sold out. Book your tours early. If you have a chance, look into booking tours with a company called Red October. You can customize your tour and the more people you get to go with you, the cheaper it is. They also arrange a group visa for you. Tallinn: We took the free shuttle to the old town. Everything is within walking distance. Rick Steve's Scandinavia is a good book for walking tours for each of these cities. Found an Internet Cafe inside a book store across from the flower stalls. We found that the sweaters they promoted were pricey. Entertainment: Didn't go to all the shows but the comedy of John Martin was the best. He is an English comedian (as were all the comedians on board). He kept the audience in stitches. Another comedian was Jeff Stephenson, very funny guy. My wife went to the show West End to Broadway. She felt it was very entertaining. Rainer Hersh put a comical spin on classical music, very funny. We were also entertained with a flyover by a MIG jet the day after leaving Tallinn. He must have been less than 50 feet over the ship on his flyby. He stayed around buzzing the ship for about 20 minutes before he left. The other entertaining event was going under the bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. Very low clearance, be on the top deck for that one. Debarkation: The last day we had a British customs agent on board and he handled all the passports so getting off in Harwich was a breeze. We got off the ship early by tag color they gave us based on our flight times. The problem was after finding your luggage, you had to find a porter to get it to the busses. Criticism: Money Mike's suggestions for shopping didn't live up to expectations. The bargains he advertised were not always there. In the ship around the bars, was very smoky. Only the dining rooms and theatre were not. The Windjammer Cafe needs to improve the temperature to their foods to keep the hot foods hot. Positives: Great ship. Easy on and off at all the ports. Great food in the dining rooms and in the Seaview Cafe. Impeccable service by everyone on the ship. Would definitely repeat this cruise, maybe 2006. (Don't forget to get Rick Steve's Scandinavia) Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
(NOTE - There's no menu selection for Oslo, so I hope the deliberately wrong selection of Osaka will ring enough alarm bells for people to notice which was the actual port of embarkation.) INTRODUCTION This report is intended to ... Read More
(NOTE - There's no menu selection for Oslo, so I hope the deliberately wrong selection of Osaka will ring enough alarm bells for people to notice which was the actual port of embarkation.) INTRODUCTION This report is intended to be read alongside the photos from this cruise, which can be found in my Webshots album (http://community.webshots.com/album/140741580OdzpCX) for this cruise. At the end of the album there are also scans of the daily planner for the two days of our cruise for which they were produced (there wasn't one for disembarkation morning). You may also find Brandis' photos (http://www.brandis.org/fotogalerie/Jewel04) useful to look at because they show some things that I write about here, but of which I haven't posted photos. I've tried to include some links to relevant photos of mine from specific points in this report. TO THE SHIP It was too early a start, really - it was only 0500. More like the start of a particularly gruelling day's work, not a weekend off. But we had to get there, so we stirred ourselves and dragged ourselves off to Heathrow. Nothing much needs to be said about the flight, except for a great start to the day. A hot cheese and ham ciabatta roll, fruit salad, yoghurt, a muffin, tea or coffee, and your pick of the bar - all included in the price of the flight. Why would you fly any other airline, honestly? On the descent into Oslo, a small extra treat - we were sitting on the side facing the city centre, and had a grandstand view of the city including - of course - Jewel of the Seas herself. A problem, though, at baggage claim. My bag failed to turn up. It happens from time to time, but very rarely. So why today, when I was sailing in 6 hours' time? Murphy strikes again. But the Servisair (handling agent) agent had already had a telex to say that my bag had been left behind in London; it would be on the next flight. Unfortunately, it was not scheduled to arrive until 1610. A 1700 sailing was going to be close, by any standards. So I left instructions for the bag to be delivered if possible. I also asked for a cash payment to go shopping, but my luck was out again. Although possible in theory, there was no point on 1 May as it was a public holiday and all the shops would be closed. The agent was right, as I found when I got into town. If I shopped on board the ship, it was going to have to be a subsequent claim from the airline. We then headed for the Airport Express, a fast and convenient service to Oslo Central Station - every 10 minutes during the week, every 20 minutes at the weekends. There was confusion, though, about check-in. An RCI representative tried to direct us to a nearby hotel, to wait for a bus to the ship. But our tickets were directing us to go to the quay. The representative didn't know whether check-in was taking place at the hotel, she just knew there were buses from there to the quay. As I could foresee long queues at the hotel for the bus, we decided to walk to the quay as originally planned, as it was a nice day and we knew that the quay is only about 15 minutes walk from the station, even with luggage. It was a pleasant choice, and included us finding Oslo's May Day Parade, which we watched for several minutes before resuming our path towards the ship. Finally, we turned a corner and saw her in her full glory (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745553ipPJbM). And then also found a disorderly queue in the open air of several hundred people apparently waiting to check-in. It was a good thing it wasn't raining, because it turned out that these people had already checked in at the hotel and this was only the queue for security. It took over an hour. There were some RCI agents, though, who were able to check us in there despite the fact that we were not on the list of passengers who would be checking in at the quay. We were issued with a scrap of paper headed "Boarding Pass" and told to collect keys from the Guest Relations Desk, which is where we headed first. THE CENTRUM Quay level boarding gets you onto deck 2. We just walked up to deck 4. The staircase effectively opens onto the floor of the Centrum. It's a massive open space, and the overwhelming impression that it gives is one of light and space. It's a very impressive area to walk into, even for someone who is used to seeing modern ships. The enormous amounts of glass used on the outside walls of the ship certainly have an effect. The port side, where the "outside" lifts (elevators) are situated, looks just like the atrium of a skyscraper that has a glass curtain wall, through which daylight simply floods in. There's even a large area of glass near the ceiling, because there's a large glass wall that looks forward from deck 12 (the Crown and Anchor lounge) to the swimming pool. And there's virtually no floor area on any deck in the Centrum higher than deck 4. Taken together with that huge glass curtain wall, it's almost as if you are standing between two buildings, one forward and one aft, with only a few bridges acting as walkways between them. Even the Crown and Anchor lounge (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/142241493ndnJDP) is simply another suspended structure, around which there is empty space. The Centrum is used a lot for music and dancing - much more so than similar ships I have been on. On day 1, music was scheduled there for 1130-1600, 1700-1800, 1945-2045 and then 2145-0030. On day 2, there was music from 1130-1230, and then 1715-1800, 1945-2045 and 2145-0030. The sight of couples twirling on the floor by the lobby bar, visible from every level of the Centrum, became a familiar sight (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745030YKeIJX). One other effect - it makes people stop and watch, all the time. Although atria on ships have now become very familiar, this is still a design into which much thought has gone, and is in my view extraordinarily successful. A lot of thought has also gone into the lighting effects. There is a suspended sculpture which looks like strings of small organ pipes of different sizes (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745060golIUq), made of aluminium (or something that looks like it). Different coloured lights play on this - predominantly yellow with some blue during the day, but varied changing colours after dark (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745099Ucdeai). There are projectors mounted all over the Centrum, some of which are for the coloured lights and some which display pictures or messages on the blank wall that is opposite the glass curtain wall (and which hides the doors to the "hump cabins" on the starboard side) - "welcome to the Jewel", "farewell" and so on. I was captivated by the various moods that the coloured lights create, and you can see a selection of evening colours in my photos. GUEST RELATIONS HELPS ME OUT The Guest Relations Desk was staffed by some of the most cheerful crew members we saw on board, who were a cut above most ship front desks that I've come across. Not only did they quickly make some spare room keys for us (for some reason, we would have to wait until after sailing for our proper cards), but when I explained what had happened to my bag they immediately asked to take copies of all the documents so that the ship could do what it could to help. The documents didn't then vanish into thin air, because we were called in our room at about 1600 by one of the security officers, who had phoned the airport to find out the time that that next flight was expected - sadly, it was going to be about 5 minutes later, which was eroding the margin further. To complete this story out of chronological order, after we had sailed departed and sailed through the most picturesque part of the Oslofjord, we went to the shops which were by then open, to see what clothes I could buy to get me through the rest of the cruise. When we had earmarked as much as we could (the only thing that they couldn't supply was fresh socks), we returned to the room just in case the bag had turned up. There were two voicemail messages. The first apologised for the fact that the bag had missed our departure by some 20 minutes. The second was an apparently inconsistent message to say that the bag was at the Guest Relations Desk. It was comforting to know that security insisted on inspecting it before we took it away, but it was then that we were told how the bag had got onto the ship - it had come out on the pilot boat. That was an excellent piece of work on the part of all the departments that worked on the problem - it turned out to be the most impressive thing about the entire weekend other than the ship herself. OUR CABIN Sorry, stateroom. Although 8577 was just a standard inside room, this was a good size. The beds were made up as a double, as asked - the ship got that right, which is more than many manage to do. The room number plate doubles as the letter rack. As one would expect, there is a very conventional arrangement - cupboards immediately beyond the door, opposite the bathroom door. Then there is a desk/dressing table with a mirror above it. On the opposite side there is a two-seater couch and a coffee table. There is a symbolic dividing "curtain" attached to the desk side of the room - in fact it only comes out a few inches into the room - and beyond that the bed area. Electricity is provided by European Schuko sockets, and the hairdryer has a Schuko plug - I didn't notice whether there was a 110V supply, or US style sockets, but I suppose it would be silly of RCI not to have them. There is ample lighting. A nice touch is the dual bedside lamp on each side of the bed, with an area light but also a low-voltage halogen spot bulb in a rotating housing, which causes less disturbance to anyone else in the room. The bathroom is also very conventional. The sink is moulded into the plastic sheet that also forms the surround. There is only one bathroom cupboard, on the side opposite the door. For a long cruise where one would unpack all toiletries, this could get a little cramped. The toilet was set uncomfortably high in the wall, which would annoy me after a while - I don't like that feeling of having my legs dangling. But the shower was a delight - a pair of curved shower doors slid together and satisfyingly snapped shut with a magnetic strip. This may be the first time I have used a ship shower without flooding the rest of the bathroom floor. And the shower controls were easy to use. There was one circular knob in the middle of the mixer unit for turning the water on, and a hot/cold mixer knob at the left hand end for adjusting the temperature. None of this single rotating lever nonsense. Small catering-size bars of soap were provided, slightly larger than the usual stuff of this type. I can't remember whether there was any, and if so what, shampoo. Soundproofing was adequate. Occasionally we could hear noises from adjacent cabins - most often the vacuum flush system operating. But more often we could hear the crew using the metal crew staircases in the vicinity. Looking at the deck plans, this surprised us because our cabin did not adjoin any crew staircases. But there was no mistaking the sound, which I think must have been being transmitted through the floor. One of our cabin stewards made a point of knocking on our door before the lifeboat drill to introduce himself. He was one of a team of two looking after us, and we saw both of them from time to time during the cruise. They did a very efficient job, although the cruise was not long enough either to get to know them or to make any demands of them. THE LIFEBOAT DRILL AND THE SAILAWAY 1630 brought the lifeboat drill, which was notable for the captain's substantive absence. The cruise director, Karen, made the main announcement about safety procedures in the usual terms. Then she asked us to stand by for an announcement from the captain before the end of the drill. So we stood and waited for the conventional welcoming words. And waited. And waited, until eventually the captain came on with the one line message that the drill was completed and we were all dismissed. Strange - I wish I'd known what was going on. We then made our way up to the pool area on Deck 12 to join in the sailaway party. The Elini Duo were playing, but cut lonely figures as they faced an empty deck area. Such of our fellow passengers as had come up to the sailaway celebrations were instead mostly congregated around the bar areas - thus underlining what we would come to see repeatedly during the course of the cruise. There were no cruise staff in evidence until well after we had moved off from the quay. Then a member of the cruise staff named Barbara made a welcoming announcement, and said that other members of the team were around the pool area. Once we were looking for them, they were easier to see - they were all standing in one group, talking amongst themselves and taking photos of each other and of Oslo as we manoeuvred to sail away from the city centre. Unfortunately, this rather set the tone for the weekend. I don't know whether this was because they knew that almost all passengers on board were not primary English speakers and therefore unlikely to engage with them. Those whom we did manage to engage and speak to, though, were perfectly friendly and chatty. They told us about who they thought the ship's godmother was going to be (accurate, ahead of the formal announcement) and why they thought no announcement had yet been made (inaccurate, although the sort of story that one could easily put together from all the true features of her appointment). Interestingly, they (and other crew members we talked to at various times) were all particularly concerned about Harwich, which will serve as Jewel's turnaround port for the whole of her Northern Europe season before she sets off for the New World - they all wanted to know (a) what there was to do in Harwich, (b) which the nearest real city was, and (c) whether day trips to London would be feasible on turnaround days. THE POOLS The main pool area isn't spacious - not for this ship the acres of sunning space around the pools of others. However, the pool is definitely more sheltered than many. Jets of water splash into it, and a statue of a stout bather throwing a ball (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745011nZYtPX) adorns one side. There are bars on the pool level (deck 11) and one on the "gallery" around it, one deck up. From there, it's a short stroll forward to the Solarium. This is another pool, covered by a retracting roof. It has an Oriental theme, although to the uninitiated it is difficult to identify precisely which country has lent itself to the dEcor. Another statue (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140744998CbNpuD) sits by the pool's edge. The area being Asian-themed, I was convinced for many days that it was a tiger. It wasn't until after I'd posted my photos online that someone was kind enough to point out that it's a lion. So much for geographical accuracy. The art buyers ought to be told the answer to the schoolboy's riddle about why lions and tigers never fight each other to death. There was a certain amount of inconsistency over the use of the Solarium facilities. Day 1's planner (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140943934EZAlcN) described it as available for ages 16 and over, but day 2's planner (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140944043nOTywh) said "adults only". Nevertheless, the rules posted in the Solarium contain detail about what children may and may not do. If there was any "adults only" rule, it certainly wasn't being enforced. There was also one extraordinarily grating feature of the Solarium. It has a food service station. This might be forgivable in this setting, if it served snacks of sophistication and quality. But no, it's the pizzeria. Yuck. Big mistake - utterly tasteless (and I don't mean the food). THE ONBOARD ART The statues remind me to say something about the art on board. There is a huge amount of it, and it is one of the most attractive features about the ship. Much of it will be lost on most people, who probably won't even notice its existence. But if you keep your eyes open, there is lots to see everywhere. It includes far more than the usual big run prints put up along the long and otherwise-featureless corridor walls. There are the statues I have already mentioned, which you find in all sorts of places (the golfer at the entrance to the mini-golf course just behind the rock climbing wall (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745208HQBoMx) is another oft- photographed example). There are also interesting pictures and objects on virtually every half- landing of every staircase. Some of the pictures are art photos. One that particularly impressed was a wintry landscape comprised entirely of holes punched or drilled into a vast silvery metal sheet (although the installation of this piece is crass and unsympathetic, with large and highly visible cross-head screws punctuating the image all over the place) - this one is definitely in Marc Benz's photo collection. Something else that amused me was the trio of flamingoes (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745355PDgDQJ) which are on deck 13, on a ledge facing the top of the "outside" lifts - although it is annoying that that is as close as one can get to them, and playing in the lifts seems to be the only way of getting a good look. Pleasingly, thought, most pieces could definitely be described as contemporary but accessible art. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to select things which will interest and perhaps inspire, but without being obviously controversial or self-indulgent rubbish. Almost, but not quite, in this category is the enormous bottle of Perrier-Jouët champagne which is attached to the Centrum railings next to the champagne bar (deck 6). The label prophetically marked the ship's maiden voyage on 8 May 2004, which did underline the nature of our cruise, fully one week earlier. Two other interesting "construction" titbits. By the guest relations desk, there is a series of plaques with a number of photos of the construction and delivery process. Some of these images will be very familiar to those of us who have been watching the ship being built, and it was quite a thrill to see them in an "official" setting rather than merely dancing around our computer screens. Also, on deck 5 near the photo gallery there is a frame (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745502iafZOW) containing a number of photos of people signing the sheet of paper (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745514uwVBWE) which takes pride of place in the middle of the frame. The stated time and place are 4 April 2004, 1600, off Eemshaven. Those who were following Jewel's delivery process will have worked out that this was after the ship had successfully negotiated the River Ems on her way from the builder's yard at Papenburg to the sea, but before she docked in Eemshaven to begin the final preparation period and her sea trials. The photos don't record who was who, nor whose signatures appear on the sheet (only a few are legible and there is one large one which isn't but looks like it could be Bernhard Meyer's), but this is definitely a piece of the ship's history which I hope will stay with her or in some suitable place for a long time. THE SPA AND FITNESS CENTRE Forward of the Solarium is the health and beauty section of the spa. I regard spas at sea as overpriced cousins of the spas on land that I would never go to anyway, so I didn't have any interest in exploring this area. However, I did stop long enough to notice that it is yet another Steiner establishment, and that the staff in the spa are about as unfriendly and unwelcoming as most other Steiner staff that I have come across. Upstairs is the fitness centre, which is nominally (and, presumably, operationally) part of the spa. The room is a good size. There is a good selection of machines and weights, arranged around the outside of the room, which has almost floor to ceiling windows affording excellent views forward and to the sides. Some of the machines (notably the bikes) face inwards, though, which detracts somewhat from the effect. In the middle of the room there is an aerobics floor, which is adequately sized but not generous. Given the number of passengers on board, and the likely age profile, I can imagine this area becoming quite crowded for popular fitness classes, particularly those like step which would require significant amounts of floor space. Until you establish that your fellow passengers have all been overcome by sloth (or perhaps gluttony?), my advice would be to go early and claim your place. There seemed to be only one fitness instructor, which surprised me; I don't know whether that will be the entire complement for a "proper" cruise. Workout towels are available in the fitness centre. There was a grand total of three classes scheduled for this cruise. It was a disappointment, but no surprise, to find that two out of three were $10 extra (yoga and spinning) - and an equal disappointment to wake up on the only full day of the cruise to find that we had slept through the free aerobics. There is also supposedly a jogging track on the same level as the fitness centre (deck 12). It runs around the outside of the fitness centre and then aft around the aft end of the main pool (although one deck up). It is clearly marked on the deck. However, the number of sun loungers and people milling about on the jogging track make it very difficult to use, even for someone like myself who prefers to power walk than run. It is a real pity that a jogging route isn't more clearly delineated and protected, because there is no true wraparound promenade deck - always the mark of a real ship, in my view! Deck 5 is blocked at the forward end on both sides. But even if it weren't, you have to climb some relatively steep stairs up one deck at the forward end, where the helipad is situated. FOOD As we were very ready for lunch by the time we had finally embarked, obtained room keys and reported the potential arrival of my late bag, we had no option but to go to the Windjammer. This is laid out in a single space across the full width of the ship, unlike most other self-service ship restaurants I have seen where a centrally-positioned galley area divides the restaurant area into two narrow halves along either side of the ship. The spaciousness allows for the installation of food service islands in the central area rather than a single long buffet counter, which means that (like at this layout's forerunners ashore) queues and bottlenecks are almost eliminated. The food in the Windjammer was as good as any buffet-style food can be. An "Asian" island produced nothing more than an unexceptional stir-fry, the difference between the chicken and beef versions offered was simply in the type of meat that had been throw into the mix. No P&O-style curries here. However, the sesame oil and chili sauce that were available there did the job of spicing up this offering. A salad bar was also perfectly acceptable, if rather thinly-stocked with some ingredients; more regular runs are needed to keep things topped up. A different hot food island produced some very boring and unmemorable dishes, which two weeks have served to erase altogether. The main point of discussion between my companion and myself was the size of the plates. They were oval and huge. Was this an attempt to make sure that people didn't clog up the service area by making multiple runs for the food? Perhaps a way of making sure that kitchen overstocks were rapidly run down? Whatever, it did seem to us that these plates were far larger than necessary - the net result of which was, for us, that we had small piles of food looking very lonely in a vast landscape of flat plastic. For our two dinners, we had made advance plans. We had been warned that the second night would be a formal night, but had discovered that Chops and Portofino require only smart casual dress even on formal nights, and that we would not be turned away from the captain's cocktail party if we were in smart casual for dinner in one of those restaurants. Consequently, we had decided to go to Portofino (the more interesting-looking of the two) on the second night, but to eat in the main dining room on the first night. A call to Portofino as soon as we arrived in our room was all that was necessary to secure a table for 2030 on the second night (the same time as second sitting dinner in the dining room). We discovered the spanner in this particular works when we collected our "proper" cruise cards at the same time as retrieving my rushed and well-travelled bag. We had requested second sitting dinner when booking. Our tickets said "confirmed second sitting dinner" on them. There had been nothing in our room to say anything different. But our "proper" cruise cards stated a table allocation in the early sitting dinner. This was pretty useless, as it was by now about 1900, early dinner had started at 1800, and we hadn't been even remotely hungry at that time anyway. (For us, 1800 is more like time for a very late lunch, rather than dinner.) This non-communication had of course been caused by the fact that we had been told to check-in at the quay, and RCI had then gone and set up check-in at the hotel near the railway station instead. Thus, we were deprived of the opportunity of trying to fix the problem during the maitre d's session on the afternoon of embarkation day Guest Relations made a helpful suggestion that if we turned up to second sitting dinner anyway, the maitre d' was bound to be able to find us somewhere to sit. We weighed up the pros and cons, including what we had discovered since we boarded - namely that we were virtually guaranteed to be sitting with people who would prefer to be speaking Norwegian to each other. (For all we know, the ship might have gone to the trouble of finding us English speakers to sit with on our early sitting dinner table, but we will never know.) There was also the inevitable difficulty about whether we would tip the dining room staff for the one night (and if so, when), or for both nights or not at all. So it was easier to see whether we could go to Chops. They couldn't do us a table at 2030, but could do one at 2115. So we avoided all the dilemmas by going off there instead CHOPS Chops is a very pleasant space, with great sea views while it's still light. Most of our fellow diners were wearing formal dress, as they did on both nights all around the ship despite the fact that the first night was supposedly causal dress. The staff were not quick enough to dim the internal lighting after the sun set and it got dark outside, but this did eventually happen. The lighting level will always be adversely affected by the open kitchen area, which is of course very brightly light by fluorescents. Service was mixed, probably reflecting the shakedown period. One of the waiters serving us had an irritatingly insecure way of pouring wine. He was so terrified of getting a drip off the bottle when he stopped pouring that he always poured it with the bottle touching the glass. As most people know, that pretty much guarantees that you will get a drip. Our other waiter, however, was a very bright and got-together South African lady who performed the menu perfectly (only after a recital do you get to look at a printed version) and organised everything very efficiently. The main courses are shown to you on a trolley, in raw form. Some people might find this off- putting. I did, but probably for slightly different reasons. No doubt for some spurious reasons of hygiene, all the meat was tightly wrapped in clingfilm when it was presented. There is nothing that makes otherwise-good raw meat look unappetising than acres of clingfilm. Why can't they just show it openly on a plate? Those particular pieces won't get cooked or eaten by anyone anyway! The food that was served, though, was perfectly good. My filet mignon was for the most part done exactly as asked; just one corner had been cooked too much. My companion's lamb chops were pretty faultless, as were the starters. The side dishes, though, are on the small side - don't be frightened to order several different ones for variety and reasonable quantity. The wine list and wine service, though, was annoying. There is a very pared-down list in Chops, although this is not pointed out to you at the time. All the selections are from the expensive end of the spectrum - there is very little below $30 a bottle. Worst of all, when my first choice (a Merlot) was unavailable, I was offered two alternative Merlots which I both knew to be astronomically priced. The waiter (the same one who turned out to be unable to pour the wine correctly) was no doubt banking on his customer being to embarrassed to ask how much they were. But I wasn't born yesterday, and it was back to the wine list for me. Despite my care, though, Chops and Portofino are expensive nights out. With one bottle of wine and a couple of bottles of fizzy water, each evening was basically $100. At home in London, it may not quite be possible to get a similar meal in a similarly good restaurant for that sort of money for two people, but it's not far off. The extra cost seems disproportionate in the context of a cruise where most things are supposed to have been paid for already. PORTOFINO - THE FOLLOWING NIGHT Again, most of our fellow diners were in formal dress, despite the suggestion expressly made in the daily programme. No wonder some of these people were wheeling on suitcases with enough space for two week's worth of cruise clothes! Again, we had the problem of the dining room being too light. This time, service was distinctly erratic. We had barely settled in and ordered an apEritif, than our orders were being taken. What we did not know was that this was going to lead to ultra-fast service of our starters and main courses, which arrived in double quick time. Some breathing space, please! But we got it after our main courses, when the plates were left sitting on our table for well over half an hour without being cleared or us being offered desserts or anything else. Timing is everything, and it wasn't happening here this evening. The food was again generally good, although one of the starters was slightly disappointing. The wine list was, mercifully, longer and had more choice at the bottom end - although it still isn't clear how (if at all) the Portofino list differs from the main restaurant wine list. LUNCH "AT SEA" Out of chronological order, a mention of lunch on our "day at sea". In fact, we had sailed to the Danish port of Skagen, which is right at Denmark's northernmost tip. We remained a couple of miles offshore all day, which seemed to be a "trying out the dynamic positioning system" day - so we spent the whole day doing lazy spins on the spot. I'd read that the Seaview Cafe (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745191fTzuWH) isn't much used, and so it proved this day. It's a lovely bright spot, especially on a sunny day, when you can either sit in or out. It's intended to have the feel of a seaside fish and chip shop, and so it does - except that it's much cleaner and more attractive than virtually every fish and chip shop I've been to. It does a variety of simple meals - fish and chips, burgers, and so on, which are freshly cooked by the team right there in the restaurant itself. There's no extra charge for this venue. I would highly recommended for lunch on sea days (and port days too, if open) as it's away from the madding crowds in the Windjammer and wonderfully placed for a nautical atmosphere. TIDES DINING ROOM  It followed that we only went into the main dining room for breakfast on disembarkation morning (a personal cruising tradition). It was pretty soulless when it was empty, as one would expect. The photos really say it all - a two deck room with a double height space in its centre (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745417wgpKYl), with an attractive water feature at one end next to a piano (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745433jQCERZ) and those trendy but effective hanging fabric "pillars" marching down the centre of the double height space itself. Disembarkation breakfast was a slight disappointment, but I don't know how it would compare to breakfast there on normal days during the cruise. THE ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES This was the greatest disappointment of the entire trip. The scene was largely set by the lacklustre sailaway party, where nobody's heart was in it and the cruise staff seemed to be going through the motions. The activities were, of course, almost all on the sea day. The fitness centre had only offered that one aerobics class which I would have done but missed because I was still asleep. I would also have done both the line dancing and the team trivia, except that they clashed and we had to pick one (we went for the team trivia). So for the first time in many cruises, I found myself sitting around the ship from time to time with nothing to do. If I hadn't had a self-imposed ban on going to the art auctions, I had a sense that this would have been a good cruise to do it on. Probably nobody buying, so I could have a go at getting things I wanted for the opening price, which in my view is the only price at which the onboard art is really worth buying. This absence of activities was also reflected in the visibility of the cruise staff - or, rather, their invisibility. It really seemed as if nobody was making any sort of effort. This may have had something to do with the fact that the ship was full of Norwegians. There's nothing wrong with Norwegians as such. But I think that the fact that English was not their first language (I suspect that fewer than 5% of the passengers were primary English speakers), and the fact that they spent much of their "entertainment" time in the bars and didn't require entertaining by the ship, meant that much of the crew just couldn't be bothered to make any sort of effort. It spoke volumes that my companion and I socialised more with the shop and restaurant staff than anyone else. And the crowning disappointment was the complete absence of a captain's reception of any kind - and indeed, the almost complete absence of the captain himself, who we only saw by chance during trivia because he walked through the room and was accosted by members of the media (or so it seemed) for a photo shoot. In fact, we had thought that we might at least hear more of the captain during the cruise because he would be able to address 95% of his passengers in their shared native tongue, but he seldom took the opportunity to do even that. For what it's worth, the cruise director was a lady named Karen, an English lass whose mid-Atlantic accent sounded like it had originated in the Midlands before it went to sea. We were never told her surname, or indeed given the names of any of the officers or staff in any formal way. We heard and saw so little of her - or her staff - that it's impossible to give any view about them. The first night, the main show was on (From West End to Broadway). We missed this because we were still in Chops having dinner. The second night, there was a Scottish headline singer named Brenda Cochrane, who did a solo show backed by the ship orchestra. Her CV (resumE) includes a role in Chicago (presumably in London) and a show at "the Edinburgh Festival" - that last bit was obviously thrown in to the spiel by someone who thought that most people wouldn't understand just how easy is to put on a show at the Fringe, and that that fact itself says nothing about your talent. In fact, she was good, but not outstanding - she had intonation problems in some parts of the songs that she sang. But it must have been very difficult trying to perform in a theatre with less than 20% occupancy - virtually all the Norwegians were drinking in the bars. The theatre itself (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745374kYgech) is an excellent space, having some of the best sightlines I have seen in a ship theatre because of the paucity of supporting pillars. The rake is also quite steep, and the seating is all theatre seating, which both help. The multicoloured seats, though, make the empty theatre resemble a patchwork quilt, and I'm not convinced that it adds to the design. The theatre is fitted with largest sound mixing board I think I have ever seen. We didn't get the opportunity to see the new Latin show; that would definitely have been interesting. The only other entertainment that we really saw was the pianist, Ben Robert, who was working in the Schooner Bar (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745284XlzaCw). By the time we got there his voice was giving out, but that just gave the assembled throng a chance to do some impromptu singalongs and karaoke (yes, we took part in that too). That was fun, although it didn't seem like what he was expecting. As a space, I was not that thrilled with the Schooner Bar itself. It was very busy both nights of our cruise, which may have had something to do with it. But its location makes it a thoroughfare to Chops, Portofino and the Safari Club as well as being a destination in itself, which also restricts the amount of seating that can be put there. We did poke our heads into Vortex, the disco, both nights. But the music was pretty awful (metallic techno stuff for the most part) and the room is too bright for a disco. The best part of Vortex is the light sculpture which consists of a series of vertical bars of glass, lit from underneath by coloured lights that change colour. We had the pleasure of seeing the rotating bar rotate only once, on the first night. We don't know why it didn't move after that. OTHER PUBLIC ROOMS One other irritation was the amount of time that the public rooms were taken up by "private functions" for the groups that were onboard. We did poke our heads into the cinema just before one techies meeting started - a steeply raked medium-sized room that will, I suspect, be awful for watching movies from if you're in the first three rows. The entrance is a little cylindrical portal near the sports bar, and is easy to miss first time. But the worst part was not being able to access the Safari Club (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745301VhxdEu) because of numerous "private functions". Even when I was finally able to get in there to have a look and take some photos (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745337zyevnT), I was on the verge of being thrown out because a private function was about to start. There is a card and game room which can only be accessed through the Safari Club, but that was of course inaccessible whenever the Safari Club itself was being used. This was a great pity because the bar at the very aft end of this complex may be the most comfortable and attractive bar on the ship, with a stunning view over the stern. DISEMBARKATION This was made easy by the fact that we had not docked at any port before returning to Oslo and so there was no need for anyone to clear immigration, and by the fact that no luggage handling was being offered either on or off the ship. We deliberately went to breakfast right at the end of the allotted time, and then disembarked in a very leisurely way when most people had already left. (Our flight back to London was not until 2015 that evening and we had planned to spend the day in Oslo, hopefully seeing the ship leave in the evening as well.) RCI had arranged buses to return to the central station - this time there was no queue for them and we gladly accepted the offer as we had planned to store our luggage there for the day before heading off to sightsee around the city. Although Jewel was 45 minutes late departing Oslo, we did in the end manage to see her go (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745604aYaxMU), and some of the photos of her sailing away (http://community.webshots.com/photo/140741580/140745687NEAhZy) are in my photo collection online. The flight back was perfectly routine, like the outbound flight. We got a meal which was pretty much identical to that one the way out, which set us up very nicely for the evening. CONCLUSION This was definitely a mixed experience. The ship is beautiful, and fully lived up to the brochure, the marketing and PR hype, and our expectations. She is a stunner and I hope she will be a winner. However, the cruise experience was desperately underwhelming. RCI officially sold this as a "taster" cruise. If I had been a first time cruiser, I do not think that I would be clamouring to return. Even worse, though, over the last few months I have lived with the mounting excitement of watching the ship being built and finished. I had the disappointment of missing her Ems passage because the weather forced a 24 hour delay. One would have thought that there would be some sense of excitement on board about a new ship, even amongst seasoned and experienced crew members. There was none of it. I was wasting my time expecting to be part of any shared experience of starting a new "life". Rather, as often as not, there was a sense that we passengers were just in the way of them getting the ship ready for "real" cruises. Perhaps I had made the mistake of being too excited, and of setting my expectations too high. If I ever do this again, I will have my eyes rather wider open next time. But it's a very big if - and now that I don't feel a link to this ship any more, I've realised that I don't actually have any good reasons for specifically choosing RCI over my usual cruise lines. POSTSCRIPT - PHOTOS Those of my photos that are online (http://community.webshots.com/album/140741580OdzpCX) are only there in relatively low resolution versions. If anyone would like a higher resolution version of any of these images by e-mail (file sizes typically between 800KB and 1.2MB per image), for their own personal and non-commercial use with no further dissemination, just let me know by posting to the message board thread on which this review is also posted (http://messages.cruisecritic.com/2/OpenTopic?a=tpc&s=927093444&f=069097554&m=9041 07102).     Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Review Jewel of the Seas Voyage 8: 05/28/04 - 06/09/04 12 Days Itinerary: Harwich - Oslo - Copenhagen - Stockholm - Helsinki - St.Petersburg - Tallin - Harwich Embarkation: I arrived at the pier early as I took the ferry from Hoek van ... Read More
Review Jewel of the Seas Voyage 8: 05/28/04 - 06/09/04 12 Days Itinerary: Harwich - Oslo - Copenhagen - Stockholm - Helsinki - St.Petersburg - Tallin - Harwich Embarkation: I arrived at the pier early as I took the ferry from Hoek van Holland. As I had edoc´s I didn´t have luggage tags. The porter was available immediately, like waiting just for me, and as I told him about not having luggage tags he had them available in less than a minute. Of course they had to be filled out, so it´s a good idea to have a pen ready. I just asked him for tags to see how it works. I had some ready, self-made at home on the computer from the example that came with my edocs ( I would recommend this, but no hassle if you use the ones that are provided). My luggage was on it´s way in less than two minutes. At this early time there were very few passengers at the port and the check-in procedure had not started yet. The check-in procedure was scheduled to be started at 11:00 am but they actually started a little earlier. They set up different lines depending on the deck your cabin was located. And one for the Suite guests, as well as for Platinum and Diamond C&A-Members. I stood in line first for check-in. With filling the boarding documentation online prior to the cruise and signing the cruise contract and the credit card information at home too, the check-in was a breeze too. It was about a 5 minute procedure and could have been faster if the lady would have been familiar with the computer. She had to ask her colleague for every step. They said we couldn´t board until 11:30am but they started this procedure early too. Before entering the ship we had to get our picture taken and connected to the seapass card for security reasons and the carry-on luggage was x-rayed. You had to pass a metal detector like on the airport too. I was on the ship around 11:10am. Although the weren't ready till 01:00pm I went to my room to drop off my carry-ons. Lunch was provided at the Windjammer from noon. I first took a look around the ship and then had lunch at the Windjammer. My first impression of the ship was great and I felt familiar with many of the areas because I saw so many pics already on the net. Cabin: My cabin (GS #1552) was great. I had lots of room for my stuff. The closet had three doors with large mirrors. The real closet was just between two of the doors. Behind the third one was just something like a space for hanging your jackets. There was also a bar in the room. Under the bar there were ten drawers and another closet and of course the fridge. The fridge was stocked with some items. It was no problem to remove them to put your own things in it. No sensors in the fridge like on some ships. By the way the Safe was in the closet too. It was one of the type where you have to put a four-digit number in to operate. The "living room" had a three-seater sofa and two chairs. There was a DVD-Player and TV too. The sleeping area could be divided with a curtain from the rest of the cabin. In the sleeping area there were two beds that con connect to make a queen. The night stands have two drawers each. The vanity was also in this area. It had another eight drawers. The bathroom was very spacious with a double sink, bathtub and toilet. There were another two drawers in the bathroom and a medicine cabinet behind the mirrors and closets below the sinks too. The balcony was reachable through a sliding door from the seating area. The balcony was spacious too. It was equipped with two chairs, a large table and an additional chair with a leg rest. I don´t know why they put only one of them on the balcony as it´s a double room and a second one could easily fit. There is a climate control in the room too, but I didn´t touch it as the temperature was ok for me the whole time. The cabin was very well isolated against noise. I never heard anything in the room. Even if there was some loud music in the Centrum nothing could be heard as soon as the cabin door was closed. The cabin location was very convenient to me. It is close to the centrum area and the concierge lounge. Every spot onboard is just a few steps away. The view from the balcony is OK. You can view forward and see the bridge. Looking backwards the hump is in your way. Looking straight down you look at the cover of the lifeboats but this is only if you lean over the railing and look really straight down. Concerning privacy on your balcony this may not be the best choice as it can be viewed from the balcony of #1554 - the hump cabin. But this one is not good for privacy either as it can be watched as easily from my room. No problem for me at all. When going to my room I first took a glimpse at the hump cabin. In my eyes this is not a cabin I would take. From what I saw the balcony wasn´t larger and the layout of the cabin was different which makes it look smaller to me. I didn´t measure it but I would think it´s smaller not bigger as most people would suppose the hump cabins to be. Crew: Captain: Thore Thorolvsen, Norway Cruise Director: Karen Maybury, England Chief Purser: Mark Shannon, Canada Hotel Director: Francois Wache, France Executive Chef: Thomas Tiede, Germany Loyalty Ambassador: Matthew Clark, England Overview about Itinerary and Daily Schedule: Day 1 - Harwich: - Casual - Welcome Aboard Show Day 2 - At Sea: - Formal - Captain´s Welcome Reception - Headliner Showtime "Violin Entertainer Gary Lovini" - M&M Day 3 - Oslo: - Casual/Country - Headliner Showtime "Comedy of Jeff Stevenson" Day 4 - Copenhagen: - Casual - Production Showtime "West End to Broadway" Day 5 - At Sea: - Formal - Headliner Showtime "Judy Kolba" - Welcome Back - Crown & Anchor Party Day 6 - Stockholm: - Casual - Production Showtime "Tango Buenos Aires" - Chocolate Decadence Buffet Day 7 - Helsinki: - Smart casual - Headliner Showtime "Pianist Antonio Salci" Day 8 - St.Petersburg: - Casual - Movie night - No Show because of overnight stay in St. Petersburg Day 9 - St.Petersburg: - Smart Casual - Headliner Showtime "Singer Brenda Cochrane" Day 10 - Tallin: - Casual 50´s/60´s - Rock n´ Roll night - The Quest - Variety Showtime "Mistress of Illusion Sylvia" Day 11 - At Sea: - Formal - Crown & Anchor Platinum and Diamond Party - Backstage Tour - Production Showtime "City of Dreams" Day 12 - At Sea: - Casual - Captain´s Corner - Headliner Showtime "Comedian Roy Walker" Day 13 - Harwich: - Debarkation Ship: The ship is gorgeous. If you walk across the ship there are so many nice places to stop and watching carefully you can spot fine art everywhere. You can feel that there must have been somebody putting his heart into the design. It´s very easy to get around. There are 6 elevators in the centrum. All of them are glass elevators. Two facing the centrum area and four facing the glass facade and the ocean. In the front there are three more elevators. Sometimes the elevators get quite busy but all in all it´s enough capacity. On the promenade deck you can almost go around the ship. If you like to do a full turn around the ship you have to use the stairs in the front to go one deck up, to the Helicopter pad and down again on the other side. The Helicopter pad in the front is great as you get a nice view from there. You can also do the Titanic like feeling. With all this positive things I also have to mention a few things that are not so good in my eyes. Many of the areas onboard are too small. I felt that some places were very crowded most of the times. Let me go a little bit into detail on this. The Dining room is so tight that the waiters have a really tough time getting around. Some seats are almost unreachable for them because the chairs are back on back. I really felt bad sometimes for them trying to serve with so little space around. This continues in other areas. It´s hard to get a seat in the Safari Club Lounge when something is going on there and you are not in there early. The Windjammer was crowded always and most of the time the only available seats were outside. This maybe different in the Caribbean but in the Baltic Sea it can be cold and windy out there. The pool area seems very small to me too. It was not an issue on this voyage but I would imagine on a Caribbean cruise it could get very tough to find a seat around the pool. The Solarium is very beautifully designed although I feel it´s a little bit overloaded with plants. But again there are only very few loungers to relax on. I never saw an empty one. I don´t know if everybody felt like this but I felt this could have been designed better. Food: Talking about the food I have to say it was ok. I ate only dinner at the dining room and all other meals in the Windjammer. The Dining room meals were great in taste, and well served but sometimes not on the really hot side. Our team of waiters (Rakesh from India and Lorenza from Peru) were great, giving recommendations every evening. There was also a daily special every evening that was not on the menu. You still had the choice of three salad dressings served from the assistant waiter. The bread is served too, but our assistant constantly asked if somebody wished for another piece. By the way I never paid for Orange Juice during dinner. The Windjammer is set up with different buffet "Islands". With this setup you don´t have to stand in long lines. Although the place was always crowded as I said before I never had to wait in a long line to get access to the food. The negative result of this setup is that you have to walk around a little bit to get an overview of the offered food and to get it together. The taste was good but the food in the Windjammer was cold at some times too. I only tried the Seabreeze Cafe once. It was a nice place for having lunch or a snack. The food is cooked to order. You have to place your order at the counter and the meal is served to your table. Service: Dining Room: Our team of waiters were great. They were always been around to take care of us without being offensive or disrupting. They remembered already the second day our likes and had i.e. the drinks ready for us. Also ordering wine was no problem. They both took care of it and it was there before the appetizers (I mention this because I had a different experience on this). Cabin: I rarely saw my cabin attendant. She was not as present in the hallway as I used to have it on other cruises. But I don´t know what range of cabins and how much of them she was responsible for. So maybe I couldn´t spot her because she was behind the hump. But to make it clear this was no problem for me. When I left my room I put the "Make up my room" sign into the key slot of the door. And I don´t know how she made it but my room was ready every time I got back. This was very surprising for me as she couldn´t spot me when leaving as I said before. The cabin was made up two times a day and Of course I had turn down service the first night too. Room Service: I didn´t order room service but got delivered something complimentary to the room every afternoon. It was very nice. I got things like Canapes, Cookies, Truffles, Sweets, Shrimps, Danish, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Cheese, Fruit, Vegetables, etc. Concierge: Can´t tell very much about our Concierge Brett Goad, as I didn´t have anything to do for me personally. When I entered the lounge during his hours he was always friendly. The Concierge lounge is a nice place. They also have some Internet stations available there. Sometimes they have some sweets during the afternoon there too. Mostly I used the Lounge only for getting some very good coffee or something else to drink to take to my cabin. It´s a very small place and gets crowded soon, especially when the bar is open. Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Orange Juice and Grapefruit Juice is available 24/7. Bar Service: Although I didn´t frequent the bars too much but from the few times I´ve been there I can only say good things about the service. The Bar waiters were always around. The service was prompt. When sitting in the Champagne Bar two times in a row the Bartender remembered what I had the last night. Guest relations / Excursions: The few times I went there I was always served promptly and to my total satisfaction. I had a minor problem with my pre-booked Excursions after getting the tickets delivered to my room. It was no problem to get it fixed. So my overall rating of the service on this cruise is very positive. Entertainment: I can´t say too much about the animation Programme as I rarely took part in any of those activities. It was a quite port intensive trip and I took the Sea days for relaxation. I attended the evening Shows every day. The three Production Shows were quite good. The best one in my eyes was "City of Dreams". The different Headliner Showtimes weren't very good most of the time. There are things that could definitely be improved. But of course this is always a matter of personal taste. Ports of call / Excursions: First let me say that I booked all of my Excursions with RCI. I prebooked them in advance online through RCI´s website and got the tickets delivered to the room the first night. There was one tour that was mixed up with the time set up. It was corrected immediately when going down to the Excursion desk. Oslo, Norway: The ship docked directly beyond the Akershus Castle. This made a very nice spot to view from the ship and also when climbing the up to the castle you got a nice view of the Ship. The location is very convenient to reach the city. The City hall can be seen from the ship and it´s only a short walk. As it was a Sunday there were very few shops open. I did the Oslo Highlights Tour. After taking us around the City a little bit we went to the Vigeland Sculpture Park where we spent about an hour. Our tour guide was very good and explained many of the Sculptures and told us about the artist Gustav Vigeland. After visiting the park we took the drive to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. We visited the Ski Museum which was quite interesting and had some time to look around on our own. From the Holmenkollen we had a great view over the City and the ship in port. We were very lucky with the weather in this port as in all the other ports. It was mostly sunny, no rain and not too warm. Exactly right for sightseeing. Copenhagen, Denmark: Again a great port at great weather. We docked at the Langelinie, not to far away from the famous "Little Mermaid". In the morning I took the City of Copenhagen tour. They took us around town and showed many interesting places to us. We saw the Tivoli, Amalienborg Palace, Christiannsborg Palace which is the seat of the Parliament and other places. After returning to the ship around noon we had plenty of time to walk back to the City to explore a little on our own. There was a shuttle bus to the city but it was a nice walk along the harbourside and took about 30-45 min. of slow walking one way. The sail away in all these cities is a great sight too. Stockholm, Sweden: The entrance to the port begins very early in the morning as you pass many little islands on your way for about 3-5 hours before getting to Stockholm. The ship docked on one of the many Islands across from the Gamla Stan - the Old town. I had booked the Stockholm & Vasa Museum tour. Again they took us around to show us all the great sights of the City before going to the Vasa Museum. The Museum was very impressive. The Vasa is a huge ship, especially when taking into consideration the time it was built. Unfortunately it sunk after a few hours afloat in 1628 on its maiden voyage and was not discovered in the water of Stockholm's harbour until 1956. We had the chance to leave the bus at the end of the tour in the city to walk around and take a shuttle bus back to the ship. The Sail away again brought up the beauty of the thousands of little islands around Stockholm. Helsinki, Finland: In Helsinki the ship again is docked a bit out of the town. It's docked in the neighborhood of the Kvaerner Masa Shipyard. I took the City of Helsinki Tour. We visited the Olympic Stadium with the Statue of famous runner Paavo Nurmi. Next to many other sites we also visited the Temppeliaukio church. A very unique church carved out of solid rock and topped with a copper dome. Because of the great acoustics the church is sometimes used as a concert hall too. At the end of the tour we got to neoclassical Senate Square with the Lutheran Cathedral. From here it´s just a short walk to the harbour, the market hall, the open air market and the main shopping street. We had some free time here before getting back to the ship or spending some more time and taking the shuttle bus back to the ship.                   St. Petersburg, Russia: St. Petersburg is a little bit different of course. We had an overnight stay here. If you don´t have a tour booked for this port you won´t be allowed to leave the ship unless you applied for a Russian Visa. Although I booked tours for St. Petersburg I had the first afternoon and of course the evening free. I applied for the Visa just in case but it turned out that I didn´t use it. The ship was docked in the industrial area of the harbour and at it´s very far end. Inside the harbour there was little to no transportation available. It was quite far way to get to the port entrance. From the port entrance it was still far to get to the City. This made my decision not to use my Visa and spend the free time relaxing on the ship. And with three tours in two days in St. Petersburg the free afternoon was more than welcome. First day I had a City tour of St. Petersburg which allowed us to get an overview of the City and already spot many of the great sights. Of course two days can give you only a very small glimpse of a town like this. There is so much to do and see, that a week or two would probably not be enough. We saw the most important palaces like the Winter Palace, some of the churches (outside), the Aurora cruiser and many more. We also had a little time to shop in a small open air market with local vendors. In May and June St. Petersburg has the so called "White nights". During this time of year it never really gets dark. The Sunset was at 11:12pm and sunrise already at 4:43am again. In the approx. 5 hours between, it didn´t get really dark. It was more like dawn during this time. It was kind of a strange experience for me as I never experienced this before. The second day I started with a Boat ride on the River and Canals of St. Petersburg. From this point of view the City looks totally different than the day before from the Coach. Again very nice views of the City. After the boat ride they took us to the St. Peter and Paul Fortress, to visit the Peter and Paul Cathedral as well as the prison in the fortress. The fortress never had to be used to defend the city. There had been only people arrested for political reasons and they only had single cells. No contact between them was allowed. After returning to the ship I had about an hour to get ready for the next tour. It was manageable because of the great organization. All of the tours during the whole cruise were absolutely on time. This afternoon I took the bus ride out of town to the Peterhof. The Summer Residence of Peter the great. This tour was only for watching the outside of the palace and the Gardens and Fountains. I know many of you will say that visiting at least some of the Museums or Palaces of St. Petersburg are a must, Especially the Hermitage. I decided not to do so because of the very limited time there and it was my first visit. I must have a reason to go back. The Peterhof gardens and Fountains were incredible and I had a great afternoon walking around on a sunny afternoon. But I have to admit also that because it was a Saturday it was very crowded. It is a nice place to spend a weekend afternoon for the locals too. St. Petersburg was a great port and definitely a place to go again. Tallin, Estonia: The last port of the cruise. Again I was on the City Highlight tour. By the time we docked, I had already got an impression of the beautiful, old medieval town of Tallin. First they showed us some nice places around the town, like a stadium where they feature the Song festival and other events. We also saw the Olympic Center where during the Moscow Olympic games the sail competitions have been held. After this we took a walk through the old town over cobblestone streets. We saw the Russian Orthodox Church and some very nice spots of the old towers and walls surrounding the City. At the end of the tour we had about an hour to walk around or shop by ourselves. I decided not to go back to the ship with the group but to stay in town and take the complimentary shuttle back to the ship. This was a great decision as there were many more things to see than I could have in about an hour. Although it had been a Sunday all shops were open. Our tour guide admitted much of the feelings of the locals and the Estonians are glad to be open to the west and a new part of the European Union since May. This was for sure, next to St. Petersburg, a highlight of the cruise. Overall rating: It was a great cruise and I can´t wait to the Jewel again in September. As I said there are a few things I didn´t like too much about the ship but nothing is perfect in this world and these things wouldn´t keep me from sailing on this ship again. Maybe they would be able to change some of these with a few differences in setup. The crew is still in the hard progress of training on a new ship and working out some of the bugs. They can´t be perfect from the first day I think and I never would expect this although they already reached a very high level. The cruise met my expectations in most parts. A review is, of course, always a matter of personal opinions and subjectivity. I tried to reflect my feelings during the cruise and describe what I recognized. It´s always seen through my eyes of course again. I´m also not sure if I reflected all aspects of the cruise, the service, the ship and the ports. If you like to get any additional Information feel free to ask and I´ll try to answer at my best. I hope to be able to review my pics soon and be able to post some of them (a little over 1000 all together) soon. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
After a 2 1/2 hour bus transfer to Harwich from Heathrow Airport London, the Jewel of the Seas was in sight. After being on some smaller and older cruise ships, this beautiful new ship was a spectacular sight to see. The embarkation ... Read More
After a 2 1/2 hour bus transfer to Harwich from Heathrow Airport London, the Jewel of the Seas was in sight. After being on some smaller and older cruise ships, this beautiful new ship was a spectacular sight to see. The embarkation process was easy and organized. The Ship The Jewel of the Seas is a spectacular ship. The centrum area of the ship, which is an open area in the centre of the ship from deck 4 to deck 11, seemed to be the life of the ship. There were always talented singers and musicians playing lively music. Another impressive part of the ship was the theatre that was about three stories in size. It made viewing the shows and presentation more enjoyable. The ship had other areas of interest such as nicely decorated lounges, an indoor solarium, miniature golf, pools, a two level dining room, and a stadium seating cinema. The Ports of Call The ports on the May 16 itinerary consisted of Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Tallinn, Estonia. These were all interesting ports, but I would have to say the most interesting one was St. Petersburg. This port had decadent palaces such as Catherine's Palace and beautiful onion-domed churches such as the Church on Spilt Blood. Oslo was a beautiful city with big hills all around it. The Hadeland Glass Factory shore excursion was interesting as you saw mountainous terrain getting there and the handmade glass process was interesting to see. The only complaint that I have is that we did not have enough time after the excursion to walk around the city of Oslo. Stockholm and Helsinki were very clean cities and easy to self-navigate around to see places of interest. Copenhagen was nice too, but a little on the pricey side as the dollar is very weak against most of these northern European currencies. The Food The experience in the Tides Dining Room was excellent. There were more items to choose from than prior ships that I have sailed on. The quality of the food was great as well. The service in the dining room was also the best I have had on a cruise and the staff was exceptionally friendly and knew my food preferences after a few days on the ship. The Windjammer was quite the opposite. While there was a large selection of food there, it always seemed to be cold. The fountain drink dispensers where always broken in the morning and they should have had iced tea as an alternative drink selection in the morning for the who did not prefer juice or coffee. The Seaview Cafe was another dining alternative located one deck above the Windjammer. The food was good and was made to order. I would highly recommend the onion rings there. The service was also very good. The Entertainment The entertainment on the Jewel was excellent. The broadway-style shows were of high quality. There were two different British comedians that were probably the best comedy acts I have ever seen. Fellow Cruisers The cruisers and staff on this ship were more international than other ships I have sailed on. There were people from Britain, US, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Canada, Philippines, as well as several other countries. There was also a diverse group of people than were of all ages. This made interaction on this ship more interesting. Overall This was overall an enjoyable experience. The positives on this ship was the outstanding service, destinations, and amenities of the ship. The only complaints that I will mention is the food at the Windjammer would have been better if it was warmer and the cabin size could have been a little bigger. The pools were real nice, but would have been more enjoyable if the water temperature was warmer. Even with these issues, I would definitely travel on RC again as well as this ship. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2000
We sailed on the Jewel of the Seas on Jan 2 to Jan 8 2006. Thor Thorelson was our captain and Simeon ___ was our cruise director. This was my second RCI cruise and my boyfriends first. We are 24 and 28 respectively and travel often on ... Read More
We sailed on the Jewel of the Seas on Jan 2 to Jan 8 2006. Thor Thorelson was our captain and Simeon ___ was our cruise director. This was my second RCI cruise and my boyfriends first. We are 24 and 28 respectively and travel often on land vacations and do the whole resort thing as well. We flew in to Palm beach for new years eve and visited with family. We rented our car through Alamo with no hassles or long waits. On Jan 1 we stayed at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale hotel. Great property. Definitely 4 stars. The service was fantastic, I was shocked that valet was $18, but was told thats the norm in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotels in a great location where you can walk to shopping and restaurants if you have no car. On Jan 2, we returned our car at 11am and Alamos free shuttle had us at the pier at 11:30. We were on the ship eating lunch in the windjammer by 1. Embarkation: On Jan 2, we returned our car at 11am and Alamos free shuttle had us at the pier at 11:30. The embarkation could have been smoother if there were more signage leading people in the right direction or more service personnel available to help. It was pretty chaotic when we arrived but once on the correct line we didnt have to wait long. We were on the ship eating lunch in the windjammer by 1. Room We had a D1 balcony cabin 9078. Its on the hump. The balcony is massive. A long lounge beach chair, 2 regular chairs, and a small table were out there and we still had plenty of room to maneuver and dance for joy. I read on all these reviews how well appointed the staterooms are, and its definitely true. There are lots of places to store all your belongings. The bed was rock hard so we requested the foam pad from our stateroom attendant&it helped a tiny bit. I slept out in the lounger on the balcony one night&more comfortable than the bed. Our room was at the end of the hall just by the elevators and the library. There were no noise problems at all. We only heard our neighbors if they were out on their balcony while our balcony doors were open. Service The entire staff seemed truly genuine and friendly. Our stateroom attendant, Franky Andrade was phenomenal. Before I could hang up the phone with a request he was knocking on the door with it. We only saw him a few times during the week but our room was always in tip top shape. I left request notes and he attended to every one of them. We had minor seapass issues and the guest relations staff was great about handling it quickly and efficiently. The photography team was not too pushy and werent as in your face as they were on the Voyager. Our waitstaff was decent. They were a bit slow and forgetful at times but not so much that it ruined anything for us. Our waiter in the Portofinos restaurant was phenomenal. Alexsander from Bulgaria. He was stellar. I was surprised at how on the ball the windjammer staff was, I can only compare it to the Voyagers and they blew it away. Very attentive and upbeat. Food Im not a picky eater and I love good food. The food on the Jewel was just okay. Very bland, very mediocre. For breakfast we ordered room service on the balcony every day which was just fruit and cereal so you cant really go wrong. The coffee was atrocious but, it grew on me by day 4 J Lobster night was good, the first lobster was great and the second round our waiters brought were overcooked and a bit rubbery. The escargot was fantastic, there was a mushroom puff pastry that was also delicious. Nothing much else really stood out, it was all very bland. Portofinos however was excellent. I had a fillet there that was truly fantastic, well seasoned and well prepared. From the appetizers to desert, the entire meal was perfect, and the service helped. Wine and water never less than ½ full. Windjammer was just okay as well. It was well mapped out with the stations and make to order pasta was nice. Ship / Activities I loved the Jewel. She is a beautiful ship, rich colors, not gaudy looking and very clean and well maintained. It was easy to find your way around and there were many areas to be alone and just enjoy your cruisemates company. There were a lot of things to do but significantly less than on the Voyager. I didnt expect such a big difference in the amount of activities as there was. There was the mini golf and rock wall and the dance club and tons of bars. The main pool was tiny. The solarium pool was small as well but very nice. The solarium area was well decorated and had a mini cafe, and a bar. The art was interesting and the gym was a good size and never too crowded. (Although the gym staff knew absolutely nothing, I wonder how they got their positions) The theatre was a good size and we only watched the magic show but it was cute. The ship's dancers were comical, I'm not sure if they were supposed to be or not. Ports Our original itinerary was Key West, Coz, Costa Maya, Cayman, Sea Day. A few weeks before sailing it was changed to Sea Day, Cayman, Costa, Coz, Keys. At embarkation as were receiving our seapasses were notified that the keys have been dropped from the itinerary altogether and replaced with a sea day. After Costa Maya Thor announces that we will be skipping Cozumel altogether and hightailing it to the Keys where well stay overnight. So, we got about 24 hours in the Keys. That was a pleasant surprise. Cayman: We did a stingray tour through captain marvin. It was an incredible experience. It was my first time snorkeling in waters that deep. Id recommend Cap Marvin to anyone. Costa: We had a beach day and bargained a lil for some Cuban cigars and headed back to the ship Keys: We explored the first day and the second day we went to the butterfly farm, ate, shopped and toured around. Fellow Cruisers There was a large range. I think most folks were 35-45 that we met. We saw a lot of young couples, a lot of families and a few older couples/families. Our tablemates were great, they were cruisecritic folk. Only niggle is the lack of manners displayed by a lot of the cruisers. Lots of pushing, cutting in line and not many excuse mes Debarkation Although wholly depressing, this was not as much of a pain in the neck as on the Voyager. We left our room at about 8:45 and went to eat in Windjammer. After our meal we had only enough time to get down to the 4th floor when our color was called, and we were the 4th or 5th color so that wasnt so bad. We found our bags pretty quickly and were off to the Alamo shuttle again very soon. Im not sure how long everything took but we were picking out our car at Alamo at 10am. All in all it was a fantastic cruise. Wed definitely sail RCCL again but will probably try a few other lines first. Read Less
Jewel of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.3
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.1
Family 4.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 3.0 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

Find a Jewel of the Seas Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise