Jewel of the Seas - Trans-Atlantic: Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by juried

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Jewel of the Seas - Trans-Atlantic

Sail Date: September 2006
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Harwich
Just back from the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas September 11 through September 23, 2006. Warning, this review is very long and a bit fragmented. My head is still floating. There were 2 of us in the Royal Suite, Cabin Number 1556. This was a 12-night transatlantic cruise from Harwich, England to Boston. We flew out of Boston Logan on September 7 and spent a few days at the Holiday Inn, Kensington Forum in London. London was great fun but the Hotel was too far away, next time in London we will stay closer to town. London is also uber expensive with the British Pound about double the value of the US dollar. Our Driver (Darren Parsons of Adelphi Executive Hire was great.) met us at the airport, dropped us at the Hotel and then picked us up a few days later and brought us to the port in Harwich. The port was very easy to find, we dropped our bags, tipped the kid tossing them on the tram and walked into the pier building. Because we had the Suite we were More directed behind the red curtain for express check in and that was where the preferential treatment began and ended. First impression the ship is large, clean and very bright. Embarkation was effortless, it was around 2:30pm and we were in our suite by 3:15 or so. The Jewel is a lovely ship. Not gorgeous but tasteful. Suite: The Royal Suite is nice. Again, tastefully appointed but nothing exceptional. It was the perfect size for the 2 of us. My favorite part of the suite was the whirlpool tub. I loved it. Unfortunately there were left-over dead roses and open soda cans in the fridge. One of the sinks was clogged and the place reeked of cigarette smoke, yuk. A rather bad first impression. We met our room steward Ben who was nice but much harried. Ben told us to go enjoy the view while he finished cleaning and worked on removing the cigarette smell&. He never took the time to show us how to operate the suite remotes, lighting, drapes, etc. And the way to get rid of the smell consisted largely in opening the balcony doors. We had booked the Royal Suite expecting a certain level of service, which was non-existent. After dropping our stuff in the suite, we were off to the Windjammer Cafe for the luncheon buffet. This was very good. The space itself is nice, overlooking the harbor and the seating was comfortable. I thought the food in the windjammer was better than the main dining room, especially breakfast. They put out a great spread. This was a much older cruise than we are accustomed to. We are not kids (45 and 50) but the average age was probably 70. Our tablemates joked that this ship was sure to run out of oatmeal and prune juice. This cruise was old even for them and they were about 70. Nightlife on the Jewel was missing unless you like ballroom style dancing or very serious karaoke. The DJ in disco was great but I never once saw more than 12 people up there. The elevators are ridiculously slow. I have an idea here: I think when you push the button to call an elevator and wait and wait and finally decide the stairs don't look too bad, after all it's only 5 flights. There should be a button to cancel your elevator call. Just a thought. On to dining We did not go to the Portofino's or Chops but everyone told us it was excellent but took about 2.5 hours. Our waitress in the Tides Dining room was Charmain, she was great. We sat at a table for 6 but 9 of the 12 nights there were just 4 of us. We went to dinner for the tablemates more that the food. We dined with the most wonderful couple. Great table talk, fun stories and lively banter. Even though I thought the food was good and the service was outstanding. The meat was often dry and they insist on putting fruit with all desserts, but I am not a fussy eater, so it was all good to me. Normally on a cruise, my husband and I greatly enjoy the Casino. The Casino Royale on the Jewel was large, and for the most part very quiet. We sat at a 10 person Texas Hold'em table and played the other passengers. It was a $5-$10 limit game, a friendly game and if you won some money one night, you gave it all back the next. We all joked that the same money just kept going around. The house rake was 10% (more than any other cruise or casino I have ever been to) with a cap at $10.00 per hand. This was the oddest Casino ever. The hold'em table was not really in the Casino but just outside of it in the News / Weather Bar. It was supposed to be a Sports bar but it had NO SPORTS on the TVs 7 out of 12 nights& no kidding, so we called it the News/Weather Bar. What was most upsetting is that around midnight or 12:30am the Casino host would come around to shut down the table. This was unreal. It was the only busy table in the so-called Casino and they wanted to close it. Even on Sea Days when you have no reason to rise early the next day. About the third or fourth night my husband (who is quite soft-spoken and rarely says boo) spoke up and said that we are here on vacation and everyone at the table wants to play cards& and he asked why can't we stay and play longer? Well, let me tell you he was reamed! The little twit of a Casino Supervisor was so very rude to my husband; it set the tone for the rest of the cruise. I dare say this is the best rested Casino Staff on the Seas. With the noted exception of Keith (excellent!), Emma and Justin (both very good), this Casino Staff was rude (especially Sandra) condescending and at times incompetent. Dealers Evelyn and Pinky both mucked the winning hand more that once. So we decided to have a few tournaments in the Card Room. I called my concierge Andrea. Even though Andrea is NICE. She is not a concierge. She is more of a hostess or barmaid. Ok, so let's stop here and talk about concierge service. It may be unfair for me to compare concierge services from other cruise lines but hey, in my experience, if you have seen one concierge you've seen them all& or so I thought. We had the Royal Suite, so we paid a lot more than most, so we expect certain privileges. For example, on other cruise lines, the Concierge meets you, if not at the pier directly, than at least in your suite. Stops by, hands you a business card, carries a clipboard to take any notes (change dining times, order flowers, liquor etc) and lets you know he or she will be available to you to book your spa treatments, excursions or dinner reservations. This never happened. I found Andrea in the Concierge Lounge hurriedly mixing drinks and balancing a food tray. So there was my cue that we did not in fact have a concierge, but a stressed-out, over worked waitress. Poor Andrea, I told her that she had too much on her plate with over 200 Platinum members onboard and her job was not that of a concierge. That perhaps she needed an assistant to handle the bar and small things and that she should at least take the time to introduce herself to Suite Guests. She agreed but I could see that she was not really listening. Too often people mistake heartfelt advice for complaint. I ordered 3 bottles of wine through Andrea to be delivered to fellow passengers. And 2 of the 3 thanked me. So an alarm went off and sure enough the third bottle was sent to the wrong cabin. I asked Andrea to send the bottle to the correct cabin and she said she would try and get the bottle back. I told her NO, you cannot take wine away from someone a day later. Not only had they probably opened it by now but it is just wrong to compound the error. So I purchased a fourth bottle to be sent to the correct cabin. Augh. Interjection: I am not a loyal Royal Caribbean Cruiser. I go wherever my budget allows on whatever cruise line suits my needs in respect to timing and ports. I think if you are a loyal RCCL cruiser, than by all means you should take advantage of whatever perks RCCL throws at you. The impression here is that RCCL really takes care of its' Platinum or Diamond Members&.but how? By giving them a coupon book, throwing them a party and free drinks for a few hours of the day? I don't get it. I think RCCL has over extended itself here; the so-called concierge lounge and another one just like it were packed. How preferential is that? Besides, the coupons were only good for stuff I would never use & discount on the second bottle of wine UNDER $50.00?, Free Picture of the Ship? Johnny Rockets (not on this ship) $2.00 Casino Credit& please. This Concierge lounge was full every time I stopped by for a coffee. There was never a free seat and most folks stayed for the 3 hours of drinking and just sat and drank. I know this because prior to dinner, I stopped in for a coffee and after stopped back for express tender tickets (shouldn't these be delivered to my suite?) and the same people were still there. My husband made the same observation. Now my husband is a true romantic. He wanted flowers in the suite from every port we stopped at. Native floriculture. Andrea had never heard of this, the only flower service onboard was tea roses. Nice but not quite. SO after much ado, he made the order and at every stop we got glorious flowers. By day 7 the suite no longer smelled of smoke but rather a very lovely funeral home& a lot of flowers! Now because we had this nice suite, and met so many nice folks on the message board and at the poker table (and some people are just curious about the suite itself) we decided to have a little get together mid-day on a sea day. I gave Andrea the invitations Cookies and Cocktails along with the room numbers the day prior. She did not get them out until a couple of hours before the party. So, many people told me they JUST got the invitation. Others that did not show up may have never got the invite, I don't know. It is not a huge deal, not life threatening, but still it is sloppy. It was awkward seeing other Crown Jewels and not knowing if they got the invitation or not. So we had our little party and Hugo from room service came through with fancy cookies and lots of finger foods and exotic tid-bits (salmon, caviar, etc) and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Nuff said. The Suite: The Suite was nice. One major complaint: NO Coffee maker. Come on now, even Carnival ships have a little coffee maker. We brought our own coffee (Dunkin Donuts) but were unable to make it. They say it is a fire hazard, bull. Another problem with the suite was the poor TV reception. We had huge white lines constantly riding up the screen. This drove me nuts so I called Andrea. But she is only available during the AM coffee hours or the PM drinking binge so I was on my own. I had 3 guys from electrical maintenance in the suite trying to fix the problem. They told me that the entire side of deck 10 had this poor reception problem. But I had made friends with my neighbors and their TVs worked just fine. So the maintenance guys lied. I asked if they could just replace the large flat screen with one from the Sports Bar since nobody was watching those anyway and they were the same size, but they blew me off. I offered to pay, but still no. Also you could not get the CD player to work. You had to play CDs though the DVD which only had one giant speaker under the TV. Here we are in is this lovely suite with speakers all throughout the ceiling and you cannot get them to work. It was very frustrating. Also the Suite has these huge archaic remote controls that hardly work and need a lot of re-charging. I just wanted a simple clicker. Back to poker. Since the Texas Hold'em table was only open at the Casino's leisure, us committed poker players decided to have our own tournament. I had brought my chip set and there were 10 of us, so why not? I called Andrea about 5pm, since this is the ONLY time to reach her, (first mistake) to request that she reserve 2 tables in the Card Room for 10am the following morning (this is standard procedure on any cruise line) I called again to confirm but she still had not had time to make the reservation. So I told her no problem, I could see that she was busy and I would contact the Activities Director myself and make the plan on my own. NOW, Andrea said she could not give me the Directors name or number. She told me it was up to her to do this. Yes, I agreed but knew she was too busy. I called her back later, she said we could not have the 2 tables in the card room because of a scheduled bridge tutorial but they would bring 2 tables and 10 chairs to my suite, OK fine. Next morning I stop by for coffee, see Andrea ask when the tables and chairs will be delivered& she said Oh, you can use the Card Room now, Bridge Talk will not be until 11. Well, I told her that our Poker game will go longer than 1 hour and that I had already invited everyone to MY SUITE. Augh. Long story short, we got the table, chairs and they stayed in my suite for the rest of the cruise. We had 3 tournaments. And while we played in my suite, the dealer sat alone at the Texas Hold'em table in the News/Weather Bar. The Cruise Director was OK. But the shows were same old. One girl can really sing, the other (a soprano) was not as good. Both men singers were good. Truth be told I only saw one show entirely the others I either left early because they were lame or I could not find a seat. The Platters were great but Standing Room Only. Again on other lines, your concierge makes sure you get seating. I am not a tough customer. I expect to get what I pay for. If I had paid less than I would happily accept this level of service. Truly I am an easy customer, I book my own excursions, do not want spa treatments or have special meal plans. Itinerary: great places, great weather, loved them all. Did the Blarney Castle Excursion and the Guinness Dublin Tour, both were awesome! Music: I only heard one great band, do not know the name, I think I crashed a private party in the Hollywood Odyssey. It was full of officers. Overall: What I heard a lot on this cruise was how relaxing it was. This was definitely a relaxing cruise. If you want to relax than this is the cruise for you. I was bored to bits. Also my husband spoke at length with an older fellow passenger that told him that he thought many elderly people actually live full time on cruise ships. And this kind of made sense to me. When we were being herded like sheep into the Tides Dining room among the sea of canes, walkers and wheelchairs, it had a funky, sour milk smell. Hell, it beats the rest home and is probably about the same cost. The good: The ports, the weather, best tablemates ever, meeting new friends, Meet and Mingle Party, easy embarkation and disembarkation, Thomas and Hugo from Room Service (very good room service menu but the same as all the other rooms, again at this suite level you either have a butler, or waiter that will bring you good food late at night or a concierge to arrange it), excellent photographers courteous and professional, no hard sell for bingo or the Art auctions, Mpho and Gemma from Guest Relations were wonderful. Seafarer Cafe was also very good. The Bad: The Staff, not just the Casino but the overall attitude. It was like they were doing us a favor. Lousy concierge service, no nightlife, lame casino, crowded or poor shows, s l o w elevators, an overall sloppiness that continually reminded me that RCCL just does not care. After re-reading my review, it sounds like a miserable cruise. It was not. It was the best we could make it. The ports were magical, the weather perfect and the Crown Jewels a lot of fun. If ever we cruise RCCL again, we will just get the balcony cabin and not have any great expectations, thus no disappointment. Plus I should note that most everyone I spoke with was having a wonderfully "relaxing" cruise. They absolutely loved it. Till next time, Enjoy this glorious day. Juried Less

Published 10/09/06

Cabin review: RS1556 Royal Suite

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