Jewel is still a jewel!: Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by Gonzo70

Jewel of the Seas 5
Member Since 2006
16,907 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Jewel is still a jewel!

Sail Date: January 2009
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Miami
We are a married couple in our 30s - this was my 6th cruise, 4th with Royal Caribbean (also have done one each on Celebrity and Holland America). The itinerary is wonderful; sea days and port days nearly alternate, so plenty of relaxation time with port calls interspersed. The ship is beautiful with lots of great spots to view the ocean, the crew for the most part extremely friendly, and we were blessed with outstanding weather and an extremely fun group of people we met through the Cruise Critic Roll Call board (and managed to miss a negative 16 degree day in Chicago)!

Our stateroom was an outside room with a window but no balcony on deck three. We had booked a coveted D1 Aft Balcony, but downgraded to an oceanview guarantee as the price was nearly $2000 less! The room was adequate size for two, but would have been cramped if a third or fourth was sailing with us. Basic necessities were supplied (i.e. soap, shampoo, and a hair dryer - though not sure why they provide a More hair dryer when it seems like women always bring there own anyways)! I enjoyed the window a lot more than I thought I would. On the higher decks you do not get a good perspective of the waves, but from deck three the waves look much bigger and you can see their definition. I often placed pillows in the window sill and sat inside the window with the waves splashing within inches of me when we hit rough seas (one particularly large wave crashed against the window and sounded like a loud thunder bolt). Our stateroom attendant was less personable than on other cruises and made a couple small mistakes (i.e. charging us for a bottled water from the mini bar we did not consume) but overall was adequate. Guest relations easily remedied the couple problems that came up.

Our waiter in the main dining room (Adrian) was outstanding; very energetic, friendly, and he provided great service and recommendations. Ivan his assistant was somewhat quiet, but good as well. They readily accommodate reasonable special requests our table had and quickly learned our names and individual preferences. We even arranged for the Maitre'D to bring a dessert to our table for Adrian on his birthday and we sang for him. We loved a lot of the staff we met at the bars/lounges , especially Freddy in the champagne bar (outstanding martinis there as well for martini lovers and free hot appetizers and caviar bar when you order a drink before dinner there) and Eva at the pool bar (she also works in the Concierge Lounge overflow room at the Vortex on Deck 13). Both of them always provided service with a smile, made great drinks, and when they were not too busy provided a lot of one-on-one time with us. Joff, the cruise director and his staff were also very approachable and ran a variety of fun and diverse activities. Captain Thor provided a nice speech at the Welcome Aboard Reception and seemed more personable than other Captain's I have sailed with.

As a nonsmoker I was glad that Royal Caribbean now designates approximately half of the bars as smoke free. This helps nonsmokers have a variety of places to socialize yet still leaves venues for the smokers. The Schooner bar and Champagne bar were two of the smoke free areas and we spent a lot of time at both of them. The casino was also smoke free in the evening of the two formal nights and one smart casual night.

We ate seven dinners in the main dining room. The food was as good as I remember it from prior cruises - good but not great. The number of selections on the menu may have been slimmed down some. The lobster tail on the Fisherman's Plate was the largest I have had on a cruise ship. The escargot, prime rib, and onion tart were among my favorites. I am not a dessert person and Adrian happily would bring me the appetizer of my choice while others indulged in their dessert. The coffee was drinkable, but far from good. Most people in the dining room did abide by (or at least come close to) the dress code for formal nights. On casual nights men tended to wear jeans or docker style pants (I only saw two people with shorts). I will not describe what women typically had on as I am sure my wife will read this and want to correct my terminology!

We ate twice at Chops and once at Portofino's. Outstanding service and ambiance at both, but I felt the food was one step better at Portofino's (they had outstanding steak there, but also a great variety of other dishes and they have a wonderful bread basket accompanied by various spreads such as olive, tuna fish, and fresh roasted garlic). My favorite appetizers at Chops included the shrimp cocktail (very large shrimp and spicy cocktail sauce), mushrooms, and tuna tar tar. At Portofino's the fried calamari was a great appetizer. The seafood skewer is presented like a piece of art - bring your camera! Dress code is smart casual every night at the specialty restaurants.

The Windjammer was the only area of disappointment. I always found something to eat, but often the food was a bit bland and/or too salty. I found the Windjammer equivalent on both Celebrity and Holland America to be far superior (both in quality, presentation and diversity of choices). I did enjoy the frozen yogurt machine in the back of the Windjammer. The Seaview Cafe was a fun alternative for lunch; they make really tasty sandwiches such as Ruebens and Cubans and my wife enjoyed the onion rings. We did lunch and breakfast in the main dining room once each; the food was better than that in the Windjammer, but the service was quite slow (wound up taking nearly two hours for lunch).

We did not attend the shows in the main theater (not our style) but found plenty to do. We did a lot of trivia contests, played mini golf (great view of ocean from golf course), went to Quest (a must do if you have not done this before), the Love & Marriage show, and Midnight Pool Party/Buffet. Also spent a little time in the casino on non-smoking nights. One of my table mates even scared away a Cuban military vessel that came surprisingly close to our ship when he accidentally hit the mini golf ball too hard and it bounced over the railing and landed near the Cuban vessel (for a moment I thought we might have started an International incident)! I also used the fitness center three times and ran on the outside running teak four times (between this and sticking with the stairs the entire cruise I managed to lose one pound during the vacation - which really irritated my wife)!

For the Panama Canal portion we opted to stay on the ship as we were informed by some knowledgeable passengers that there is so much to see from the ship, that an excursion is not necessary. The ship passes through the Gatun locks (series of three locks) starting fairly early in the morning. Each lock elevates the ship around 40 feet or so (rough estimate). Be sure to check out views from the aft, rear, bow, front, stern, port, starboard, right, left, and high and low floors. Each view point provides a much different perspective. The ship then hangs out in Gatun Lake for a few hours (people with excursions booked through the ship are tendered off, otherwise everybody remains). Then after lunch the ship goes back out the three locks. It takes around 90-120 minutes to go through the locks one way. Then the ship docks at a port - there is not much to do at that port aside from go to the flea market. There is fairly nice crafts there, cheap Panamanian beer, and a place to get cheap calling cards (with pay phones nearby). Going through the locks was such an amazing experience. The ship is so wide compared to the canal I was able to stick out my leg and touch the lock (though I was reprimanded by security for doing this)! The people who did do excursions returned happy, so you cannot go wrong either way you decide.

What really made this cruise special was the group of people we met on the Cruise Critic Roll Call thread. We had a very active roll call and had a blast meeting people on board the ship. Our group did a variety of fun activities such as the Meet and Mingle, a Cabin Crawl, a Group Slot Pull, Poll Dancing Contest (well that one was after a few rounds of cocktails), Group Dinner at Chops, all did a tour together in Colombia, and more. We made a lot of great friends on the cruise.

I definitely recommend both this ship and this itinerary. Less

Published 01/24/09

Cabin review: H3142 Large Ocean View Stateroom

If you are going with a stateroom with a window, I recommend a low floor as you have obtain a much better persepctive of the waves. This stateroom did have some noise late at night; not sure if it was coming from dining room above or something banging against outside of ship (or maybe my wife was just snoring really loud).

Read All Large Ocean View Stateroom (H) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Labadee was our first port, but this was not an option on the pull down menu (I give Labadee a 4). We spent much of the day enjoying the beach (we walked a ways down from where the tenders arrive to minimize the crowd and went to the bay side (for warmer water). We rented the flotation mats ($12 each) and alternated between laying out in the ocean and resting in a hammock (and drank a couple Labadoozies as well - a frozen adult beverage). The BBQ lunch was good, not great (typical BBQ fare such as ribs, burgers, baked beans etc.). We also braved the straw market. Very pushy vendors, but nicer quality goods than in other similar places in other ports we have been to. We bargained down an oil painting from $150 all the way to $20! Be sure to wait until less than an hour until last tender to haggle as you get better prices. Also do not step foot in there if having several people approach you and try to pressure you into buying something is bothersome to you. You will hear "Lady, a bracelet?" at least once every three seconds.

Cartagena: Once of the people from our roll call board arranged for a tour via Mr. Emeralds for us ($34 each). We went to the highlights of Cartagena such as a church high up on a hill, the Inquisition museum, and a shopping center. We loaded up on Colombian coffee and I enjoyed a cup this morning. I also purchased some Colombian beer (Aguila) off a street vendor for just $1 (much better than what they charge on the ship)!

I tried to do snorkelling with the sting rays with Captain Marvin. Unfortunately all three times I have been to this port bad weather has prevailed and the excursion was cancelled. Perhaps someone is trying to send me a message about not swimming with the sting rays! We wound up meeting up with some of our Roll Call buddies at Senor Frogs. That is a really fun place to have drinks. The waiter wound up putting a smock on my wife and shotting kamikze shot at her from a pitcher while standing on top of the bar! We also did some shopping, but found the prices higher than at other Caribbean ports. It is a good place to buy calling cards and hit an internet cafe at much cheaper prices than on board the ship. If you are a beach person, Seven Mile Beach is a short cab ride away and very nice.

This was our first time in Costa Rica. Apparently it rains a lot there, but it is still a beautiful country. We did a tour through the ship involving River Tubing; basically two people sit in a large inflatable tube and you drift down a river, periodically hitting some rapids. It was a lot of fun. The drive to the river tubing area was quite long, but very scenic and with an informative naturalist. The bus driver stopped when he saw a family of monkeys and we were allowed to exit the bus for photos/viewing (we later learned that this type of monkey will throw their poop at humans if they feel threatened, but fortunately they liked us OK). There was a decent shopping area near the ship and we bought more coffee (Cafe Britt).

Compare Prices on Jewel of the Seas Panama Canal & Central America Cruises

Read more Jewel of the Seas cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic’s Jewel of the Seas Review >>

Compare Prices on Jewel of the Seas Panama Canal & Central America Cruises

Member Since 2006
16,907 Forum Posts
Enrichment Activities
Family & Children
Fitness & Recreation
Onboard Experience
Public Rooms
Shore Excursions
Value for Money
Skip X

See Jewel of the Seas deals up to 82% off:

October Deals
Jewel of the Seas 77% Loved It

9 Night Greek Isles Cruise
See all Jewel of the Seas Deals >>