Escape from Snow to Tropical Paradise!: Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by 4partharmonygal

Jewel of the Seas 5
Member Since 2009
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Escape from Snow to Tropical Paradise!

Sail Date: February 2009
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Miami
Overall we had a fabulous trip!  We left Ottawa on February 8th in a light snowstorm.  Arriving from the black and white of winter to glorious green in Miami was lovely.  We stayed overnight in Miami and boarded the Jewel of the Seas on Feb 9th. 

Early boarding was very quick but I wish the luggage arrived to our stateroom quicker than it did.  I did have the foresight to pack a bathing suit in my carryon but wished I had brought toiletries and dinner clothes too because we had made an early reservation for dinner the first night.  Fortunately our steward went and searched out our luggage in time for us to change for dinner at Portofino.  I highly recommend special winetasting dinner that we had that night.  Very few people had reserved a special dinner for the first night so we were only about a dozen people in the entire restaurant!  We had excellent food, wine and superb service!  I booked dinner for my birthday party More at Portofino right after that dinner.  On Feb 19th we had excellent steak dinner at Chops Grille.

The first two days from Miami to Aruba we had high seas on the Atlantic so the boat was a bit rocky. I managed a little nausea with the pills available in the shop on board.  I only took Gravol at night to help me sleep for the first two nights.  We were in a 3rd floor cabin near the bow of the ship so we really felt it when we hit the big waves and we could see the spray go by our porthole.   If you are worried about seasickness they recommend that you book a cabin farther up and toward the rear of the ship.   

I purchased a Ports and Shopping Club book this cruise.  I didn't on our last cruise and regretted it because I saw how much fun my sister-in-law had with hers.  I will probably not do it again unless I plan on adding to my jewellery collection.  It was fun shopping with it, especially in Grand Cayman and collecting the items with the coupons.  I used it to buy gifts for people at home and jewellery for me - it was my 55th birthday after all!

I really liked our cabin on this ship, it did not feel as small as the one on a Princess Cruise we went on before.  The layout is excellent, with lots of storage for clothing, toiletries, shoes, etc.   The circular shower is brillant and not as cramped as on other cruise ships we've been on.   The service onboard was excellent.   As usual the coffee in the main dining rooms was awful - you have to pay to get a good cup of coffee or espresso.  However, I was very happy with unsweetened iced tea instead.  Besides we were going to Colombia and Costa Rica - you can bet we bought good coffee there to bring home.   

If you are thinking of taking this cruise, you won't regret it!  See my port reviews below for specifics on what we did in each port.  Cheers from Canada, eh? Less

Published 06/20/09

Cabin review: OV3010

I really like the layout of the OceanView cabin we had. It did not feel cramped at all. The bed was spacious and comfy and the shower was not as cramped as on other cruises we've had.  Lots of storage space for luggage and terrific room steward service.

Port and Shore Excursions

Our original excursion aboard the Mi Dushi was cancelled due to windy weather but the excursions director found us a sail and snorkel excursion with Pelican Tours instead.  By the time we arrived by bus at the departure point the weather was hot and sunny.  We had another delay while the captain removed rope from the catamarans propeller.  My husband and I were disappointed that they used the motor and not just the sail but that is because we are sailors and miss our sailing fix in the long Canadian winter.  Hitting the water to snorkel made me really feel like I was finally on vacation.  There were lots of beautiful fish at the reef and ship wreck we visited: angel fish, parrot fish, tiny blue fish, 'Dory' fish,  etc.  Lunch was back at the pier and reasonably substantial: beans, bun, corn, macaroni salad, BBQ ribs.  We were back at the pier by 2pm and had time to visit a few shops before reboarding.

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We took the Deluxe Cartegna and Fortress tour.  You really have to take the activity rating seriously before you book tours.  A number of elderly people couldn't keep up with all of the walking involved in this tour.  However, the tour company was super about escorting them back to buses when they tired out.  All of the tour guides were uniformed and equipped with phones to their supervisors.  We had Marelvy and she was excellent!    We learned a lot about the history of Cartegna and Columbia from her and visited the old convent and church, torture museum, naval museum, and small shopping mall and finally the old fortress.  The old fortress is, of course, at the top of a hill so comfortable walking shoes are essential!

They should offer a snack or lunch on this tour - we only received a coupon for a drink at the shopping mall and had the bottled water we brought from the ship.  We were starving by the time we got back to the ship in the afternoon which is not good when you have Diabetes or blood sugar problems. 

What a fabulous experience to visit the Panama Canal and area!   I didn't realize just how short a journey it is to get from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean at Panama.  Living in Canada it takes days and days to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so crossing from one ocean to another in under 2 hours seemed miraculous.  

We took the tour to Panama City via the visitor centre at the locks and had a boring tourist lunch. Our tour guide was a bit too full of himself and never stopped droning on for the entire journey.  However, the trip itself and the countryside was worth the cost and time.  Old Panama City was interesting and I loved the hand made embroidered cloth sold by the Kuna native ladies near the bridge in Panama City.  I bargained and purchased several examples for gifts.   We took the road through the rainforest to get back to the ship at Cristobal Pier and our bus driver spotted a sloth fallen from a tree.  He stopped the bus to rescue it off the road and allowed us to get out and take photos.  We also had a photo op at a dam near the half way point.  Oh yes, in Panama, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.  We had alternating rain and sun the entire day - proof that it is a rainforest area.

What a perfect last port of call for this trip.  We started our morning on a snorkelling tour given by Foster Dives.  We were on the Cayman Sun with Nick from Kelowna BC and Steve from N. Carolina.  They were the best dive instructors we've ever had on a snorkelling tour.  The water was clear and we had two dives: one at a reef and one over a wreck blown up by the navy in the harbour.    For lunch, Nick recommended the restaurant ' Paradise'  for fish and jerk chicken and it was absolute ambrosia.  I had the Fisherman's Catch Cayman Style which means the fish was sauteed with butter and vegies.  Andy had the Fisherman's Catch but Jerked.  We shared half and half 'cause they were both delish!

Then we set out for serious shopping and this is the place to do it.  I had googled onboard the ship the night before to find fabric shops (I'm a quilter).  We set out on foot and got directions from a lovely lady at a gas station.  People in Grand Cayman are incredibly good to tourists since we're the main industry.  The cars stop if you just look like you want to cross the street.  I bought jewellery at Effy Jewellers, Columbian Emeralds and Ammolite by the Bay.  It is lots of fun to bargain for what you want and I am very happy with my purchases and the prices.

We always plan to arrive a day or two early at the departure port because snow in Canada can cause flight delays and cancellations.  The ships will leave without you!  Therefore, we booked a night at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay on Feb 8.  It is a lovely hotel and you can see the Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships from the rooms on the east side.    I had pre-ordered a welcome wine and cheese tray and it was fabulous - a 2005 Merlot by Meridian of California with fresh grapes, blueberries, raspberries and orange slices; brie, gouda, mild cheddar, edam and crackers!  It really hit the spot after a long day of travel.

The staff were very friendly and suggested that we take a taxi to Ocean Drive along Miami Beach (the Art Deco District) and enjoy dinner at any of the restaurants along the boardwalk.  We also found a Walgreens to buy some last minute items that we didn't want to bring in our luggage.   If we ever travel to and from Miami again, I will probably try to stay an extra day or two so that we can see more of the area.

Boarding early the next day (Feb 9th) was very quick and we enjoyed the welcome aboard luncheon before checking into our cabin at 2pm.  Our wonderful cruise consultant had a lovely bottle of Merlot waiting for us in our room and our steward made sure we had glasses and a corkscrew. 

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In Puerto Limon we took the Veragua Rainforest Tour with Humberto as our tour guide.   Humberto made the trip very enjoyable and we learned about the history and geography of Costa Rica on our way to the rainforest.  We lucked out with sunny weather even though we could see rain clouds elsewhere.   The Veraugua Rainforest park has a terrific lizard, amphibian and snake exhibit.  They also have an awesome butterfly collection and enclosure with live butterflies.  We took the aerial tram down the mountainside and you could feel the temperature and humidity rise as we rode down into the valley.   We elected to walk the optional 350 steps to the waterfall at the bottom and back again.  Whew!  We earned the lunch that was served back at the top of the mountain.  The promised 'snack' was a subway sandwich and delicious fresh fruit plus fabulous fresh Costa Rican coffee - my mouth is watering just remembering the aroma!

Humberto told us where to buy coffee in town and what brand to get - it is cheaper to go and buy it at the grocery store which is in walking distance from the ship than to buy it from the ship or the vendors beside the ship!   We chose to buy premium Oro for approx. $5 US a pound.

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