NEW ENGLAND/ CANADA CRUISE REVIEW After taking our two previous cruises on Oceania, we returned to Royal Caribbean to journey up the east coast to Nova Scotia and back. Oceania has much smaller ships than RCI so one of the first things we noticed was that the boarding process took much longer. We arrived at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal by taxi at approximately 12:30 and found a huge line waiting to board. We met a couple from Texas while in line so consequently, the 50 minute wait when by quickly. RCI draws from a varied customer base so we met people not just from the US, but from foreign countries as well. The age range was from toddlers to seniors in their 80's. Since the trip was after school had started, there was an obvious absence of school age children and teens. After a buffet lunch in the Windjammer Cafe, we went to our room and unpacked our bags and settled in. We selected a balcony room and were fortunate enough to get one (8104) just back from the centrum which had a balcony twice as large as the normal balcony. The only issue with balcony rooms is that RCI allows smoking on balconies so when we were in port, smoke from below was an annoyance to us. While at sea, however, the moving air kept the smoke away. The cabins on RCI are typical to what you find on most moderately priced cruise lines. Bathrooms likewise, are small and allow room for only one person at a time. One word of warning...the cabins have no hair dryers. Apparently there was an issue with people misusing them?? BUT, you can call guest relations and request one. The food on RCI was surprisingly good, considering they must cook meals for close to 2,000 people. We requested Anytime Dining which gave us the ability to eat any time for dinner and avoid the more restrictive set times. We also ordered a Wine and Dine package, five bottles of wine for $130, including gratuity, which supposedly saved us around 20%. Jewel of the Seas has two specialty restaurants, a steak house and an Italian themed venue, but they charge $20-$25 per person, which to me is too much. The alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced. This cruise had three ports and one sea day. Portland, Maine was our first stop and after having breakfast on the ship, we walked downtown area and found a coffee cafe where we could get internet access for the price of two coffees. Internet access is available on the ship but expensive. We avoid purchasing too many ship sponsored tours as they can be expensive so after searching cruisecritic.com, I located Portlandschooner.com and reserved a two hour afternoon sail on a three masted schooner on Casco Bay. It was a perfect day with just enough wind. You can bring snacks and beer or wine on the trip with you so it made for an enjoyable afternoon. The price was $35 per person. Our next port was Bar Harbor, which was a tender port, since the harbor is too shallow for big cruise ships. Getting off the ship took a while, but we got to our off ship tour in plenty of time. We made arrangements with Acadia National Park Tours and enjoyed an almost three hour tour for $27.50 per person. We spent the afternoon shopping the downtown area and enjoying a great lobster lunch at the West Street Cafe. Our last port was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here, we chose a ship's tour, The 10 Best of Halifax, which gave us a six hour overview of Halifax and the surrounding area. It allowed time for a quick lunch, but didn't provide enough time at any one stop for more than some quick picture taking. Our one day at sea was cool and breezy, so most activities were confined to indoor areas, of which there were many to choose from. Disembarkation went smoothly and we were off the ship in 20 minutes. Final Impressions Jewel of the Seas is a beautiful ship. I would definitely recommend getting a balcony room as they are brighter and your balcony affords some extra space when the weather allows. I would also recommend My Time Dining, which will give you more flexibility for evening meals. If you like wine, check out their Wine and Dine Packages, which will save you a little on five or more bottles. I would say that the food was above average, with a good selection, especially in the Windjammer Cafe. I thought the alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced. I would definitely not recommend dining in the two specialty restaurants for the simple fact that they charge an extra $20-25 per person, which for me seemed too expensive. The biggest issue for us was how much smoking was allowed on the ship...sorry smokers. Smoking is allowed on all balconies, which ruined our balcony while in port due to drifting smoke. The casino was a haze of smoke, almost impossible to walk through and being so close to the beautiful centrum, the smoke drifted into the centrum and consequently throughout a lot of the ship. The shows were very good...we went to three of the five shows and thought the productions were well done. Get there at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat. Ship activities were numerous, although we didn't participate in any. The ports were very good and I would recommend doing a little research and possibly choosing your own tours off ship. The two I discussed were very good and not expensive. The ship's tours are, for the most part, very good and offer a good variety, but are quite expensive compared to making your own arrangements. Would we choose Royal Caribbean again? Probably not, because of the smoking issues I discussed. Since smoking is severely restricted in California, we have become very sensitive to the smell of smoke, so consequently, when we encountered the large amount of smoking on board ship, it was a major turn off for us. Perhaps others of you are less annoyed by smoke and will not find this to be an issue. If you are smokers...enjoy the cruise.