This was our sixth cruise and the first on Royal Caribbean. We got a very good price and as we have visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi previously we knew what to expect in terms of weather, general safety and cleanliness. Also the flight from Finland to Dubai is not too long. Oman was a new and exciting destination for us.
We arrived in Dubai early on Sunday morning, the weather was not on our side, windy and cold, with the odd rain shower. After visiting the Dubai Mall we just spent the rest of the day relaxing at our hotel. On Monday we proceeded by taxi to Dubai Cruise Terminal, where check-in was extremely efficient and we were onboard by 12:30. As we waited for our luggage to arrive we lunched at the Windjammer and went to sort out our dining time. Originally we had requested late seating but for some reason this had been changed to early. We managed to get the late seating back, but were allocated a far end table next to the kitcken entrance, a more central location would have been nice.
First impression of the ship was a disappointment. The Jewel is a retro ship, her decor dates back to 2004 when she was built and that style has not aged well. She is clean and well maintained but the interiors are dark, dull and completely lacking any sensation of luxury. I very much got the feeling that Royal does not want to invest any dollars on this ship as she might be sold off in the near future.
Standard of food in general was good. The selection and layout of the Windjammer buffet was good and we didn't have any problem finding a table, but again the decor was very retro. Plastic plates and drinking glasses were a letdown and we were surprised that there was no late night snack available, other than the room service and Cafe Lattetudes sandwich sortiment. The buffet staff was very quick in clearing tables and in general the cleanliness of the serving stations was very good.
Now the fun part, a few words about the main dining room service which was always very friendly and polite, but at times surprisingly unprofessional. Our first clash with the Royal Caribbean service concept was with the food ordering, as we were expected to order all three courses at the same time. Usually in a restaurant the dessert is chosen after you have finished the main course, but not here. Afterdinner coffee was never offered and when we asked for an espresso it was served in a normal coffee cup, without a spoon or a saucer! It seems that Royal hasn't invested in espresso cups at all. And it seems that neither have they invested in employing sommeliers, as the wine order was handled by the assistant waiter. His pairing of wine with food was a game of chance. If we chose to have white wine with starter and main course he without asking brought a second glass of the - hopefully - same wine as main course was served. And he also poured what was left of the first glass into the new one! I've never, ever seen that being done in any restaurant. One evening I asked for a port wine, this was served in a champagne flute. It would have been nice to know what brand I was drinking but dessert wines were not mentioned in the wine list.
We ordered room service breakfast a couple of times but as the free continental selection was so limited we took the rest of our breakfasts in the MDR.
Drinks selection at the bars was a bit of a dissapointment. Most were all too sweet to our taste as they were mixed with ready-made syrups. And for the first few days they were out of lemons so every drink was garnished with a lime wedge. The Vintages wine bar would benefit of a larger selection of wines and champagnes served by the glass, as other bars on the ship have a wider sortiment.
Smoking was allowed in the Casino, which meant that cigarette smoke flowed also to the Vintages. As an ex-smoker I would happily see indoor smoking banned and wouldn't mind a non-smoking ship.
Entertainment was generally good to great, highlight being the staff, lowpoint the ship's own singers. The '80's and '70's parties at the Centrum were great fun. The poolside music was very loud but we spent our time on deck mostly at the front part of the ship where it did not disturb us.
We had the Deluxe Drinks Package, which was a good investment as bottled water was included, the tap water in the cabin being too warm to drink.
Service in general was polight but the ratio of service staff to passengers was noticeably poor, with no chance to have a friendly talk with bar or dining room staff as they were so very busy. Which left us with a feeling of hurried, impersonal, revenue generating oriented atmosphere.
The first port visit was a day at Sir Baniyas Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi. We anchored offshore and were tendered to the island, where a cruise ship beach had been constructed with sun beds, covered bbq buffet, several bars and toilet facilities. This was quite a nice place to visit, we enjoyed the sun and had lunch before heading back to the ship. Tendering was very efficient, no queues and frequent departures.
Second stop was Khasab in Oman. They said it was the first time the Jewel OTS stopped there, so great hopes were with the company and passengers. From the very modern pier we were given a free shuttle to the town centre, if you can call it that. This is a very small village with absolutely nothing to do, so after half an hour walking up and down the dusty main street we were on our way back to the ship. At least this gave us a windless day to enjoy the weather on deck.
In Muscat we took a hop on-hop off bus from the pier. After a comical walk through the immigration building we were back on the bus, for the next two hours, during which we saw mainly rocky hills and car dealerships along the motorway. I think we would have been much better off just walking from the port gates to the center of the town and exploring it ourselves.
Sea day was a bit windy. On Saturday we arrived at Abu Dhabi and took a taxi to see the Grand Mosque, which is a spectacular and very well organised place to visit. As we had been to Abu Dhabi before were not intrested in spending any extra time there. On the last day in Dubai we took a taxi to the QE2 which was moored opposite our berth. It was a great experience wandering around the old ship, a bit sad to see how much of the original interiors have been altered and removed. There we sat down at the Chart Room bar and had the most expensive g&t of our lives. Always check the price list first!
Disembarkation was as effortles as embarkation. We carried our own bags and took a taxi to the airport.
As they say, any cruise is better than no cruise. We won't be coming back to Jewel of the Seas and most probably won't sail Royal Caribbean again, their concept is just not for us. But now we are one experience wiser and know what to look for in our future cruises.
Small balcony cabin, size is just about adequate for two adults who do not plan to spend much of their time in the cabin. Very tired fixtures and furniture, the small sofa was looking quite worn out. All drawers had water damaged bottoms, some were dirty, some had loose front panels. Mirror cupboards in cabin and bathroom had loose hinges and broken rack guards. Water pressure in the shower minimal. A soap bar and hair and body washing gel in the shower, no individual toiletries, no slippers, no bathrobes. We had a very efficient cabin stewardess Lindsay, she managed to do a tidy up twice a day without bothering us at all. Royal Caribbeans in-or-out door magnet is very handy. On the plus side the cabin had good lightning and plenty of mirrors.