Jewel of the Seas Review

Old Ship, Poor Food, Hit-and-Miss Ports of Call

Review for Canada & New England Cruise on Jewel of the Seas
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10+ Cruises • Age 50s

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Sail Date: Oct 2023

Let me start with this: I love cruising. I've been on 15+ cruises, from the Odyssey of the Seas to the Nordic Prince that was retired ages ago, from RCCL to Princess to Celebrity to Norwegian to Holland America, and more. As cruises go, this was one I won't ever do again. This was supposed to be a "Fall Colors" cruise, but we missed the colors by a couple weeks, I think, as most trees were bare and leaves were on the ground. Of course, it's just luck to actually be on the cruise that has the best colors, but if we were to do this again, we'd probably shoot for the first week of October instead of October 20-30 to try to see the best fall foliage that New England and Canada have to offer. As for the rest, let me break this down a bit:

The ship:

The Jewel of the Seas is old, and she's showing her age. There are two outlets over the desk (as is normal on these older ships) and these are the only power source in the room, so if you have a CPAP and need to plug in a portable refrigerator (because the refrigerators in the cabin are clearly labeled as "coolers only" that don't actually refrigerate anything such as medications that must remain cold), then just cross your fingers that your power cord extender makes it through security, or give up all hope of charging your iPad, cell phone, and laptop (and if you are traveling as a couple, you may have two of each of those). Alternatively, bring your cruise-friendly USB charging bank and you *might* get that through security, though they tried to take that away from my sister as well because...well...lack of training? Who knows. Something was off with the plumbing, as our bathroom smelled distinctly like an outhouse/port-o-potty the entire cruise. At first I thought maybe the cabin steward had just not cleaned adequately, but I didn't see evidence of urine in the bathroom and it was stronger in smell whenever we flushed. The bed was incredibly hard, with no padding whatsoever over the vinyl-topped mattress. After a couple nights we asked if there was a mattress pad available, and we were told that the boat didn't have enough for every bed (they were thrown away during COVID and never replaced...didn't know COVID was transmitted through mattress pads...) and they were all being used. Our cabin steward attempted to soften the bed a bit by putting a couple extra blankets under the fitted sheet, but the solution was only marginally helpful. And then there's the food. I know that RCCL is trying to cut costs, and I know that if you want "good" food now, you must shell out upwards of $60 per person to eat in the specialty restaurants, but there were times that the food was nearly inedible, especially in the Windjammer which offered very little variety and featured food that spent much too much time sitting under warming lights. One morning, the pancakes had been sitting out so long under heating lamps that they were literally pancake chips--and drowning them in syrup didn't even begin to soften them. On "Mexican night" in the main dining room, the "pulled pork enchilada with refried beans" was pork wrapped in a tortilla, served over a bed of baked beans, with a pool of barbecue sauce next to it. When the waiter came to our table to ask how we enjoyed our food and we told him that this wasn't an enchilada, he quickly explained that many people on the ship don't like spicy foods so they keep it very bland. Of course, the jerk chicken on "Caribbean night" had plenty of spice, so I'm not sure why he felt he needed to justify the culinary misstep. In addition, all food venues closed at 9 p.m. on the Jewel, with the exception of a small counter in the solarium that handed out sandwiches, pizza, and cookies (when they had any prepared) until 1 a.m. Long gone are the days of the midnight buffet, I understand, but 9 p.m.? The second show in the main theater is just starting at 9 p.m., and people are populating the bars with gusto at that hour. All these folks would appreciate some food a little later at night, but alas. Cutting costs means cutting food service, apparently.

Cabin Review

Port Reviews

Sydney (Nova Scotia)

If I could give this one a zero, I would. The only good thing about Sydney is that it made Saint John seem like a pretty interesting port of call. This was the second "Best at-sea Port Day" of the cruise (Saint John being the other). The top attraction (Google it!) in Sydney is "The Big Fiddle," which is exactly what it sounds like: A huge fiddle sculpture that sits on the end of the cruise port pier. You can see it from the boat. Sydney was all downhill (ironic, as to get into the city it's a bit of an uphill climb) from there. When we were there, most of the roads that featured any kind of shopping were torn out and barricaded. There was a distinct prevalence of three types of stores that told us exactly what there is to do in Sydney: bars/pubs, sex toy shops (right there in the windows, so don't bring the kids on a leisurely stroll downtown), and crafting stores. One intoxicated, homeless gentleman told us that if we really wanted some fun, we should rent a car and drive out to the casino somewhere. Seriously, Sydney is an embarrassment. Whomever is in charge of city management and economic development should be fired immediately and replaced with someone who actually cares about Sydney, because it certainly doesn't seem to be a place anyone loves. I suppose it has low port fees and thus RCCL is drawn to it as a port of call, but don't even waste your time or money getting off the ship. I will say that the only thing that redeemed Sydney for me was stumbling upon a couple of old (by North American standards) churches that at least provided a shining moment of "Oh, interesting..." in an otherwise very dead, pointless town. It's disappointing, as the city is set in a very picturesque area that has much unrealized, untapped potential. The best shopping was in the cruise terminal next to the boat. If you must stretch your land-legs, just wander through the terminal and hop back on in time for lunch. Or honestly, breakfast. That's how long it will take you to experience the wonders of Sydney.

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