I'm part of a group of 6 (3 couples) who at minimum take a cruise vacation on an annual basis. Celebrity is our cruise line of choice, but at various times have taken Holland America, Carnival, and the last 2 years have sailed with Royal Caribbean. This year, we chose a 10 day on the Jewel of the Seas sailing from Fort Lauderdale with stops in Labidee, Cartegana, Colon, Port Limon, and Georgetown. I'll start by mentioning the positives, which include:
The Ship: Just the right size, and great lounges such as the Safari Room, the Schooner Bar. The Solarium Pool was excellent, in no small way due to the fact it was for adults only
The Crew: Friendly, attentive wait staff, as well as a stateroom attendant (Sammy) who made it his business to look after any of our requests
Casino Staff: By and large, competent, professional and skilled. Also friendly and got to know their clients on a first name basis
Disembarkation: As smooth and as quick as I've ever experienced
Now to the constructive criticism
Embarkation: I know it's written policy, but this was the first time I've ever encountered the enforcement of the "no alcohol" rule. All of my party were guilty of bringing small quantities of alcohol on board, and all was confiscated by withholding delivery of our luggage until we handed over the "contraband". I wasn't angry about this (after all, rules are rules), but I've never seen this enforced in the past. I chalk this up to shrinking margins in a competitive business, but I will be looking elsewhere until such point other competitors start enforcing this policy. If this comment seems a little low brow, I wish to state that notwithstanding the small amount of alcohol carried on board, we also patronize the lounges and bars extensively while on board (after all, we're on vacation) and understand we need to patronize the ship.
Food: The dinner menu in the dining room was extremely disappointing. I'm not sure what's prompted the prominence of East Indian cuisine, but it seemed there was a curry selection every night. Call me old school, but I'm not so sure the masses are looking for Indian Cuisine on an every night basis. Also, the beef cuts were inferior to any of my previous cruises, particularly the every night choice of a Black Angus Steak. This cut was comparable to the Ponderosa Steakhouse. No complaints at all with breakfast and lunch, which was standard fare, but quite good. Back to the dinner menu, I again attribute this to shrinking profit margins as a result of too many ships and the resultant effect on pricing.
Specialty Shops: I can't speak first hand to this as my wife is the shopper, but this unit was said to employ a group of condescending sales associates
Great location near the elevators and stairways. No noise even though centrally located. Room was small, which made the balcony essential
2nd time in Cartagena. Love the port, the architecture, the history, the cafes. However, there is no joy in being harrassed by hundreds of peddlars continuously while inside the walls of the old city
Not too much in the way of shopping close to the port, although there is a Radisson with a Casino and some shops. Great tours however, all relating to the Panama Canal. The Monkey Tour was excellent
Picked up a city tour in a Van, which was interesting.
Very very clean, enjoyed walking in the shops close to the port. Avoid the Trolley Roger tour. Not worth even the small $19 cost. I'd also stay away from those $11 dollar hamburgs at the Tiki Bar located at the pier.