We are early 50's, very active, and well acquainted with the Caribbean and many islands. This was our 5th cruise, having sailed on larger ships before. This ship was a great choice and I highly recommend Jewel and the Southern ... Read More
We are early 50's, very active, and well acquainted with the Caribbean and many islands. This was our 5th cruise, having sailed on larger ships before. This ship was a great choice and I highly recommend Jewel and the Southern Caribbean itinerary (our second Southern Caribbean cruise).
We flew to San Juan two days early and explored the old city, which was really a great decision. We stayed at the Stellaris Marriott - be aware that there is a $30/day 'resort fee' that is unadvertised. It was fine, nothing noteworthy. Condado Beach neighborhood, about five miles from the pier. Nice beach, lots of hotels and people.
Old San Juan is beautiful and the people were very friendly. Several people stopped to 'help us,' as we were looking at a map, and recommended local restaurants and coffee shops. We toured Del Morrow fortress and took the long walk back to town. It was fascinating and beautiful -- a 'must do.' I would have liked to have had another day there.
Jewel of the Seas - we chose this ship because of the itinerary and were not disappointed. I thought at first impression that maybe the Jewel might be a little small for us, after being on the Adventure and others, but it turned out to be delightful and 'just right.' This particular cruise on this specific week was about 70% Americans, then Canadians, Britons, and then multiple other nationalities (German, Japanese, Swedish, etc.) We have been on Southern Caribbean cruises that were heavily Hispanic and full of Quincearos (15 year old girls' celebrations).
We took taxis to the pier ($20 from and to the airport. Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze; however, be forewarned! We were classified as "early disembarkation" and didn't realize until the last minute that we didn't have to leave that early - there was no specific reason to leave the ship so early! Our bags would have been just fine in the holding area! By leaving at our "specified time" of 7:25 am, we spent many hours (5+) at San Juan airport waiting for our flight (hard plastic chairs and $18 hamburgers - forget that!). We could have had a little more sleep, an unhurried breakfast, sat in the beautiful bar/club room and left the ship by 10 am. Darn it! ($24 for the taxi ride from the pier to the airport - but we had 4 bags and they charge $1/bag.)
Our cabin was a Grand Suite and worth every penny. So much room! We loved it. Storage space everywhere. The bathroom was marvelous (full tub, long mirrored counter.) A full vanity with storage behind the mirrors and plenty of drawers. The stateroom attendant, Anca, was stellar. There was easily room for more than two people in this suite.
We ate mostly in the Main Dining Room for dinner and were very pleased by both attentive, professional and friendly service and menu selections. The dining staff was excellent, no room for improvement. Thank you, Sunny and Imade. Our food was almost always very, very good! Strip steak, grilled chicken and linguine were always available, and the daily menus included Caribbean lobster, Sea Bass, shrimp cocktails, Roasted Chicken, consumes, Duck, Lasagne, and perfectly proportioned desserts, including Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee, assorted mousses and cheesecakes, etc. The Chops Grille was good, and probably a step-up, although a small step up, from the Main dining room.
We actually preferred breakfast in the Windjammer, because of the selection and choice of food. There is also an energy there that you don't get in the dining room at breakfast, and we never found it to be overwhelmed with people. We did have access to the concierge lounge for breakfast, but it was continental and quite frankly, a little boring.
We purchased the unlimited drink package and found it to be worth the cost. Fresh-squeezed juice (or mimosas) in the morning, specialty coffee (latte), a beer or soda with lunch, an afternoon 'fru-fru' drink sometimes, and several glasses of wine (and specialty coffee again) with dinner - definitely recommend. If you purchase prior to your cruise, you really do save money and it was nice to order what you wanted and not be concerned with the cost of each drink. Most of the drinks were $12, and the deluxe package covered the cost. Only a few were $14 or $16, and you could pay the "overage" if you desired. The only thing that was a little limited in the package were the wines - although there was a nice selection of all types of wine (Pinot Grigio, Malbec, Cab, etc.) in the $12/glass range included with the package.
The orchestra was exceptionally talented. Kudos to them. The talent of the production show singers and dancers was really good -- but the music choice, costuming, and choreography were really bad. A waste of time, unfortunately. There were two comedians - John Joseph (?) was good and connected to the audience, although the show started off a little slow. He warmed us up, though, and I'd recommend him. The other comedian, Tim, was just not funny, IMO, and seemed to be exasperated with the audience for not laughing. REALLY?
The other musicians (bands, solo guitar, etc.) did a great job! The singers were very talented and when not in the productions had a chance to show off their talents.
The cruise director, Simona, was not engaging or customer-oriented at all. The overall impression she gave was 'diva' and did not seem to care about the passengers' experience, just her own performance. I had the occasion to see her in multiple (including small group) settings and was really not impressed.
The week included a lot of emphasis on 70's music - which is fine, but maybe a little too much of it. I understand the demographics of the majority of the passengers, and the music is engaging -- many younger people were dancing - but the staff (Simona) need to learn the actual steps to the Electric Slide (no "John Travolta" moves in the Electric Slide!) and not yell "Woot Woot!" at every song. (The "Woot! Woot" belongs to the song Groove Line. ONLY!)
The senior officers were not that apparent on a day to day basis but were respectful and professional. I'm not concerned at all about their interaction with the passengers -- they have a job to do on our behalf and that's the only thing that counts.
We did go on a Galley tour and I was very impressed with the multiple galleys, cleanliness, technology, involved processes, and the enormity of serving 15,000 meals a day. The executive chef was passionate about his job, natural food resources, and his group presentation was great.
St. Thomas - DO YOUR SHOPPING THERE. Best selection, best competition. Try to go to Dronnengan Gade (street) downtown - don't spend it all on the shops at Havensight Mall (by the pier) or the shops on the seafront. They KNOW you are cruisers and won't negotiate as well. Understand that the initial price is NOT the price. If you go several blocks in from the waterfront downtown (to Dronnengan Gade), you'll do much better. For serious purchases, I recommend seeing the family Muripuri at Princess Jewelers. Our significant pieces have always been appraised higher than the purchase price back home. For the beaches - pick one. They are all beautiful. You should see Magen's Bay, although expect a crowd. If you have time to go to St. John, the water is GORGEOUS, but bring bug spray and know that the beaches are relatively narrow and small.
St. Kitts - the locals are so friendly and getting a taxi is easy and safe (Smith Beach). We have stayed on St. Kitts for a week, so we know it pretty well. Take an island tour, either from the ship or a private taxi (about $100 for four people, four hours). Be aware that you want to go to a beach on the Caribbean side -- the Atlantic side is too rough to enjoy. Easy to get a taxi from the airport. We don't think Basseterre is worth spending much time on - try to see more of the island and the Brimstone UNESCO site/fort. Fascinating!
Antigua - new to us. We took a private taxi with some other cruisers to Valley Church Beach (just walk off the pier and the drivers are waiting for you! No need to reserve in advance). Highly recommend. Just beautiful. A vendor or two, but they were nice and not pushy. $12/pp taxi each way, $20 for two chairs and an umbrella. Perfect. By the way, there is free Wifi at the little beach restaurant there! We wanted to go to Ffryer's Beach, but the driver convinced us to try Valley Church (he didn't want to go all the way to Ffyer's), and we were not disappointed. (20 minute ride each way.) Not much shopping at the pier.
St. Lucia - we did the RCL tour of "Cruise to the Pitons" and were pleased. This tour didn't include the mud sulphur baths, but we cruised the coast on a catamaran, and sailed through Marigot Bay (which was CHARMING), stopped several times to swim (no snorkel gear provided - we brought our own, though), and sailed right up to the Pitons. It was well worth it - they are SOOOOO beautiful! We didn't really see the interior of St. Lucia because we chose to sail on the cat, but we'll be back.
(Side note - the executive chef said he/they are involved in helping the poorest children of St. Lucia, and donate canned goods, etc., and spend time in the hospital there.) Not much shopping at the pier.
Barbados -- JEWEL of the Caribbean! So gorgeous. Postcard perfect beaches and water. We chartered with Silver Moon (see TripAdvisor) for the cat sail and were pampered every second. The boat was beautiful, immaculate, just perfect. They only take 12 passengers, so it was small enough to get to know people and large enough to feel like you had plenty of space to yourselves. The crew were very, very friendly and not the least bit condescending. We had a beautiful sail and stopped to snorkel and swim. Lunch was on board, really good food (grilled fish and chicken, salad, rolls, rice, macaroni and baked cheese, etc.) and the drinks were available as you preferred. This is NOT a 'booze-cruise,' but upscale, relaxing, and beautiful. Can't recommend enough.
We traveled as a couple, but there were quite a few children on the Jewel (from small tots to teens) and they all seemed to be engaged and happy.
We would definitely recommend the Jewel and this itinerary. Do not hesitate on booking this cruise!! Read Less