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Sail Date: April 2011
My wife and I just returned from fifteen days on the Radiance of the Seas (RCI) cruise out of Tampa (4-29-11) through the Panama Canal to San Diego. It is hard not to like cruising, the ocean is amazing -- relaxing and soothing! Yet, ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from fifteen days on the Radiance of the Seas (RCI) cruise out of Tampa (4-29-11) through the Panama Canal to San Diego. It is hard not to like cruising, the ocean is amazing -- relaxing and soothing! Yet, when we cruise the way we are treated and the organization by the ships crew can make a wonderful cruise into something far less attractive.

When we boarded the cruise everything went well, the Diamond pre-boarding went smoothly and at the appointed hour once on board we had our cabin. Once settled in the poor handling of the ship's communication became very observable. We were not informed of Diamond events though when we asked we did get answers (if they are trying to 'pamper' their frequent cruisers you'd think the information would be readily available). My wife was looking forward to receiving the Diamond pin, but at first they said it would take a week, they offered many excuses, then after further complaining on the fourth day it was delivered to our stateroom. Throughout the fifteen days the "special events either did not occur or we were never informed.

The "MyTime" dining experience was met with long lines (in spite of reservations) and much confusion and grumbling among fellow cruisers. The tours we signed up for were fine, but enduring the 'cattle herding' experience in the halls, in the theater and just waiting around to find out what was next... finally, an hour late departure from the ship for the tour (the ship had been cleared two hours earlier, but the staff's organization had not been thought through). I voiced a mild complaint that evening at "guest relations" and was told someone would call my room. Two days later I mentioned again that I had not received a call... referred to the Exploration desk and received all kinds of justification, I'm not sure they heard or understood what was being told them by me and others.

The 'Diamond and Diamond plus' breakfast was in a room that could not handle the number of members on board, it was loud and not really special in anyway -- downright confusing and impersonal. A "special" Diamond/Diamond plus breakfast event, a week into the cruise, was a fiasco -- long lines, long waits, and then we got to place our orders and wait another hour for our meals! The total unpreparedness of the kitchen and food staff, and the lack of planning for such an event is inexcusable! We were told by some of the wait staff that the management had only told them the night before to show up and had not considered how they were going to prepare 500 different omelets available on the regular menus ...bottom line they couldn't! The lack of staff oversight and good planning continued throughout the cruise to disembarkation morning. We were told there would not be express check-out, then that there would be and then was told to just go ahead and use the Diamond #2 luggage tags and carry out my luggage. After carrying two 50lb suitcases down two flights of stairs just after the gang-plank I was asked why I did not go to deck three for the "express" departure?

The professional singers and dancers were great... We missed the story line at the first presentation "City of Dreams" but so did others. One of the performers mentioned to me later on deck that the performers did not like it as much either. There were parts that were spectacular, like the ballet portion and a couple of the numbers... but overall a poor choice. On the other hand, the "Piano Man" performance was spectacular in every way! Some of the other special one-night performers were beyond their peak. An exception was the "Revolution" Beatles performers and music... worth the time, very entertaining! We always like the guitarists on board RCI cruises, again on this ship they did a very good job in solo's and trios.

OK, enough complaining... the Panama Canal was amazing to see, the weather was great, our stateroom was very acceptable, the waiters in the dining room and Portofino's were superb (Chops was lousy), and the 15 days at seas were restful and worth every dollar spent. It is a shame that what appears to be poor management communication and preparedness can sour something that had such promise.

...Can this really be the ship that earned "ship of the year?" It baffles us, and most of the others that were on this cruise, that such an award could ever be offered to such inefficient, unprepared and inept ship management!

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Sail Date: April 2011
My wife and I have taken 7 previous cruises together, most of the trips with another couple that we have known since college. We have all traveled together worldwide and cruised in both the Caribbean and Europe. Three of us have been to ... Read More
My wife and I have taken 7 previous cruises together, most of the trips with another couple that we have known since college. We have all traveled together worldwide and cruised in both the Caribbean and Europe. Three of us have been to 5 continents and my wife has been to all 7 continents. I say all of this to indicate that we are all open to new experiences, however the Latin influence on this cruise was a little too much.

First the good. The stops on this cruise were excellent. The ABC islands were why we booked this itinerary. We did dive all three islands and were blown away by the coral and sea life. (We didn't book our cruises through RCC, more on that later.) We also REALLY enjoyed Columbia, which was an unexpected bonus.

The staff on the boat was excellent, the bartenders in the champagne bar were really friendly and a pleasure to deal with. The same could be said for the restaurant service, we were very happy with the waiter and assistant waiter.

The ship itself is aging, but in very good shape. We sailed Monarch of The Seas last year for a quick Bahama getaway and found it to be very outdated, but Grandeur wears its age well.

Now for the bad. The gym is slightly undersized for the size of the boat. However, there is at least a running track on deck 10 which allows you to get cardio in without waiting for a machine.

The food in the Windjammer was OK, but nothing to write home about most days. By the fourth day we began to see that the selections were not rotating very much, the menus were quite repetitive. This could be a result of the Latin influence on the cruise, as I have always found that the American tastes tend to be more varied.

The ship did not do a very good job of informing us of what the nightly entertainment would be in the Palladium theater. On most other ships we have always been able to find out easily what is playing that evening.

One other minor issue is that there is not a "quiet" bar on ship. I know I have been spoiled by the "Michael's Club" experience on Celebrity but this is the first ship I have been on where I felt there wasn't that type of space available to sit and have a quiet drink. (Some would argue the Schooner bar, but this was the only place on the ship where the dank stench of cigarettes was omnipresent.)

Now for the UGLY. Most of the ugly was not in the direct control of the cruise line. At some point RCC decided that since this was a cruise populated mostly by people from Central and South America the language of the boat would be Spanish. I have NO PROBLEM with that, however it seem to embolden the Spanish speaking guests to the point that they berated not only ship's staff but also guests that were not fluent in Spanish.

The boat did not offer scuba trips in Aruba or Curacao. The cruise was promoted on the website as being scuba friendly yet no dives were offered in the first two "dive" spots and only an introduction to scuba was offered in Bonaire. To make matters worse they decided to keep the ship on Panama time, not local island time (ABC is Eastern, Panama Central) which meant our arrivals were not at the time originally stated in the cruise documents. This meant that we missed prearranged dives because the boat got in an hour later than stated based on local time.

The "latin adjustment" also meant that the late dinner seating was 9:30. A little too late for most North Americas, but no worry as we could just take the 7:00 seating.

The problem was that the since the dinner was late pre and post dinner music in the cetrum was adjusted for their tastes as well and was played at earsplitting levels until 1:00 in the morning. A normal 8:30 seating would usually mean any entertainment on the boat was closed down by 11. We were on the stern of the ship and could hear the salsa rhythms as though they were in the next room. When I went to complain at the center desk the cruise representative could not hear me 4 feet away and I had to repeat myself 3 times, I think that proves the point.

Related to the music, there was no variety. I have been on many cruises and have found that people could always find a style that suited their tastes. Only 2 nights was the pre dinner music something other than salsa and NEVER was the post dinner music anything but salsa dance music. Even the Viking Crown lounge only had one night with top 40 music.

Embarkation and Disembarkation in Colon was not well organized. There was a general lack of orderly behavior at embarkation. The lines are there for a reason and RCC needs to enforce their use. I know that Latin culture is known to not respect the traditional ques but RCC is a professional organization and should not allow it to become such a mess. People pushing forward in line, agents not helping the next in line first, and people leaving the line and returning expecting to come back to their place is something we shouldn't have to deal with in the Platinum line. I can only imagine what it was like in the other lines.

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2011
We recently cruised on the Jewel of the Seas and found it to be a beautiful ship. The staff was very friendly and the cabin was very accomadating. We loved our corner aft cabin with it's extended balcony. The cabin had more storage than ... Read More
We recently cruised on the Jewel of the Seas and found it to be a beautiful ship. The staff was very friendly and the cabin was very accomadating. We loved our corner aft cabin with it's extended balcony. The cabin had more storage than any other ship we had been on. We did think the big old TV's should be replaced soon. The Windjammer was a bit crowded and it was sometimes hard to find a table. The orange juice tasted like it was watered down. We enjoyed getting room service for breakfast on port days.

We tried making reservations for the specialty restaurants on-line before the cruise but the only time we could get was 9:30 pm. We finally were able to make a reservation for Portofino's for 6:00 pm (while the ship was still in port) and we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Great presentation with the Spiedino di mare and the tiramisu is a must. Complimentary Chocolate covered strawberries and a follow-up card the next day made it a tad better than Chop's for me. We did enjoy the filet mignon at Chop's and the service was outstanding. We did My Time Dining and enjoyed the table for two each night.

We spent time in the Solarium. We did see some people reserve chairs. They didn't return to them until 2 hours later. Although we liked the pool, we weren't crazy about the salt water. We found the shows to be quite good. Some nights were better than others. The wait staff always called us by name and knew what we wanted to drink. We found Deck 5 to be good for walking. The champagne bar ended up being our bar of choice. We would definitely recommend this ship.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2011
My first ever Cruise was a disaster!

On April I left the UK to travel to Tampa Florida for a 15 day cruise on the Royal Caribbean@s Radiance of the Seas. I was looking forward to this great experience because I was going ... Read More

My first ever Cruise was a disaster!

On April I left the UK to travel to Tampa Florida for a 15 day cruise on the Royal Caribbean@s Radiance of the Seas. I was looking forward to this great experience because I was going on holiday with some old friends with whom I hadn't holidayed for forty years. It was a sort of extended reunion.

We were also celebrating one of my friend's 60th birthday. She had chosen a cruise as her celebration instead of a party. All three of us were excited and looking forward to spending time together as well as the experience of going through the Panama Canal.

The entire holiday was booked via Royal Caribbean, including the flight from Heathrow to Miami and on to Tampa. I was due to spend a night at a Tampa Hotel before boarding the ship the following day. However, from the start there was a lack of organisation and care. I, along with other travellers were left stranded at Miami Airport overnight, and we had to sleep on the airport floor. Although I had managed to contact Royal Caribbean, their staff showed no initiative or care. They simply did not want to know. Royal Caribbean did not accept any responsibility for our experience. And offered no explanation for the lack of customer care.

Although, in general the majority of staff on board were helpful and courteous. I found that there was a lack of organisation and interest from a number of staff. Some simply believed in the hype that Royal Caribbean represented. For example, each evening a 'Cruise Compass' was delivered to our cabin. This detailed all the activities for the following day. However, on these were not always available when I turned up for some activities, and the staff had an 'I don't care' attitude which I found most unacceptable.

Disembarking was yet another farce. It was all very disorganised and as a result, we disembarked with only a hour to catch our flight. In addition, I found that my case was badly damaged and surprise, surprise, Royal Caribbean staff were disinterested, unhelpful and downright rude when I complained. I did however, receive compensation for my damaged suitcase after I telephoned and made a complaint.

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Sail Date: March 2011
This was our 2nd cruise with Liberty OTS. We were happy to be back on the ship to see if we could have as much fun as we did in 2009 on Liberty. It was as wonderful as we remembered. The only negatives were that some shows like "Love and ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise with Liberty OTS. We were happy to be back on the ship to see if we could have as much fun as we did in 2009 on Liberty. It was as wonderful as we remembered. The only negatives were that some shows like "Love and Marriage, "Qwest, and Battle of the Sexes, started after 10:30pm. It's not very late but we get up kinda early, 8:30am and stay going all day so by 9pm, we were too tired to attend several activites and parties. I understand Qwest being late night because it is adult only, but, we had to take afternoon naps to stay awake until 11:30pm. I love that RC offers crowd participation games, and shows. We cruised the Ruby Princess, and there was nothing to do onboard except lay by the pool. We have natural tans so there was no need for more sun.

I like the new additons to Liberty. I didn't see a movie ever playing by the pool though. "Grease" started playing, but it stopped during the pep rally scene and didn't come back on.

I'm not sure when our stateroom attendants slept, because they were always available and on top of their jobs. We woke up they were greeting us in the hall, and when we went to bed, they were saying goodnight. The cruise director on this cruise was not as lively and entertaining as the one from our 1st Liberty cruise in 2009.

Disembarktion was hectic, I'm not sure what happened. After we ate breakfast, we tried to waste time walking around until closer to our tags would be called, but we didn't want to be in the way of the staff trying to clean up. We were #16 tag to leave the ship. When they announced our number, they skipped 15 but numbers 11-14 were already standing in a long line leaving the ship. People were frustrated because others cut line unintentionally. I wish they had waited until the line decreased a little before they called other numbers out.

We are RC fans though, we loved Oasis and we are trying a smaller ship, Monarch, in August.

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Sail Date: March 2011
My hubby and I have cruised many times but this was our first experience with RCCL. I have to say it is right up there in our great times in cruising. We live in Florida so we took Cruise Connection Bus to get to the port. This is the ... Read More
My hubby and I have cruised many times but this was our first experience with RCCL. I have to say it is right up there in our great times in cruising. We live in Florida so we took Cruise Connection Bus to get to the port. This is the third time we have chosen to leave the driving to someone else and it is a great way to go. The bus is very comfortable and lots of leg room for my 6'3" hubby. There is a restroom aboard and they play a movie to help pass the time. No bag drag and they take you right to the front door so to speak where a porter is waiting. We booked through RCCL which is a price break to do it that way. We were on the ship by 11:30a ready for lunch.

We went to Meet and Mingle and I headed up a Cabin Crawl after the M/M. We had about 10 people and were able to view several types of cabins. I think this is a great way to be able to view staterooms.

Our Grand Suite was mid ship just a few doors down from the Concierge Lounge. We had cocktails and hor dourves every afternoon at 5P till dinner and since we chose early dining we we able to come back for last call at 8P. Bernie our waiter in the lounge never let our glasses empty. Jasmine the Concierge was able to arrange a private cocktail party we held for our table mates in our stateroom one evening before dinner which was a great success with more than enough hor dourves. She also arranged for us to have a Bridge Tour and a Engine Control Room tour. My only concern was we seemed to have a communication issue due to language and I had to keep following up on everything as I never got a warm and fuzzy feeling things were being handled but everything did finally work out but I felt that if I did not followup on everything it might have not turned out. We met great people in the lounge but two of the couples really help make our cruise a success as we all just clicked and had the most fun ever. I don't think my hubby has ever laughed so much. And since they live in Florida we are planning on staying in touch.

The one thing in the lounge is they have a soposs to have dress code after 5pm which you should not have shorts/bathing suits and also no children. Since the lounge if small I think this a a good thing. But this was not really enforced and we saw some guest could not be accommodated due to stroller in aisle. Also children helping themselves to hor douvers with fingers. Also teenagers in skimpy shorts. Only after some complained about the stroller/child to Concierge was that rectified.

I sang every night they offered Karaoke, but my real treat was in Schooners singing with Vic Cooper the piano player. I ended up sitting in with him every night he played.

We booked the Wine and Dinner pairing at Chops which was nice and food good but RCCL could not get many guest for this as only 6 of us booked and I do believe they only offered this one night. I would of loved to have the Jewel offer Chef's Table. We also booked the Mystery Dinner at Portofino's. The show was hokey and not like other Mystery dinner shows I have seen in other venues which are more comedy and clever but all in all I would recommend both.

There was a medical emergency aboard just a couple days into sailing which we had to make a stop in Labadee which was not one of our ports to take care of the guest as they had to leave ship. We ended up with another night at sea (did not lengthen cruise just shortened time on other port) which was no issue for me whatsoever.

We booked the Deluxe Cartagena and Fortress tour through RCCL which if I had to do again would not book as the bus was just a large van and hot and uncomfortable. They hustled you through the fort and dancing show to really get you to their "cousin" to be able to sell you something at their shops. The other tour we booked also through RCCL was in Colon. We booked Gatun Locks and Canal Zone. The Lock tour was wonderful marvel but again they made a 1 hour stop at Melia Hotel for a drink. Non of us could figure out why. The hotel had a great pool and if they told us to bring a suit to jump in we might of done that. I would of rather stayed at the Lock or back in town to shop, The Hotel did not really have a good bar (only beer)and not even a gift shop. Non of us could figure out why this was even in tour. I usually booked tours through the cruise line but after this, I may consider just taking a cab.

We booked the Thermal Suite which I was glad it was offered as love the hot ceramic chaise lounges. One bed was not in working order. Since there was alway space it was not concern but I just thought it should be noted. This TS package did not offer a mineral whirlpool which I have seen on other ships. It would of been nice if they had that. Still something I would recommend espcially if you have a bad back and shoulders.

We booked the wine package since you are not allowed to bring a bottle aboard as we have done on other ships. I saw on other CC post some had issued not having their wine that that selected available. That was not our case as we always were able to get the wine we selected.

I will say we really enjoyed our cruise, but we find we have had a great time on all cruises as it is what YOU make it. I find the more I cruise it is not the ports it is the ship and the great people you meet.

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Sail Date: March 2011
We took a flight from Charleston, WV to FLL by Spirit Airlines. Their service was unexpectedly good, not talking about the price: cheaper than possible. Unlike others I like their luggage rules and fees: because of that you can really ... Read More
We took a flight from Charleston, WV to FLL by Spirit Airlines. Their service was unexpectedly good, not talking about the price: cheaper than possible. Unlike others I like their luggage rules and fees: because of that you can really enjoy the travel with a lot of free space above and under the seat.

We stayed at Hilton before the cruise which was Ok. Not very clean and with fees for almost everything but close to the airport and sea port.

Embarkation was pretty fast and smooth. About the ship: I personally like Radiance design, but it definitely concedes Voyager class: especially missing ice skating ring and promenade.

We had interior stateroom this time: room attendant was doing a very good job and was actually listening to what we were asking for.

Dining and food was Ok: we dine at the main restaurant and 3 times at Windjammer. To my surprise Windjammer had the same or even better selection of food for dinner.

We always take Royal Caribbean shore excursions and they did not disappoint us this time either except of maybe Panama a little bit. Ports of call were great for this cruise. Do not miss Cartagena!!! Palace of Inquisition, old city and fortress is something! Of course it is not even close to Spain old cities, but definitely the oldest and one of the best history places in South and North America. Panama Canal was Ok, but nothing really special for me, since I grew next to the river and still remember big locks from my childhood. Panama is also very dirty and I'd avoid traveling there on your own. Costa Rica was pretty nice place, not very clean but a "surgery room" comparing to Panama. We did train and banana plantation trip: very informative and knowledgeable guy talked all the time and explained almost everything. Need to mention Labadie and Grand Cayman: both places have very good beaches, but Cayman is much better in my opinion.

Entertainment was pretty good especially live music and Jewel of the Sea orchestra. Shows were so-so but overall I'd give them at least 4 stars.

Few words about children's activities: it is maybe the only thing I was a little disappointed. Our daughter is 3 years old and the swimming pool and all amenities there were for at least 5 years old kids. But the stuff was very helpful and friendly.

Now I am seriously thinking about Transatlantic cruise with Royal Caribbean.

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Sail Date: March 2011
We arrived a day early and stayed at the Marriott Courtyard next to the Multiplaza Mall. I highly recommend this location for a hotel. The mall is high-end and has restaurants. We used www.myfriendmario.com for transportation from the ... Read More
We arrived a day early and stayed at the Marriott Courtyard next to the Multiplaza Mall. I highly recommend this location for a hotel. The mall is high-end and has restaurants. We used www.myfriendmario.com for transportation from the airport to the hotel ($12.50 per person). They also transported us to the port for $23/person. They were early and professional. It took 1 hour and a 1/2 to get to hotel from airport. It took 2 hours to get from hotel to port.

In Cartagena we walked outside of the port to get a cab to the Old City. When we negotiated the rate we thought we were talking to the cab drivers. We were NOT. The people we talked to were tour guides who charge you a tour fee plus the cab fee. You need to make sure you are talking directly to the cab driver and it should be $10 to the old city. Inside the port it was $20.

In Aruba, we walked to the bus station which is outside of the port and to the right. Take bus #10 to the hotel/beach area. $2.30 per person round trip.

In Bonaire, we walked to Eden Beach. Walk out of port and turn left. It is a 30 minute walk. You can use the beach chairs for free and they have drink/food service. We took a taxi back for $3/person.

We used www.myfriendmario.com for return to airport. It was $20/per person. IT took an hour and 15 minutes to get to airport. You can walk off the cruise ship at 6:30 am.

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
This was our second family cruise. There were seven of us (grandparents, parents and 3 kids aged 13, 11 and 8). Previously we had sailed to the Western Caribbean on the coincidentally named, and similar sized, Norwegian Jewel. We booked ... Read More
This was our second family cruise. There were seven of us (grandparents, parents and 3 kids aged 13, 11 and 8). Previously we had sailed to the Western Caribbean on the coincidentally named, and similar sized, Norwegian Jewel. We booked connecting superior balcony cabins directly through Royal Caribbean. We booked 8 months out but periodically checked the website for price changes and were able to take advantage of a sale to get our price lowered. We booked this cruise because the ports were ones we wanted to go to and it was over our kids spring break.

We booked the superior balcony since it had a little more space. With 4 in the cabin it was very tight but manageable. They are creative in having hidden storage spots all over and we used every one to put clothes in. We found the beds very comfortable, even the sofa bed and the bed that hung from the ceiling. The cabin was quiet, we rarely heard anything from outside. The balcony was small with a table and two chairs but adequate and a nice place to sit. The bathroom was smaller than on the NCL ship but was probably average size. Our attendants were very good and we got to know the main one a little bit. We loved the towel animals she made for us. She was very helpful and the room was always well looked after despite how many of us there were. The water in the room scared us some as it often was dark brown when it first came out. Just outside the Windjammer by the ping pong tables there was a water and coffee station that always open and so we got water from there.

The food was generally very good. We preferred the lunch and dinner at the main dining room on Royal Caribbean, but preferred breakfast, the buffet and alternative restaurants on NCL. We had traditional seating for dinner at 6pm. We liked getting to know the staff and by the end they got to know our preferences. They were kind with the kids and joked around. Our waiter was honest with us and would occasionally tell us what not to order. We had no disappointing meals and ate at the main dining room every night. We also generally ate at the main dining room for other meals on sea days. The food was excellent and meals were generally quick. Lunch particularly had a salad station where you chose the ingredients and they made it for you. The quality of the lunch menu at times I felt surpassed dinner, and it varied every day. In particular the steak sandwiches were extremely good. The Windjammer was usually busy but easy to navigate. We sometimes had trouble finding seats but the food was OK with lots of choices. Our only real complaint was that the coffee machines were often empty at breakfast. We did like the afternoon snacks which sometimes had hard ice cream sundaes and always had lemonade and ice tea. The Seaview Cafe was OK as well as a choice for a quick bite. We only did room service once, to get a pizza at 10:00 for a child who was not hungry at supper. It was very quick and looked good. We also loved the coffee bar with its complimentary desserts around the clock. The kids often went for a cookie.

The ship was well looked after with lots to do. We did the climbing wall and mini golf multiple times. We were mostly in the main pool (with the age of our kids the adult pool and kids pool were not practical). It was good. There was some saving of chairs by the pool but we usually found some. We found the band by the pool was too loud and were not really that good. There were lots of games and demonstrations by the pool that we sometimes joined in. We did not use the spa (other than a tour of it on the first day) but they had mini massages by the pool that my wife made use of. There were lots of other quiet nooks around the ship.

The kids and teen programs were OK. We preferred NCL but this was partially because there were not lots of kids on the cruise. We thought with spring break there would be more but with the length of the cruise I guess not. My daughter made several good friends at Fuel (teen club) and we saw her less and less as the cruise went on. Often events were cancelled because of how few teens there were but she did have a blast and liked the leader. The kids club was well run and organized. We felt our boys were in good hands there and they did a lot of activities and they also made good friends.

The evening shows varied from OK to excellent. Unfortunately there were more OK than excellent (the magician was our favourite). I know it is hard to find quality acts for 11 nights. Many of the shows were aimed at seniors (which was the largest demographic). We found you had to arrive early to get a seat.

All in all it was a great cruise. We liked the longer itinerary (we are from North Western Canada -we had to drive 4 hours to the airport on Thursday night and then flew all day Friday and half of Saturday to get to Fort Lauderdale - so short cruises do not make sense). I would have trouble choosing between NCL and Royal Caribbean as we loved both of the Jewels we have sailed on. The staff was excellent, we met many friendly people and enjoyed ourselves.

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
Boston to Miami - Our American Airlines flight arrived in Boston with an oil leak so our 2:30PM flight had to wait for another plane to arrive. We took off atfer 8PM arriving Miami at 11:30PM. They could not open the cargo door for 1 ½ ... Read More
Boston to Miami - Our American Airlines flight arrived in Boston with an oil leak so our 2:30PM flight had to wait for another plane to arrive. We took off atfer 8PM arriving Miami at 11:30PM. They could not open the cargo door for 1 ½ hours! We got our luggage at 1AM and arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Hampton Inn (Airport/Cruise) at 2AM via Super Shuttle for $65. Later AA credited us 5000 miles each for the inconvenience.

Cruise day - This Hampton Inn provides a free shuttle to the cruise port which we took at 10:50AM arriving at the ship at 11:05. Check-in was in full swing, it was well organized and the terminal was well designed, it only took 15 minutes. We check 2 bags curb side and took one on with us. We took our time getting to the Windjammer Cafe on deck 11 for lunch at 11:40 and it was surprised it was already busy. We had read it opens at 11:45. After lunch we went to our room (9252) at 12:50 and it was ready. Our 2 checked bags were there! The life boat muster was at 4:30, it was no longer required to wear the life jacket during the muster. We sailed on time at 5PM. We explored every deck and public space. The ship was in perfect condition and very clean. Our room was very comfortable and had a balcony. I avoided a room with a interconnecting door to the next cabin due to past issues with noise from the next cabin. We did not hear either of our neighbors during the cruise. We had read that the ship was very stable even when compared to its sister ships. The Jewel is unique in that it was built in Germany while its sisters were not. I do not know why this matters but many attribute its stability to this.. This was important since we were traveling with friends and family, some very prone to sea sickness. Even during the day long stretches with a 20+mph head wind and 6-7 foot seas everybody was fine with only minor discomfort once or twice but nothing serious. It was more like a minor jerk or occasional vibration than a rolling motion. Trivia: One stabilizer is non-functional and will be fixed at dry dock in April-2011.

Day 2 - At Sea At dinner the captain announced that we were stopping in Labadee, Haiti due to a seriously ill passenger and this would impact out time in Aruba and possibly eliminate Cartagena, Columbia.

Day 3 - At Sea - 2 hour stop in Haiti to transfer the person to the Voyager of the Sea for holding until the air-lift arrived. Later we were told that we would arrive at Aruba at 8PM (instead of 7AM to 7PM) but we would overnight and leave Aruba at 1PM the next day and our Cartagena stay would only be shorten a few hours. Royal Caribbean incurred significant cost in port fees, extra fuel to make up time, and lost excursion income to maintain the itinerary, not including the diversion to Labadee. They could have skipped Aruba and saved a lot of money and to their credit, they didn't. By contract they owed us 11 days, it says ports may be substituted or eliminated without refund. Our first cruise we missed Grand Cayman due to a problem, no refund, just an extra sea day...

Day 4 Aruba We docked at 8PM, the stores were closed near the docks. We skipped the main dining and ate in the Windjammer, left the ship hit the Dunkin Donuts for coffee and had drinks on the water front at the marina south of the terminal. We had a good time and enjoyed the warm evening air.

Day 5 Aruba We left the ship for Palm Beach at 0800 which is a strip with upscale hotels and a long beautiful beach. The Radisson offers a day pass which gives you a nice lounge chair under a thatched umbrella, use of a very large fresh water pool, showers, and rest rooms. There are many little boutique shops along the beach side of the hotels. Had we known these shops stay open late we would have been here the night before instead of watching them roll up the sidewalks in town. The water was 84F and nice for swimming but it is cloudy due to sea shells which is not good for snorkeling. There is a beach 1.6 miles north of Palm with great snorkeling but no facilities. The beach folks out numbered me, the snorkeler. We went back to the port area at 1200, had another Dunkin Donut coffee fix (we are from the Boston area and hooked) and wandered through a few shop before boarding at 1230. We sailed at 1300.

Day 6 Cartagena We arrived at 1000 and our group of 6 took a taxi to the old walled city where we roamed for several hours and had lunch. The city is interesting with several nice museums (Nautical, Gold, Natural History), street vendors with fresh mango, shops from T shirts to upscale international brands...and a lot of people. It is not packed or uncomfortable but it is a good place to see a large slice of all types of Columbians going about their business.

Day 7 Panama From this forum we read that it is a dangerous place. It appeared that 1/3 stayed with pre-booked excursions, 1/3 took taxis to sites, and the 1/3 that said it was dangerous stayed on the ship because ....well, it was dangerous. The cruise port is fairly large, new, and is a shopping mall. After reviewing postings, talking to the ship crew members, and passengers that had been there before we decided to go the taxi route. We have done this before in many places with good luck but we were on guard. Within the debarkation area we met a taxi drive we liked, he said he had a new car, and we agreed to $90 for 6 to the Gatun Locks and the San Lorenzo Fort. Once we crossed the bridge to the mall side and parking we paid the $20 deposit and went to the car which was as described. So far so good. But... He wasn't driving us, it was someone else. Before getting into the car we tried talking to the new driver who would not even look at us. We were told he did not speak English which would have been ok if he had smiled and tried a little, not a sound. We walked off and promptly found a driver with a nice van and the same price. He was a typical cruise port driver we have found from Belize, Grenada, and other Caribbean ports, informative, proud of his country and wanted to tell us about it. We had a nice time. Within 2 miles of the port you are in the country, the roads are wide and well paved, everyone drives like they are trying to save gas, slowly. The Gatun locks were worth seeing. We stayed long enough to see a ship pass into the locks. On our way into San Lorenzo we were stopped by a road side check point. Two park rangers with 1 motorcycle wanted $5 a head to enter the park, our driver was not having it and we did not pay. He told us "nice try" but taxis are not required to pay. The rangers were friendly, non-threatening, the whole time. San Lorenzo was a little disappointing. It is an stone fort from 1570 (Henry Morgan) high above the Atlantic but that is all that is there. No visitor center, guide, restrooms, and except for a university survey team of archeologist and another 4 people and their taxi, it was very quiet. It is a large grassy property surrounded by hills and jungle high above the ocean below. The view of the ocean and a bay extending well inland, Colon in the distance, interesting birds, all in the warm sun, we had a good hike touring the fort, it was worth it.

Day 8 Limon - After Panama some of our group decided a tour would be best. We selected the boat, train, bus tour (PL02 $178 for 2) at 1:00PM. We took a morning walk around the town and along the water front. Limon is a small, dusty, working town, not a resort town or business center. There are a lot of fish, vegetable, and open air meat markets. The architecture of a new open air church was notable inside. We found a small shop to replace a cell phone charger forgotten in Fort Lauderdale. There is a nice park near the cruise terminal where we saw 3 toed sloths up in the trees. While we felt safe and a few others from the ship were wandering about our head waiter said he was mugged and lost $100 dollars there so he's never been off the ship there again. One thing was amazing is many of the man hole covers and large storm drain grates are missing, likely stolen. It would be very easy to step off the curb into a 6 foot deep hole surely breaking something. At 1:00PM we boarded our modern coach for the tour. We were quickly out of town into the country with a mix of jungle, mango groves, well-kept houses with small gardens and tumble down shacks built from scrap materials. Within 20 minutes we were at the Dole Banana grove and processing plant. We left the coach for a 20 minute tour watching the bananas coming in from the surrounding groves to be fumigated, washed, sorted and boxed for shipment. Within 20 minutes we met the train for a 20 minute ride (5 miles?) trip largely along the two lane highway we came in on and the coast. After a bit the tracks curved away from the road and into jungle on both sides. When we encounter a caimans (croc family), monkeys, or other interesting wild life the train would stop for us to take photos. Finally we met the coach and within 10 minutes were at the boat dock. The facility was nice and clean. We bought water and beers and boarded the boat and headed down river towards the sea. We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, blue herons, and more. It was an nice, open, flat bottom boat with benches. Once we returned to the dock they had fresh mango, bananas, coconut, watermelon, etc, for us. Our guide was good and stayed with us the whole trip. The whole trip covered from maybe 15 miles north to 15 miles south of the port. It was nice seeing more than just Limon and the lion like roar of the howler monkey is impressive and I now know what our blue herons do during their winter get away. The ship brochure indicated ¾ walking on uneven surfaces. This must be the distances from the ship to the coach, and the coach to the banana plant, train, boat and back all added together. No one walk was over 100 feet, if you can climb the stairs into the coach the rest is easy. I felt the description in the brochure would needlessly discourage some people. It is a nice lite 4 hour tour, if there is a next time we will head for a longer tour deeper into the country, hopefully with a naturalist.

Day 9 At sea I learned to enjoy sea days on this cruise.

Day 10 Grand Cayman - 7 Mile beach - Royal Palm-$10 lounge chair, $10 Umbrella - crystal clear water, good snorkeling, many colorful fish, showers, restrooms, good food/drinks with service to the beach. They rent snorkel gear and water toys. Watch for $4 pp taxi signs leaving ship terminal area to cross the street into town, it is about 2 miles up the coast from the ship. Two great snorkeling beaches are Rum Bay-North Side of the Islands and calm shallow waters that allow children and adults snorkel /swim. Rum Point offers changing/restrooms, showers, huts, hammocks, a volleyball net, water sports rentals and it's own beach bar providing food and drinks, and then Smith Cove-A smaller beach with restrooms, picnic benches, showers, snorkeling and great photo ops. There are no dining and drinking establishment at this location. After 7 Mile beach we went into town and had lunch at Casa Nova's just up from the terminal and on the water. It is Italian owned and operated. It has a large deck above the water in the rear and the food was very good and reasonably priced. From lunch we roamed thru town for a while before boarding.

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Day 11 At Sea I learned to really enjoy sea days on this cruise. Breakfast, exercise, reading by the adult pool, lunch, exercise, the drink of the day, exercise, a show,all with good food sprinkled throughout.

Day 12 Fort Lauderdale, FL We took advantage of the express luggage handling. On our last cruise we missed signing up on time. Since the cut off was very early in the week we almost missed it again. With the express service they delivered our boarding passes and airline luggage claim tags to the room Thursday night, we put the bags in the hall before midnight and collected them at baggage claim in Boston Friday evening. Without bags we could leave the ship when ready Friday, we took Tri-rail to Miami ($4 ea) and the free Miami light rail to the water front with just a purse and a beach bag. When the time came it was $14 plus tip from the water front to MIA via taxi. Travelling with the budget minded folks taught us a few tricks for retirement if the market fall when we need it.

Overall - I could write pages about the interior but will say it is very well done throughout the ship for a large ship. The use of wood, chrome, stone, glass, and art in every space was unique and beautifully done. Each area had a theme and must have had a dedicated design team given the level and attention to detail. Our last 3 cruises were on the Celebrity Constellation once (our favorite) and the Summit twice. We were concerned about going with the RC Jewel but did so for our friends budget concerns. Our balcony on Celebrity would have been about the same. Also Celebrity had the identical itinerary but managed to include an additional port and therefore one less sea day. I must say the Jewel was just as nice. We missed Celebrity's Aqua Spa with its lo-cal snack offerings at the adult pool, a string quartet in the coffee bar, and the bar on the stern where the Jewel only uses this space as outdoor seating for the Windjammer cafe and are slow to clean it after lunch. These are minor differences. The on stage entertainment on the Jewel was the best we have seen. On previous cruises we didn't mind if we missed a show. On the Jewel we missed 2 shows and regret it. We found the back stage tour interesting.

Last, I decided on boarding I needed an anecdote for short day light, +10F day time temps induced tip toeing else succumbing to ice caused fractures, and too many hours working at my computer. With things like endless smoked salmon, fresh fruit, oatmeal, tasty fish, great salads, and healthy choices at dinner and a daily dose of 5 loops around the top deck when I felt like it. I lost 7 pounds without missing a desert at any meal, or a round when the fellow came by asking, and was never hungry.

Yes, I had to skip great looking casseroles, mounts of pasta, cinnamon rolls (well, ok, one each sea day with an afternoon coffee from the Coffee bar on deck 6, but they were small) , pizza, and breakfast sausages and many other tempting things. Six sea days is a real vacation to re-charge, plan these day too!

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