Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas cruise review
Nov 21-26, 2011 Tampa to Cozumel to Costa Maya to Tampa
Twelve of us sailed on the Jewel over Thanksgiving to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. Those sailing were my ... Read More
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas cruise review
Nov 21-26, 2011 Tampa to Cozumel to Costa Maya to Tampa
Twelve of us sailed on the Jewel over Thanksgiving to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. Those sailing were my parents, me, my brother and his family (wife, 12 year old boy, 8 year old girl), and my sister and her family (husband, 15 and 13 year old boys and almost 10 year old girl). I was in cabin 7138. Mom and Dad were next to me in 7140. My brother and family were down the hall in 7126. We were all on the port side. My sister and her husband were in 7650 and their kids were in 7648 on the starboard side. All were category E3 balcony deluxe staterooms. Some (like 7126) had the pull-down bed.
Cabins: very well laid out, and I had plenty of room for my things. I like that the ends of the bed are curved -- made it easy to walk around the bed to get to the balcony. The bed was extremely comfortable, and had many pillows on it. The shower has an interesting set of rounded doors that you slide shut, and these worked well. I thought the shampoo and conditioner were fine. My only complaint about the cabin was the balcony. There were little flecks of white paint all over the furniture, as though someone had pressure washed the ship and didn't bother picking up. I had a chair, a lounge, and a small table on my balcony. My parents next door had two chairs. We just leaned around the divider to talk to each other when out there. I didn't find the furniture comfortable, so didn't spent much time on the balcony, although I kept the curtains open so I could enjoy the view. A flat screen tv also would have been nicer, but I understand those are coming with the next refurbishment.
Wine packages -- my parents ordered the 12-bottle Platinum (middle of the road, price wise) wine package, to cover wine for dinner. My siblings and I also purchased a 12-bottle Platinum wine package, to cover pre-dinner cocktails, and to have wine for drinking in the room. This worked well, although we had more than we needed. We quickly found a large enclosed booth area at the end of the Schooner Bar where the 12 of us could congregate with our wine, (and soft drinks for the kids!) and then just walk down the stairs to the dining room.
We met at my parents' house the day before embarking. They live about 30 minutes from the pier, so no airline flights or ground transportation was used.
We arrived at the pier in Tampa around 11:30am. Dropped the luggage with a porter while my brother and brother-in-law parked the minivans in the garage across the street. There were a number of benches along the drop off point, so we sat to wait for them. We then entered the building and went up an escalator to security where our hand luggage was scanned. We were given health forms to fill out, after which we stood in line to check in. Very friendly personnel. Got my sail pass card. Sister's family sailed through (bad pun, sorry!). We ended up waiting a long time for Mom and Dad -- as they had a computer glitch right as they were checking in. Sister's family had their embarkation picture taken while I sat off to the side and had a glass of lemonade and some cookies. Walked outside down a looonnngg sidewalk to a scissors-style gangplank which dropped us off on deck 5. Had our picture taken for security, then took the elevator upstairs, walked through the solarium and pool area, dragging our hand luggage, to the Windjammer buffet, getting there about 12:45. Tried honey stung chicken -- yuck. Chicken curry with chunks of white meat was fantastic. They had loads of pappadums (thin crispy lentil crackers) every day -- YUM! Buffet cleared out very fast at 1pm as people went to their rooms. We finished our lunch, then went to our staterooms. Our souvenir drink cups were in the room. Met Yuliya, our stateroom attendant -- unbelievably friendly.
We decided to meet in the Schooner Bar (deck 6) for a drink shortly before 3pm. I had just gone back to the cabin to get my life jacket for the drill when the announcement came over the loudspeakers that life jackets weren't necessary -- oh well. At least on a ship this size, it wasn't too far a walk to get back to the bar.
Mandatory muster drill -- around 4pm. Mom, Dad, brother's family and I were at the same drill station -- G14, which is in the Portofino restaurant. We checked in with the girl at the stand, then sat down until we were cleared. The entire thing only took about 15-20 minutes. Very efficient.
Dinner 6pm -- tables 528 and 529. Second level of the dining room(deck 5) on the starboard side of the ship (left hand as you enter the dining room) near the railing, and opposite a waiter's station, so was relatively quiet. Vidalia onion tart the first night was very good -- tasted like quiche. Waiter Christian from Romania -- very experienced, and very professional, Has wife and daughter, about whom he told us many stories. He also did some card tricks, which had the kids entranced. Assistant waiter was Violeta from Croatia -- very pretty girl and SUPERB waiter. Called Dad "Sir William" and Mom "Madame Carole" . Had our names down from the get-go, and called me by name every time I saw her anywhere on the ship. Christian didn't really use our names. Violeta remembered that I liked hot tea every night, and that my sister-in-law didn't want the bread basket (too much temptation!). A variety of breads was served each night. There was a mix-up the first night. The kids were seated next to us, but with different wait staff. They got their appetizer, but never got their meals. We addressed that, and the next night when we arrived, Christian told us that he had arranged to switch tables, so he had our table, and the kids' table, and nobody else. Things went very well after that, and we appreciated his doing that.
Tuesday, Day 2 -- captain had announced moderate seas, and he wasn't kidding! I got up, showered, dressed, and was doing fine until I sat on the bed waiting to call Mom to go get breakfast, and the motion got to me. Went to the main dining room and tried to eat but nothing felt like it was sitting very easily. Took a dramamine and after an hour of sipping ice water, felt ok enough to walk through the dining room and back to my cabin. Yuliya saw me in the hallway and exclaimed "what's wrong!?" and I told her I was seasick. She had just finished my cabin, so she told me to go in and lie down and asked if she could bring me anything. I replied "yes, a bucket of ice would be wonderful" and she turned and literally ran down the hallway and returned instantly with a bucket of ice. From then on I had ice twice each day, which was most appreciated. She asked me every time after that how I was feeling.
Tuesday night was formal night. We got two of the bottles from our wine package and set up in the empty Champagne Bar on deck 5 for pictures, as there was a lovely spot by the railing where we could stand. My sister and sister-in-law got everyone into place and we took turns with our various combinations of people. (we looked at the pictures the day we got off the ship and were so pleased at how well they turned out) Went into dinner and it was my poor Dad's turn to be seasick. He tried the lobster bisque which was awful -- very fishy tasting. Christian brough him a Caesar salad to try but after two bites Dad excused himself saying "guys, I'm sorry, but I have to go" and he left. I had the sliced steak which was excellent and I think that was the night of the peach/blueberry cobbler which was very hot, and not too bad.
Wednesday, Day 3 was Cozumel, and our dinner at Chops. My siblings and their families went scuba diving and swimming with the dolphins (separate trips). My folks and I stayed on board. I believe this was the day they started putting up the Christmas decorations onboard. I happened to be going up in one of the glass elevators facing the atrium right as they plugged in the lights to the Chrstimas tree -- a number of crew were there -- and everyone applauded. The adults met in the atrium bar for a drink and went up to the restaurant a few minutes early (8pm reservation) but they were ready for us. Don't remember the waiter's name -- he was quite forgettable and never made an effort to be personal. Very long intervals between courses. My filet was perfectly done (I asked to have it butterflied because I like my steak well done) and very tender. Sister's steak was unfortunately butterflied (which is typically done for people who like well-done meat and she prefers medium) and the waiter offered to have it replaced but she said no, and said that although it was more done than she would have preferred, it was fine. The chocolate mud pie was the best chocolate dessert I have ever had in my entire life, and that's no exaggeration. Sort of a combination of chocolate mousse, ganache, and I don't know what else but it was exquisite. Sides were served family style. The onions rings were wonderful, as were the mashed potatoes. I only regret that the platters were so big that we ended up wasting much of the food. All in all, a delightful evening, and well worth the extra charge.
Thursday Day 4 -- Thanksgiving -- Costa Maya. Some of our party got off the ship to do some shopping, but didn't partake in any activities. We all grew up in Florida, so had no interest in going to any beaches. We spent the day in the same way we had done most other days -- my dad had breakfast early in the main dining room, then walked around the ship with his book, looking for quiet places to sit and read. Poor man got shuffled around a lot -- seems every time he found a quiet spot, an activity would be scheduled. I also think he saw more of the ship than the rest of us. I know I never saw the nightclub -- but he did! The Schooner Bar ended up being a favorite place to sit. Very comfortable couches and chairs, and beautiful views of the ocean. Its location also meant that sooner or later, someone from the family would come strolling by. We didn't see much of my 15 year old nephew -- he quickly found a group of kids to hang out with. They spent a lot of time at the pool tables. The girls mostly played with their Barbies in the cabin when they got the chance, since they only see each other a few times per year. Nobody used the kids' facilities... .although the teenager and his friends may have tried the disco. I spent some time sitting on the balcony, or down in the Schooner Bar with my Kindle.
Dinner was traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner and was very good. (but no rutabaga, darn it!).
Friday was our last day, and we were at sea all day, heading back to Tampa. The seas were much calmer than they were on the way down, which I appreciated. We all had our luggage outside the door by 11pm for pickup, and the tv ran a continuous loop of video on how to fill out the customs and immigration forms, how to use the luggage tags, where to meet for disembarkation, etc. Our group was scheduled for 9:15, and we met on the top level of the theater. We were called about 20 minutes late, but disembarking was very easy. We walked down one level, went outside on deck 5, scanned our sail cards one last time, and then walked back inside the terminal to pick up our luggage and go through customs. The luggage was very neatly laid out in rows with huge numbers indicating each section. I found my suitcase instantly, and sailed through customs. I spent more time walking than standing in line.
A few miscellaneous notes: at the beginning of the cruise, staff were diligent about asking to see the sail pass, to see the stamp for the soda card, but by Thursday they didn't ask anymore
I had an outstanding Vodka Collins at the Schooner Bar. They had some karaoke there -- most of which was truly, truly awful. The regular entertainment there wasn't much better. I didn't see any of the shows in the big theater, but saw some bits on the tv the next day. The cruise director and her staff seemed to be doing a good job. I played trivia in the Schooner Bar several times. There were rarely more than 4-5 tables of people playing, which was unfortunate -- but they weren't giving away anything more exciting than a key chain or occasionally a hat, so that may explain it. I just like to play!
Entertainment in the Atrium bar was great -- a lot of Christmas carols as you would expect at that time of year -- but the music and singers were great. Crew were pretty friendly. I heard there were 600 kids (out of 2500 passengers on our cruise) but they were never much of a problem. Just one rowdy group of 10-12 year olds playing on the stairs one night.
Other notes: in the Windjammer, make sure you check out the 'other side' of the buffet. Some items are repeated on both sides, but many are not. The hamburgers were particularly good, as was the sliced fruit. I ate a lot of pineapple!
The survey forms that you receive in the cabin are supposed to be returned to customer service well before disembarkation time. I missed it, but was thrilled to see yet another drop off box for the forms right after we scanned our sailpass card to get off the ship, so I was able to submit mine after all.
Overall: the Jewel is a beautiful ship with gorgeous views of the ocean. There are 5 or 6 glass elevators -- 3 or 4 on the outside of the ship, and two overlooking the atrium. People were generally courteous when using the elevators. There is a very nice mockup of the ship on each floor as you get off the elevator showing you which way is forward, and where things are located.
I recommend checking out the menu for the dining room. It's posted on a board just outside the dining room doors on deck 5. It was fun to plan what we wanted to have each night. My 12 year old nephew had expressed a great interest in trying duck while on the cruise (there is almost nothing this kid won't eat). He almost backed out, but we convinced him that if he didn't like it, he could try something else. Our waiter Christian helped him cut it, and my nephew was so thrilled, he was bringing samples over to the adults' table for us to try. Friday night was the lobster night -- a lobster tail. I didn't order one, but everyone else at our table did, so then I changed my mind, and they quickly brought one to me, which I enjoyed.
In sum, it was a wonderful 5 days, and everyone had a good time. It was particularly nice to have so much together time as a family, since my parents and brother live in Florida, and my sister and I live in Georgia. I would not hesitate to cruise on the Jewel again. Read Less