34 Tampa Holiday Cruise Reviews

This was our second time cruising with Royal Caribbean and our first time on Brilliance of the Seas. Everything went very smoothly right from check in to the time we left the ship. Our cabin was very clean and we had a great cabin steward. ... Read More
This was our second time cruising with Royal Caribbean and our first time on Brilliance of the Seas. Everything went very smoothly right from check in to the time we left the ship. Our cabin was very clean and we had a great cabin steward. We were sailing with our 3 kids, ages 17, 14 and 10. We did shore excursions at Costa Maya and Cozumel. The Costa Maya was great, just a beach day, with all you can drink. The Cozumel tour was fantastic, but the breach they brought us to afterwards, was very rocky and not very nice. The food and service in the dining room was great! We did not upgrade to any of the restaurants, just used the main dining room. We enjoyed the my-time dining and made a reservation for each night. The entertainment was truly top notch. We saw a fantastic Bon Jovi impersonator who put on a great concert. Also saw two comedians (one was super!) and 2 shows by the RC singers and dancers. The kids also enjoyed the shows. The only downfall for the kids was that the ice cream machine was located inside the Wind Jammer, so it was not available 24/7. They also ran out of white ice cream by day 3. It was worth it get to the ship early and explore on the first day. Our cabin was ready on time and our luggage was there and ready fairly quickly. I would highly recommend travelling with Royal Caribbean and this ship. While the ship is considered "smaller", it still had plenty to do and lots of activity. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Nice ship, wonderful staff, great food, terrific entertainment. What or who ruined it were other cruisers. Guess because it was so close to Christmas and the colleges and universities were off, the young people decided to party. First day ... Read More
Nice ship, wonderful staff, great food, terrific entertainment. What or who ruined it were other cruisers. Guess because it was so close to Christmas and the colleges and universities were off, the young people decided to party. First day at sea a group got very intoxicated at upper pool bar. On the last night there was a loud party on deck 8 that continued til midnight. Loud people on balconies and people smoking where they should not be. Lesson learned here, avoid this time period for future cruising. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This was our first NCL cruise (16th overall with our favs being Celebrity, RCL and Princess)- we were pleasantly surprised! All 19 of our group had a great time, but I will only speak for my wife and I - the others can write their own ... Read More
This was our first NCL cruise (16th overall with our favs being Celebrity, RCL and Princess)- we were pleasantly surprised! All 19 of our group had a great time, but I will only speak for my wife and I - the others can write their own reviews. I have to start out by saying that my wife and I go on a cruise to meet new people, and the freestyle dining is not the way to do this, so we would never go again on NCL unless it is with a group. The highlight of our cruise had to be the crew - they were always attentive to your needs - always in a friendly and helpful mood. There was always something going on, and we never felt crowded. The cruise, Bobby, and Asst. CD, Tyler, were unbelievable. As far as the accommodations - We had an obstructed, oceanview cabin on Deck 6 - very convenient location at the front of the ship - the room had more storage that we've ever had on a cruise...the shower was TERRIBLE - that had to be the worst part of the cruise - it was SO SMALL, you could hardly turn around or bend down. The food in the buffet was average - sometimes the long was too long and it took forever to get through...the one at the back of the ship was never crowded, but it didn't have all of the buffet items like the ones inside. The dining room food was above average, but service was inconsistent - we even had our waiter leave midway through our meal to go to another shift somewhere else on the ship - we couldn't believe that!!! We seemed to congregate in the Sports Bar every afternoon before dinner - the bar staff (Abin and Emir) were AWESOME. At 5:30, they also had a very good snack menu - things wings (AWESOME), burgers, fries, dips, etc.) Overall, we would definitely recommend the Sun.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This Vision of the Seas cruise, Dec. 20-27, 2014 was only our 2nd cruise (first was on Holland America 2013 thanks to my generous mother-in-law). I loved that this was about the same size ship (about 2K Pax and 800 crew) compared to our ... Read More
This Vision of the Seas cruise, Dec. 20-27, 2014 was only our 2nd cruise (first was on Holland America 2013 thanks to my generous mother-in-law). I loved that this was about the same size ship (about 2K Pax and 800 crew) compared to our HAL ship. I'm reading some complaints about the ship's dining and wondering if these people were on the same ship?! I am a healthy eater and really enjoyed the WONDERFUL, FRESH fruits, salads and array of cheeses and fresh rolls available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. My husband and I are in our late 40's and traveled with my 11 y.o. daughter and her 12 y.o. best friend. There was really something for everyone on this ship.. the girls LOVED the rock climbing wall, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, the huge movie screen and large pool. We all enjoyed the FANTASTIC ENTERTAINMENT - from the big name (family friendly) comedian, The Drifters (!), broadway star Jordan Bennet (Les Mis) and juggler to the outstanding singers and dancers onboard the ship who did a great 70's disco show. There were aerial acrobats in the centrum for short shows during the evening as well. Also, Santa came on Dec. 25 and even had presents (!) for my girls.. a nice headset and a good sized RC totebag. Nice touch! All of our excursions were with independent vendors (highly recommend to save lots of money) so can't comment on RC excursions. I would take this cruise and go on this ship again IN A HEARTBEAT. Plus, it was cool to have a female captain, Liz Lauritzen, one of only 2 in the entire cruise industry. All the staff and our cabin steward, Carlos, were FABULOUS, hardworking. ONLY COMPLAINT - need more treadmills in the Fitness Room .. they only had a handful and each morning before breakfast all were taken. It was tough to get a free treadmill. But that's a minor complaint. Really enjoyed the food, service, layout and good vibe of this ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This was our first time sailing with RCCL having sailed several times previously with HAL and Princess. We caught a great deal for Christmas week with Royal, so decided it was worth it to give it a try, especially when travelling as a ... Read More
This was our first time sailing with RCCL having sailed several times previously with HAL and Princess. We caught a great deal for Christmas week with Royal, so decided it was worth it to give it a try, especially when travelling as a family of 4. We really have no complaints, other than wishing we had booked a larger room. Large insides on this ship offer less space than on the other cruise lines of similar age ships...layout of the rooms could have been the real culprit though they were less footage too. Since we expected it might be tight, this wasn't a huge issue for us, especially with four port days awaiting us, but worth noting that it did feel different than same category on other ships. No issues with beds - we were all quite comfortable. Room attendant was great - room was always ready when we were and we rarely saw him. In fact, we enjoyed all the staff during our cruise...always efficient, helpful, friendly and fun. Only met one less than friendly staff person (just on the first day at the customer service desk)...definitely not a warm and friendly type but she was the exception, for sure. We had "my Time" dining and had booked reservations for each night , weeks in advance. This worked out great - never had to wait in line and always had great service. We enjoyed our wait staff each time. One night - mid week - service was slower and we waited quite a bit for our meal to begin, but we were in no hurray that night and enjoyed our time as a family chatting about the day over yummy bread rolls, so it was ok with us. We all enjoyed the food - always had a good selection to choose from so even the kids were happy with the menus. We ate breakfasts and lunches in the windjammer or Park café, and ended up at the WJ once for dinner - all was good. Lots of healthy choices available and I was able to try something new every day, which I liked, while hubby and kids could count on their "usual" favourites each day, which they liked. Enjoyed the available beverages...and coffee station by the pool each morning. We enjoyed the ports...stayed on ship most of the day for Roatan as we had visited this port before. Main pool area was nice, we never had to fight for a lounger, staff were removing towels from saved chairs after a certain amount of time, and despite higher volume of kids on this holiday cruise, there were no real issues observed or experienced. Booked cavetubing tour (not thru RCCL) for our day in Belize, which was great! We all enjoyed it, learned a lot, enjoyed our Belizean lunch, felt well taken care of and had a really fun day ($50 pp) . We booked chairs at a restaurant in Costa Maya for Christmas day (tropicante)...what a great day! Just wish the ship was leaving later that day instead of needing to be all aboard by 330pm. We followed the provided instructions, took a taxi ourselves to and from the restaurant and all was good. Coronas and Margaritas started by 10am and we each had great massages on the beach. A very relaxing and enjoyable day - including a free call home from the restaurant to Canada to wish family back home Feliz Navidad! Christmas celebrations on board ship were good...lots of holiday spirit and activities all around from passengers and crew...incl carolling on christmas eve, movies (Polar Express, Elf) by the pool and a visit to Santa on Christmas morning, on our way to the beach. There were Hannakuh celebrations going on as well but I do not have much info about that. We experienced no difficulties or delays with embarkation or disembarkation at Tampa port. No issues or differences to what we had experienced on other cruise lines/ports. Only notable event was at disembarkation....our plan had been to catch a taxi to the airport but there was a longer line up than we are used to...we paid the extra $15 total for the four of us to take a shuttle that was waiting right there and ready to go. what the heck - why not. All in all, we would cruise with RCCL again - no better or worse than Princess or HAL overall, just some personality differences really. We were provided the opportunity for a fantastic holiday and loved it! We are not interested in the newer mega ship experiences but would sail RCCL again, if the price is right - as family or as a couple. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
DW and I cruised on a wonderful choice Brilliance over the Thanksgiving holiday. We made a wonderful choice. We left ORD 10 minutes early and thanks to AA and Mother Nature we arrived in Tampa 20 minutes early...a great way to start a ... Read More
DW and I cruised on a wonderful choice Brilliance over the Thanksgiving holiday. We made a wonderful choice. We left ORD 10 minutes early and thanks to AA and Mother Nature we arrived in Tampa 20 minutes early...a great way to start a vacation! We did a great deal of research on a pre-cruise hotel and we selected the Epicurean hotel. It is a great boutique hotel and we were very satisfied with our selection. The rooms are spacious and nicely furnished with great bedroom and bathroom amenities. The neighborhood is safe and includes shopping, restaurants and nightlife. We walked to the Tampa Bay shore which was only 5 blocks away. We also walked to several upscale restaurants for drinks and dinner the night before our cruise. The hotel has a great wine shop on the first level. However, we found a small food store 3 blocks away from the hotel that had a more reasonably priced selection of wines. We had a very enjoyable mid-afternoon lunch at Carmines in Ybor City. We walked the neighborhood after lunch and shopped in between a few stops for beers. We wanted to have dinner at the famous and iconic Berns Steakhouse (which is across the street from the hotel and shares ownership) but we learned that reservations fill up 3 months in advance for Friday and Saturday nights. The hotel concierge recommended the Copper Fish. This recommendation turned into an exceptional evening. The Copper Fish is a 2.5 block walk from the hotel. The food, the service and the specialty cocktails were all outstanding, and I rarely use that word describing restaurants. Most of the seafood selections are "day boat" fresh caught and you can tell. We highly recommend the Copper Fish. We arranged a taxi through the hotel front desk. We departed the Epicurean Hotel at 10:45 am. The cab ride was 15 minutes. We entered the cruise terminal at 11 am and we were through security in 5 minutes. We were in the check-in serpentine for 10 minutes and checked in in under 10 minutes. We were on Brilliance by 11:30 am. RCCL knows how to process crowds and we applaud their efficiency and customer service (unlike some other cruiselines we have been on). We had lunch in the Windjammer and toured the Brilliance.Our D1 balcony room was ready by 1:30 and we went to the room to unload our carry-on bags. The room was a typical D1 with plenty of drawer, closet,shelf, and counter space. The bathroom is typically small with virtually no vanity counter space. This was problematic throughout the cruise. The bathroom also had the dreaded too-short shower curtain which resulted in flooded floors constantly when the shower was used. The balcony was standard size and adequate for our needs. Although we had cruised out of Tampa before we had never been on deck for sailaway under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This time, with MTD, we sailed under this magnificent structure while on deck 13. It was well worth delaying dining until 7:30 to see the bridge closeup. Food on Brilliance ranged from satisfactory to very good. On Brilliance, RCCL has employed the "food station" concept that we are used to on Celebrity ships. We prefer this approach since it eliminates the long buffet lines and results in better food quality and food options. The food in the Windjammer was tasty and varied. I do not believe anyone can go hungry in the Windjammer. There is indeed something for everyone. We opted for MTD. The first night MTD was chaotic because newbies did not understand the reservation protocols and hundreds of people showed up at 7 pm without reservations expecting to be seated at 7 pm. Brilliance dining room staff did their best to accommodate everyone but not everybody could be satisfied. Things were much better on successive nights. MTD works only if there are tables available at your desired dining time. Food in MDR was generally very good. We especially enjoyed the duck prime rib, lobster, and filet entrees. The escargot served on Brilliance is not good, IMHO. The recipe includes a butter sauce(not real butter) and some type of foamed topping that is tasteless and not consistent with traditional escargot en croute. I wish RCCL would favor a more traditional escargot recipe. I only ate one serving during our 5 night cruise and I am an escargot junkie. I hate to disclose this (because it should be kept a secret) but food in the Solarium Cafe was excellent. As noted in other reviews the roast beef sandwiches are wonderful. The salads are great. DW ate smoked salmon every morning. The specialty deserts were wonderful every day. Incidentally. Brilliance staff enforced the no children rule in the Solarium with regularity. DW and I both had the Premium beverage package. I know I received value for my money but I doubt DW got her money's worth. Beverage service ran the gamut from very good to poor depending on the venue and the time of day. As you would expect, peak times at popular bars had service issues. Clearly this is a function of staffing. It appears to me that RCCL has reduced the number of servers and bartenders. That is just my observation. Perhaps it is an intentional attempt to reduce alcohol consumption...who knows? We enjoyed the musicians in the Centrum and Schooner bars. The repertoires ranged from classical music to solo guitar favorites. These locales were great for relaxing in the afternoon or before and after dinner. We only attended two shows. The comedian/ventriloquist was mediocre. The Temptations cover band was excellent and had the house rocking during their performance. Key West- we have been to KW at least 6 times. We did a self-guided bar tour making our traditional stops at Sloppy Joes, Capt. Tonys, and Irish Kevins. As usual Irish Kevins was a riot with lots of raucous entertainment enjoyed by good natured cruisers and vacationers. We love Irish Kevins. Cozumel- similarly, we have been to Cozumel several times. We did not want to do the dreaded shopping walk so we kept a low profile this visit. I am not a fan of excursions in Cozumel so that was not an option for usWe found Ernestos' Cafe just off the ship. Beers were $2.50us. WIFI was free. The view was great and we saw several cruiseship crew members eat there. We will remember Ernestos for future stops in Cozumel. We made the mistake of stopping at Marguritaville for a beer. Two beers and a bottle of water were $16us. And Coronas are not an import in Mexico! Ripoffville. Caveat Emptor. Our mistake. In closing I want to describe our disembarkation. Originally I wanted to book an 11:35 flight TPA-ORD but I was concerned about making the flight on time. I booked a 2:20 pm connecting flight TPA-MIA-ORD. At 8:15 am DW and I decided to reschedule to the 11:35 flight. We were off the ship in 15 minutes and in a cab by 8:45. Had we made an earlier decision we could have been off the ship by 8 am. I rebooked the flight from the cab. We were checked in and were eating breakfast in the airport by 9:30 am. This was on Thanksgiving Day which may not be representative of the norm but it certainly worked for us. In closing I want to state we loved Brilliance. All staff members we encountered were friendly and accommodating. The ship is beautiful and although there are not a great deal of organized activities it was perfect for our relaxed chill cruise. We loved the ease of getting in and out of Tampa. We will keep Brilliance and Tampa on our radar for future cruises.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
This was my first cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. I have previously sailed on Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Cunard. I booked this cruise with a friend. We wanted a relaxed and informal atmosphere for our cruise, but had low ... Read More
This was my first cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. I have previously sailed on Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Cunard. I booked this cruise with a friend. We wanted a relaxed and informal atmosphere for our cruise, but had low expectations based upon feedback from my travel agent who indicated other clients did not enjoy their experience on this cruise line. I am an experienced and flexible traveler and as the port (Tampa) was only a 2 hour drive, we signed on. This was a holiday cruise and there were many multi-generational families on board which I expected having been on a Christmas cruise previously with Holland America. The cruise was sold out. There is a convenient parking garage across from the NCL terminal where we left my car for the week. Embarkation was a breeze - the fastest ever for any cruise I've been on. Our mid-ship balcony cabin was adequate. It had plenty of storage for 2 people and the beds were comfortable. We dined at Le Bistro and El Moderno specialty restaurants. I enjoyed both restaurants, but Moderno which featured Brazilian cuisine was exceptional. The food in the main dining rooms (Venetian and Aqua) were good as was the service. We had to wait to be seated in The Venetian for Christmas Dinner and were given complimentary glasses of champagne while we waited which was a very nice touch. I'm not much for buffets, so only ate in the Garden Café twice for a late afternoon lunch. The entertainment on board was an A+. I really enjoyed Second City and the comedian (Tim K.). Lots to do in the evening - dancing, audience participation shows (loved Dancing with the Dawn Stars and The Quest), music in several venues, parties and more. No reason to be bored and head to your stateroom early unless you wanted to do so. The cruise staff were friendly and accommodating, wanting to make sure everyone had a good time and good service. They couldn't have been nicer. Getting off and back on the ship at each port (Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico, and Cozumel, Mexico) was easy. Security staff were efficient. I liked that disembarkation allowed passengers to select their time to leave the ship. I have not experienced this before and it was a big plus. Overall, I had very good experience on this ship and would sail NCL again. If you're looking for a fun, relaxed time, don't want to dress in tux and gowns in the evening, this is the ship and cruise line for you. I'd definitely cruise again with NCL in the Caribbean. What NCL does, they do very well. THIS WAS A FUN CRUISE!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our first Christmas cruise ever. We enjoyed ourselves and may do this again. The Ryndam is one of the smaller ships in the HAL fleet and we find her size to be just right. It was easy to see the same people again and again, not ... Read More
This was our first Christmas cruise ever. We enjoyed ourselves and may do this again. The Ryndam is one of the smaller ships in the HAL fleet and we find her size to be just right. It was easy to see the same people again and again, not like on a big ship. The ship was decorated for Christmas and everyone was in a festive mood. Mama Lou was on our sailing and will be on the sailing for New Year’s as well. She is a very interesting lady and extremely sharp. She is 90 years old now and has been cruising HAL for 18.5 years. The crew love her and dote on her. We had a small Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. 14 people attended. Seattle had scheduled us for The Mix. The area was not ideal but it served our purpose. The only problem was Seattle neglected to let the ship know about our meeting so no crew came by and no coffee and cookies were served. The Beverage Manager called to apologize when I made the Front Desk aware of the oversight and was ready to schedule another meeting for us. I declined but thanked him for the offer. I really just wanted them to let Seattle know that they had messed up. Our meeting went well without the cookies but a visit from a Staff member would have been nice. Cabin 628 – I had bought an HH guarantee, fully obstructed outside and we were placed in an unobstructed outside. That was nice. The cabin was in good shape. Everything worked. The toilet was a little slow occasionally but it always flushed. I set the air conditioner when we entered and never touched it again. It remained at a constant comfortable temperature until the last two days. Then the cabin would warm up until the air kicked in. Others had issues with their air, some never getting it to work. They were provided with fans. I cannot quote room numbers, I wish I could, but these comments were all heard in passing or while waiting at the front desk for other information. One member of the Cruise Critic group did have to get moved from their cabin. On returning from Key West, the toilet in their cabin was spewing water, flooding right out the door. Maintenance had a hard time shutting off the water. On two occasions, the water in our cabin ran a tan colour before it became clear. Not sure what that was but I noted it on my survey. Several areas of the ship were quite cold. The Showroom at Sea was always like an icebox. The library and Explorations café were also quite cold. The balance is certainly off in how the air conditioning works. I was told by one of the front office staff that the Ryndam is going into dry dock in March of 2014 but he couldn’t tell me what was being done – only soft goods or more extensive repairs. The furnishings in our cabin looked fine as did much of the public space. There are chairs that have seen better days but generally everything looked pretty good. Food – We ate in the Lido most nights and only made the dining room on the formal nights. There was prime rib on the first formal night and 3 people at our table ordered it. Not one was able to finish it since it was very sinewy. The second formal night had surf and turf. The lobster was a good size but the turf was small, but it was very tender. The first 48 hours in the lido under code orange went much better than I expected with no long lines and the code was lifted after 48 hours. We seem to have a healthy ship. Because food is so subjective, no further comments are necessary. We enjoyed our food and had lots of choices. There were many multi generational family groups on board. We were told that there were 150 children. For the most part, they were well behaved. I didn’t run into any elevator issues or running children or really loud children either. The Ryndam had three shows most nights – 6:30. 8:00 and 10:00. This worked well since the Showroom is not very large. Listen to the Music – cast introduction (Only one show) - enjoyed Rock Legends – Ryndam cast – did not see Rich Purpura – comedian, mind reader – did not enjoy Classique – Ryndam cast - enjoyed Dave Hempstad – Comedian - enjoyed Droom – Ryandam Cast - enjoyed Dancing with the Stars finale (only one show) – did not see Happy hours were in the Ocean bar from 4 to 5 pm and the 9 to 10pm or 10 to 11pm in the Crow’s Nest. This varied from one day to the next. It is buy one get one for $1 more. Lounges Explorer’s Lounge – Adagio – Piano and violin - enjoyed Ocean Bar – The Neptunes Mix – Solo Guitarist – Terry - enjoyed Piano Bar – Jamm The Halcats – on deck and the Crow’s Nest – actually quite good Cruise Director – Rick We had booked no excursions, preferring to get off at each port and wander. However, if you do this cruise, do yourself a favour and book an excursion in Santo Tomas, Guatemala. There is a port building with some souvenir shopping and some entertainment and food but there isn’t much else. We booked a trolley excursion at the last minute. It was one hour and took us to Porto Bario where we saw some of the city and how the local people live. We had a very good guide, a local teacher, who does these tours while the winter vacation is on. School is out from November to the middle of January. Santo Tomas gave us the best send off of all the ports. The locals congregated on the pier, danced for us, played music and as we pulled away from the dock honked the horns of the cars and busses parked at the pier. They love the cruise ships and are really a very friendly people. Sadly the pillow chocolates are just little golden squares of milk chocolate, not as good as before but as RuthC would say, still chocolate!! We received a blue HAL bag on our second night and I won a bottle of champagne at the Future Cruise presentation. The Champagne this cruise has been better than on the last couple of cruises. They seem to have changed their brand. Being Canadian we were invited to a Commonwealth Party in the Crow’s Nest. We were provided with appetizers and buy one get one for $1 drinks. This is the first time we have seen a Commonwealth Party although others told us they have been to them before. Different happenings on different ships. There were two Mariner Brunches. Ours was early in the week on the first sea day (two star) and people we met who were 4 star had theirs on the last sea day. I can only imagine we have lots of Mariners aboard. For the Non US citizens reading this, I should tell you we had a strange disembarkation routine. First, we were not eligible to do self disembarkation. The walk off option was limited to US citizens only. Then on Saturday, after we had already completed our requests for a disembarkation time, we were left a letter that we would have to appear in the Wajang Theater at 6:45 am to meet with Immigration officials. The ship could not be cleared until all non US citizens had been interviewed. This has never happened at Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Boston. There, we were allowed to walk off and both Customs and Immigration were done in the terminal. I wish we had known about the early timing before we requested a disembarkation time since I would then have picked an earlier time. So, non citizens, be prepared for this type of disembarkation in Tampa.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
What a lovely way to spend Christmas with family on this gorgeous ship! We don't care for crowds but were prepared as this was a Christmas cruise and was pretty well booked to capacity. Of course you are going to have to tackle ... Read More
What a lovely way to spend Christmas with family on this gorgeous ship! We don't care for crowds but were prepared as this was a Christmas cruise and was pretty well booked to capacity. Of course you are going to have to tackle queues. A little patience is all that's needed, no one is going to go without. Make the most of the time waiting and take time to say hi to your fellow passengers, after all, it is Christmas. Ports - The ports were ok but very busy due to several other cruise ships in port the same day. We were always happy to be back on board. Nothing special here to write about unfortunately. Food - Absolutely fabulous. Considering how many people that have to be fed, we were amazed at the quality and efficient service. Everything ran like clockwork. First night was steak and lobster which was cooked to perfection. Also did Moderno Christmas Eve and had best seat on the ship for Christmas Eve carols. We loved the food here and have to say, it's our favourite. A very special night. We ate at Teppenyaki another night and it was worth every cent. Other nights we ate at the Venetian or Aqua and enjoyed every morsel of food that was served to us. Entertainment - We only went to a couple of shows as we decided to eat late to miss the rush. I was a little unsure of the comedian at first but by the end of the show was crying from laughing so much. Despite the large crowds and the small pool we did enjoy ourselves. We could always find somewhere quiet if we needed to escape the crowd. We would like to thank every single staff member for sacrificing their Christmas away from their family to ensure we had a very memorable Christmas. Looking already to book our next cruise with NCL, next time more days at sea, after all, the ship is the destination. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Thanksgiving cruise that was a great break from the normal holiday bustle. PARADISEwas in very good shape for its' age and the service staff superb. Biggest disappointment was the cruise director Steve. He can plat a fiddle or violin, ... Read More
Thanksgiving cruise that was a great break from the normal holiday bustle. PARADISEwas in very good shape for its' age and the service staff superb. Biggest disappointment was the cruise director Steve. He can plat a fiddle or violin, but he should never be allowed to speak into microphone. He speaks to the audience in a Barney voice and acts as if he is speaking to 4-5 year olds. This was my 15th cruise and he was by far the worse cruise director I've seen. The male leader singer in the show production had a very weak voice, but the band and dancers made up for his shortcomings. Dining was good every night except the filet mignon on Thanksgiving night. I should definitely chosen the traditional turkey dinner. All other nights were great! Getting off and off the ship was very smooth. Took the Land and Sea Tour in Grand Caymen and would highly recommend it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We are veteran cruisers from South Carolina, with 18 cruises on Princess and 1 cruise on NCL. This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. This holiday itinerary was roundtrip from Tampa with 4 ports: Key West, Roatan, Santo Tomas de ... Read More
We are veteran cruisers from South Carolina, with 18 cruises on Princess and 1 cruise on NCL. This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. This holiday itinerary was roundtrip from Tampa with 4 ports: Key West, Roatan, Santo Tomas de Castilla (Guatemala) and Costa Maya. Pre-Cruise We drove to the port, and spent the day before the cruise in Tampa. We spent the afternoon in historic Ybor City a few blocks north of the port. There were hand-rolled cigar shops, pubs and restaurants. We ate at James Joyce Irish Pub. The food was very good, with generous portions. There were many beers on tap to choose from. We stayed at the Quality Inn near Ybor City. It was very clean and well-maintained, and a secure hotel. Embarkation Tampa was a wonderful embarkation port. We drove up to the curb, dropped off the luggage with the porter, and parked in the surface lot right in front of the ship. Embarkation went very quickly, starting at 11:30 AM. We were on the ship at 11:45 and our cabin was ready. We sailed under the Skyway bridge, which was lit up after dark. Cabin We had a window cabin on the lower promenade deck. We had a good view from our cabin. With the reflective glass, no one could see into our cabin, except after dark with the light on. The cabin was spacious, with lots of closet and drawer space. There was also a wide love seat. The bathroom had a tub-type shower, and was the biggest bathroom we have had on a cruiseship. There was a CD/DVD player, and American and European electrical outlets. Our room stewards, Bowo and Yanto, took good care of us. Dining We have read many negative reviews about the Rotterdam Restaurant (main dining room). We found these reviews to be accurate regarding the slow service, especially at dinner. The food was always excellent, so no complaints there. We had 1st seating, with a table for 4. For the first 2 nights of the cruise, dinner took 1 hour 45 minutes. Also, the waiters were inattentive. They walked by the table without looking to see if we needed anything. We couldn't even make eye-contact with them. Even speaking with the head waiter didn't help. He was very defensive, and didn't seem to understand that the service was unacceptable. This situation suddenly changed for the better after we left a comment card at the front desk describing the long dinners and poor service. The dining room captain, Martin, visited our table and assured us that our comments had been heard, and that service would be much better. Service was instantly better, much more attentive, and dinner took about 1 hour 15 minutes, which was fine for us. While service improved dramatically for us, we continued to see dissatisfaction and slow service for several other tables in the dining room. Because we spoke up, things improved for us. But we feel that service should have been better from the start, not requiring us to go to the trouble of writing a letter. Breakfast in the dining room was excellent, with lots of choices. Afternoon tea was also a wonderful experience. We especially enjoyed the Indonesian Tea toward the end of the cruise. The Royal Dutch Tea and everyday tea time were also very good. The Lido had a great selection for breakfast and lunch. We were served by the staff behind the counter. Especially noteworthy were the Filipino lunch selections one day, as well as the Eggs Benedict station at breakfast, and the fresh-squeezed orange juice. We had a friendly wine steward, Roy, at dinner. Art Auctions We attended one art auction. We were astounded at the prices of the art. Most of the items auctioned were original pieces with opening bids in the mid-$1000's. If other cruisers like this, that's fine with us. We just can't see spending so much on art. Princess has also moved in this direction. Gone are the days of limited-edition prints for a few hundred dollars, including framing. We have several such pieces that we still enjoy after more than 10 years. Wijang Culinary Arts Theater This was an excellent feature of the cruise. Included were lobster salad, creme brulee, haute chocolate, among other dishes. The towel-animal demonstration was especially memorable. Entertainment The production shows were professionally done. The singers sang very well, and the dancers were excellent. We didn't see any lip-syncing to recordings. We also enjoyed the violinist in the Explorer's lounge, the piano man Ric in the Mix bar and the Neptune band in the Ocean bar. Bar Drinks The bar staff was very attentive. We especially liked the Boddington's on tap, the Manhattans and White Russian. However, the bar staff didn't know how to make a Grasshopper, Whiskey Sour or Blue Hawaiian. Public Areas The ship was in excellent condition overall. Areas that looked out-of-date were the atrium, main dining room and pools. There was lots of room on this ship, with only 1250 passengers. It was nice to be on a smaller ship again. We really like this about Holland America. While other cruise lines are building ever-bigger ships, HAL has ships with 2000 passengers or less. The wide, wrap-around lower promenade deck is great for walking. Also accessible from the lower promenade are stairways to 3 forward observation decks, including a very large deck on the bow of the ship. These were great for sailaways. Christmas Activities There were several Christmas activities on this holiday itinerary. The cruise left port on Sunday, Dec. 23. On Christmas Eve, there was a Christmas display unveiling in the evening in the atrium. Hot chocolate and cookies were served while we sang carols. On Christmas morning at 9:00, we sang carols in the main showroom, and Santa made an appearance. Presents were given to the younger kids. There were quite a few families on board. Summary All in all a great getaway for the holiday. The Ryndam is a beautiful ship with many amenities and activities. For veteran Princess cruisers, we were very pleased, and plan to take another cruise on Holland America in the Caribbean or Europe. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We took this cruise as part of a Virgin holiday fly, stay and cruise in Orlando. Check in onto the ship was quite quick (we had already printed out boarding passes). All in all it took approx 1/2 hour and we were onboard by 1.00pm. we were ... Read More
We took this cruise as part of a Virgin holiday fly, stay and cruise in Orlando. Check in onto the ship was quite quick (we had already printed out boarding passes). All in all it took approx 1/2 hour and we were onboard by 1.00pm. we were able to go to our cabin immediately but our bags did not arrive until later in the day. The cabin was nice and clean as was all of the ship. We chose anytime dining and were able to get a table in Truffles no problem all the nights we ate there. The food in both the Lido Buffet and Truffles was very good. There was lots of choice. I think you would have to be really fussy not to be able to eat anything onboard. The shows and entertainment were ok (not as good as MSC Cruises) but they had lots of audience interaction events. All the staff were very polite and cheery, we did't come across any miserable staff. As we were on board on Christmas Day they really made an effort to make it a nice day. I would say the only downsides were the prices of the drinks. Soft drinks were reasonable ($2 for a coke +15%grat) cocktails or say a gin &tonic were about $8 +15%. There were drinks packages available for $42 pppn. You could have anything with this package but you would have to go some to drink $80 worth of drinks between 2 people every day. I mistakenly booked a couple of excursions with Carnival but they were very rushed and we were herded around at each place. The ones we sorted ourselves were much better. There are plenty to choose from when you get there. We got a taxi to Palancar Beach in Cozumel which cost $25 each way. We booked a cavetubing trip in Belize before we went with cavetubing.bz ($50 inc lunch) - this was WELL worth it. they had all new equipment and was very well organised. Disembarkation was reasonably quick we were off by 10.00am. Overall we really enjoyed it - would definitely cruise with Carnival again but perhaps on a newer ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My family just got back from our New Year's Eve cruise on the Legend and we really enjoyed this ship - overall, the itinerary is fantastic, the ship is lovely (but starting to show her age in some spots) and the service very good. ... Read More
My family just got back from our New Year's Eve cruise on the Legend and we really enjoyed this ship - overall, the itinerary is fantastic, the ship is lovely (but starting to show her age in some spots) and the service very good. Frankly, I was a bit nervous after reading some of the other reviews and I am happy to report that a lot of what I read was just plain wrong. First, as everyone seems to agree, embarkation on this ship is really great. We live near Tampa,so we took out time arriving that morning and used the valet. Would I use the valet again for $125 plus the extra tips? I am not sure, as the parking garage is right across the street and saves you about $40 bucks, but the valet service was quick and friendly. I had VIP check in on my last cruise out of Port Canaveral and regular check in during peak hours was faster in Tampa. We arrived around 12:30 and were on the ship 40 minutes later. Our luggage also arrived quickly and our room was open immediately (two perks I did not receive with VIP check in on the Ecstasy). Our room was an extended balcony - this next part is totally my fault, but we booked on the Panorama floor (Deck 8) - I read the reviews and knew it was below the Lido Deck, but I thought that my kids would prefer the higher floor (they sort of equate that to the level of fanciness) - I would recommend you go one deck lower because the sound of chairs being dragged around got very old and you can hear the live music from your room - its not very loud and it isnt terrible, but you never know when you may want to take a nap. The cabin is a tight squeeze for four and the "extended balcony" isnt all that extended in my opinion (6x10 they claim, not enough for a lounger). Once you go balcony, you never go back, though. Nothing more relaxing in the evening or enjoyable during sun rise then to step out and feel the ocean breeze in your robe. Service - I honestly don't know where all the haters who reported rude staff hung out - maybe there were one or two people who could have used a personality, but overall, from the moment you walk on this ship, the service is great, from the waiters handing out a complimentary glass of champagne (and by the way,the free and plentiful champagne continued up on the Lido deck through sail away, so its not even like they gave us one tiny glass and cheaped out.) We had great experiences with the front desk, guest excursion folks and throughout the ship. Our waiters were fantastic (Eric and Ketut) and our cabin Steward (Rodrigo) did an excellent job. One of my favorite staff members on this cruise had to be Kids Camper Ivana ("Eva"), she was absolutely fantastic with my 6 year old son. I will detail those services a little more later on, but if you have misgivings about this vessel because you read a bad review about service, trust me when I say that you will be pleasantly surprised. I personally believe that dealing with the cruise must be difficult (can you imagine the inane questions they get, plus the high-maintenance travelers that run them ragged?), not to mention these people are away from their families for 6 months straight. So while I did run across a few staff who were not the friendliest, out of the 100 plus waiters, busboys, bartenders, porters, etc,I encountered 99.9% of them were pleasant, courteous and helpful. The food - I am not a food critic, but I am a really picky eater and I am astounded at how they can prepare 10,000 meals a week and make them all taste so different and good. The people who complain about the food seem to be the same ones who eat chicken nuggets on the Lido Deck every day or do anytime dining, which, in my humble opinion, makes them fools because you miss out on the whole cruise dining experience. Yes, the food on the Lido deck gets old, so here is a tip - Dont EAT there every day! If people weren't so instant gratification oriented, they could try the dining room for lunch (which was fabulous) instead of the 24 hour pizza (which I also thought was really tasty for mass-produced pizza). Even on the Lido deck, the Asian food is better than OK and the deli counter is awesome, particularly the Reuben and turkey wrap - the problem is people have to wait in line for that and even though they are on vacation, the extra 5 minutes it takes to order those items or he extra half hour sitting down in the main dining room seems to be too much for some, so they grab a burger every day then complain about the food. Now I have to agree that they could do a better job with the kids menu - it is the same four items every day - however, when we asked our waiter to take off the bacon and chicken on the macaroni and cheese, it was done no problem and my son got his mac and cheese. One reviewer said she asked for this and was told they couldn't do it, perhaps she wasn't as fun as my group was:). We also ate at the steakhouse one night and it very good, I thought better than Ruth's Chris, well worth a $35 pp splurge. I was not such a fan of the added charge dining when I sailed on NCL, but unlike Norwegian, Carnival doesn't force the added dining thing on you, you can choose to do it or not - here is a tip I learned sadly after the fact, if you book the steakhouse the first night, they give you a free bottle of wine. My family also likes to order room service (because its fun) and while the menu is limited to sandwiches, they are tasty, particularly the steak and cheese - we never waited more than 20 minutes for room service and they were extremely friendly and courteous (a five dollar tip probably helps, but more on my tipping philosophy later). Activities - some people wrote their wasn't enough to do on this ship - they must not have read their carnival capers very well - where else can you learn how to do the Michael Jackson Thriller Dance on stage in the Lounge? The hairy chest contest is a perennial favorite of mine (and now my kids). The illusionist show is not to be missed, it will blow your mind - actually, on the subject of magic, there is a guy that goes around the dining room doing slight of hand tricks and he was awesome! He managed to slip a coin inside of my ten year old son's wristwatch and he said he never felt a thing. That guy (whose name totally escapes me, sorry) does a show at 10:45 pm where you crowd around a grand piano and he performs some amazing tricks right next to you. The band on this cruise is really, really good and we went to one of the Follies shows and really enjoyed it - lots of singing, dancing, cute costumes and cleavage. Juan was a great one man singer around the lobby area. I do have a complaint about the lack of actual bands on this ship - I prefer live music in the evenings to DJs and they only had a live band one night. Now, they have a great band with the show and the other band does this live karaoke thing, which would be great if you wanted to do karaoke - I myself want to watch and perhaps dance to a band - they have this beautiful club called Satchamos, all decked out in New Orleans Style, but unfortunately, I never actually saw a band on stage there so instead it has become a gathering place for all the smokers. Also, I saw at least three grand pianos on this ship, but never saw one being played - again, I like some nice piano music at dinner or with the afternoon tea, but the only live piano is with the guy in Billie's Piano bar. The cruise director (James) is literally everywhere on this ship, he is like the hardest working man in showbiz! He does a great job of warming up the crowds. I do not understand the complaints about the kids activities - my two sons had the time of their lives on this ship - Gigabytes is a little small arcade, but it offers air hockey and all the standard games (not cheap, but my kids enjoyed it nonetheless - also, there were free credits on the machines one day in port). The kids camp offers a TON of parties and activities, my 6 year old kept asking to go back there. As I mentioned, Iva was the friendliest counselor I have ever met on a vacation kids club anywhere, I want to take her home and make her my nanny, she was that good. I do think a few of the other counselors were not as friendly, but they work really hard to show them a good time. My ten year old got to use the Club O2 and tween room, plus he could check himself in and out (if you allow it) -he wound up making friends during a scavenger hunt and they basically hung out on their own the rest of the week. Ports of Call - I do not know of many cruises offering four days of stops on a 7 day cruise anymore so that is a HUGE bonus in my opinion. We went to Chankanaab park in Cozumel (it is my second or third time there and I highly recommend it) - you can take a taxi over there on your own (it cost us 11 bucks for three people one way) and get a coupon from the parks website (saved us about five bucks I think). If you do the Carnival excursion it includes a stop for shopping downtown, so if that's your thing, go for it; otherwise save the money. Chankanaab isn't really just a park or beach, they have a really fun sea lion show, gorgeous foliage and natural wildlife (including a crocodile exhibit and iguanas all over the place), plus you can pay extra to swim with dolphins, feed manatees, etc. The beach is beautiful and if you snorkel, you will love the thousands of fish you can see right off the shore (the coral is not the best I have seen, but it has been making a comeback, we were there about 7 years ago and it has improved). You can snorkel though a Carnival Excursion too, but I recommend you do this on your own, as its right off the beach and you don't need a guide or to be with a huge crowd. Belize - I stayed on the ship with my younger son, my husband and older guy went on the cave tubing adventure - my son said it was his favorite part of the trip and my husband was impressed with Belize overall (as some people wrote, there is a lot of poverty, although my husband has seen many of the islands and didn't think it was the worst - if seeing all those shacks and poor conditions bothers you, I say go there and drop some money into the local economy). I researched this excursion beforehand and we tried to book directly with a tour company someone recommended, but they were not able to accommodate us because of how tight Carnival is with the timetable there. I think it cost about $20 more per ticket to book with Carnival directly, but you are also paying for a litle peace of mind too, I guess. Also, note that Belize is a tender port and the ship is actually 5 miles off the shore so it is a 25-30 minute boat ride from the cruise ship. Roatan - my first time to this island off of Honduras and I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. We booked the "Pirates, Monkeys, Parrots" Excursion at Gumbalimba park and loved it. I don't think you can book a private excursion in Roatan, so you either go to Mahogany Beach on your own (walking distance from the ship), hang out at the pier (which is brand new and full of great shops with helpful locals who don't shove things in your face), or book an excursion. Gumbalimba is about a half hour ride from the pier and you get to see the very small and tropical island on the way. The park is great - very clean, nice little pool, wonderful ladies running the concession stand, OK beach and clean facilities. It can be a self guided park, but you will be taken through by a guide and its the best way to see everything. The pirate cave part of the tour went on to long for me (though my history buff husband liked it) but the monkeys were worth every penny. I dont understand the people that complained they didnt see enough or that they were chained up. Let me clarify their incorrect assessments - the monkeys are located in one part of the park and as the guide explains, they are rescue monkeys, so not all of them can be jumping around the general public on their own (nor would you want them to). But you will get to sit and have a picture taken while at least a few of them climb over your lap, they are so soft and light its an amazing experience to cross off your bucket list. My ten year old got bit but it didnt break skin and he laughed it off. Grand Cayman - I am actually not such a big fan of this island, so don't mind my more negative reviews here if you have never been - you should check it out. Seven mile beach is gorgeous and the snorkeling here is great. Its just that I dont like the ambiance for lack of a better word - unlike Mexico or Honduras, Cayman doesn't really have its own culture, its more of a tale of two cities - the ultra wealthy who live and vacation there and the mixture of people from around the world who quit the real world and work in the tourism industry. We booked the USS Kittiwake snorkel trip, which was creepy to swim around a sunken ship (it didnt crash or anything, they are making a reef out of it) - overall, a good time and beautiful reef. Food and drink in Cayman is really pricey compared to the other places and again, there is no real identity - our guide recommended a good Italian restaurant, enough said. The terminal there is also pretty crowded and overall, ugly and dirty. Value and a Note on Tipping - I met my husband on a Carnival Cruise almost 20 years ago and while I agree that things have changed, I still think Carnival gives you a lot for your money - so much so that they need to rely on things like alcohol sales, photos, and excursions to actually make a profit. All the people who are so critical just aren't realistic in my opinion, did you really think they are running a not-for profit? Yes, they have a strict no alcohol on board policy and their drinks aren't exactly cheap. Yes, they push the photos a little (20 a picture is too high a price point in my opinion, I would have bought more if they were less). As a cruiser, you need to deal with it or go spend another grand to so a hotel all inclusive for a week. I read one negative review about the past guest party - this lady claimed it was a pushy commercial trying to get you to book another cruise - doy, that is the point, but its not at all pushy - you get free mai tais, some nice appetizers and you watch a fun little video showing all the ships Carnival has or has had (including the MS Festival, where I met my DH) - it should make you want to cruise again. Its not like they lock you in the lounge or anything, geeze. The reason we no longer get a gourmet midnight buffet complete with ice carvings on Carnival is simple - we (the cruise public) made clear to Carnival that we prefer 24 hour pizza, so that's where that budget went - we have no one to blame but ourselves, people. While I am on the subject, I have to vent about some of my fellow passengers a little - I know you are on a cruise and you want to relax, but can you put a coverup over that bathing suit or t shirt on before you walk into the dining room? Cruise casual does NOT mean bare feet. I actually saw a chubby lady walking around the Unicorn Cafe with only her bathing suit and (I am not joking) some toilet paper hanging out the back of it - I didn't know whether to laugh or throw up. I personally enjoy the formality of dressing up and getting to know my waiter, so the anytime evening dining is not for me. I try to put myself in the staff's shoes - these people do not have an easy life, but its how they provide for their families, so for the love of G-d, tip them - you know the toilet paper lady is probably demanding all sorts of things for her budget room, tried to sneak alcohol on the ship, then went down the night before and lowered her automatic gratuities because she deserved more service. Give me a break. We always budget a few hundred extra dollars in tips and you would be amazed at what a difference it makes in your experience - we do the standard tip and then add on at the end of the trip - you can also add a few dollars onto your room service slip or for a nice round of drinks (tip: find Nancy, she is a great bartender). Was my Sail and Sign account a whopper and painful to review at the end of the week - yes, but we had a BALL and still would have spent more at a decent resort in Mexico. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My husband and I are in our 40s and were travelling with our two teenage girls (we had a balcony cabin and they had an inside cabin across the hall) and my in-laws who were in a balcony cabin down the hall, all on deck 8. We flew in the ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 40s and were travelling with our two teenage girls (we had a balcony cabin and they had an inside cabin across the hall) and my in-laws who were in a balcony cabin down the hall, all on deck 8. We flew in the day before and took a taxi ($25)to the Marriott Waterside. It is a little pricey, but was a nice hotel. We walked to the Florida Aquarium that afternoon; unfortunately the temperature outside was only in the 40s/50s! Embarkation day wanted to take a taxi but they put us in a shuttle for the same price ($3 per person) to get to the port. It is not far, but with all the luggage can't walk. Embarkation at the cruise terminal was very easy and we were onboard shortly and enjoying lunch in the Windjammer. We went to the far back so we could sit outside. Ship shows a little age here and there, but overall is very clean and in nice condition. It is a good size to get around. Our stateroom was ready around 1pm and all our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. The cabin was fine; smaller and not as nice as our last balcony room on Celebrity, but we expected that. Only glitch was a broken closet door. Our cabin attendant was very nice to both us and our girls throughout the cruise and did an excellent job. Dining - we ate at the main dining room each night. We were all very impressed with the food. We made each night a five course dinner by ordering an appetizer, soup, and salad as well as our entree and dessert. The menus just lists "starters" (appetizer, soup, salads) but you can order what you want from this category. Our service was also very good. We did not love the location of our table. It was on the upper level (deck 5) and was next to a big pole. I probably should have requested a 6 person round in advance. Breakfast and most lunches we ate in the Windjammer. I'd say this buffet food was not as upscale as on Celebrity, but we always found things we liked and it was efficient; rarely any lines. On the two sea days we ate lunch at the Seaview Cafe and really enjoyed everything there (although not particularly healthy!). Activities - it was a very young demographic on this New Year's Eve sailing. Few seniors and I'd say many in the 15 to 30 age range. So, there was definitely a fun, lively vibe throughout the trip. I overheard a lot of "hangover" stories in the mornings, but did not see a lot of rowdy behavior, despite being up until 1am most nights. New Year's Eve was a fun party in the Centrum with a big balloon drop, as well as a party on the pool deck. There was a midnight buffet on the pool deck. On sea days, it was hard to get a chair near the pool and we never did get in a hot tub as they were so crowded. But we were still able to watch things like the Belly Flop contest or sit on the deck above and enjoy the pool band. We loved the cruise director Steve Davis (who was only on this ship for a few weeks and is now gone) and the activities staff. We participated in several of the trivia and games. I guess that is what we liked better about this ship vs Celebrity . . . people wanting to have fun and do these types of things. Entertainment - we are Broadway fans and really were surprisingly unimpressed with the two stage shows. The performers were strong, but the shows were not well designed. The headliner comedian John Joseph was outstanding, up there with some of the best we've seen. The other comedian and comedian/magician were okay. The Suave band which played in the Centrum, etc. was very good. Our teen girls attempted to participate in the teen activities. I think the problem is the limited age up to 17, which I can understand, but they met some siblings where one was 18 (senior in hs) and could not participate so then none of them did. But at least they found friends to hang out with. As for ports, in Grand Cayman we went to Tiki Beach on a friend's recommendation. They charge you $25 to get in (for beach chair and welcome drink) and it is probably not worth it when I believe it is less expensive at the places next door. But we did a little snorkeling from the beach and had fun. In Cozumel we took a taxi to Mr. Sanchos and did the all-inclusive ($50/adult, $40/teen) and enjoyed a beautiful beach day. Disembarking was fine and we were at the airport by about 10am. Overall it was an enjoyable cruise! I think good weather, a lively and friendly staff, young but polite cruisers, and delicious food made for fun memories! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Either the menu items improved or the Jewel offers a better standard of food compared to the Rhapsody I was on summer 2011 (where I got Norovirus, 1st time - & I've cruised a lot). This was the first Schooner Bar I've seen ... Read More
Either the menu items improved or the Jewel offers a better standard of food compared to the Rhapsody I was on summer 2011 (where I got Norovirus, 1st time - & I've cruised a lot). This was the first Schooner Bar I've seen on RCCL that was large & beautiful - their entry looks like a museum exhibit from the Victoria museum & the aroma was sulfur (similar to what Disney might do in a ride). Very authetic! Behind this area is the Safari Lounge - a nice large area with a great theme. The Solarium area is different than the other RCCL ships, very exotic - you could tell big bucks was put into this. I appreciate now that the Windjammer stays opens later for lunch on shore excursion days (an improvement from years back). We saw in the Compass there was a Seaview eating area on Deck 13 for light snacks - though we never could find it & we were on Deck 13 from stem to stern. We stopped an officer who had no idea of the area we were talking about - even if we were on the wrong deck, he should have know the area! I enjoy being a Diamond member but we noticed next door (on the Viking Crown Lounge) that each night the Diamond Plus & Pinnacle lounge area had 2-4 people max with food items being offered (besides the customary complimentary beer, wine or soda for both our seating areas). We asked if we could combine the 2 rooms, as our lounge area had 10 people max on any night. We were told policy was policy, so who knows what happened to those free food items - tossed out?Our Deluxe balcony was cramped but our balcony was oversized with the customary round table, 2 chairs & a chaise. We had gotten a senior citizen rate & $100 off the balcony due to being Diamond members. The bedding was an improvement over our last few cruises of 2009-2011. We always enjoy the art auctions. The entertainment by the Jewel dancers & singers was the worse we have ever seen. They could dance & the costumes were gorgeous - but the 2 lead singers werea awful. The Safari lounge singers were excellent. The service was excellent & went out of their way to get get us iced tea on the Windjammer deck. I like the way the food areas are spread out with the signage. We had been to Grand Cayman & Cozumel several times. Grand Cayman is high end shopping (I love that). Cozumel, well, is Cozumel though we did the Salsa, Salsa & Margarita tour which was A+ - highly recommend. We always book another cruise while sailing (to take advantage of the future onboard credit). We sail 3/1 on the Majesty (probably our 4th time on that ship). I have been on that ship since refurnishment (2007) but hope some of the improvements seen here appear on the Majesty. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We have sailed at least 18 times on various cruise lines, mostly RCCL. This ship was a vast improvement over the Rhapsody (was on summer 2011). The Schooner Bar was the largest we had ever seen on a RCCL & was beautiful. Their ... Read More
We have sailed at least 18 times on various cruise lines, mostly RCCL. This ship was a vast improvement over the Rhapsody (was on summer 2011). The Schooner Bar was the largest we had ever seen on a RCCL & was beautiful. Their decorative touches were museum warranty. Service was very good onboard. Our ports were Grand Cayman & Cozumel. The Salsa, Salsa & Margarita shore excursion in Cozumel was A+. Our cabin was small but with ample storage. A flat TV would improve space over the bulky one. The love seat looked worn, as did the pillows (which only took up more space). The bedding was an improvement over other cruises. Our balcony was oversized with 2 chairs, table & chaise. The food standard has improved since our previous RCCL cruises. Chops is ok for the $30/pp charge but is no Ruth Chris. The Jewel Singers were awful (2 visits was enough) though their dancing & costumes was fine. Lounge singers were excellent. No issue with embarkation or debarkation though a mixup with our exit luggage tag, since we are Diamond & get early departure - was quickly corrected. We feel Diamond & the Diamond Plus/Pinnacle cocktail lounge areas should have been combined, due to the few members in each. Lots of appetizers wasted in the latter lounge, as only 2-4 people showed up per evening. We asked but the 2 lounges couldn't be combined. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
For us, this was a last moment decision to go on a cruise during a week that my wife found she could take off from work. We booked the very lowest category cabin (NN) on Holland America Line's ms Ryndam at a very good price ... Read More
For us, this was a last moment decision to go on a cruise during a week that my wife found she could take off from work. We booked the very lowest category cabin (NN) on Holland America Line's ms Ryndam at a very good price considering it was New Year's week. We've had an inside cabin on an S class HAL ship before so knew what we might end up with but fully expected to be upsold if not upgraded. While we were fine with an inside, as it turned out, we were upsold to an A category cabin (055) for what we considered to be an acceptable price. We had an A category cabin on ms Veendam and were quite happy with it so we knew exactly what to expect on ms Ryndam. The master was Captain Werner Timmers, the Hotel Manager was Simon de Boer, Cruise Director was Eric Dowis. The Captain and Hotel Manager were leaving the ship as our cruise ended and I did not hear who was replacing them. We found them all to be delightful gentlemen. EMBARKATION The embarkation process at Tampa is fairly good, but there aren't many seats available for those who end up waiting to board, like ourselves. We drove from the Orlando area to Tampa and parked at the terminal's parking lot. This is co-located with the terminal and we found later that I could have thrown a rock and hit our truck from our cabin on the Ryndam. This was very convenient although more costly than some of the other options for parking in the area but it sure was nice walking from ship to truck in just a couple of minutes after the cruise. Parking is $15 daily and you pay as you enter which is nice when leaving as there is no bottleneck at pay booths to get out. We arrived at the terminal around 11:10am, parked and ran the security gauntlet and were checked in and waiting to board before 11:30am. We had boarding number 28 and when they started boarding just after 11:30am I thought we were going to have a long wait. Our number was called at 11:50am and we were dropping off our carry on luggage in our cabin just before noon. CABIN Our cabin was in fine condition and was exactly as expected based on our experience on Veendam. Cabin 055 is a connecting cabin to 057 but we never heard a thing from that cabin. We met our steward, who seemed to work alone, upon dropping off our carry on luggage. He was a quietly competent young man whose name I never did quite get, although he remembered ours. While he wasn't terribly personable, he kept our room clean and fresh, servicing it whenever we were away. We had absolutely no complaints and the very few times we saw him he aways inquired about our happiness and whether we needed anything special. Our checked luggage arrived around 1pm and we were unpacked shortly thereafter. We did experience a problem with the a/c that was promptly addressed. We noticed on about the third day that the fan was not moving any air at all out of the vent, even with the thermostat set at it's coldest position. As many know, this thermostat has no options beyond a dial that seemingly indicates cold and warm via blue and red colors around the dial's perimeter. There is no setting for the fan speed, but early on the fan moved air vigorously. I called the front desk and mentioned it and by later that day a technician came to the cabin, opened the access panel in the ceiling between the closet and bathroom, and turned something with a screwdriver several times. As he did this, the fan seemed to come up to speed again and he announced that it was now set to maximum and to give it an hour or so to affect the room's temperature. We had no further issues. While we never had any plumbing issues, nor heard of any, we did find that the pressure to the shower head in the bath was poor at best. It wasn't even strong enough to operate the various settings for massage and what-not. Sort of difficult to rinse shampoo that way, but not a big deal. I just disconnected the head from the hose when I wanted a strong jet of water to rinse myself. DINING Unlike many posters have complained, we had no issues with anytime dining in the MDR throughout the cruise. We were always at the same 2-top and went before 6pm. On the first night only the kitchen was slow, as evidenced by all the waiters and asst. waiters standing around "waiting" on the kitchen. Once the food started coming, everything else fell into place. We never waited for service and were done in a leisurely 1 hr 15-20 minutes each night. We don't like eating and running as some seem to. The tables next to us were also anytime dining and were always used by an extended family of 5 adults and 7 very well behaved children ranging in age from say, 2 yrs to 17 yrs old. Their service, by the same waiter (Hermawan) was as timely and good as ours was. I would recommend Hermawan highly. We did notice that there was a fairly long line at the "no reservations" podium when we left the dining room but no line at the podium for those who had made reservations. Darwin, our wine steward in the MDR, was ever-present and my wine glass never was empty. Wherever and whenever we were during the day, both Hermawan and Darwin would greet us and have a chat. On the Lido, Ban and a young man who we callrd "Eminem" because both his first and very long last name started with the letter M, would find us and perform their songs and generally cause delight among the adjacent tables. We just couldn't have been happier than when among our friends, the crew. We ate in Canaletto one night and were pleased with the service and food there. Our waiter was Pepe, who did an excellent job of keeping us happy. We had an odd issue here though, as early on, the a/c vent kept dripping water into my wife's plate. We mentioned it to the manager who immediately wiped the vent with a squeegee, but the drip quickly returned. My wife simply moved her plate and seat to the side to solve the problem. We were disappointed the one night we ate in the Pinnacle Grill. The service there was good but the pace was very slow as there were only two waiters for the front half of the restaurant that had about 10 tables ranging from 8-tops to 2-tops. There were a couple of runners to retrieve the dishes from the kitchen but they always seemed busy running back and forth. With the level of service that is expected in the Pinnacle Grill it is just impossible for 2 waiters to keep up when the tables are full, so while the service itself was quite good, it wasn't as timely as it should have been given the level of attention the waiters provided each table. We used room service for many of our breakfasts and were very pleased with both the timeliness and accuracy of our orders. Often, our meal was delivered at the very start of the 1/2 hour timeframe specified and was always exact. We quickly remembered that if we wanted the little extras like condiments, we had to specify those. My wife found the eggs, no matter what configuration she chose, to be greasy. She's pickier than I am about her eggs; I had no problem with mine. Lunch was often a quick bite from the Lido or the Terrace Grill and we had no complaints here. Overall, we found the food to better in presentation and taste than Princess but not quite up to Celebrity in presentation or variety. SHIP CONDITION I have to say that we are not picky about the things we look for. Given that the ship is used by roughly 1300 passengers weekly and is at sea nearly all of the time, I expect the ship to show this. This ship has the appearance of being very lovingly cared for. There was never a time when I was out and about the ship that someone wasn't polishing, painting, staining, vacuuming, scrubbing or wiping. I could not find rust in all the usual places, probably because of the recent drydock but also because of the ongoing maintenance. The pools were clean, the decking was clean, the carpets were fresh and unstained except for the delightful "day of the week" carpets in the elevators, which did appear a bit worn. All the elevators operated throughout the cruise. The fitness center was in nice shape (ha ha) and had only 1 piece of equipment down, the leg press, unfortunately as it's one of my favorites. The sauna in the men's locker room worked nicely and was unused each time I was there (perhaps because I was there?). We never noticed a public restroom out of business for repair and did not notice any odd odors emanating from gosh-knows-where. Overall I think the Ryndam is in excellent shape. In order to find something to nag about, we finally did notice that the edges of the tables in the champagne bar of Mix were picked and tattered and snagged pant legs and dresses if you came too close to them. That was it. We were very pleased with Ryndam's condition. ENTERTAINMENT We don't usually do the shows in the main showroom. I've yet to find a comfortable seat in any of these venues and just can't sit there for more than a few minutes at a time. We did spend most evenings in the Explorer's Lounge very much enjoying the Adagio duet of violinist and pianist. They were wonderful and packed the lounge each night for most of their performances. I mean, SRO. We always grabbed a seat early and chatted with others and watched the bartender make Spanish Coffees. We never saw the pianist in Mix, although he was listed as performing later in the evenings and didn't much enjoy the guitarist in the sports bar of Mix. The Ocean Bar was usually busy with dancers but we just couldn't listen to the singer of the Neptunes who seemed oblivious of his inability to carry a note. We did not venture up to the Crow's Nest even once in the evening although this was always on our list. We really enjoyed the ladies of Adagio to the extent of not needing anything else. I do wish they would bring back the foursome of Adagio though. Also, the steel drum "guy" at the Lido Pool did a nice job there daily. I put guy in quotes because that's all there was, no band, just a guy with 2 steel drums and a synthesizer. GUEST RELATIONS We did have 1 incident of noteworthy review. My daughter, looking for Christmas gifts to give us, decided that buying us a couple of gifts on the cruise would be a nice way to help us enjoy ourselves. She bought 4 gifts in total, 2 which were to be delivered on embarkation and 2 on New Year's Day. 1 of the 2 embarkation day gifts was in our cabin when we first arrived. We assumed the 2nd gift would be delivered in its time and left it at that. However, that evening after dinner, still no 2nd gift, so we called the front desk and asked after it. The lady who answered said she would look into it and would let us know. We still have not heard back from her. The next day, someone from the front desk, a man, called the room and asked if everything was up to our expectations and if there was anything he could do. My wife asked again about the 2nd gift and the man basically ignored her, saying that we should let him know if there was anything he could do. Later that morning, I went to the front desk and described the above and asked who I needed to talk to about it. John, one of the Neptune Lounge concierges, took possession of the issue. Early in the afternoon, he called the room and asked if we'd received the gift, but we hadn't. Astonishingly, John happened to recognize the back of my head as we passed the Neptune Lounge on our way back to our room later in the day, apologized and explained that the gift had not gotten on the ship and that the cost of the gift was being credited to our OBA. I found it remarkable that he recognized me and was pleased that he, at least, had followed up on the matter. The gift was a "Satin Box of Chocolate Gelt" that cost my daughter $20, so while it wasn't a big deal and we understand there are mixups with things, this should have been handled better. A note the first day explaining the situation was all that was needed, but I have a feeling that if we hadn't started an investigation of the matter, we'd still be wondering what had happened to the gift. OVERALL We had a great time on this cruise and accomplished everything we set out to do for the week: nothing at all! None of the minor issues described above spoiled anything about our cruise. We loved the Ryndam as we have all the S class ships of Holland America. Ports of call were not even a consideration on this cruise for us, so I've not reviewed what we didn't do. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We had planned this vacation in May and were all looking forward to Christmas in the Carribean. It was my wife, myself and our teenagers. Arrived in Tampa at 4:00AM after a 19 hour car ride and it was 31 degrees! Found a hotel room at ... Read More
We had planned this vacation in May and were all looking forward to Christmas in the Carribean. It was my wife, myself and our teenagers. Arrived in Tampa at 4:00AM after a 19 hour car ride and it was 31 degrees! Found a hotel room at Holiday Inn Express where they had free breakfast and found out that for $30 we could park the car all week and they would give us round-trip transportation to the ship! Great start.... Getting on the ship was very easy and we were on-board within 10 minutes...much better experience than Miami. Kids got beverage card and we were offered the "adult" beverage card. All you can drink for $49 a day....now that's a deal! We were all dressed for the pool so we did not need our luggage but luggage arrived very fast to our room. We had a mini-suite with a balcony which we were very happy with. Bathroom had tub/shower, vanity area and a toilet with its own door. There was lots of closet space and drawers for clothes. The ports were very good too... When in Roatan, Honduras we hooked up with Bodden Tours and the driver took us to a shopping village with amazing views, a zoo where we got to hold monkeys and then we chose a resort called Bananarama. The shopping village we could have done without since it was in opposite direction of everything else. I would not pass up going to the monkeys! They climb all over you...open your water bottles and stoe my wife's sunscreen from her bag. Bananarama is amazing. Charged us $10 each and that included a lounge chair on the beach but they were out of lounge chairs. The owner came up to us and gave us each 2 drinks at the bar for the inconvenience. Food cheap too! Two slices of pizza and soda for $5.00. $6.00 with a beer. It is a beautiful beach! We did not realize there is no beach in Beize and did not want to spend up to one hour taking a boat to a beach. I grabbed us a cab and we went to Cucumber Beach which is only 5 miles from the port. It has a swimming lagoon, Tarzan rope swing, big water slide, volleyball, music and restaurant and plenty of lounge chairs. Cab driver asked what time we wanted to be picked up and he showed up. We did not pay him until he dropped us off at the port at end of the day. Charged $15 round-trip per person. NCL charged $49 per person!! In Costa Mya we stayed on the port. Gave the teenagers their first taste of Senor Frogs!! Coo port...lots shopping, pool with swim up bar, beach with hammocks and lounge-chairs. All free of charge! Be sure to check out the artist who uses only spray paint to create his work. In Cozumel,we grabbed a cab and headed to Paradise Beach. $12 gets you to use all facilities including pool, lounge chairs on beach, very cool water activities, kayaks, etc. Banana boating only $15 for a very long ride and para sailing for $45. Do your homework and plan your own excursions. We were at every beach at least 45 minutes before ship passengers arrived and they left before us. Service on ship was great and Kinan the bartender is amazing! He knew our names and our drinks by second day. He got us so pumped for the new ship Breakaway that we booked it for August. Make sure you see Impact...an incredible band and Second City Improv Group. Enjoy the rooster calls at the Garden Cafe in the morning...he is hilarious.. I do not know how anyone had a bad cruise that week. The lines at the free dining rooms were long if you didnt make a reservation. We would go there, they would give us a beeper and we would go to bar and when table was ready they notified us...big deal! Kids had great time and met many friends. EnjoYY Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
To honor my In-Laws, my husband and I splurged and gave them a 50th Anniversary Cruise... booking us all in Suites. They had a Family Suite which was recently added to the fore of the boat. It was very nice, with floor to ceiling ... Read More
To honor my In-Laws, my husband and I splurged and gave them a 50th Anniversary Cruise... booking us all in Suites. They had a Family Suite which was recently added to the fore of the boat. It was very nice, with floor to ceiling windows. The bathroom in particular was long and spacious with a separate bath/shower. They had plenty of room, and even though my sister-in-law roomed with them, there was space to spare. My husband and I had an aft Penthouse, which we've had before. Both of these Penthouses have butler/concierge service, which truly makes a cruise memorable. We also had the privilege of dining at Cagney's (a specialty restaurant) for both lunch/dinner. We sailed on the Pearl this past summer, and I in particular had been very disappointed in the food. However, the Dawn's cuisine was MUCH better, I thought. I'm rather picky when it comes to seafood. There was only one meal I didn't like, and that happened to be at lunch at Cagney's. The Venetian main dining room had delicious fish and shrimp. Two dishes stood out: the Thai chicken and shrimp (absolutely awesome!) and the Norwegian specialty salmon, which is served as an option every night. I got it two nights, it was so excellent! Both times I loved it. We also dined at the Moderno Churriscarria, and it was quite good. Copious amounts of food! The ship staff was very friendly, I thought. This is our 6th sailing with NCL, and even though this is an older ship, it was spic-n-span and the reviews I've read about the crew seeming "tired" or "weary" didn't necessarily apply. Most of the people we spoke to on board were very positive and good-natured regarding their staff positions. Most seemed to enjoy what they did, despite working such long stints before time-off. I found that impressive. The itinerary was quite good. This was my 2nd cruise to the W. Caribbean, and also my second time to Roatan & Belize. This will be my last visit to Roatan. The poor population of Honduras is so terribly impoverished that there were armed guards in Coxen Hole to prevent mishap. When I say armed guards, I mean they were EVERYWHERE, and they were carrying automatic rifles, shotguns, revolvers, you name it!!!!!!! This was the very first stop on our trip, and as an experienced traveler, I can tell you, I did NOT feel safe. I KNOW my poor in-laws were nervous! My prediction is that NCL won't be continuing their port service to Roatan, as such a daunting presence of armed guards isn't something tourists will embrace. Nor will anyone wish to stroll through town surrounded by hoards of begging children or natives hawking their wares. I hadn't been so heckled since I visited Egypt! As suite passengers, we had tender privileges, so didn't have any issues with waiting in lines for a ride back to the ship when we needed one. NCL is VERY good about seeing that their suite passengers get first-class service. However, I felt bad for the people waiting in the LONG lines in both Belize, then especially in Cozumel. Apparently, NCL boats in Cozumel rotate docking privileges from week to week, and we had the off week during our cruise. I heard nightmare tales of people waiting for over two hours in line to get back to the boat! That really is VERY poor service. One night, we had a cake served to my In-laws in the Main Dining Rm. It was very nice, and the staff sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to them in honor of their Anniversary. They thoroughly enjoyed their "first cruise" experience and My husband and I love Bingo, and during each game, we found the Dawn to have especially generous pay-outs. I wound up winning the last game on the boat, which had a payout of over $2000! I split it with another gentleman who won the same time I did, so we both pocketed over $1000 cash! I would definitely continue sailing with NCL, especially in Aft guestrooms. Our room steward, David was very good. He had a real gift with towel art. Our butler (Lazi) was very gracious, and our concierge (Virginia) was TOPS! With a larger party of five in two suites, she was so helpful. She even got my sister-in-law and I scheduled for an extra shore-excursion. We truly enjoyed our Thanksgiving Anniversary cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Loving the Legend! Just got off the Legend on August 26th. I have been on Carnival, RCI and NCL before. I went with my sister and my parents. Embarkation was smooth. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Rocky Point the night before the cruise. ... Read More
Loving the Legend! Just got off the Legend on August 26th. I have been on Carnival, RCI and NCL before. I went with my sister and my parents. Embarkation was smooth. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Rocky Point the night before the cruise. It was a nice hotel, very clean and service was excellent. We booked the cruise package and got transportation to and from the cruise port. Side note: This hotel had great views facing the bay. However, there is nothing besides the hotels on the street so you are better off renting a car like we did if you want to do some shopping/sightseeing. We took the cruise shuttle to the port around 12 noon and we were in the ship by 1:30pm. At the hotel, they make you sign up for a time you want to take the shuttle to the ship. There is 11am, 12 noon and 1pm only. After we got to the ship, we had lunch and then went to the rooms. My sis and I had an interior cabin and parents had the balcony both on the 7th floor. I was a bit worried b/c we booked an extended balcony for my parents and before I cruised I had found out that looking down you get a view of the lifeboats. However, it never bothered them once. While sitting or standing in the balcony looking out it was an UN-obstructed view of the water. Summary of the cruise: We had 4 stops -- Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. The weather was fantastic throughout the cruise. The beaches were beautiful except in Cozumel, hurricane Ernesto had gone by 2 weeks before and there was a lot of seaweed in the water. In Cozumel we went to Paradise beach, they charge $2 to get in and then they harass you to buy $10 worth of food there. Will not go back here again. Next time, I will find a public beach to go to. In Belize, we just hung out in the port area. This is a tender port. You take a small boat from the cruise ship to the land. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Just a tip- You have to get the tix for the tender boats and then you wait until your number is called. Don't try to get the stickers without all your family members there. If they are not all there, they will not give you the stickers. There were little shops around the gated port area, so we bought a few things. Our luggage broke so we had to buy another one so they had some great choices here as well as knock off bags/purses. I wanted to venture out into the city but shop owners were warning us not to leave the gate area. We still had a great time because there was a bar right beside the tender boat dock so we danced to a Caribbean band that was playing there and had a fun time. In Roatan, we spent the day at the beach. It was a beautiful beach with clear water.They have free wifi in the beach area so that was great. We paid $12 to take the chairlift to the beach. Total tourist trap but fun anyway! We spent the most amount of time possible in the water and went in just before we had to leave the port. In Grand Cayman (another tender port), I was planning to go to Royal Palms on 7 Mile Beach. We have been there before but now they charge a $2 entrance fee and they do not allow you to bring outside food or drinks. The taxi driver suggested a public free beach which is 5 minutes away from Royal Palms (still on 7mile beach) and this was PERFECT. There are little huts set up that you can put your beach stuff underneath and sit down. We brought our own food and drinks and had a great day. This beach is located beside Calico Jacks Restaurant, it was beautiful. Plus it had free wifi here too so I was able to check my email and check out the news about hurricane Isaac. We made it back to the ship and had a Sea day the next day. During lunch time, the Captain came on and said that we were diverting to Port Canaveral instead of docking back in Tampa b/c of the storm. That night the boat was rocking a lot and I couldn't sleep very well. The next morning we docked in Port Canaveral we were up at 5am because we wanted to grab a quick breakfast and get ready to leave. Carnival had buses set up for people to get back to Orlando and Tampa airports and back to the Port of Tampa. Kudos to Carnival for being to organized. The main issue was that by docking here, many people were going to miss their flights. We were worried b/c our flight was at 2:45pm back to Buffalo through Southwest. We wanted to change it but they were going to charge us an extra $350 so we decided to risk it and just to go to Tampa airport anyways. It was a smooth debarkation process despite all the stress of people trying to get out of the ship and catch the buses. I have to say some people who lived in Florida were good and let people go ahead of them in the lines but some were just selfish and just wanted to get off the ship and did not care about other people who were desperate to catch their flights back home. Side note: Carnival did let the passengers call home for free after they announced the change in the port so we called and let our family know what was going on. Overall Carnival did a good job despite all the stress that hurricane Isaac caused and handled the people very well. It was a 2 hour drive from Port C back to Tampa airport and we got to the airport at 12noon which was perfect for us and caught our flight back. Overall it was a fantastic trip, l definitely want to do another Carnival cruise again... here are some other important details I forgot to mention above: -We watched the comedy shows every night in the Punchliner comedy club (Diane Ford and Jeff Jena) which were good. They had 2 other ones towards the end of the week but they were not as good -The Food was EXCELLENT from start to finish. Everything we ate tasted great and we tried almost everything on the MDR menu since there were 4 of us. Our waiter also encouraged us to try different things as well. My favs from MDR were (not in any order...LOL): -bitter and blanc dessert, tiramisu, crab cakes, lobster, prime rib, chicken in thai spices, fried shrimps, and all the pasta! -Loved the buffet food on the Lido deck -- especially Chopsticks station. -There was a taste bar almost every night from 5:30-8pm on Deck two. Look for it in the Fun Times. Great sample appetizers. - We went to the MDR on Sea Days at 3:30pm for tea time (thanks CC for the tip) -Formal nights were the first Sea Day and the last port stop. First night people dressed up alot and the 2nd night people did not dress up as much. -We saw the shows in the main theatre almost every night. They were good for the most part. -They had a Past Guest Party which was fun. They served free drinks and 3 different appetizers which were good. Some advice: Bring all meds from home, even if you think you may not use them you will. My sister forgot her visine and ended up spending $12 for a small bottle on the ship!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
For the most part, the dining room was great. We had wonderful servers who had vast amounts of experience. I would warn beef lovers to skip the steaks which were overcooked and tough. The soups were pale and weak. All we had to do was ... Read More
For the most part, the dining room was great. We had wonderful servers who had vast amounts of experience. I would warn beef lovers to skip the steaks which were overcooked and tough. The soups were pale and weak. All we had to do was to skip those items and everything was great! The evening production shows were very good. The specialty acts were unusual and fun or in the case of the 'Las Vegas Voices', really, really good. What made the cruise so great was the Cruise Director, Carly. Also, her assistant, Becky, is a Cruise Director in the making. We were very fortunate to have them and their staff directing our fun and games. Love the movie theater and the main showroom. Also, it should be noted that the guests range in age from young to old, but with a majority in the middle ages. This is a lively ship. Disco Night was a blast. We noted the loyalty displayed by the guests who proudly wore their RCI pins every day. We will surely join them in being regular cruisers with RCI. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Pre Cruise: After a really nice cruise on Radiance of the Seas earlier this year, we wanted to try another ship of that class. Luckily Royal Caribbean was nice enough to put Jewel of the Seas in Tampa this season. Two friends of ours ... Read More
Pre Cruise: After a really nice cruise on Radiance of the Seas earlier this year, we wanted to try another ship of that class. Luckily Royal Caribbean was nice enough to put Jewel of the Seas in Tampa this season. Two friends of ours accompanied my wife and me. Additionally my wife's parents and both sets of our friend's parents came along. We all drove down to the Port of Tampa on embarkation day. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and found the crowds in the terminal to be very light. We got checked in immediately and walked right on board. The whole process took about fifteen minutes. It seemed like we were all good to go. Everything went totally sideways about an hour later. One of the people in our group is not a US citizen but has a valid green card (an older non-expiring type). My wife and I helped his family in doing lots of research before we went. We even went so far as to ask a Customs Officer about the situation last month as we debarked from Allure. Everyone said that he would be okay to cruise with his birth certificate, ID and green card. The pier agents checked him in without any problem and we got on board. Later in the day he was requested to go to the Guest Relations desk. They said that Customs needed to speak to him in the terminal. He had to go back ashore and was told that the regulations were recently changed (within the last few days) and that he would not be allowed to go. The Customs Officer didn't have a copy of this regulation since it was so new, and said it wasn't even on their website yet. The customs officer told them that there is some type of a certification form that is required now which you cannot get with an older style green card. Obviously a new card (with this new form) could not be obtained in one day at the pier. No exceptions could be made and no amount of arguing helped. RCI was equally unhelpful, simply blaming everything on Customs. There was another couple (with green cards) that had flown in from Italy and they were also being denied boarding. His family members decided to still go on the cruise, but the trip was understandably tarnished for them. RCI did allow his wife to call him for free from the GR desk but offered no other compensation or reimbursement. The Jewel of the Seas: Aside from a few décor items, the Jewel is nearly indistinguishable from her sister the Radiance. Thankfully Jewel has not yet had the massive renovations scheduled for all the Radiance Class ships. During this remodel two of my favorite spots on board are removed: the Sea View Cafe and the Hollywood Odyssey Cigar Lounge. The Sea View makes way for a pay-extra eatery, and the cigar bar is converted into a Concierge Lounge. No sense in dwelling on her darker future though, her present is still very bright. Starting on Deck 4 we find the main lobby that is home to the Guest Relations desk and a small bar. There is also a dance floor that is used for nightly live music and dancing. The lobby is the bottom floor of the ships expansive atrium, which is the centerpiece of the ship. Also in the Lobby is the lowest landing for the ships 5 glass-enclosed elevators. Two look into the atrium, the other three look outward onto the ocean through a gigantic wall of glass. Aft on Deck 4 is the bottom floor of the Tides main restaurant where most guests enjoy their meals. All the way forward on Deck 5 is the Coral Theater, the ship's main show lounge. Also on that deck is the Photo Gallery and the shopping area. "Lattetudes" is a specialty coffee bar and Internet café located in the Atrium. The upper level of the Tides dining room is aft on Deck 5. The entirety of Deck 6 is dedicated to entertaining guests. Forward is the balcony of the Coral Theater. Just aft of the theater is the ship's cinema room with stadium seating for screening feature films. Next to the cinema is the Pit Stop sport bar, a NASCAR themed room with several televisions and seating for watching the games. The casino is located between the sports bar and the atrium. The Champagne Bar, a Royal Caribbean staple is found in the atrium with large glass windows that offer great views. The aft third of Deck 6 is the beating heart of the ship. Guests first enter another Royal Caribbean institution, the nautical themed Schooner Bar. It is a cozy lounge with leather seating and wood paneling that is very inviting for folks looking to relax. They also have live piano music in the evenings. Adjacent to the Schooner Bar are the ships two specialty restaurants, "Chops Grille" steakhouse and "Portofinos" Italian dining. Both carry a cover charge over and above the standard cruise fare. At the very back of Deck 6 is the Safari Club complex. It is a mixed-use area consisting of a card game room, a show lounge, two bars and the room housing the self-leveling pool tables. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 contain mostly guest cabins. Deck 11 has the ship's two main pools. One is located mid ship and is for everyone to use. It has two hot tubs, an area for live musicians and it's own bar. The other pool is located in the adults-only Solarium. This area is themed to resemble an Asian jungle temple. Thankfully it has no piped in or live music, and only has soft bird sounds playing in the background. The pool is very nice and is accessed via a staircase instead of the typical ladders. The Solarium has it's own bar and a café offering sandwiches, wraps and pizza. My only complaint about the Solarium is it's lone hot tub. On sea days it is usually full, and sometimes grossly overpopulated with bathers. There really should have been two tubs. At the very front of Deck 11 is the lower level of the ship's spa, which has the treatment rooms, steam baths, saunas and massage suites. Opposite the spa, at the very aft of Deck 11 is the "Windjammer" buffet. It has several stations set up offering decent cafeteria-style food options. Forward on Deck 12 is the upper level of the ship's spa and gymnasium. The jogging track also wraps around the front half of this deck. Mid ship on Deck 12 are the children's and teen facilities. There is also a video arcade in the area, and a dance club for the older teens. A children's pool is in this area that has it's own water slide. The sports area is located aft on this deck. There is a basketball (half) court there, and golf simulators; a mini golf course is located one deck above. The biggest attraction for me on Deck 12 has to be the lovely Sea View Cafe. It is a small eatery with a selection of made to order sandwiches, salads, soups, fried chicken and much more. It has both interior and exterior seating. The café is a great alternative to the often chaotic and crowded Windjammer. Unfortunately the Sea View is one of the great things that will be on the chopping block once Royal Caribbean does renovations to the ship. It will be replaced with a pay-extra restaurant. I think it is disgusting that they are eliminating a great free dining option to make way for one with a cover charge. Cruise lines are becoming so petty with their constant nickel-and-diming of customers. This is yet another example. Deck 13 is the highest guest accessible area on the ship and is where the "Viking Crown Lounge" is located. The VCL is the signature feature of all Royal Caribbean ships. It is a great place to relax and enjoy drinks while enjoying the sweeping panoramic views it's huge windows offer. On the Jewel and other Radiance Class ships, the VCL does double duty as the ship's dance club at night. The "Hollywood Odyssey" cigar lounge is adjacent to the VCL. It has a dedicated bartender after 9:30 each night, and has a small humidor with cigars for sale. There were many guests enjoying drinks and fine cigars in the lounge each night. It is such a shame that they will be converting it into a private lounge for concierge level guests. I don't have a problem with the cruise lines offering lounges only for suite guests or frequent cruisers. I do have a problem with them replacing well-used public spaces with those private areas. Day 1, Tampa: After embarkation and the problems with US Customs we went to our cabin, #7174 that is at the very aft end of deck 7. We were originally booked in an ocean view room, but upgraded to a balcony after a price drop. The cabin had a spacious aft-facing veranda with two loungers, two upright chairs and a small table. The room itself had a full size sofa, an older style tube TV and a safe. I was happy to see that the shower had the sliding doors versus the nasty shower curtains used on other ships. Before dinner we watched sail away from the Viking Crown Lounge and stayed there for the Diamond Event. It was lightly attended, but the free wine and sodas were nice. After that we had our first dinner in the main dining room. Our serving team was pretty slow but the quality of the food was high. A buddy and I finished the night with some cigars and drinks in the Hollywood Odyssey. Day 2, At Sea: Our first full day on board began with breakfast in the main dining room. Their eggs benedict were excellent. I always appreciate it when they don't overcook the eggs, the yolk is supposed to be runny! The rest of the morning was spent in the Solarium swimming and soaking in the hot tub. That afternoon we had lunch at the Sea View Cafe. The food was very good, but the sandwiches were much smaller than the ones we had on Radiance. Later that day we watched "Super 8" in the Cinema. It fills up quickly, so anyone wanting a seat should arrive about twenty minutes early. The second evening was the only formal dress night of the cruise. We met in the lobby for formal portraits and waited in line to be photographed on the glass staircase. When we finally made it in front of the photographer we had the displeasure of encountering the rudest (or dumbest) people I have ever seen on a cruise. Just as the photographer was getting us into poses an older fellow walked up to him and interrupted with a question. After his question was answered he proceeded to walk right between my wife and her mother who were the two in the middle of the shot. The moron then stopped about half way up the staircase and began yelling to his wife who was still standing in the lobby. Instead of walking up the main stairs that were about twenty feet away, she began to walk toward the glass staircase as well. She almost made it. A loud "UUMM NO!" and a finger snap from my wife diverted her from her course of stupidity. She stood there dumbfounded for a moment with an odd look on her face before walking off toward the main stairs. It's a sad comment on the state of society when the photographer is afraid to say something to rude or clueless passengers for fear of being complained about. After a few more portrait stops we made our way into the main dining room for dinner. As with the first night the food was very good. I have a few orders of escargots bourguignonne, which is my favorite dish on Royal Caribbean. The service speed was again very slow. We had drinks at the Diamond event in the VCL after dinner. At midnight I went to the adult comedy show. The comic was okay, but not outstanding. Day 3, Cozumel: My wife and I slept in late this day. We didn't even leave the room until around 11:30 am. After a breakfast in the Windjammer we headed ashore for some shopping. We have been to Cozumel many times, so after shopping we just went back on board the ship to enjoy the nearly empty pool deck. After some swimming and hot tub soaking I went to the bow to watch the Carnival Triumph cruise into port. I then met the family at the Sea View Cafe for lunch. I watched the Liberty of the Seas leave port before we headed to the Diamond event for some pre-dinner drinks. The service at dinner this night was very much improved. After dinner my wife and I went to the top-tier Crown and Anchor reception. They served free drinks and had live music. Later in the program the Captain spoke to the assembly, as well as the Loyalty Ambassador. She screened the new "Shell Phone" TV ad. I thought the commercial itself was silly and tacky. But I think the new tag lines "The Sea is Calling" and the longer form "The Sea is Calling, Answer it Royally" are actually really good. Classy and simple like the old "Get Out There" campaign. I later met up with some of our friends at the Coral Theater for the Gaucho show. The show is very funny, and the stunts the gauchos perform are impressive. I highly recommend the show. Afterward we had cigars and drinks in the Hollywood Odyssey before retiring for the evening. Day 4, At Sea: After another sleep that lasted until noon we went to the main dining room for the excellent salad bar they set up on sea days. There is just about any component that one could want in their salad made right in front of you. I also had an order of the delicious gnocchi. We attempted to see "Thor" in the Cinema but were too late to find seats. So we instead went to the Solarium for more swimming. We had afternoon snacks at the Sea View Cafe and then stopped by the photo gallery to look at our pictures. We visited the Diamond Event one last time and made sure to tip the friendly wait staff before leaving. After dinner we smoked our final cigars of the cruise and left to watch The Quest. The Quest is a must-do on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It is so fun to watch and take part in! Debarkation and Conclusion: We had breakfast in the main dining room before leaving the ship. The process went very fast and we were driving away about a half hour after leaving the dining room. In spite of the rocky first day we all still managed to have a good time on this cruise. The ship is in very good shape. I am glad that I got to cruise on the Jewel before they renovate her. I am looking forward to our next cruise on her in March of 2012, our Spring Break cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Pre-cruise Hotel was Fairfield Inn and Suites-Tampa Fairgrounds and Casino. It was very clean and a perfect choice for a pre or post cruise stay. It had free breakfast, free shuttle to and from the cruise terminal and other nearby points ... Read More
Pre-cruise Hotel was Fairfield Inn and Suites-Tampa Fairgrounds and Casino. It was very clean and a perfect choice for a pre or post cruise stay. It had free breakfast, free shuttle to and from the cruise terminal and other nearby points (cruise terminal was about 15 minutes away). Make sure to sign up for a shuttle time when you check in (we were on the 11 AM shuttle). It was a very quiet location and the staff was wonderful. If you want lots of stuff around the hotel to do though, this location was not the one for that. We drove to dinner at Maggiano's Italian Restaurant at the Westshore Mall. Had a short wait to sit on the patio and had wonderful food! Embarkation--We got to the terminal at about 11:15. The porters were helpful and surprisingly non-aggressive. The terminal staff was very nice. An older gentleman working outside the terminal doors saw us in the regular line with our 3 year old son and let us go in the VIP line to get in the building. Once we got in, they were basically doing open boarding on the ship. Minus a short delay due to a difficulty with the computer scanning my passport, we got through in lightning speed. Fastest time ever...start to finish, it took a grand total of 25 minutes. Not sure if it was the Christmas spirit or what, but everyone from staff to passengers were incredibly kind and friendly. First day--walked on and had a quick bite of lunch. My husband and I had Chinese, which was very good. We checked out the ship a bit and headed to see if our cabin was ready, and it was (at 1:15). We were in cabin 5179. It is an obstructed view balcony. We paid less for it that it cost for an oceanview. If you want a good deal, it's a good cabin. If you look down, you see a lifeboat. If you look out, you see water. It's important if you book one of these to choose the right cabin though. The first 3-4 lifeboats come up much higher and would obstruct your view more. We would definitely book this cabin again for a 2nd cruise in one year (or maybe even our summer cruise if the other balcony cabins were too high). Something unusual for us at the beginning of the cruise was how cool the temperature was. We are so used to cruising in summer that the cool temps made shorts feel a little chilly and nobody was swimming (checked the water out with my toe and it was ICE cold). A neat new thing we had never experienced was that they had complementary glasses of champagne available and you could pretty much have as many as you wanted. It was a very nice touch. I entered the spa raffle with no success. We went to the Camp Carnival orientation meeting. Next we did Welcome Aboard trivia and won our first ship on a stick. We went up to the Sun Deck just in time to see us passing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which is a sight not to be missed. This was our first time doing that at night and it was very pretty with the bridge all lit up. We went back down and got sushi (which is always great) and played Holiday Trivia and won yet another ship on a stick. Next we got dressed and went to dinner. We had a table for 4 which was perfect with our 3YO. Our headwaiter's name was Win from Myanmar. We had cream of tomato soup, chicken tenders, and a lettuce wedge for appetizers and sweet and sour shrimp for our main course followed by black Forrest cake and crème br'lée for desert. The little guy had fruit, Mac and cheese, and carrots with orange sherbet. The food was tasty but nothing outstanding. I would say that summed up our overall reaction to the dining room food. Okay, but not spectacular. And we were not huge fans of the new menu. Some nights it was tough to pick something you really wanted. After dinner, we went to the Welcome Aboard show for a couple of minutes and decided to turn in for the night. We had our customary towel animal and chocolates left by our cabin steward Saimon. Overall throughout the cruise, we found him to do a great job but he wasn't as personable as most stewards we have had before. Key West---We started the day with breakfast. It was standard buffet fare. The omelet station, as always, was our favorite. We took the little guy to Camp Carnival and went to spend some time in the Serenity area, which had been added since our last time on the Legend. It is truly one of Carnival's best ideas. We had booked the City View Hop on Hop Off trolley through Carnival. Our tickets had us meet in one of the lounges at 10:30. The ship wasn't even scheduled to dock until 11:00. Not sure why we had to be there quite so early but I guess there was some reason. They had all Carnival tours meet in that lounge. Passengers getting off the ship on their own had to go into the main lounge and get a trolley ticket. They could not leave until all the Carnival tours had left...so one bonus for booking through Carnival. We got on the trolley at about 11:15. There were 8 stops and you could hop off at any of them you liked. The trolleys supposedly ran every fifteen minutes, but twice during the day we waited more like 25 and then saw two come virtually back to back. We got off the trolley three times. Once to do some walking/shopping/browsing on Duval Street, one to take a picture of the southern most point in the continental US, and once to stop at Kermit's Key Lime Shop. Duval Street was quite busy...lots of shops and even more bars. I am sure it would be nuts at night. The southernmost point was a little anticlimactic...too many people waiting to take their picture in a very small space. We just decided to snap a quick pic without us in it so we could keep going. The stop at Kermit's was well worth it. Lots of yummy stuff to taste, and the key lime pie was very good. The key lime pie dipped in chocolate was a nice twist. My hubby was very excited that he got his picture taken with Kermit, who we had seen on the Food Network. He was such a nice guy. Overall, the trolley was a great way to get an overview of the island. All in all, we took about 3 hours on the excursion. The island itself was very nice...beautiful landscaping, neat architecture, and lots to do it seemed. Definitely worth a return visit. On a side note, it was VERY windy. The Legend and the Valor were both import. The Holland America Ryndam was also supposed to dock, but had to cancel because they could not dock in the high winds. Upon returning to the ship, we grabbed a bite of lunch and went back to our cabin for a nap. We woke up in time to catch sail away. It was a great one. You could see folks starting to party at seaside bars, lots of sailboats on the water, and the last remains of a beautiful sunset. We caught a family friendly comedy show by Diane Ford (who I would say was moderately funny) and then went to the Motown show featuring Marcus Anthony in the Follies Lounge before dinner. He is fabulous and helps the audience have a great time. Dinner was good as usual. Again, good, but not spectacular. My husband had seafood pasta with tomato cream sauce and prosciutto ruffles for starters, I had French Onion soup and a field green salad, and our son had his nightly mixed fruit. For main course, my husband had the jerked pork which is one of his favorites. He mentioned it wasn't as spicy as normal. I had the short ribs which were very tasty...though I thought they pretty much tasted like pot roast. Both of our meals came with fried rice (which was not great) and some type of fried eggplant (which was very good). Our son had a hot dog, French fries, and carrots. For desert, I had warm chocolate melting cake, which was amazing as usual. My husband had cheesecake and our son had ice cream as usual. After dinner we headed back to the cabin, watched a little TV and turned in for the night. Sea Day #1---We began the day with a typical buffet breakfast. Let me pause here and say that they have the Lido deck food options figured out better on the Spirit class ships than on Conquest class ships. There is just never a very lengthy line. We sailed the Freedom this summer at full capacity and the Legend was at capacity and the difference in wait times on the Lido deck was very noticeable. After breakfast we took the little guy to Camp Carnival and we proceeded to head for a hot tub. We went to Serenity and found the hot tub had a sign on it that said Temporarily Out of Order (had previously said chlorination in progress). Seeing no clamshells available, we went to the spa and used the hot tub in there since the other two on Lido were pretty full. We went next to the cooking demo in the steakhouse, where they made spinach and mushroom salad, beef stroganoff, and cheesecake with berry sauce. It was all very good. The microphone kept going out during the demo so it wasn't very helpful as a demo (but we got recipes to take home). After picking the little guy up from Camp Carnival we went for lunch and got him back for a nap. During nap time, I went to the Murder Mystery in the Follies Lounge (which I never followed up with) followed by Bingo. It was cash craze bingo, and you got two cash craze cards or each bingo card you bought. I wound up winning $5 on a cash craze card so it wasn't a total loss. I hung around at the shopping talk for a bit (which was the usual unveiled attempt to promote the stores Carnival partners with) then met up with my husband for tea. This time it was in the dining room. It is a nice few minutes that many don't even know is available. My husband was disappointed because they ran out of his favorite chicken salad sandwiches before he got one. The chocolate tart and scones were particularly yummy! After tea we did a little shopping in the stores and then went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We went to do some pictures before the show and found that virtually all the photographers were on break during this time. Poor planning on Carnival's part IMO...the late dining folks who want to do the show would probably like to do pictures then. Fortunately we found a couple taking pictures and got some taken before going to the show. The show was Jazz Hot. This was the 3rd time we had seen the show. In general, the show was good. We are both musicians so we are probably critical of things most wouldn't be. The costuming was great and the dancing was good. The orchestra was pretty good as well. The singers had hit and miss moments, particularly missing when all four of them were singing together. Also, the sound crew seemed to be a little off this cruise. During this show and the Motown show, there were sound problems. Nevertheless, for cruise ship entertainment the show was pretty standard fair. I'm sure most folks probably thought it was just great. We got one more set of pictures taken and then went to dinner. It was the first formal night, so of course lobster and shrimp were the highlights (which is what my husband and I both had for our main Course). We had alligator fritters (which were very mushy inside), stuffed mushrooms, and spaghetti carbonara as starters. For desert it was ice cream and cherries jubilee (which was basically ice cream with cherry sauce). The waiters did the first entrainment, and Win was great at getting lots of the guests up to dance. After dinner, it was back to the cabin for an early night so we would be rested for Grand Turk. Grand Turk---we got up and put on swimsuits since Grand Turk was going to be a beach day. Hubby noticed a ship near the island that appeared to be repeatedly changing directions...and as we found out later, it was. Just as we were about to head to breakfast the captain came on to make an announcement that the ship we had seen had tried twice to dock and had aborted its approach twice due to high winds. It was trying again so we were going to be delayed at best (in order to wait and see if the winds would die down) and might have to skip the port in the worst case scenario. We turned on the channel that shows conditions and location of the ship and saw the winds were 35-40mph. Needless to say we were not optimistic about making the port. As soon as we got up to breakfast, the captain got back on to say that we were going to have to miss the port in interest of our safety and the safety of the crew and ship. We were bummed, needless to say. Wee Jimmy (the CD) came on to say we would be updated with information as it came in and new activities available throughout the day. We saw on the TV by 2 hours later, we had already been refunded $14 and some change each for the port tax since we did not dock. At this point, we were becoming concerned this might not be the last port we missed, especially since Grand Cayman is often missed due to high winds. After about 2 hours Wee Jimmy came on to give the schedule for some of the added events for the day and said a new Fun Times was being printed and would be delivered to each stateroom. They added movies in the Firebird Lounge all afternoon, a half price 10 game bingo, and a matinee show featuring the Motown guy and the two comedians who had been on board (all of whom were supposed to be getting off the ship in Grand Turk). With our son in Camp Carnival, I went back tot he hot tub in the gym and watched some TV in the cabin with my husband. We picked up the little guy and got him lunch and a quick nap. After dropping him back at Camp Carnival (which he absolutely loves) we went to Bingo and the matinee. After picking our son back up, we went and grabbed some sushi and then killed some time walking around the Promenade deck. We went back to the cabin to try to get our son some more nap because they were showing Polar Express in Follies at 10 PM. Next we got ready and headed to dinner. This was a menu we did not remember from previous cruises, and it was kind of hit or miss. I got pea soup and a mixed green salad for starters. I would definitely not do the pea soup again. My husband and son did fruit as starters and it was very good. My husband had blackened tilapia and a burger for his main course and liked them both. I got a strip steak which was pretty good, especially for mass cooked beef. I ordered it medium rare, and it was cooked correctly. The potatoes on the side were just okay. We both had white chocolate bread pudding for desert and it was wonderful! After dinner we went to Follies and caught the end of the Marriage Show, which was hilarious and then waited for Polar Express to start. They were already about 10-15 minutes behind and then it became apparent they were having technical difficulties. Let me say again, we were not impressed with the tech crew in Follies on this crew. Wee Jimmy came out and kept us company and did a Q&A while we waited. We both agreed he is our favorite cruise director of all the ones we have had. He told us he had worked for Carnival for 12 years and said that he had only missed a port a dozen or so times. He was extra bummed about missing Grand Turk because he had never been there. After waiting 20-25 minutes, my son and husband were both falling asleep, so we gave up and came back to the cabin. It was disappointing to miss Grand Turk, but understandable because the wind was just crazy. The crew seemed to do everything they could to make the day enjoyable though, and as far as we could tell, most guests were like us, disappointed but understanding. I am sure there were those fussing a lot, but I think they were in the minority. We went to bed hoping the next day would bring better weather, less wind, and calmer seas. Sea Day #2 (well, actually 3) ---we woke up well rested and got ready and went to breakfast. The weather and seas were a totally different picture from the last two days. The seas were calm, winds only about 7mph. There was bright sun and it was HOT! After breakfast, we dropped our son off at Camp Carnival and my husband and I put on swimsuits and headed up to Serenity. Of course, every chair of every kind was taken, so we put our legs in the hot tub, which was finally working. After a few minutes, we braved sticking our feet in the pool and then even wound up sitting in the shallow water around the sides of the pool. The pool was very popular, and the slide was open for the first time. You could tell everyone was excited about the great weather. It was so hot we wound up heading back to the cabin and chilling on the balcony in the shade for a while. After picking up our son from Camp Carnival, we got him into his swim trunks and headed back up top for some much awaited swim time for him. After that it was back up for lunch, where they featured French food (previous days had featured Italian, American, and Caribbean). After lunch was bingo (yet again unsuccessful), nap, and then we got ready for the past guest reception. The past guest reception was packed. We were having trouble finding seats and one of the entrainment staff showed us to the front, where there were several left. The canapés and drinks were similar to what had been served in years past, though new to the party for us was rum punch, and it was a nice addition. It did seem that the area where we were sitting was having a little trouble getting served, particularly with drinks, but that was partly because the staff would get waved down by someone else before they could get to us. We just kind of went with the flow, but others around us were a bit testy. Some folks nearby were just flat out greedy. We watched a guy get about five or six drinks at a time for himself. It was like people forgot it was a gesture of thanks and just went crazy. The band played some dance tunes and they did a drawing for some champagne and a free dinner at the steakhouse. They also sold the win a cruise raffle tickets at 20 for $10, a rate which would only be available at the reception. After the reception, we killed a little time, and hubby won $40 in the casino. We skipped the show, The Big Easy because it's really not our favorite and we had seen it the past 3 cruises. Then it was on to dinner. For starters we had fruit, Tom ka gai soup (which was better than I had gotten this past summer), and spinach salad with bacon, portabello mushrooms, and blue cheese dressing (very good). For main course we both had beef stroganoff, which was good and was a very large portion. For desert, we both had bitter and blanc, which was also very good (though interesting they would serve it the night after they served white chocolate bread pudding). After dinner it was back to the cabin for an early night since the next day would be a busy one as we called on the port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Ocho Rios---We started the morning as usual with breakfast on the Lido deck. Then it was back to the cabin to don swimsuits. We had prebooked the Cobaya Gardens and Dunns River Falls excursion. We have often booked excursions independently, but the little guy has been free with Carnival (until he turns four in April), so we have enjoyed the simplicity and reliability of doing Carnival excursions. I am sure we will go back to mixing in independent excursions on our next cruise. We got off the ship and preceded down to the end of the pier (a decent little walk) to meet up with our tour operator. After a brief wait in a covered holding area, we were shown to our bus. The bus was pretty nice and air conditioned...better than many we had been in on similar tours. We were taken first to Cobaya Gardens, where we had a guide who walked us around and told us about many of the native plants. The gardens were very nice, with easy walkways and several pretty water features. We also saw a chameleon, green lizard, and a hummingbird that had a very long tail. After walking around the gardens, we were allowed to browse the shops for about 10 minutes, which was about 5 minutes too long. Then we were walked down to a nice waterfall at the gardens and took some pictures. Our guide made sure we knew it was okay to tip before taking us back to the bus. Our bus went from there to the Taj Mahal shopping center, where we would have thirty minutes to shop. Our guide showed us the best shop to sample blue mountain coffee, rums, etc. and where we would be able to bargain for prices. We went in there and sampled some coffee with rum creak (very strong coffee) and a couple of different rums. We wound up buying coffee for family members, some jerk seasoning, and a T-shirt for my husband. Next it was on to the highlight of the day, Dunns River Falls. When we got there, our tour guide took us inside the park where we were given our park admission wristbands. Once we went in the gates, she took those who were actually climbing the falls to where they would meet their climbing guide. We had one hour and fifteen minutes at the falls and they said it would take forty five minutes to climb. We opted against it, especially with the little guy. She then took the rest of us and introduced us to another guy who kept saying "I'm Mike, alright? I'm gonna take care of you and show you lots of places. Just make sure at the end you take care of me." He did take us down the stairs along the falls and showed us one landing where we could get in the water (about thigh deep for me) and take good pictures of the falls. The little guy could have stayed there the whole time, but we wondered what might be down closer to the bottom. We went to another spot where you could get in, but we didn't like it quite as much. It was a little rockier. We went on to see the beach, but when we saw it opted to go back up to the first landing. The beach looked okay for a small strip of beach, but we just wanted to be somewhere we could really enjoy the beauty of the falls. We gave Mike a couple of bucks, despite his aggressiveness, and told him we were going back up. Not sure why we really needed anyone to take us to the landings or the beach. We would have found them easily. The falls were simply amazing. The water was cold at first, but felt great once you got used to it. We were glad we didn't attempt to climb with our son but definitely will plan to do it if we go back when he is a little bigger. We had to pass through several craft/souvenir stands on our way to the bus. I will say that lots of folks in Jamaica were fairly aggressive trying to sell you something or constantly trying to get a tip (and I understand that's what they depend on for a living). That being said, we didn't have a problem after telling them no. When we got back up to the bus, we had to wait about fifteen minutes past our scheduled departure time for a family who had been late at every stop all day. Our tour guide had to actually go find them. It is amazing how unaware folks are sometimes. Once they finally got back on the bus, we went back to the dock where the ship was. We took a short walk over to Margaritaville so could get a shirt, since I am a diehard parrot head. After that, we got back on the ship, changed, and went back for lunch. After lunch, it was time for nap. My husband and I got up in time to watch sail away. I then got ready for the evening and headed to Bingo followed by the evening show. In the meantime, my husband took our son up to Lido for dinner and then to Camp Carnival since he hadn't been that day and because they were doing pirate themed activities...which is right up the little guy's alley. Bingo was a really small crowd. There were probably only twenty people playing. I was only one number away from Bingo when someone won. After Bingo was over, I went and grabbed sushi and waited for the show to start and watched for my husband, who was meeting me down in Follies. The show was called "The Physical Comedy of Dana Tison." It was basically a juggling act. He started strong and ended strong, but it got a little slow in the middle. Some of the juggling stuff he did at the beginning and end was unbelievable. We then headed to dinner and were quizzed by everyone there about where our son was. For starters that night we had fruit, a green bean salad with Roma tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette dressing (not bad, but would have been even better had tomatoes been in season), the seafood sampler (which had smoked salmon, ahi tuna tartar, and shrimp), and escargots. It was a pretty nice night of starters. For the main course we both had grilled shrimp, which were cooked perfectly. Finally, for desert the hubby had warm chocolate melting cake and I had the amaretto cake. It was okay...cake was a little dry, but very chocolaty. I didn't detect very much almond flavor at all. After dinner, we picked our son up from Camp Carnival and took him up to Lido for an ice cream cone. Then it was back to cabin to get ready for bed. Grand Cayman---We got up and headed to Lido for breakfast then back to the cabin to change into swimsuit for the day's excursion. We had booked the Cayman Pirate Encounter excursion through Carnival. The tickets said catch a tender 45 minutes before the tour departure time of 10. We were a little puzzled as to why we had to go quite that early since it is a short tender ride at GC. Nevertheless, we got on a tender about 9:05. We were reminded that the tender doesn't leave until it is full, so there is some time to wait if you're the first on a tender. Once we tendered to port, we looked around for our tour sign and didn't see one, so we asked the CCL Shore Excursion rep and he said we wouldn't need to meet until 9:45. That left us 20-25 minutes to look around the shops n the terminal area. At 9:45 we found the sign for our excursion and waited until the whole group was assembled (which was about 16 or so). The tour rep led us on a short walk to the pirate ship (the Jolly Roger). We boarded and the crew began assuming their pirate personas. We were offered water, soda, fruit punch, or rum punch throughout the voyage. My husband and I had rum punch, which was so-so, but refreshing n the heat. They started by loading shells into the "cannon" and firing on the Legend in an effort to sink the ship. They told us we would be sailing for a bit before getting to our swim stop. In the mean time, they called all the kids together in the center of the ship. On our ship, there were only 4 kids. Our son was by far the youngest. The others were probably 9-13 or so. They did lots of "pirate talk" with them (never heard so many ARRRS! In all my life). They gave them brushes and had them swab the deck. Then they threw water on the deck and had them keep swabbing. While they were busy swabbing the deck, they started throwing buckets of water on them. After that, they asked the kids which of the parents was the mean parent, and they got them down near the kids (fortunately my husband got nominated). They had them to stand side by side in front of a pole in the center and tied them all together around the pole. Then they asked if they liked diamonds. All the mom's replied yes and my husband answered that his wife did. Next, one of the crew dipped ice and water out of a cooler and showed them that those were pirate diamonds. They then proceeded to throw the ice cold water all over them. It was funny, but at the same time a little surprising they would do that. They renamed them all "Mommy and Daddy Spankbottom" and made them all promise to buy the kids ice cream when we got off the ship. The kids all got a huge kick out of this. Soon, we were at our swimming spot where they tied the boat up and gave us all a life jacket to swim with. We could either get in the water via a ladder or by jumping off the side of the ship. Being a weenie, I opted for the ladder. The water was cold at first, but felt great after a couple of minutes. Our son loved it, except not being a fan of the salt water part. My husband did a couple of nice cannonballs off the side. About 20 minutes or so after we got in the water, one of the crew cautioned everyone that there were jellyfish in the water and we should be careful. I had no intention of getting stung, so we all got out. Pretty much everybody got out for a while, though some got back in about 20 minutes later. After a while we headed back to the dock. I can't say enough about how nice the crew was. One of them even gave his pirate skull cap to our son as a souvenir. I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone with kids, especially younger kids. But even adults would enjoy the sail out and swimming and free drinks. The whole excursion took about 2 hours. After getting off the pirate ship, we walked a short distance to buy Blackbeard rum cakes (our favorite in the Caribbean so far) and Big Black Dick rum (very good, and so far have only seen it in GC). We also picked up a pirate T-shirt for our son and we bought a GC Christmas ornament. Then it was back to the ship where we changed and took our son to Camp Carnival. I took a short nap because I had a killer sinus headache. I had actually had sinus and allergy problems for the past three days (first time that had ever happened on a cruise...not fun). After our son got back, we went up to Lido for lunch and then went back to the cabin. I read and worked on getting laundry done s we wouldn't go home with so many dirty clothes. It is $3 each to wash and dry. But for the second time, the dryer didn't thoroughly dry everything in ne round. So each load cost a total of $9 to get washed and dried. But I would be glad it was done when we got home. I then got ready to head to Bingo and later to the show. My husband and son were to meet me for the show. It was my lucky day....I was the only winner at $500 Bingo. My hubby and son were late coming down for the show. It was the Holiday Show and there was only one show time, so it was beyond packed. You couldn't even find a seat in the first level of the balcony. We heard and saw a little from the back and decided it wasn't worth it since we would have to leave early for dinner. I will say that it was a nice concept, but once again, there were sound problems and this show was obviously less comfortable for the orchestra and singers...there were some issues to say the least. For dinner, we had fruit, crab cakes, and a portabello mushroom salad (very good) for starters. I was very disappointed to see lobster bisque not on the new menu. For our main course, we had prime rib (not bad at all), fettuccini Alfredo with grilled chicken, and panko crusted shrimp. For desert, we had ice cream and Grand Marnier soufflé (just so so). Of course the waiters did their evening entertainment, inviting guest to join a conga line around the dining room. We have really grown to like our dining service team, Win, Marcellus, and Jennifer. They were all personable, particularly with our son, and learned our preferences and tendencies very well. After dinner, we went down to Guest Services to find out if we could go ahead and cash out my Bingo winnings. We have the Carnival Fun Points MasterCard, and it is to our benefit to actually leave a balance on our Sail and Sign account because any dollars spent with Carnival earn double points. They quickly gave us the $500 in cash and we were thrilled. We contemplated going from there to go watch Polar Express, which they were attempting to show again in Follies, but our son was very tired. So he and my husband headed to the cabin to get ready for bed. I went to the shops to do any last minute shopping on behalf of Santa and then joined them in the cabin. Sea Day #3 (well, actually #4) ---we got up and woke up our son so he could see what Santa and his "helper" Freddy had brought him. His stocking and gifts were actually out on the balcony. It was fun watching him look for them. He opened things and seemed genuinely pleased with what he got (which was generally small items, for obvious reasons). Santa did leave a note that he needed to check under the tree when we got home for a couple of things he couldn't get on the ship. Next we headed to Lido for breakfast and then back down to the cabin before taking our son to Camp Carnival for the morning. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute he spent there over the course of the cruise. They have really figured out how to entertain kids, particularly those of the 2-5 age group. While he was away at CC, my husband and I went to the Firebird Lounge for the future cruise travel talk. This is where the cruise loyalty expert explains the different ship classes, various itinerary options, cabin selection tips, etc. We have been to this talk before, so we had no need to go hear what we already knew. However, they have previously raffled off $50 in OBC at the end of the talk. This time...not so much. So we wasted 30 minutes, but hey, we had nowhere we needed to be. Next we went to the casino and blew $40 on slots and poker machines. I would say that we either broke even for the week or were down just a bit, but no major losses. My husband thinks they need more quarter slots and I wish they had more non-smoking stations. After casino time, we went to the Legends Cafe and did the "Rudolph Scavenger Race" which sent us all overt the ship looking for answers to questions like how many steps were on the see-through staircase leading up to the steakhouse. We won and captured our fourth ship on a stick and our 2nd medal. After that, we chilled in the cabin before picking up our son. We went from Camp Carnival to try to play mini golf since we had not yet made it up there. However, we learned that it was closed due to high winds (and it would be for the rest of the day). That did not go over well with our son, which triggered a mini-meltdown. That prompted us to head back to the cabin for an early nap. While he was napping I went to play 10 game Bingo. I figured lightning wouldn't strike twice...and it didn't... But I was one number away four times. After Bingo, I headed back up to the cabin and met my boys before heading up to a late lunch at the grill and deli. We missed the chocolate buffet, but we were both kinda in "been there, done that" mode on the chocolate buffet. While were at lunch, they were having caroling in the lobby and it was snowing. Yes, snowing. On Christmas Eve and again on Christmas they turned on snow machines between the lobby elevators around deck 7 and it snowed in the lobby. It was a really neat touch. They also had egg nog on the Lido deck all day on Christmas and many of the staff wore Santa hats. The general mood on the ship was definitely festive. After our late lunch, we killed a few minutes in the cabin before heading to the Fun Farewell in the Firebird Lounge. The band was playing dance tunes and one of the singers was performing with them. The free drinks flowed very freely at this party, a bit unlike the past guest reception. But then again, that is probably because there were only about 100 people there. Carnival does a pretty good job of hiding that event though. It is merely mentioned once in the Fun Times with no explanation of what it is and I don't recall it ever being mentioned in any announcements throughout the day. The drinks were the same basics as at the Past Guest reception (red and white wine, screwdrivers, whiskey sours, rum punch, etc) but it appeared folks were able to request some basic substitutions. So I gave it a try and asked a nice waiter for an amaretto sour and he brought me one with no problem. We met a couple from Kentucky who recognized our picture from Cruise Critic. We really enjoyed talking with them. In fact, we met several really nice folks we chatted with throughout this cruise. Call me crazy, but the general disposition of the cruisers was friendlier than the last couple we had taken (and maybe a few less kids??). Perhaps it was just the Christmas spirit? After Fun Farewell, we went up to the cabin and got our son ready for his last time in Camp Carnival. While he was there, we took a quick power nap and got ready for dinner. We picked up our son, turned in our Camp Carnival phone, and gave them a tip. He really enjoyed all his time there, and all the counselors couldn't have been nicer. For dinner, they had a Christmas Gala dinner. There weren't too many out of the ordinary items, but they did have some things like turkey and stuffing and a glazed ham choice. For starters, we got fruit, tempura shrimp, Christmas salad, and potato cheese soup. For main course, we both had grilled shrimp again (none of the other choices blew us away). For desert the boys had ice cream and I had the pumpkin and gingerbread cake (the only choice on the menu not offered every day). It was nice, but could have been more flavorful. One of the nicest things they did for Christmas was that night after dinner. The maitre'd said they appreciated us sharing our families with them while they were away from theirs on Christmas. Then several of the headwaters, representing various countries of the dining staff said Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year to us in their native language. It was just a touching moment. We said our goodbyes to Win, Marcellus, and Jennifer and got some pictures of our son with them then said goodbye to the neighboring tables we had really enjoyed talking with over the course of the week. We had the best of both worlds in the dining room. We had our own table so moved at our own pace, but we were also close enough to other tables that we could enjoy their company as well. After dinner, my husband went to the Win a Free Cruise raffle while I took our son up to the room. Sadly, we didn't win the cruise. We had the first four numbers right, but the last two didn't match. But hey, I am perfectly happy with $500 at Bingo! Back in the cabin, we got everything packed up and put our luggage in the hall. We couldn't bare the thought of self assist with four suitcases, various carry on pieces, and a three year old. We got zone 14 tags, so we knew we would be in for a wait in the morning. After putting the luggage out, my husband went for one last go at the casino and for a last piece of pizza. Disembarkation---we got up to find that it was extremely foggy outside. You could barely see and the ship's horn blew from the time we got up until we were almost docked. We probably wound up docking about thirty minutes late. We went upstairs for our last breakfast on the ship. After we got done we went back down to the cabin, collected our things and went to wait for our turn to disembark. We went to the top part of the balcony in Follies to wait. Unfortunately after about twenty minutes, they kicked everyone out of the lounge, saying we couldn't wait in there. Not sure why...always have been able to on every other cruise we've been on. So we just waited by the elevators and stairs on the fourth floor till our number was called. From the time we docked until we got off the ship was about 2 hours. We swiftly collected our bags and passed through Customs. Once outside, we stopped to put our passports up. One of the port workers was very rude, yelling at my husband to keep moving. We were stopping for all of one minute, out of the traffic flow I might add. We went across the street to the parking garage to wait for the hotel shuttle. Unfortunately we got to watch it as it was leaving, already full of folks. So we wound up waiting 30-35 minutes for it to return. That was painfully long when you just got off the ship and have an eleven hour drive ahead of you. Once back to the hotel we moved our bags to the car and began the long journey home. We had a fabulous time. We really love the Legend. It is like our home away from home now. Some will probably not love the cruise as much as we did, but we just really enjoyed ourselves. We can't wait to go back aboard a Carnival Fun Ship! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Sailed on the Jewel of the Seas 12/24-12/29/2011. Family of three: 2 adults and our 10 1/2 year old son. Flew into Tampa (from Baltimore) on the morning of cruise and took a taxi to the port. Easy. Checked our luggage in with a porter ... Read More
Sailed on the Jewel of the Seas 12/24-12/29/2011. Family of three: 2 adults and our 10 1/2 year old son. Flew into Tampa (from Baltimore) on the morning of cruise and took a taxi to the port. Easy. Checked our luggage in with a porter and were through registration and on board before noon! Port of Tampa was easy to navigate and plenty of people there to help and point you along the way. Had a decent buffet lunch as soon as we boarded and explored the ship until we could get to our rooms (which was around 1 PM). Ship is a nice size, big enough to have lots of different spaces- but easy enough to figure out and get around. Ship is well kept/maintained. Crew seemed very friendly and made a point to always say hello and smile. Also- pool waiters remembered our names- nice. Cabin was clean and we had an excellent room steward named Carlos. The only thing I didn't like about our room was the carpet seemed kind of old and could stand to be replaced. Especially in the area near the balcony door. I was glad I brought slippers! plenty of storage for a family of 3. I felt the dining room food was only ok. Service was excellent- our head server was named Sixto and he was from the Phillipines. He knew all our names by the end of the first dinner. Our assistant waiter had our preferred drinks waiting on the 2nd night. Service was great....food just wasn't amazing. We did try a specialty dining room- Chops. It did NOT impress. The food was nothing special. We have tried specialty dining on Disney- and that was amazing. We have tried the steakhouse on Carnival- and it was excellent. The RCCL specialty was not worth it- rather disapointing. Entertainment was good. The theater is lovely and comfortable. Lots of great seats. Having a movie theater on board was nice, too. We booked our own independent shore excursions in both ports and that worked out well. Enjoyed both ports. Our son seemed to like the kids programming. Only complaint I have is that it is not open enough. We had late dining- so he couldn't really go after dinner. Two of the nights he opted to eat in the Windjammer so he could go to club instead of formal dinner. That was fine. We also gave him permission to sign himself in and out (not sure how old they have to be to do this) and that worked out well as we avoided the "crush" of getting kids in and out of club. They had a Santa on board and he gave out gifts to all the kids on Christmas. Late flight out of Tampa- so we spent the day at the Florida Aquarium (you can walk there from the ship). That was a nice way to spend the day- they even stored our luggage for us- no problem with that. All in all, an enjoyable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd ... Read More
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd w/ Royal Caribbean. Previously we'd been on RCCL's "Sovereign of the Seas" and on the Celebrity "Century" & Celebrity "Millennium". I can now report that the "Jewel of the Seas" is by far more luxurious and breathtakingly beautiful than any of the others. We were awestruck at the glittering chasm of the 7-story atrium in the center of the ship. On decks 4 through 10, there are numerous viewing platforms and spacious glass elevators offering glorious views up, down, and in every direction imaginable, each level tastefully trimmed in the classic Christmas style. To further stimulate the multi-sensory experience, each floor contains a sitting or reading area which allows you to rest or read quietly while Christmas carols & soft piano music echo upward, calming the soul. The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate. Radiating out from the center atrium, most of the public areas are quickly accessible and near at hand. The Schooner Bar, The Safari Club, and the cleverly placed Cinema are just some of the attractions that share Deck 6 with the Casino and the Coral Theater. There is also a billiard room, complete with hydraulic self-leveling billiard tables. High up on deck 13 amidships, overlooking the pools and the bow of this luxury liner, the Hollywood Odyssey is another lovely evening hideaway to sit in before the disco crowd arrives. But our favorite night club was The Safari Club, far astern on deck 6. This richly appointed and cavernous room features warm earth tones, oak and cherry wood throughout, soft and romantic lighting, and the coziest private corners anywhere on the ship. Of the many swimming pools and whirlpools, we frequented the Solarium's whirlpool and large salt water pool every single day and thoroughly enjoyed the therapeutic and relaxing waters. Its close proximity to the Windjammer Cafe made it a popular but not overcrowded location for many. It also helped that children under 16 are not permitted in the Solarium pools. We didn't use the nearby Spa, but it certainly looked first rate and well furnished for those who did. There was a mini-putt golf course on the sun deck, ping-pong tables, the rock climbing wall, shuffleboard, and so many other places to recreate and have fun. Food was excellent, generous, always available and easy to find. At the Windjammer Cafe, the menus featured a wide variety of American, European, and other ethnic offerings, all of which were tasty and fresh. Especially scrumptious was the chicken curry, the Christmas Turkey Dinner, the strawberry whip dessert, and a low-fat passion fruit pie. Breakfast too was abundant and hearty. Our only issue with the Windjammer was that all of the buffet islands were located together in the center of the room, which kind of forced everyone to crowd together as they helped themselves. There wasn't a food line per se, and it just required a bit more caution, patience, and courtesy than had it been arranged otherwise. The Windjammer Cafe itself is a place of great elegance; spacious, with very upscale tables & chairs, fine wood and brass furnishings, linen napkins, plentiful window seating, and a helpful and alert staff. It truly felt like being in the main dining room. It made the Celebrity Century's Islands Cafe look something like a very nice Ryan's Steakhouse or other cafeteria. We only ate in the main Dining Room once, that being Christmas Brunch. Lovely room, wonderful personalized service, and again, very good soup, steak, and Mahi Mahi entrees. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are open seating, and you order off a menu, whereas the Windjammer simply had more choices. Never used the specialty dining rooms but they too looked spectacular. Embarkation and disembarkation: Wow! Fastest, smoothest, easiest experience EVER! Better than Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, or Miami. Maybe it was just because it was Tampa, maybe it was a new system they've created, but we were parked across the street and on the ship within 30 minutes. Getting off was even faster. Literally within 15 minutes of being called from the Coral Theatre waiting place, we were in our car and on the road by 8:30 am. Doesn't get any better than that. The Song and Dance troupe shows were slightly disappointing as a whole. One called "City of Dreams" was downright ridiculous; outlandishly silly costumes, nonsensical thematic flow, and it even degraded into moments of rap & hip-hop. A full one third of the audience had walked out before the blithering spectacle was half over. The other show, a standard sort of cruise ship Broadway revue, was much better received and done with more taste. But Celebrity Cruises definitely does this sort of entertainment better. On the plus side, "The Temptations" tribute band was first rate and a highlight of the cruise. Los Pampos Gauchos was also a fantastic hit; high energy drumming, dancing, and stunts, all laced with bawdy Latin flavored comedy and audience participation. Perfect show for a cruise ship! Our room was a 9th deck stateroom with a private balcony. Gorgeous spacious room, no problems whatsoever with plumbing, HVAC, or anything of the sort. I'm a light sleeper and easily awoken, and although we could hear the beat music from the pool deck, it never kept me awake. What did disturb me were our neighbors on the adjoining balconies. One side was a bunch of chain smokers, the other side a rambunctious and talkative family with kids. I called security at 2am to tame the latter group, and the warnings were effective. But I won't bother with a balcony ever again. We didn't get our money's worth out of it. You can't control who you get stuck next to, and too much noise comes in even when the door is closed. (Note to people in 9068: Learn how to behave yourselves in public before you go on another cruise!) Now for the Christmas miracle. At some point during the last full day of the cruise, the diamond stone from my wife's engagement ring fell off somewhere in the ship. As she went into hysterics, I spent two hours retracing our steps from the previous evening and morning's activities. The Coral Theater, the Cinema, the Windjammer, the Safari Club; I went over every spot with a fine tooth comb and flashlight. But no luck. I finally went to Guest Services, Lost & Found, etc...and reported it. I told them I needed a Miracle. She was only able to offer the services of some security personnel who volunteered to go over our stateroom as closely as possible, something my wife had already done. I accepted. Three Indian and/or Nepalese gentlemen proceeded to turn the stateroom upside down and inside out, and finally, after 20 minutes, far in the corner under the upturned couch, they FOUND IT! My wife burst into tears and so did they, thrilled that they were able to help us recover our lost treasure, our Jewel of the Seas! They were rewarded for for going above & beyond the call of duty. This could have been a tragic loss for us, but these gentlemen were our heroes! We have no hesitation in giving this lovely and elegant ship our highest recommendation. We'll certainly consider it again in the future depending on where she's going. But to be honest, I think we might be through with the typical Mexican and Caribbean ports of call. They're just not all that interesting anymore. I think it might be time for the Baltic or Mediterranean Sea this summer..!!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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