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Royal Caribbean International: Jewel of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Nov 15, 2015

Panama canal

This was a great 15 day cruise with a fantastic Itinerary and great shore excursions. There are plenty of relaxing sea days aboard ship and the crew on this ship was friendly, cheerful, helpful and made the experience wonderful. This ship is only one of two able to traverse the Panama Canal. It is older but still well maintained and is scheduled for its second renovation in 2017 we were told. The service on this ship was really outstanding.

The stateroom attendant and the dining room servers were among the best we have ever seen in 20 years of cruising. We would definitely recommend this itinerary. Royal Caribbean changed the entire menu on our second day. Instead of normal cruise ship fare they replaced the menu with a very limited, unappetizing and obviously cheapened menu. Gone are the Cruise ship normal foods like prime rib, turkey, shrimp cocktail, New York cheesecake. Instead they have substituted almost inedible dishes which when you actually have them in front of you seldom look like the description on the menu. The "everyday" menu was similarly very limited consisting of a few items you wouldn't pay to eat and the tough beef described as "Manhattan strip steak". The passengers ship wide hated the menu and the food and menu were the talk of the ship in elevators, bars and the dinner table. This was an epic fail on RCIs part. What a disaster. Someone at Royal has lost their mind. The food in the two specialty dining houses, Portofino and the Steakhouse were excellent, but the cover charge has gone up to $25 and $35 per plate respectively. Nevertheless the food was a great respite from the swill they tried to serve in the dining room. Our stateroom has quite spacious and surprisingly had a lot of storage which is seldom the case. We were very pleased with the stateroom and our attendant did the usual fantastic job. In the Royal Caribbean cost cutting corner cutting they have done away with pens and paper in the staterooms (as well as ice) so bring your own writing materials to make notes. They will bring ice on request. Royal has apparently done away with the Broadway type shows. In 15 days they presented one show and it was a rehearsal for adoption fleet wide. It was a rather strange collection of music which was supposed to be from Broadway shows but about 40 % of the music didn't actually come from a play. Go figure! Otherwise the nightly entertainment is comedians, jugglers, variety acts and musicians. The musical activities in the various venues were very good throughout the ship and had a good mix of music. There was oldies, Latin music, contemporary. All of the excursions we had ended up being great. The chiva bis in Columbia, the indian trip in Panama, the coffee plantation in Costa Rica. All of them exceeded expectations. We didn't get off the ship in Guatemala due to security concerns and the two Mexican ports, Cabo and Puerta Vallarta we had seen previously. Tender operations on this ship were excruciatingly inefficient so if you plan on going ashore NOT with a shore excursion get your tender ticket as early as possible or you will regret it. This was a great trip. I would absolutely recommend this trip to anyone who wants to not only see Latin America but traverse the Panama Canal with about half of the 15 days being relaxing sea days. The crew on this ship was fantastic, always helpful, cheerful and knowledgeable about their jobs. The specialty dining was similarly very good experiences. Regrettably the new Royal Carib food menu in the dining room was horrible. Since almost every passenger we ran into hated it I suspect that Royal will get the message. What is more concerning to me is whether Royal is trying to save money by corner cutting. That will force me to return to my other favorites, Celebrity and Princess.

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By Kim_CR

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Mar 29, 2015

Eastern Caribbean

Sailed March 21 on a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise out of Puerto Rico - ship is very nice, standard Royal Caribbean ship,, plenty of shows, shopping and good food choices. Ship had a movie theatre and was showing newish movies, including Gravity. Casino too smokey for me and I do not understand why cruise lines continue to let people smoke inside the ship (or at all) If ships continue to allow smoking keep all smoking to a certain side of the

ship - outside ONLY! Music and activities throughout the day to enjoy. Spa was nice, always busy, same for the fitness center. Our ports were St Thomas, St Croix, St Lucia, St John Antigua and Grenada, last day was at sea, sailing back from Grenada. Ports are similar, beaches, local shopping and island tours. I enjoyed Grenada the most as there is a great rain forest. The tour from the ship was a driving tour, I was hoping for a hiking tour and although we made a few stops, we drove through the rain forest. Food choices were good, I ate early dining and Windjammer, not in the specialty restaurants. Plenty of fresh fruit/vegetables and a variety of entrees Stateroom was fine, shower small, I prefer showering in the spa area as the showers are much larger Plenty to choose from, for all ages I only did one shore excursion - rain forest tour in Grenada, it was fine, although I would have preferred a walking tour. Several people I spoke with enjoyed catamaran tours. Most people seemed to spend the day at the various beaches Overall, had a great time!

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Mar 23, 2012

Mexico

Fabulous time. Ship was clean, staff friendly and certainly willing to go the extra mile, plenty of options for dining and entertainment, and spacious rooms! Never felt crowded as ship does a great job of dispersing 2500 passengers. Easy on and off processes as well. All reviews I read before booking I found to be true. I would book with Royal again. Many options for food. Main dining food and service were great, comparable to upscale

dining. Ate at Chops one evening and would recommend that as well. Clean, spacious and well maintained. Comfortable sleeping and plenty of room for two. Fun and good for all ages.

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Dec 22, 2011

Tampa-Cozumel-Costa Maya-Tampa

Happy, Relaxing, Rejuvenating and Energizing!! Abundant, not excellent but very good, lots of variety, delicious desserts. Comfortable, quality furnishings, big enough for the two of us. Numerous, nonstop We booked our own snorkeling excursion instead of one that was offered by RCI. My husband and I just came back from our first cruise 5-days with Royal Caribbean on Jewel of the Sea, sailing Tampa-Cozumel-Costa Maya-Tampa.

We are 63 and 54 and were far from the oldest on the ship. The guests were of different ages but mostly elderly. They were basically divided into two groups “ the virgin cruisers (cute! but not my term) and the Diamond and Diamond-Plus cruisers". There were many weddings, anniversaries and birthday celebrations. The activities were non-stop during the day and evening in different parts of the ship. Food was served every minute at numerous bars and restaurants. The atmosphere onboard was unbelievable everybody, and I mean everybody, was really happy! Guests could not stop dancing even in the elevators. Each and every operation of the entire cruise was conducted smoothly and we did not experience a single problem or inconvenience whatsoever. I have to confess -- it was hard to resist the temptation to just eat, eat, eat. Thank God they did not offer free drinks! There were two options to avoid coming back home a few pounds heavier to eat at Tides (the main dining room) or even better, to eat at one of two specialty restaurants (Portofino or Chops Grille) instead of the buffet at the Windjammer Cafe, and/or to do some serious working out at the Fitness Center. I had an opportunity to speak my native tongue because the members of the crew were from many different countries. We did not turn on the TV even for a minute and were not interested in checking our emails for five days. We just submerged ourselves in the happy atmosphere of the ship and gave ourselves over to the kindness and care of the wonderful crew team. I was so energized that the day after we returned I was able to do two consecutive 60-minute spin classes in my health club with two very hard instructors.

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Aug 5, 2011

Scandinavia and Russia

I can highly recommend this cruise. It has one of the best itineries I have experienced, with every port having something good. The food was good, we did MyTime dining which is a must for this cruise due to the new of port days. Stateroom was to the normal standards. The entertainment was good. Particularly the shows which could rival the West End. There was a pianist, which I thought I would not like so did not attend, but everyone

was raving about this. Also I missed the Salsa dancing, and this was also very good. No time to get bored on this ship. With the exception of Gothenburg and Russia you can easily make your own way to the cities by foot or the port shuttle bus. We went to the church of the spilled blood and it was absolutely amazing. Well worth the visit. We were very lucky, the weather was in the mid 70's and sunny the majority of the time. Unfortunately the week before it rained, so I guess it is a bit like the uk? Each port had something to offer and was easily reached. Prices are high in Scandinavia so probably best not to eat out unless it doesnt bother you.

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Mar 31, 2011

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise and we booked a Grand Suite (375 sq.ft with 100 sq.ft balcony on Deck 10). Service, suite amenities, entertainment and shore excursions were excellent. Food and choices on the main buffet restaurant 4/5, on the specialty restaurants 5/5. The gym was excellent. We are so spoiled now with this exceptional ship and services (a Titanic type of floating luxury hotel) that we believe we will be sticking with Royal Carribean for

any other cruise as we decided this is something we like very much. The only advise to travelers is: For cruises over a week, the crowd is much much older and I must say quite unfit. I was advised that for cruises 5-7 days long, the crowd is much younger. If you can find your own company that suits your style and interest (as we did), GO FOR IT, one of the best experiences we ever had. Excellent Grand Suite with balcony We did not attend many as we were busy with our own company and the gym Use them well and be planned in advance, though the choices are endless. There is ample of help for you to decide at the Exploration des what to do. I said it all in my opening paragraph

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Mar 18, 2011

family fun

We did a 11 day cruise with two special needs children 6 & 9. The kids club did a wonderful job with our kids. It helped that it was a cruise through March break so not many kids on ship. They did tell us that things would have been different if more kids on board as they wouldn't have had the time for the one one care given. We found the staff and the food to be amazing. We would gladly cruise this ship again. We only ate in the dining

room twice otherwise we were in the Windrammer. All the food and service was excellent. Food was fresh with lots of choices. We ate lunch a few times in the Seaview Cafe and it was charming. We ate enjoyed chili, chicken fingers and amazing burgers. We had ajoining staterooms with the children and it provided us with plently of space. We also had balcony rooms but found we didn't utilize it as much as expected. We were off doing mini golf, ping pong or swimming. There was lots to do. Our rooms were 7644 & 7646. We found we were right above the night club music that started at 9:00 pm. We could hear it nightly till late in the evening. It didn't seem to effect the kids but it kept me awake a few nights. We could hear it so clearly I could sing along. The children really loved the kids club staff. They were wonderful with our special needs children. We saw one show and thought it was amazing. The quality was top notch. We spent a lot of time at the kids area and they loved the water slide and pool. The main pool was filled with sea water so it wasn't too pleasant for the children. We found older kids played in the younger kids pool because of the sea water so it was crowded at times. We played ping pong, shuffle board and mini golf many times. We did the rock wall a few times and really enjoyed it. The comedy show was top notch. I was laughing so much I was crying. We found the Jewel of the Seas to be a beautiful spacious ship. We would gladly return to sail again.

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Feb 20, 2011

Southern Caribbean and Panama

Service - Waiter was good although he did request we give him a good review on the end-of-cruise comment card (we were going to anyway and did, but making the request was bad form); - Assistant waiter was only fair as he could not explain to the bar waiter the kind of drink I wished (a vodka martini); - Guest services were poorly trained in my view - three examples: - I was not satisfied with the content and value of one of our excursions

and in person relayed this to a guest services rep at the excursion desk while she was prompt in allegedly forwarding on my concerns, she ended our follow-up call by saying, ˜None of the other 250 passengers on the same excursion complained" which was said to soothe me but was irrelevant to how I felt about the excursion or to resolve my complaint “ fyi: I did not request my money back nor did they offer it“ expressing my dissatisfaction was made to improve the excursion offered. - It took 3 in-person requests to both the Tides maitre-d and guest services over a three day period to get a table for 2 “ on two occasions, restaurant staff committed to call me back about my request but never did“ I had to always go back and follow up with them. - While attempting to ask a guest services rep a question about the US customs form, she interrupted my question to deal with another guest reaching across me to hand a phone to that guest. A much better form would have been to advise me up front that she had not finished with another guest and that she might have to interrupt our conversation briefly to do so. Itinerary was great as 4 or the 5 ports were ones we had not visited. Entertainment - Marty Allen!! I thought he was dead! Is that the best they could get? Overall, we would not chose this ship again and probably would not use RCI. Food - Main restaurant Tides: middle of the road, nothing spectacular, a bit repetitive; buffet restaurant Windjammer: good, with much variety; we did not eat at any of the $+ restaurants. Small compared to all other cruise ships we have been on. The cabin steward was great. Don't miss: Columbia - old city tour and Costa Rica - ecotour Stay away: Panama - train and bus tour

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By Judy_CR

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Sep 2, 2010

transalantic

It was a beautiful ship that was easy to get around. Lots of storage in our basic cabin. The shows were some of the best we have seen on a cruise ship. The weather got colder as we got closer to Europe, so the solarium was a nice place to swim and just read a book. 4 stars The food was good not great.

The Lamb Chops were the best we have had on any ship. 3 stars The stateroom was very comfortable. Needed a little moer hanging space for clothes, but very good storage for every thing else. 4 stars We would of like more lectures and in a better spot. We could not stay and talk to the speaker, because of the activities following. The lectures were in a room that had a dance floor so we couldn't sit in rows to see the slides. There were also pillers in the way. 3 stars We did all the excursions on our own. We met wonderful people and the dinning room staff were great fun and very helpful. We kept adding people at dinner or subtracting people and the staff never complained, they just worked it out for us.

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Oct 10, 2009

New England and Canada

This cruise was round trip from Boston. There were long lines at the dock to check in. Luckily the weather was good because the lines were so long they were outside the terminal building. Some of the people had been in line for hours. Once I got inside a Royal Caribbean representative said the delay in boarding was due to a Coast Guard inspection. Once on board my initial impression of the ship was disappointment. An immediate comparison

was made between the Jewel of the Seas and the Explorer of the Seas, which I had sailed on last year to Bermuda. The Explorer is a fantastic ship and I liked it better. The Jewel of the Seas is very nice and the glass elevators afforded views of some beautiful sunsets at sea. My inside cabin on the Jewel seemed very small, but part of that was the dark wood and navy and white color scheme. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all cabins are non-smoking now and smoking is restricted elsewhere. The ship has a beautiful solarium. The mandatory life boat drill was held, but they no longer require passengers to wear a life vest for the drill which makes things easier. There were 2041 people on this cruise of which 1800 were Americans. There were only 12 children on board. My table was rectangular and sat twelve which is far too many and the shape of the table made conversation almost impossible from one end of the table to another. The ship also has alternative restaurants and any-time dining. People can come to the dining room any time they like as long as they pre-pay gratuities. There were as few as three people at my table with the usual number being seven. We were tucked away in a corner off the main dining room. On the positive side, I had a window to view the ocean while I dined which was wonderful. And our waiter, Alberto, from Costa Rica was a real delight. The food was good, but the menus uninspiring. I enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and thought the food was better there with a much better variety. The Windjammer has a very nice outdoor eating area. The ship also has a Sea View Cafe that serves light lunches and dinners, and I had the fish and chips there once and the fish was tasty. I attended three cocktail parties. The first was for all passengers and I had a glass of champagne and left. The second was for Crown and Anchor members and all that was served was champagne or fruit punch. The third was for platinum and above members and this one was like the parties of the old days. They had a carved ice sculpture, hot and cold appetizers, and chocolate desserts. The Captain doesn't shake hands with the passengers anymore due to the Swine Flu/H1N1 threat, and there are also hand sanitizer dispensers available at spots around the ship. The entertainment overall was very good and the production shows were very professional. In this respect, the Jewel shines. The cruise director was also very good. There were many activities available on board plus the usual art auctions and bingo. The ports were all good. I took the ship's shore excursions and they all were well-run with good guides. The prices are much less if one books shore excursions independently in most of the ports. I took the Portland tour and went to the Portland Head Light House which was built by George Washington in 1791 and recommend a visit there. In Bar Harbor we tendered in. I took the tour to Acadia National Park. This is a charming resort town and one could easily spent the day walking around, shopping and having a lobster roll. In St. John, New Brunswick I took another city tour which stopped at the reversing falls. Some passengers walked from the ship to the reversing falls so one does not have to take the tours. In Halifax, I took the tour to Peggy's Cove which I found to be a classic tourist trap. This is a little fishing village with only 60 residents and more than 20 tour buses. The lighthouse there is the most photographed in the world and it would be much lovelier without hundreds of tourists around. I took the hop on and hop off bus in Halifax in the afternoon and recommend that tour. There are three different routes at different prices. We did not have enough port time in Halifax. Security at the cruise terminals is very tight now. In some ports we had to go through security twice, once at the port and another at the ship. One had to have the ship ID plus a passport every time one left or boarded the ship and all the passengers had to go through screening just like at the airports. I can see why they do it, but waiting in those lines takes a lot of time and takes away from the pleasure. Whatever complaints I would have about the Jewel would be minor. This was my 6th cruise with Royal Caribbean and they put out a consistently good cruise at an affordable price.

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Mar 18, 2009

Panama

Overall a great and good experience. The food was mediocre. It was very plain and the Windjammer quality was fair. Rooms were great. Acivities - lots of them! Very well organized.

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Mar 13, 2009

Caribbean

This was my family's first cruise and we looked forward to it for over a year. We had the BEST time and can not wait to be able to cruise again! We were not even home for 24 hours before I started looking for our next cruise!! I would never sail out of Boston again as we hit a storm and the whole family got very seasick, but can't wait to go again - just not out of Boston. The staff, especially our cabin steward were wonderful and very helpful.

There were 9 of us in our party ranging from my parents (in their 60's) my husband and myself (40's) our two kids 17 and 14, my brother and his wife (30's) and their daughter who's 2. There was something for everyone to do on this cruise. 10 day repositioning cruise. We went to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Aruba and Miami. While in St. Thomas my husband and I re-newed our wedding vows at the Beach, Meagans Bay. Best vacation of my life!! Since we were traveling with a child in our group, we ate mostly at the Windjammer Cafe. The staff had fallen in love with my niece and everyday the wiaters would bring her fresh strawberries! We also did eat in the formal dinning room a few different nights. Our waiter was very nice and funny. His assitant was just as charming. The last night they served Lobster Tails. As soon as my husband had finished one, another was there to take it's place. MJ (our waiter) msut have delivered at least 5 lobster tails to my husband alone. My father, I think he must have had three himself. Same thing, as soon as one was finished another was there!! Also, the last night, we were surprised by a special dessert presentation to my parents that had arranged by their travel agent. They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary ~ so about 10 waiters came to the table and sang "Happy Anniversary" to my parents. It was a wonderful surprise. I had seen the picutres on the web of what our inside cabin would look like, so I wasn't surprised by it's size. I think I was actully surprised it was bigger than I thought it would be. I enjoyed having a safe in the room. Ice was delivered to our room every night with the turndown service. My husband slept alot on this vacation so did not get to enjoy all of the wonderful towel animals that are left for you with your mints and next day information, which I loved to get the night before. This made things easier to plan for the family and meeting time, ect. Our stateroom was clean and everything worked. I also liked being able to track our progess on the cruise and see how fast we were traveling and where were on the map - cabin steward was great, again the whole family got very seasick and my niece being 2, lets just say he earned his tip on that trip. Lots to do! We were on board for Halloween and what a "treat" (ha, ha) that was!! The crew dressed up and there was a costume contest (we knew about this ahead of time and all brought costumes). We went to dinner in the formal dinning room that night and had so much fun. Bingo was expensive , but my sister in law loved it. We went to the casino and played for two nights (slots) with only $3.50. Only the quarters I had in my purse. Went to the shows every night. There was a Tango Show one night. WOW! Loved all the shows. We went to the movies and saw Fools Gold. Now everytime we see that movie all we talk about is the "awesome cruise" we went on and "Mum, when can we go agian!!" Planned a snorkeling excursion in Aruba that cancelled the night before we were due to go on it and tried to get another one, but they were all full. Very disappointing. Went on a Catamaran ride in Aruba, and went to a beach, where we were able to use some snorkeling equipment and do just a little (nothing to see at the beah) at the beach. The shopping was GREAT! Didn't feel pressured on shore at all by any of the sales people. Loved this vacation so much. Loved Royal Caribbean, just a little afraid to try a differrent cruise line. Don't want to be disappointed because this first trip was outstanding!! Even with the seasickness - no pictures at all of the 2nd day, we were all so sick. Most of the crew too!! Wouldn't let us outside on the deck, which was fine with me since I didn't want to leave my room and my bed. Once my husband made me go up on deck and get some air I felt a little better. I still must have looked pretty awful, many people came up to me and told me that it would get better. Saw most of them later on the cruise and told them they were right. Food was wonderful, staff was wonderful, weather was outstanding (yes, even with the storm), ship, activites, everything.... WONDERFUL!!

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Mar 13, 2009

Caribbean

This was my family's first cruise and we looked forward to it for over a year. We had the BEST time and can not wait to be able to cruise again! We were not even home for 24 hours before I started looking for our next cruise!! I would never sail out of Boston again as we hit a storm and the whole family got very seasick, but can't wait to go again - just not out of Boston. The staff, especially our cabin steward were wonderful and very helpful.

There were 9 of us in our party ranging from my parents (in their 60's) my husband and myself (40's) our two kids 17 and 14, my brother and his wife (30's) and their daughter who's 2. There was something for everyone to do on this cruise. 10 day repositioning cruise. We went to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Aruba and Miami. While in St. Thomas my husband and I re-newed our wedding vows at the Beach, Meagans Bay. Best vacation of my life!! Since we were traveling with a child in our group, we ate mostly at the Windjammer Cafe. The staff had fallen in love with my niece and everyday the wiaters would bring her fresh strawberries! We also did eat in the formal dinning room a few different nights. Our waiter was very nice and funny. His assitant was just as charming. The last night they served Lobster Tails. As soon as my husband had finished one, another was there to take it's place. MJ (our waiter) msut have delivered at least 5 lobster tails to my husband alone. My father, I think he must have had three himself. Same thing, as soon as one was finished another was there!! Also, the last night, we were surprised by a special dessert presentation to my parents that had arranged by their travel agent. They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary ~ so about 10 waiters came to the table and sang "Happy Anniversary" to my parents. It was a wonderful surprise. I had seen the picutres on the web of what our inside cabin would look like, so I wasn't surprised by it's size. I think I was actully surprised it was bigger than I thought it would be. I enjoyed having a safe in the room. Ice was delivered to our room every night with the turndown service. My husband slept alot on this vacation so did not get to enjoy all of the wonderful towel animals that are left for you with your mints and next day information, which I loved to get the night before. This made things easier to plan for the family and meeting time, ect. Our stateroom was clean and everything worked. I also liked being able to track our progess on the cruise and see how fast we were traveling and where were on the map - cabin steward was great, again the whole family got very seasick and my niece being 2, lets just say he earned his tip on that trip. Lots to do! We were on board for Halloween and what a "treat" (ha, ha) that was!! The crew dressed up and there was a costume contest (we knew about this ahead of time and all brought costumes). We went to dinner in the formal dinning room that night and had so much fun. Bingo was expensive , but my sister in law loved it. We went to the casino and played for two nights (slots) with only $3.50. Only the quarters I had in my purse. Went to the shows every night. There was a Tango Show one night. WOW! Loved all the shows. We went to the movies and saw Fools Gold. Now everytime we see that movie all we talk about is the "awesome cruise" we went on and "Mum, when can we go agian!!" Planned a snorkeling excursion in Aruba that cancelled the night before we were due to go on it and tried to get another one, but they were all full. Very disappointing. Went on a Catamaran ride in Aruba, and went to a beach, where we were able to use some snorkeling equipment and do just a little (nothing to see at the beah) at the beach. The shopping was GREAT! Didn't feel pressured on shore at all by any of the sales people. Loved this vacation so much. Loved Royal Caribbean, just a little afraid to try a differrent cruise line. Don't want to be disappointed because this first trip was outstanding!! Even with the seasickness - no pictures at all of the 2nd day, we were all so sick. Most of the crew too!! Wouldn't let us outside on the deck, which was fine with me since I didn't want to leave my room and my bed. Once my husband made me go up on deck and get some air I felt a little better. I still must have looked pretty awful, many people came up to me and told me that it would get better. Saw most of them later on the cruise and told them they were right. Food was wonderful, staff was wonderful, weather was outstanding (yes, even with the storm), ship, activites, everything.... WONDERFUL!!

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Sep 9, 2007

Western Europe

We booked this cruise in February of 2007 with much anticipation and in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary. With 6+ months to plan and chat on the Cruise Critic roll call and bulletin boards for information and ideas, we were ready to embark on this journey. Embarkation: Monday Sept. 10th we took a taxi to the Liverpool Street station and boarded the “Cruise Train” to Harwich. The Harwich International

station is right next to the pier so we walked about 50 feet after getting off the train to the check in point. We arrived at about 10:30 am and walked right up to an agent at the terminal, it took all of 5 minutes to check in. We had time to grab a taxi and head over to Morrison’s (grocery store) to purchase 2 cases of bottled water. Made it back to the terminal in about 15 minutes, by then the lines to check in were mounting. We dropped off our carry on bags in our stateroom and proceeded to explore the ship and had lunch at the Windjammer. Stateroom 8588: This was our first balcony. I was hesitant about spending the extra money since the weather would not be warm; mostly lower to mid 60’s, but were glad we did. This stateroom was the most convenient location we have had on a cruise. Being on the bump, it was located mid ship right off the Centrum and while looking out on the balcony you could see all the way forward, what a nice view. I was a little concerned about the noise from the Centrum, but we had no problems at all. Our cabin steward Leah from the Philippines was indeed a sweetheart, she took very good care of us and was so pleasant to get to know, she provided excellent service every day. The The Jewel is a beautiful ship. All of the glass makes for an open airy feeling. Some of the art and sculptures were different than I would choose but all in all very beautiful. Since the weather did not allow for any use of the outside pool or hot tubs, the Solarium was quite crowded. There were times that we could not find deck chairs or even a table and chairs at the solarium, especially on sea days. The pool and the one hot tub endured a lot of use and became over crowded. The solarium was not big enough for as many people on the ship during inclement weather. The bar service in the solarium was hit or miss, but don’t miss the crepes at the Solarium Café, they are yummy. We found the Sea view café very difficult to get to. It is located on deck 12 aft above the Windjammer. When the Windjammer is open you can go through the aft outside seating area and climb up one flight of stairs, but when the Windjammer is closed you have to take the elevator to deck 12 and go through the children’s area, Adventure Ocean outside (when it is cold it’s not so nice) or walk through the basketball courts to the aft of the ship. The casino, along with the Pit Stop bar was extremely smoky so we did not spend too much time there as well for the Hollywood Odyssey bar and the Vortex Lounge, they were all too smoky for our liking. The Jewel is starting to show her age, I hope this will be addressed while in dry dock this October. The tables and chairs in the windjammer are worn and faded to the point of loosing the finish on the chair backs and seats. The public rest rooms are worn and have a musty odor to them. At times the elevators were so crowded that we would have wait quite a while for one with enough room. We also found that empty elevators would pass by without stopping. Entertainment: The entertainment was not at all to our liking on this cruise. I would say the average of cruisers was 65 to 80 on this cruise, we are in our early 50’s, so the bulk of the entertainment along with the live music in the Centrum and the bars was geared towards that age group. There was no “rock” music playing and there was only one night of jazz and blues, in the Hollywood Odyssey (cigar) bar. The smoke was so bad you could smell it 2 decks below. We did not spend any time in the bars because of the music or the smoke. The shows were all pretty much lame and amateurish, the few we did go to, we couldn’t wait for them to end. Even Quest seemed old and staged. The team who won came toting a bag full of props. This totally took the fun out of the game. Dining: This is a hot topic with me. Let me say that the service was outstanding. Our waiter Nigel form India was right on top of things all of the time. The asst waiter, Duane from Jamaica provided excellent service as well. Now the food is another story. We found the food to have been the worst we have had on a cruise. The quality of the food served was a huge disappointment, many of the dishes were over salted or bland, and most of the beef dishes were tough. Another main complaint is that the food was not hot. We found this to be the same at the Windjammer too. The dinners we had at Portofino and Chops were much better than what was offered in the dining room. Not excellent but markedly better, along with very good service. Breakfast was also a disappointment, both in the dining room and Windjammer. We did not have lunch in the dining room, but I did hear from a fellow passenger that it was not up to par either. With a 2 week cruise, I found that a little more variety was needed, as I got tired of the same things day after day. The coffee on board was the worst I have ever had. I can drink strong coffee, but this was ridiculous. Another mention, I wish biscotti would have been offered at Latte-tudes. Cruise director and staff: Clo was our CD on this sailing. She was OK, not great. We only saw her handful of times one being at our Meet & Mingle and a few times introducing the shows. The announcements for the art auctions and bingo were grating at times. I felt that the ship should have offered more activities since the outdoor pool was not useable due to the weather. Passengers: A rude awakening. Aside from the wonderful Meet and Mingle group from our roll call, quite a number of passengers onboard were rude and pushy. I was shoved so hard at the gala buffet that I almost took a header into a plate full of cream cheese. What gives? There was plenty of food, I don’t understand why people have to be so rude. On quite a number of occasions I could barely get out of the elevator before other people would rush in. Now I know there aren’t enough elevators mid ship that is another story, but at least let the people out before rushing in. We also experienced people pushing and shoving in the gift shops when the sale tables were set up, as well as in the Windjammer. Ports of call: Oslo: The weather was good, 65 and sunny, we took the ships “Oslo Highlights” tour, It was very informative the guide pointed out all the important buildings, then we were off to the Holmenkollen ski jump, got a little history about skiing in Norway then climbed to the top of the jump, what a breathtaking view down into the fjord. Then we were off to Vigeland Sculpture Park. This park is not like any other we have seen, not only is the sculpture amazing but the meticulous placement of the pieces along with the stories that they tell was very interesting. We were allowed to get off the bus at the city center and walk back to the pier. The pier is quite close to the city center so walking back to the pier was a snap. It was dark when we sailed into the Oslo fjord so we were all on deck as we set sail out of the fjord that evening. The trip outward was a real treat. Copenhagen: Weather was good again, 68 and sunny. We tool the ships tour of Copenhagen and Dragor Village. The tour started after the first stop at the little mermaid. They’re not kidding on the little part. The statue is much smaller than it looks in photographs. Next was a tour through Copenhagen, then to Dragor (pronounced Dra’wer) village. Our tour guide gave us a walking tour through this area and gave us about an hour or so of time to shop and browse. On the way back to Copenhagen, our guide gave us more history and a brief lesson of the socio-economic structure of the country. We asked to be let off at the city center and walked from the center to Nyhaven. The Nyhaven area is very charming with shops and mostly sidewalk cafes all along the harbor. We took the shuttle back to the ship and grabbed lunch at the Sea view then went back to Tivoli gardens for the late afternoon and evening. I must say that this was one of the highlights of the trip. The gardens are breathtaking. It is also an amusement park but with major accents on the botanical park. Most of the amusements are set back into the corners of the garden making the garden itself the focal point. There are a couple of band shells and the music in the park was quite enjoyable. Tivoli after dark shouldn’t be missed. Hamburg: The port of Hamburg is mainly a shipping port so nothing of note here. We took the ships tour again of Hamburg and the Lake District with a lake cruise. We were unimpressed with Hamburg. I didn’t really care for our guide and his attitude, as well as the boring lake cruise. The guide seemed to be enamored with affluent areas and didn’t focus on much else. There were a lot of passengers booked on the Berlin tours. That entailed a 3hr train ride each way and we didn’t want to be traveling that much as the one long trip we booked was into Paris. Amsterdam: The first day we had rain on the cruise so far. I think we would have spent some more time there if it had not been raining. We took a tour of Amsterdam which included a trip to a working windmill and a trip to a wooden shoe factory. The guide was very informative about the city and gave us very good commentary. Later that day we took a canal cruise. Amsterdam has a very intricate canal system; the view from the canal boat with the guide’s commentary was very good. We were amazed at the number of bicycles in Amsterdam. It was very strange driving past 3 story bicycle parking areas. Bicycles have the right of way over Cars, Pedestrians and Trams in Amsterdam. There are more bicycles in the city then cars. We found that bicycle use in Europe far out numbered that in the US. The tour lasted longer than I expected but would have been more enjoyable without the rain. Zeebrugge, Belgium: We had decided to visit Brugge while in Belgium, and made arrangements before the cruise with a private taxi. Brugge I must say is like stepping into a fairy tale. If it had not rained this would have been a perfect day! It is charming and rich in history. It is indescribable without pictures. The buildings are mostly 15th and 16th century, very ornate and well kept. Our taxi picked us and 3 other couples up at the pier in Zeebrugge to take us to the city of Brugge about 35 minutes away. The taxi was to meet us in the town square at 4pm for our return to the ship. We initially thought that we wouldn’t have much to do there, but we were dead wrong. We meandered through the streets browsing through the lace shops, the patisseries, coffee houses and chocolate shops. The architecture was amazing. We started at the old Market Center, made our way to the Church of the Holy Blood (12th century) and then off to browse in the shops. We had lunch in the square, I had to try a cherry beer as Belgium is known for good beer, then we were off to take a canal cruise. The canal cruise was most interesting even in the rain. We did a little shopping for lace and chocolate then our taxi picked us up at 4pm promptly. We spoke to a few passengers who booked the ships tour for Brugge and they complained that they did not have enough time there. After hearing that, I was glad that we did Brugge on our own. Le Havre, France: This turned out to be a beautiful day with the high in the lower 70’s and sunny. Le Havre is also a shipping port so there is not much to do there. We booked the ships tour, a taste of Paris because Paris is 2.5 hours by bus from the port, Le Havre. The guide was very nice and informative, (the only Parisian we met who was nice), and the sights were incredible. We had about a 45 minute bus tour of the city, and then we were let out at the Eiffel Tower for 3.5 hrs. 3.5 hrs is not enough time. We set out along with 2 other couples and took the metro to Notre Dame Cathedral, which was unbelievably beautiful, both inside and out. We walked from Notre Dame, along the river Seine, past the Louver to the Place de la Concord, by then it was getting close to the time for us to meet the bus. We tried hailing a taxi but it took quite a while, even at a taxi stand. Unfortunately, the first taxi could only take 4 passengers, so we agreed to split up and wait for the next one. It took another 15-20 minutes to hail another taxi and that driver didn’t want to take us. After pleading he agreed and we just made the bus back to the ship by the skin of out teeth. The other 2 couples we were with held the bus for us. We were 10 minutes late but made it. The bus ride back was long and tedious. We arrived back at Le Havre at about 7:30pm along with all of the other busses. There were 1200 of us trying to get on the ship; it took us 40 minutes from getting off the bus to actually boarding the ship. This was extremely poor planning on the ships part to have all the tours end at the same time, as they should have been staggered. Another problem we experienced was we felt that there should have been more on our own time given in Paris. The ship sailed at 11pm, back on board time was 10:30pm, and we were bussed back by 7:30pm. In my opinion there was ample time to allow more on our own time in Paris. I have heard rumors that the Parisians are rude and indifferent. I must say all this and more is true. We made attempts to speak the language and tried to adhere to their customs, but none of our attempts were appreciated, and no one was willing to help in the least. Paris is truly a beautiful city, but I don’t think we will return. Dublin: We had a little rain in the morning, but by 9:45 the skies cleared and we had good weather, lower 60’s. We took the ships shuttle into town, walked to Trinity College to see the book of Kells. The lines were nominal and were able to spend a good amount of time there. The story of the book is very interesting, and seeing the actual manuscripts was amazing. We left the college and headed for the hop on hop off buss. We purchased and paid for this tour on the internet before the cruise so we just presented our voucher to the bus rep and we were given our tickets. We did the green and cream “City Tour” busses. The drivers have quite lively and entertaining commentary. We got off at the Temple Bar area and had lunch at Galleghers Boxty House. Then resumed the tour going past the Guinness brewery, Phoenix Park, St. Stephens Green and many more interesting places. Dublin is a very crowded city with heavy pedestrian traffic as well as heavy public transit bus traffic as well. The flowers hanging over the window sills and the store fronts were a beautiful sight, giving this city a charm all its own Cork: The port city for Cork is Cobh (pronounced Cove) Coming into port was a real treat. The row houses painted all different colors on the hillsides were breathtaking. There is a cathedral in the town, St. Colmins Cathedral which is quite beautiful and the green of the Irish countryside makes it look like a post card. There is a museum at the pier which is dedicated to the story of the Titanic. We booked a tour through e-coach tours. This tour was one of the best tours we took. The owner and commentator is Ian Butler, who has a great sense of humor and was very friendly and informative. After we boarded, we were off to Blarney Castle. We arrived before the other busses from the ship and were given ample time to climb up the castle tower and look at (or kiss if you prefer) the Blarney Stone, walk around the grounds and through the town of Blarney and shop the nearby Blarney Woolen Mills. The Castle grounds are taken care of meticulously and are beautiful and serene. It is amazing how peaceful it is. We did indeed climb the tower to take a peek at the famous stone. While up on the top of the castle the view of the surrounding grounds is spectacular. We then boarded the coach for a bus tour of Cork, then we were off to Kinsale. The trip to Kinsale was very picturesque and what a treat the town of Kinsale was. The bus dropped us off near the town center and gave us ample time for lunch (good fish & chips at Dino’s) and shopping. Kinsale is situated on a harbor and is very charming and quaint. We were told that the day we were in County Cork was one of the areas better days as it was sunny and about 68, The locals say that they get 300 days of rain in Ireland, no wonder it is so green! Disembarkation: Since we made our own arrangements (train to London) we were one of the last parties to leave. We had breakfast then vacated our stateroom. When our color and number was called we left the ship, collected our luggage then made our way to the train, it couldn’t have been easier. The only ripple we experienced was a long line at the train station for a taxi, but it was not too bad. We spent one more day in London then the next day we were homeward bound. Final Notes: We did make a next cruise booking only because we have a commitment to cruise with some friends next October. If the food and entertainment is not better than we experienced on this cruise, I doubt we will be cruising with Royal Caribbean again. We were very disappointed in the lack of quality in the food and entertainment that was provided.

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Feb 10, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

First of all, this was our first cruise ever, so we really have no first-hand comparisons, but we LOVED THIS CRUISE! We booked the Jewel of the Seas about a year in advance, in celebration of our 10-year anniversary (February 14, 2007), and were not disappointed. This cruise exceeded our expectations in every way. Ports of call -- Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Thomas, and the Bahamas. We had 2 days at sea well.

Embarkation: We had read so many mixed reviews about the embarkation, but this was completely painless for us. We arrived to the port on our hotel shuttle (we had stayed at the Hampton Inn the night before) at 1:55 p.m. Check-in was to begin at 2 p.m., but we were allowed to check in immediately upon arrival. The entire check-in process took about 25 minutes, and we were happily on board and sitting in the Windjammer Café by 2:25 p.m. Stateroom: We had a balcony, stateroom 9220 to be exact. It was awesome! The view was gorgeous, and I can’t imagine not having a balcony. We made full use the balcony by having breakfast out there, waking to the warm morning breezes, and retiring to the evening breezes on the balcony each evening. The room was much larger than we had anticipated only because I had envisioned a cramped room. However, after traveling in Europe, this stateroom was no smaller than many European pensions we had stayed in. There was ample room for the two of us, and we never felt cramped. Shore Excursions: We did not take an actual excursion in San Juan. Instead, we just walked through Old San Juan, which is walking distance from the pier. There are many good restaurants in the area as well (we ate at Café Berlin which is supposed to be a mixture of German and Puerto Rican fare…but the German menu was primarily just for Sunday brunch), and many of our fellow passengers walked up to the old Fort from our ship. I see no reason to have to grab a cab in San Juan unless you want to venture out of the Old San Juan area. In St. Maarten, we took the Best of St. Maarten tour. Unfortunately, the snorkeling portion of this trip was changed last-minute. The union workers who operated the boat to Pinel Island were on strike, so instead we were taken to a snorkeling spot at Oyster Bay (Dawn Beach), but it was HORRIBLE! It was so bad that Royal Caribbean refunded 50% of our excursion fees. The other portion of this excursion included a bus ride to Marigot for sightseeing, and some shopping. That portion of it met expectations, and because of our inability to snorkel at Pinel Island, we now have a reason to go back to St. Maarten on another trip in hopes of snorkeling there. On Antigua we took an excursion out to Cades Reef for some snorkeling. What a blast! We boarded a cool, fast, inflatable type of boat that felt like we were on a fun theme park ride. Our guide gave a FABULOUS 11-mile tour up the coast of Antigua and provided commentary on the many beaches we passed along the way. We stopped for a photo opportunity at Georgio Armani’s house and made our way up to the reef. The snorkeling there was in crystal clear water. Nothing can compare to that Caribbean water! On the way back, we stopped at a secluded beach where we enjoyed rum punch, and some time in the sun and sand with our boat mates. There were only about 10 of us so it was a great trip and a nice opportunity to get to know some of our fellow shipmates from Jewel of the Seas. At St. Thomas we took the Ultimate Island Experience excursion which began with a 2-hour beach visit to Magen’s Bay, one of the top beaches in the world! It was beautiful! Some beachgoers saw a big sea turtle in shallow water, and while we never saw the turtle, we did see a school of fish swimming in knee-deep water. We enjoyed the beautiful sun, sand, and clear water, and took the time to relax in a beach lounge chair. Following the beach portion of the excursion, we got back onto our bus and took a ride to Blackbeard’s Hill with a visit to the pirate statues. We didn’t have a ton of interest in this, but it was such a beautiful view from the hill that it is worth the visit just to climb to the top of the lookout tower and take photographs. From there, we shuttled down to the shopping area in St. Thomas where we enjoyed a nice lunch and shopped the many local tents and stores. In Nassau, Bahamas we went on the Stingray Adventure tour and spent time at the beach. I was a little apprehensive to swim with stingrays initially, but after having seen the brave children in the water, I knew I could handle it. We were probably in the water with the stingrays for about an hour and a half, and took some time to snorkel in the enclosed area to see the stingrays “hiding” in the sand at the bottom. They are slimy creatures, but friendly (especially since their barbs had been removed). We got to feed them squid, but it was an interesting experience trying to feed them while fish would come up and snatch food out of our hands. It was great, and I would recommend the experience to anyone! The Bahamas was beautiful, and on our next trip there we will probably take a trip over to the Atlantis resort. The days at sea on Jewel of the Seas were spent watching a belly flop contest, horse-racing (not real horses) contest, playing BINGO (I haven’t played BINGO since elementary school) and laying by the pool. Pool chairs go really quickly on ‘at sea’ days, and to get one, you need to be at the pool around 8-8:15 a.m. or plan on a shady spot. Otherwise, the chairs tend to free up again about 2 p.m. and you can get some prime spots. Spa: I purchased a ‘port day special’ the morning of our Puerto Rico stop, and went to the spa in the morning for a Lime & Ginger Scrub and a Full Body Massage. I probably get massages about 5-6 times per year at various spas while on vacation and in my hometown (Seattle), and this spa treatment was on par with most. However, the spa itself was not as I expected. Since this was our first cruise, I really don’t know if all cruise ships’ spas are like this or not, but the spa area itself was really small. There is no ladies locker room or changing area, so plan to change your clothes in your treatment room. There were also no “extras” included, probably because all of the extras they could include would already be part of your cruise experience (fitness center, hot tub, etc). Therefore, the spa treatments seemed a bit pricey since there were no extras. Food: The Windjammer Café is the buffet restaurant on the ship. We went there a few times for breakfast and lunch, but never for dinner. We liked it, but after awhile, got a bit tired of the same ol’ thing. I am a vegetarian, and there were very few options other than salad every day. In the evenings we ate at the Tides Dining Room for our late seating and LOVED the food there. We were apprehensive due to a few reviews that were critical of the food, and while my husband is a meat-eater, he primarily stuck with seafood, so we cannot comment on the steaks ? We got lucky with our dinner mates as we really enjoyed the company of each of them from different areas of the country and world. There are 2 specialty restaurants on the ship that require a $20 fee, but we only ate at one of them – Portofino – for the Murder Mystery Dinner ($49 per person). This was so much fun, and at the start of the mystery, my husband was pulled out by the “fortune teller” who told him his secret desire was to be a runway model. My husband, in true improv style, then proceeded to do a runway walk and pose for the crowd. What a ham! Later, some told him that he looked like he’d done that before, and yes, he pretends to be a model all the time when posing on escalators in department stores. Funny stuff. The food at Portofino was wonderful! The Sea View Café is tucked off in a corner of the ship, near the Adventure Club. There, you can get everything from burgers, sandwiches and fish n’ chips to milkshakes and other diner plates. My husband overheard many people who commented on how they loved being able to order a “fresh” burger and “real” milkshakes. The Solarium Café is something not to be missed. There, you will find a few quick, veggie options such as good pizzas and wraps, along with crepes made to order! The crepes are available with a variety of toppings such as butterscotch, strawberries, chocolate, ham or cheese. The great thing about both the Solarium Café and the Sea view Café is that they were both open very late (until 1 a.m.) for a late-night snack. One thing to note about the food options is that my husband purchased the Beverage Plan, which was probably not worth the cost. With gratuity, the cost was $55. He did not drink $55 worth of soda during the trip. To do that, he would have had to have ordered more than three sodas per day. Save a few dollars, and just order your drinks as you go. Entertainment: There is SO MUCH entertainment happening on the ship all of the time, that you can’t possibly see everything. We went to the Quest Game Show, which is a MUST. It is sort of like a scavenger hunt, but you don’t actually leave the room (the Safari Club) for the game. It is a must for anyone who likes to have fun. Again, my husband was picked out of the crowd to sit in a chair and allow other men to kiss his forehead. Those men got “points” in the game, while my husband got a lot of slobber on his forehead. (You had to be there.) We went and saw one movie (Inside Man) on one of our days at sea. The cinema on-board is structured with steep stadium seating, so it is virtually impossible for anyone to block your view. However, we were a tad surprised when the ship’s PA announcement for “Cash-Prize Bingo” was broadcast right in the middle of the movie. Our nightly escapades usually ended up with dancing and/or people-watching in the The Vortex, the ship’s adult dance club. Jewel of the Seas had several themed nights in The Vortex which were nothing less than hilarious. We went to the Disco Night, with a special appearance by the ship’s crew of the “Almost Original Village People” delivering an entertaining performance. There was also a Ladies’ Night with the Hunkamaniacs (think Chippendale-style dancing by the ship’s male crew) again providing a “hot” performance. Disembarking: Again, we read reviews about how painful this can be, but we experienced no pain. Our cabin was scheduled to leave the ship in the 7th or 8th grouping, so I projected that to happen at about 9:40 a.m. (they started exiting people at 8:30 a.m.). We were actually called at 9:35 a.m. and we were completely checked out, with luggage in hand by 10:10. The most challenging part of it was trying to find our shuttle to take us to the airport. We had pre-paid with KTS Tours to pick us up and take us to the airport, however, they were no where to be found. Next time around we will just grab one of the gazillion cabs waiting at the pier. This cruise absolutely exceeded our expectations. We had no idea how much fun we would have on the ship, away from the ports of call, and how EXCELLENT the service would be from the crew. Whether it was our dining crew, our cabin crew, the cruise director, and guest relations – everyone was so friendly and helpful that we will definitely be cruising on Royal Caribbean again! Thank you to Royal Caribbean for helping to make our 10-year anniversary so fun and memorable!

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Jul 12, 2006

British Isles

If you are reading this to compare Royal Caribbean's Baltic Sea cruise to that offered by another cruise line then I first commend you. I second advise you up front to book a cruise line that departs and ends at Copenhagen or some other Baltic Sea port and not one that departs or ends at Harwich, England. I offer two reasons. The first is that London is at least two and a half-hours driving time away from Harwich (pronounced "Ha-wick"). In our case

(and judging from the complaints from other weary travelers), we waited almost an additional hour at Heathrow for more passengers to arrive before our bus was determined to be full enough to depart for Harwich. What awaits you upon arrival in Harwich is a slow cue line to check-in. Four hours may not seem like much time, but after a long flight it is. I think being Crown & Anchor members and presenting a printout of our SetSail Online Check-in accelerated our processing a little, but it took a grueling twenty (20) hours travel time to get from Atlanta to our cabin (more about that below). My second reason is that you will be crossing the infamous and often rough waters of the North Sea. You will definitely feel the affect of common 6 to 8 foot waves aboard the 90,090 ton Jewel of the Seas. Royal Caribbean advises passengers to pack a jacket to protect from strong, chilly winds when walking on deck, and to hold on to the handrails. If you are reading this AFTER you have already booked this cruise to confirm if you made a wise choice, then I believe you are betting on fair weather. We "beat the odds". Even so, I believe my best advice would be that you save your confirmation number and call Royal Caribbean to switch to a Mediterranean cruise. I think Barcelona, Monaco, and Rome are superior tourist destinations than Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki. The "ace" in this itinerary is St. Petersburg, Russia. Maybe the length of this cruise makes the price appear to be a bargain, but you should not underestimate the possibility that the North Sea crossings may be too rough to enjoy or rainy weather will accompany your sightseeing. And the trip from Heathrow to Harwich should be enough reason to reconsider. Now if you are still with me then you should know that this cruise was blessed with exceptionally fantastic weather. The Day 1 crossing of the North Sea was through choppy 8 to 10 foot waves and the Jewel of the Seas jerked and yawed just enough to separate the landlubbers from the sailors. The winds were quite chilly and gusted to 50 knots. But you weren't aware of any of this in the Solarium - a glass covered pool decorated in a jungle Thailand theme. The gyro-stabilized billiard tables in the Schooner Bar were most fascinating to watch. The North Sea was glassy smooth on the Day 12 crossing, though the sky was somewhat hazy. We only experienced one brief shower the entire cruise, on the morning of Day 10 in Talinn, Estonia. All of the other days were uncharacteristically sunny, clear and warm. At the same time there was a dangerous heat wave in much of the US and southern Europe, so in our case a Mediterranean cruise would not have been the better choice weather-wise. The Flight NEVER AGAIN shall we let Royal Caribbean arrange our flights. Air travel was inexplicably the worst facet of our cruise experience. Our gateway airport is Atlanta. Royal Caribbean arranged a redeye Lufthansa flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt we were bus-shuttled from the tarmac to the terminal where we were security screened again. Then we were bus-shuttled back to the tarmac onto a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow, London where we arrived 16 hours after we left Atlanta. Then we were herded through Heathrow's crowded and overwhelmed customs and security system. For our departure, Royal Caribbean booked us a late afternoon United flight from Heathrow to Washington, DC. But we were herded onto the bus for the drive from Harwich to Heathrow at 8:00 am. We waited six hours in Heathrow airport for the flight. When we arrived in Washington, DC, the connecting flight to Atlanta was overbooked. We spent the night in Washington and left the next morning arriving in Atlanta more than 27 hours after we took off from Heathrow, 37 hours after we left the ship. Royal Caribbean charged us $1041 per person for the flights. We could have (and should have) purchased a nonstop 7 hour flight from Atlanta to Heathrow for $740 ourselves. You could purchase the bus shuttle to Harwich from Royal Caribbean for about $85 per person. A passenger train stops right at the pier in Harwich, "google" this for details. Learn from our mistake. The Ship Jewel of the Seas was launched in 2004. Those who have sailed Royal Caribbean will recognize trademark Centrum, Schooner Bar, Windjammer and Vortex. The interior décor compliments the ship's name - she is truly a jewel. Artwork throughout the ship is worthy of attention and appreciation. Surprise! No Johnny Rockets or Ben & Jerry's. Our "Ultimate Value Book" we received as Crown & Anchor members had certificates for Johnny Rockets and Ben & Jerry's! So far we have not received much benefit from being Crown & Anchor members. Maybe other cruise lines value their repeat passengers more.It seems Royal Caribbean learned from past experiences and incorporated them into this ship's design and amenities. We experienced few lines at elevators or buffet bars in the Windjammer. On the other hand, the Centrum, Safari Lounge or Vortex frequently proved too small to host activities scheduled there. One area in particular was often too crowded to enjoy: the on-board shops. There is mini-golf, rock climbing, ball court, water slide and run/jog/walk track. The "tranquil" and "adult" glass enclosed Solarium pool/hot tub in Thailand jungle theme was one of our favorite spots. (Kudos to the pool deck staff who directed children to the main pool and removed towels placed in lounge chairs to reserve them.) There is a soft "bird" soundtrack can be heard or an elephant "trumpets" on the hour. The glass roof can be opened to fresh air on warm days. In contrast, the uncovered main pool area "next door" was often the scene of party music and activities not suitable for the relaxing we sought after exploring the sights. There is a gym, a spa and a state-of-the-art Coral Theater. Most activities happen on Decks 4, 5, 6 or 11. Decks 4 and 6 have a lot of hall traffic. A stateroom on these decks is probably not the quietest unless you are far forward. Most staterooms are on Decks 7 through 10. Staterooms are a study in efficient design, but not interior decoration. Some choreography is advised for two or more people to navigate the limited floor space. Neatness will pay dividends. One word of caution: standing in front of the closet while another is in the washroom is a painful accident waiting to happen should they open the door into you. Unfortunately, the walls between the rooms are thin - conversations in adjacent rooms can be heard so you might do well to try to book a room near a bulkhead. One problem we noticed in our interior stateroom was limited air exchange. Air circulation improves somewhat if the air exhaust vent inexplicably located in the bottom of the closet wall remains clear of suitcases and clothes. Drop the soap in the shower and some will be challenged to pick it up. Interestingly, the grills of the soap dish are spaced wide enough apart to permit the hotel guest sized soap bars to fall through! Consider bringing your own soap. This will not apply to those of you who booked bathtubs and balconies. Also consider brining a little liquid laundry detergent to clean out some of those stains on clothes you plan to wear again. The Itinerary Ship itineraries are subject to change and knowing this might limit some disappointment and frustration. Our ship kept a timely schedule and the published itinerary. We did some pre-cruise investigation and determined we did not need to book tours at all the ports except St. Petersburg. If a lot of walking is difficult or does not appeal to you, or you'd rather not take a chance on having good weather, then book tours. We learned that we saw as much, often more than those who booked tours during dinner conversations. One common complaint was that tours rushed through sights people really wanted to see. Day 1: Depart Harwich, England. Orange life jackets on the bed welcomed us to our stateroom and reminded us of the mandatory lifeboat muster. As usual, there was a long wait as passengers who somehow think their absence will not be noticed are located and report to their station. Day 2: at sea on the North Sea. Come prepared for wind, rain and/or waves. Day 3: Oslo, Norway. US dollars are accepted but take plenty of small bills and know the approximate exchange rate. Prices are exorbitant in Oslo so consider saving shopping for later and resist that temptation to buy that ugly troll! Of course, Royal Caribbean pushes their shuttles and excursions. Take the shuttles if the weather forecast is not good or walking is not an option. Otherwise, you can tour this city on foot. An alternative is to purchase an Oslo Pass that prepays transportation and admission to sites. The ship docks right across from Akershus Castle. You may need to be firm with the pushy onboard photographers who swarm you as you leave the ship. You can catch the public ferry to Bygdoy Peninsula to see the Viking Ship Museum, Fram Museum, Norsk Folkemuseum, Maritime Museum and Kon Tiki Museum in the small boat harbor near the pier. The Viking Museum is an uphill 4-block walk from the dock. It houses three authentic Viking ships dating from about 850AD. Vigelund Sculpture Park is about 4 miles from the ship so judge for yourself if you should walk there and back, but the city tram goes there. Prices in restaurants are outrageous. We brought zippered plastic bags and packed a light picnic lunch from the feed troughs in the Windjammer. A word about departure time should be made here. The ship departs on time whether you are aboard or not. Catching the missed ship can be an expensive proposition. Know the all aboard time printed in the Cruise Compass before you leave the ship. In Oslo, our all aboard time was 3:30pm and you could set your watch by the departure time. The entry and departure cruise through the Oslo Fjord is worth watching. Day 4: Copenhagen, Denmark. This beautiful city can be toured on foot, too. Look for the Tourist Office down the street when you get off the ship and ask for their free map. The ship's map isn't detailed enough to help you if you get lost. The Little Mermaid is about a 10-minute walk up the Langelinie; just stay to the sidewalks nearest the waterfront. This famous landmark is indeed "little" and attracts a lot of well-deserved attention. Amalienborg Palace (Changing of the Guard at noon), Marmorkirken (Marble Church), Alexander Newsky Kirke (gold onion domed), Fredericksborg Castle (it's good to be the king) and Rosenborg Castle (fabulous crown jewels and scene of Shakespeare's Hamlet) are reasonably close together. A little further you will come to the canal. We recommend the DFDS Canal Tours. Tivoli is an amusement park best seen at night and our all aboard was three hours before sunset so we skipped it. As we walked the aroma drew us into a bakery (something we couldn't do on a tour) so we tried a fresh Kringle and determined for ourselves whether Danish or French pastry is better. An alternative is to purchase a City Pass that prepays transportation on the Hop On/Hop Off trams that traverse the city and major sites and admission to sites. Tablemates who did this determined they "broke even". After the sticker shock in Oslo the prices in Copenhagen seemed only a little more reasonable, but still expensive. Day 5: at sea on the Baltic Sea. Because it is somewhat shallow, little storms can make big waves. So be prepared should this happen. We were blessed smooth sailing and took full advantage of the many activities scheduled aboard ship. Day 6: Stockholm, Sweden. The beautiful winding narrow passage through the archipelago arriving and departing Stockholm should not be missed. After docking, you might consider taking the shuttle into Stockholm because the ship is about a 25-minute walk from the sights. An alternative is to purchase a Stockholm Pass that prepays transportation and admission to some sights. Our tablemates determined they did not get their money's worth in Stockholm. Look for the Tourist Office near the ship a get a really useful and free map. We unintentionally caught the impressive Changing of the Guard at noon at the courtyard of the 608 room Royal Palace in Gamla Stan. The Vasa Museum is right across the river from the Jewel, but unless you walk on water it is about a 50-minute trek from the ship. Nearby is the open-air museum Skansen containing 150 buildings representing early folk life in Sweden. We found that there is a lot to see and do in Stockholm and our 4:30 all aboard time came much too quickly. We crossed a time zone overnight and lost an hour's sleep. Day 7: Helsinki, Finland. Here, you should consider taking the shuttle because it is a long walk through the ship building industries from the Hernesaari C-Pier into the city. If you decide to walk get a free map just outside the pier gate. You will need it. The street signs and names are confusing. Helsinki is a hard working city, not really a tourist destination. The shuttle unloads at the Esplanade near Senate Square and the landmark white with green domes Lutheran Cathedral. If you want to see the Protestant plain Lutheran Cathedral (with huge ornate organ) and avoid the 52-step stairway, walk up the road to the left side. We heard a free organ concert at noon there. The very lovely park-like Esplanade, very ornate Uspensky Cathedral and Market Square are nearby attractions. If you didn't spend all your cash in the first three ports you can bargain for food and crafts in the Market Square at the harbor. You probably won't get the bottom price until you are ready to walk away, but don't foolishly pay the first price. Consider eating like the natives and try a hefty fresh fish sandwich or some fresh sardines and seafood. The Temppeliaukio ("Rock") Church is about a 30 minute walk from Senate Square and may be too far away to consider, especially if you remember the really busy sightseeing days are just ahead AND you cross another time zone overnight and lose another hour's sleep! Day 8: St. Petersburg, Russia. The city was gleaming after hosting the G8 conference. This is the star port of the cruise and there is really too much to see and do in just two days. If you follow nothing else out of this article do this - book an independent tour of St. Petersburg. We booked a two-day tour with DenRus, not Royal Caribbean. Unfortunately, we considered our tour guide opinionated and argumentative who seized every opportunity to tell us how her life was better under the Soviet system (she had been a privileged daughter of a KGB agent). Unless you stayed close to the guide, you couldn't hear. Some other tour groups (including some Royal Caribbean tours) solve this problem by using two-way radio communication between you and the guide. DenRus should get updated. On their website, DenRus appears to offer a variety of exceptional "value" tours, but we couldn't book any value tour except the "Complete St. Petersburg". I must admit that we discovered this to be a great all-inclusive tour that represents a good value, especially compared to those Royal Caribbean offers. The other independent tour company is Red October, and we heard good reports from those who toured with them so it might pay to compare. Our tablemates were furious that their Royal Caribbean tour was mostly hurry up and wait for a rushed tour of the sites they paid too much to see. As others have noted, Royal Caribbean does continue to perpetuate misinformation: "Guests who have booked independent tours will not be permitted to leave the ship prior to 9:30am per Russian Immigration Authorities." We left the ship at 8:15am and sailed through immigration. You will need your passport and will give them a photocopy of your passport photo page upon your initial entry. You will be given a red immigration card that they will demand when you return. My advice is to select a tour that takes you to a variety of sights otherwise you may weary of seeing palace after palace or splendid church after church. On this day the DenRus tour took us to Peterhof Palace and fountain studded Grounds, a fairly rushed lunch at Peterhof, the world-class art museum, 5 connected royal palaces known as The Hermitage (but not the "gold room"), and gold-domed St. Isaac's Church. Once you see for yourself the indescribable opulence enjoyed by the royalty and the wealthy one can begin to understand why revolution occurred. Tonight is the time and the place to see world renowned ballet performances. If interested, look into what Royal Caribbean offers and take it from there. We had open seating in the Tides Dining Room. We noticed a little decline in the quality of our table service. So this might be a good night to make reservations (like on the first day you board the ship) at Portofino's (Italian) or Chops Grille (steak) though they add a $20 per/person surcharge. Day 9: St. Petersburg, Russia. Our second day DenRus tour went to Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral (holding tombs of czars and czarinas); a side trip to an expensive gift shop; a very scenic Canal boat Cruise; a more leisurely and enjoyable lunch in St. Petersburg; candied-domed, mosaic encrusted Church of the Resurrection (Spilled Blood); and Yusupov Palace, a mansion that outgilds the Czars. not on this "value" tour is Catherine's Palace and the world famous "Amber Room". Day 10: Talinn, Estonia. We found this city a refreshing change of scenery and pace. Talinn contains a well-preserved walled medieval town that overlooks the New Town. The Old Town is an easy walk from the ship and we found this is an easy place to do our own touring and enjoy a careful stroll down narrow cobblestone streets. Complimentary shuttles are available. The churches and shops are worth a look inside. We found the prices fairly reasonable in New Town and major credit cards accepted. Our 3:30 all aboard time arrived much to quickly. Day 11: at sea on the Baltic Sea. Day 12: at sea on the North Sea. Day 13: disembark at Harwich, England. Royal Caribbean wanted everyone out of their stateroom before 8:00am. Color-coded tags indicate assembly areas and also the transportation that will be taken from Harwich. Gatecrashers learned to their dismay that their brown tag meant they could only board a brown bus to Heathrow Terminal 2 - not a red one to Victoria Station. The Experience Aboard the Ship We found the Jewel of the Seas to be a user-friendly ship. The decks have been carefully planned and direction signs are conveniently placed. The corridors leading down the staterooms are narrow and the presence of housekeeping carts sometimes constricts traffic. By design there is no easy passage through the Casino or the Centrum Shops. We remain very impressed at the quality and variety of the many on board activities. We especially enjoyed learning a little ballroom dancing from Michael and Inge. The daily Cruise Compass listed the times and places of the many activities. We noticed there were more mature and cruise-savvy passengers aboard this Royal Caribbean ship than we have previously experienced. We heard the remark "This feels like a Celebrity Ship" more than once during this cruise. There were not many unattended, unsupervised children and "young adults" running the decks, riding the elevators, crashing the lines or swamping the hot tubs. Not to worry, some pushy Japanese tourists made up for this deficit. We experienced a refreshingly civilized Chocolate Buffet and Gala Buffet compared to the "Animal House" madness we've witnessed on some other Royal Caribbean cruises. The crew is generally helpful and friendly. However, we couldn't help but notice how service improved when a supervisor was present. The ship is kept meticulously cleaned, but sometimes passengers were inconvenienced to allow for cleaning. Maintenance is ongoing and sometimes portions of a deck were closed or noisy repairs had to be tolerated. Photographers tend to intrude during meals and departures. You should know in advance that these photographs are not complimentary or cheap. But you are not obligated to buy. If interested, pose. If not, say, "no thanks" and be on your way. We received many notices about Royal Caribbean's Park West Gallery Art Auctions. Lured by the promises of "free champagne, free raffles, free art" we made the mistake of attending an art auction. Here it's the art expert versus you the art novice. We were quoted one price for the opening bid for a print, but the actual opening bid was $100 higher. Add to any winning bid price a steep "auctioneer's fee" and shipping charges. Frames and matting are a lot extra, too. Needless to say, we didn't bid. We found the same print available at Art.com for much less when we arrived home. We did not receive any "free art" and the free raffle would be drawn at the end of the cruise. We had to run down the waiter serving just a little glass of champagne. We strongly caution Buyer Beware and know your art and its real value before you buy. If nothing else, we urge you to check the value of art prints on the internet before you bid or buy art aboard. Speaking of internet, RCI charges a lot to use their internet services. Really, we just desired some romantic slow dancing with our beloved … not a chance. Advertised "romantic" dancing in the Vortex lounge was all upbeat rock with video screens on the walls showing animated scenes of fighting. I think this DJ doesn't have a clue. Worse, when several couples found a selection they could make an effort to try dancing, the DJ stopped the music and started playing something fast and loud. In spite of ballroom dance classes, there was little romantic dancing aboard this ship. We observed that the DJ music on this ship was more about party and selling drinks and oddly out of touch with the mature passengers aboard. We found that there is not much romantic atmosphere or slow-dance music in the clubs on this cruise. We had one negative experience that we considered important enough to bring to the attention of someone in charge. We went to Guest Relations about this three times. Two days after the incident we were finally able to arrange a meeting with someone who promised the moon and delivered nothing. We learned that it was against company policy to speak to a higher level supervisor without working up the chain of command. This policy serves to protect the lower level supervisor who can postpone or avoid a meeting more than address the needs of the passenger. In your stateroom is "Behind the Name Tags" (on the backside is the fine print policies - the legal fine print is on your ticket) identifying head supervisors, but it is difficult for a passenger to arrange a meeting with one of them. The individual most responsible for what happens aboard is not the Captain, it's the Hotel Director, in our case the Invisible Man Nibu Sayed. A word here is in order about the Security Staff. Security is more responsible for the protection of the property of the ship and to limit Royal Caribbean's liabilities than to safeguard passengers and their valuables. You assume considerable responsibility for your own safety and property. A word about your legal rights is in order, too. You have very few legal rights on the high seas. You signed most of your legal rights away when you signed your ticket. Maritime Law or the laws of the country's waters you are sailing govern these. The ship's registry is the Bahamas and that affects your legal rights as well. The Dining I believe it is important to remember that it is not realistic to expect five-star gourmet meals on this moderately priced cruise. If gourmet dining is a priority then you should consider booking a luxury cruise, not this one. On the opposite extreme are the "three banquets a day; my favorite diet" trough grazers who seem challenged to eat everything that won't eat them first. We wondered where their parents were until we realized they WERE the parents! We considered our dinner meals a highlight of our cruise experience. Every meal was exceptional. A few tablemates learned if they did not like the entrée they ordered they were free to order a different entrée. If you love your entrée you may order a second. A sample of the entrees served on our cruise is duck, lamb shanks, lobster, and prime rib. Steak was available every night. Vegetarian and "lite" entrees were offered too. Our table service was excellent. Since our HeadWaiter visited our table only three times during this 12 night cruise (one was an introduction), we felt justified to give the HeadWaiter's tip to the Table Waiter and Assistant. We usually ate breakfast in the Windjammer. We experienced very few waits at the omelet station (where you can also order eggs sunny side up) or in the very well laid out buffet stations even on crowded mornings. Finding a table proved a challenge on busy excursion days. I believe opening the Windjammer earlier might alleviate this. On the days we were touring the sights we didn't eat lunch aboard ship. We found food items on the Windjammer buffet to pack into zippered plastic bags that we could turn into a picnic lunch. When we were aboard we generally took lunch from the Windjammer out to a table by the pool. We found a wide and changing selection available for lunches though pizza; hot dogs, hamburgers and fries were available everyday. One exception to efficient service happened on the Bar-B-Que. day served by the main pool. There was only one serving line and it wrapped around the length of the deck. The wait was about 40 minutes. I believe this could be greatly improved if they wanted to do so. Inexplicably, the Seaview Café seemed closed more than it was open. You can purchase milk shakes there, but this isn't Johnny Rockets. Portofino's and Chops Grille comes highly recommended. On this cruise, if you ordered wine at the Champagne Bar in the late afternoon you were served complimentary caviar. Yes, you pay extra for colas whether by the drink or Soda Package. Latte-tudes is the Seattle's Best coffee spot but specialty coffees are not complimentary. The Entertainment One very pleasant entertainment was the live music in the Centrum. The musicians usually drew an appreciative audience. This was one of the few places passengers found romantic dancing music. The evening shows are presented in the state-of-the-art Coral Theater. Unfortunately, we found the state of the sound to be consistently deafening and distorted. A place I preferred to sit was the fifth row down on the first floor. There is a convenient ledge there and you will have an unobstructed view. If you prefer a balcony, enter on Deck 6. In general I found the shows and headliners to be a higher quality than cruise shows I've seen originating from the US. My guess is that the European audiences and a longer cruise demand higher quality performances. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers presented three production shows. West End to Broadway supposedly highlights great songs from musicals - it doesn't. One example should suffice: "My Favorite Things" (from The Sound of Music) was performed in hiphop style. On our cruise I think the band outperformed the dancers who in turn outperformed the singers. As for the singers and dancers, if you expect theme park or college production quality then you should not be disappointed. The second production from the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers was City of Dreams. I found the best part of this show was the brief "scarf" aerials that fortunately drew the audience attention away from the vocal soloist. The second best part of this show is the costumes. After one vocalist failed to sound out the high and low pitches in a song some people headed to the exits. If you are looking for good singing and dancing I believe you should go to the Centrum and sit this nightmarish show out. The third production from the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers was Tango Buenos Aires. I am thankful that I did not miss this. The featured tango dancers and the orchestra were simply fantastic. Mercifully, the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were not featured in this production. The rest of the shows featured headliners. There were hits and misses. On our cruise I think the hits were Jacqui Scott (leading lady of West End musicals) who finally reminded this audience what a vocalist really sounds like and Gary Lovini a most entertaining and talented violinist. I consider the male vocalist Renato Pagliari, comedian Neal Austin (not suitable for children), and singer/comedian Judy Kolba near hits and more entertaining than the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. I found the singer/songwriter John Cristie and saxophonist/singer J. J. Downs (Benny Hill Show) misses worth missing. Should You Take this Cruise? Cruise lines would have you believe cruising is for everyone. It's not! Are you willing to eat and converse with people you have never met? tolerate long, slow lines to most everything? Line-breakers? listen to loud music and noisy, rude, often drunk people? tolerate unsupervised teens all over the ship? be herded like cattle here and there? accept you're getting ripped off paying high prices for sodas and alcohol? be comfortable in cramped quarters? tolerate people who smoke anywhere they please? Do you like seeing new places and doing new things? Do you function well in crowds? If so, then cruising may be for you. If not, then it wouldn't take much to ruin your vacation. As for us, we are ready to go again. But for this itinerary, we'll book a ship that leaves from and returns to Copenhagen.

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Jun 18, 2006

British Isles

Let me tell you about my nightmare from He*&!. I started paying for a cruise back in Oct. 2005. My vacation with 2 of my sons was set to begin 6/18/2006. We paid Royal Caribbean for our cruise tickets, flight arrangements which included in the price was our pick up from the airport, and I prepaid some tours, as well as birthday decorations within our stateroom with an ocean view along with 2 birthday cakes. I wanted things

really special for my sons. We were to visit England, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Amsterdam, and France. Our cruise would of ended on 7/1/2006. If I had gotten what I paid for, I would not be writing this complaint. I would be on the Jewel of the Seas having a great time. My sons and I were looking forward to this for months. Then the nightmare began. We were scheduled to leave Nashville 6/18/06 at 4:25 PM and arrive in N.C. at 6:44 PM. Our plane to London would leave at 7:40 PM. Now when I look back on it that was too close a window if the event any problems arose considering a possible delay or security issues. Well I found out that domestic you can do later boarding but not international their boarding is cut off 30 minutess. prior to take off, and in this case the cut off would of been 7:10 PM. This gave us 26 minutes to disembark our plane and get to the other terminal. The Nashville plane was a few minutes late and we did not make our plane. US Air could of cared less! They refused to give us hotel or food vouchers. I said we were supposed to be in London at 8:30 am the 19th for pick up. US Air's comment was "Guess you won't be there, will you"? They refused to fly me to a bigger airport with another airline. I was stuck. I paid for a motel room and got a hold of the cruise ship....they told me to take the 7:40 PM flight the next day the 19th to London, then fly on to Paris, France to catch the ship and someone from Royal Caribbean would meet us at the airport. I verified this twice before leaving N.C.. My sons and I arrived in London at 8:30 am on the 20th. We retrieved our bags then caught a bus to another airport about 30 minutes away, called London Heathrow. There we got tickets that were waiting for us with British Airways that left for Paris, France at 2:05 PM arriving in Paris at 4:20 PM. Royal Caribbean had not only taken more money for us to fly onto France but never showed up leaving all 3 of us stranded in a strange country with no one who spoke English or limited English. I was told when I verified pick up the 2nd time that there were many pick ups in France because US Air and Delta both had issues. I don't know if the others got picked up but I did not... I do know I was told I was the last one coming in. When I realized they were not going to show up I tried to call the cruise line could not get through. So we grabbed a cab.... the ship was 3 hours away cost $500.00 and we got there just in time to see Jewel of the Seas leaving the port. I was so devastated I started to cry. I mean this was my 1st trip to these countries plus celebrating my son's birthdays looking forward to this for months, and it disappeared right before my eyes. The nightmare did not end there. I was going to stay at a hotel close by. This hotel actually locked us in the lobby when I said I wanted to cancel and just head for the airport. The airport was 3 hours away. We got ahold of the cruise line who said we will fly you to the next port. I said "Like he*& you will. You will fly us home". Our plane was scheduled to leave the 21st at 9:55 am. Tthe hotel said they canceled, and they did still charge me. I did not stay there. It was after midnight, so I did not want to pay for a motel for only 5 hours. Security finally let us out of the lobby and we grabbed a cab. My son Nick got ahold of his Dad who ended up paying the airfare to France and wiring $500.00 dollars twice. We told the cab driver to go to the airport, we will get the money at Western Union to pay him. He insisted no Western Union at the airport and so he made several stops to Western Unions that were closed. Then he made my sons stay in the taxi and forced me to go to ATM's to try to get cash out. Needless to say we missed our plane. By then I was really scared. The cabbie finally took us to the airport and held onto Nick to make sure we stayed close and would not let us have our personal belongings. Then all of a sudden I looked, and Nick and the cabdriver were gone! I looked and could not find them anywhere. Jesse was terrified said he was not leaving the country without his brother. I finally found an airport policeman and told him a taxi driver had my son and our belongings and had disappeared. Well the police finally located them and stayed with us until we got the money out of Western Union. I want to mention the cab driver charged us 50.00 more then what the meter said, so we ended up giving him all our money just to get our personal belongings back. The police only made sure we were not harmed but did not stop him from taking all our cash even though we proved that he was asking more then what was owed as well as him causing us to miss our plane. Luckily there was a 2nd plane early that afternoon and we were on it. When I got back to the states I phoned Royal Caribbean they said no refunds but they will give me 100% credit and no penalties which to me is admitting guilt. But they also said if I booked another cruise I would have to pay the original cash deposit then the credit will kick in. I do not want to ever see those people again. Something worse might happen. To be honest Royal Caribbean does not want me on their ship. The 1st thing out of my mouth would be, "I am forced to be here", loudly and I would repeat my story everywhere on that ship. My mother asked me "Did you see anything"? I said "Yes the airports". This whole thing was a nightmare from beginning to end. I was told France hated Americans but did not believe it till I experienced it 1st hand. The bottom line is I never received what was promised nor what was paid for. Jesse my younger one said he never wants to see Europe and Nick says he never wants to see another cruise ship. Some vacation. Everything was ruined.

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Jan 8, 2006

Western Caribbean

My wife and I sailed on the Jewel of the Seas to the Western Caribbean on January 8, 2006. We are both around 60 years old. This was our sixth cruise, the third with Royal Caribbean. We have also been on two Celebrity cruises and one NCL cruise. We traveled with another couple also about our age. Getting to the Jewel/Embarkation We drove to Port Everglades from our home in Florida. We were told that embarkation

would be at 2:00 PM. We arrived at 1:30 and it was clear that Royal Caribbean must use a staggered arrival time. We pulled up and the porters were very busy. One took our luggage and asked for a tip, then just put the luggage to the side and went to the next car. We had to move and wondered if our bags would actually get on one of the many full baggage trolleys that were sitting there. (They arrived in our rooms with no problem). Our wives waited in the terminal while my friend and I parked the car. The parking terminal is a short walk to where the ship was and parking was not a problem. Cost was $12 a day. We met our wives and after that we had no lines at all. We walked through screening, registered our credit card and received a Sea Pass which is used for charging on board. We then went to our state room. I noted a sign that said embarkation begins at 11:45. I guess our no hassle of getting on board was a trade off between that and getting there almost two hours earlier. Stateroom and Room Steward We opted for a junior suite. This was more like a hotel room than the typical cramped stateroom. We had a queen size bed, and a sitting area with a chair, small table and coach. We also had a balcony with two comfortable outdoor chairs and a chair with an attached ottoman. There was a built in writing desk with attached storage cabinets. The closet was a walk in (just barely) and had plenty of room. There was a safe in the closet. The bathroom had a marble floor and a tub with shower. The room was nicely furnished and the newness of the furnishings was apparent. I like a hard bed and this one was rock hard. I think this could be a problem for some people. Our room steward was Corazone. She did an excellent job and the room was always immaculate when she was through. She also went out of her way to run some errands for me. Our room was 1596 on deck 10. It is towards the rear of the ship. I can’t believe there were no public stairs or elevator available at the rear of the ship. We were just below the Windjammer buffet restaurant but to get to it we had to walk to the middle of the ship then take the elevator or stairs up one deck and walk back towards the rear. This was true of all activities as there is no way to get anywhere unless you walk back to the center or front of the ship. The Ship The ship is new and spotless. The areas have been broken up so that you never feel like you are in a big group. This works for the most part. However the pool area is divided between the pool and the atrium (which also has a pool). The result was that the pool area was very crowded most of the time. The atrium area, while very nice, had a strong smell of chlorine. Food Service and Dining Dining is a major factor for us. We enjoy food. We all found the food to be very mixed. The first few days we found the menu disappointing. Our waiter seemed harassed. That changed as the cruise progresses and the food the last three days was excellent. We even asked if they changed chefs. Our waiter became much friendlier and wound up being very accommodating and had a good sense of humor. The bar service in the dining room was almost non existent. We were never asked if we wanted a drink before dinner. My wife wanted decaf diet soda which was available at the bars but we were told wasn’t available in the dining room. That turned out not to be true but we had to arrange for it ourselves. We purchased the wine package which consisted of 5 bottles of wine for the cruise. The first night it took forever to get our wine. After that we ordered what wine we wanted for the next night before leaving the dining room. That ended the delay but I would have preferred to select the wine based on what we were ordering for dinner rather than the other way around My wife was on a special diet and she had no trouble getting what she needed prepared as she requested. On the second night of the cruise we ate at Chops, the steak restaurant. This is available for $20 per person which includes tip. This was very worth it. The food was very good and the shrimp cocktail was more like what you would get in a real steak house. I highly recommend this. This restaurant also is a good place to go on formal nights as smart informal is the dress in here. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Café. The food was buffet food and was good for what it was. I was very impressed with the amount of service available. There was always someone around to clean, get a drink, or get things like ketchup etc that you might have forgotten while in the line. We also stopped in to the Sea View Café. This is in the rear of the ship on deck 12. It’s kind of hidden. They have sandwiches cooked to order as well as milkshakes and beer. There hours compliment the main dining area. I wished that there was an area for 24 hour snacks. Unfortunately only room service is available round the clock. We also missed having ice cream available. Entertainment We went to the show almost every night. The production shows were outstanding especially the West End to Broadway production. We love musical theater and this show was well done. The costumes and choreography were top notch. On other nights the introduction show was just OK. One night they had a magician. It was a standard magical act but well done. We also went to see the pianist show. It was fair. We really liked Tom McFee in the Schooner Bar. We would go there most nights for a drink and to listen to him/ He is a very talented guy. The Casino is small but no kinder than any other casino. The staff is very friendly. It bothers me that drinks aren’t free in the casino but that has been my experience on other ships also. Spa Before we went on the cruise we had decided to relax and use the spa. After getting on board we took a tour of the spa. It was set up so that the staff was using the facility or getting treatments to show how the various treatments were done. The tour ended at a desk where you could make appointments for the treatments. We did. After doing a few things over the next couple of days we decided to cancel two of the treatments We called and were told that there was a 24 hour cancellation policy (we called 20 hours in advance) and we would be charged 50% of the cost of the service. At no time was that policy ever explained to us. The staff, who had been so nice when we made the appointments, was condescending. We eventually talked to the spa manager who cancelled the charges but was not very nice about it. I have never been treated like that. Very disappointing. I did have the seaweed wrap treatment. The treatment and message were very relaxing but that was almost totally destroyed by the high pressure to buy products and additional services. I would be leery when using this facility. Shore Excursions We signed up for the shore excursions online a moth before the cruise. I think next time I would wait to get the feel of the ship and what I wanted to do. In Key West my wife did the Garden Tour and Tea and enjoyed it very much. I did the light tackle deep sea fishing. It was a disaster. They expected 3 people but 5 of us were signed up. We went on a 22 foot open craft with no seats (except the top of the cooler). The sea seemed calm until we got out a little way. My friend was black and blue from being thrown around on the trip out. Three of us got sea sick, me the worst. It was not very pleasant. I suggest they put more of a warning on that trip. The 4 hour Mayan ruins trip was very interesting as well the Atlantic Submarine trip. I would recommend both. Disembarkation On the morning of the last day you must be out of your state room by 8 am. Breakfast is served until 8:30. We took advantage of that and figured we would spend the waiting time in the restaurant. Unfortunately we were done by 9:15. We then joined the masses of people waiting to get off. There is not enough seating and we were in a middle group and finally got off at 10:15. Getting the car was no problem but it was crowded trying to go back to the terminal to get the remaining passengers and luggage. Summary The Jewel is a beautiful ship but, while new, it is not one of the new mega ships. This is good in that you don’t feel like the ship is crowded with people but you also pay for that in areas like the lack of an ice cream parlor and having a small pool area. Our room was excellent and the ship is immaculate and new. Food is fair to good but better on other ships (including other Royal Caribbean ships). Be cautious of the spa. Read shore excursion descriptions carefully. Of course all this is opinion and you should try it yourself. For me, I can’t wait until my next cruise.

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Jan 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

Our cruise departed on January 2nd, 2006. This is a lengthy review, so allow me to provide some information about my husband and myself so you can decide whether the review will be helpful to you. We took our first cruise three and a half years ago on the Carnival Destiny in the Southern Caribbean, which was a very good experience, leading us to undertake this, our second cruise. We do not yet have children and are very

active during our cruises in that we take adventurous port excursions and visit the gym almost daily. We also look to be as economical as possible on vacations by avoiding pitfalls, which I will discuss below. The cruise fare was $747 per person (1494 total) and while on the cruise ship, we spent about $500. This consisted of shore excursions ($284), shopping aboard ($26), tips ($116, done at the end) and drinks ($71). Getting to the Jewel. We used taxi service to be transported from the Fort Lauderdale airport to Port Everglades, where the Jewel was departing. This cab service, with tip (about $18 total), was cheaper than using the cruise line transport ($11 per person equaling $22 for the two of us) and definitely cut down on the hassle of boarding a motor coach and having bags slung about by the people loading them on the coach. Of course the price difference will depend on how close the airport is to the port. Even though we did not use the cruise-promoted transport, we did see an Royal Caribbean Interational (RCI) representative at the airport who kindly informed us of the ship’s berthing, which had changed. This was very helpful as it likely reduced the cab fare we would have paid to have the driver look around the port for our ship. One caveat though, our driver to the ship was quite reckless and tried to shortchange us. Our driver back to the airport after the cruise was very pleasant and we tipped him accordingly. Embarkation Procedure. This was slightly better for this cruise than it was for our Carnival cruise that departed out of San Juan. The terminals in Fort Lauderdale have seats, where people can sit before being ushered into the lines. This was nice because it allowed for less standing during the wait. Unfortunately, though, there was no orderly process for deciding who was next to proceed to the lines. Therefore, people just walking in could congregate closest to the gate, preventing some those who waited in chairs in excess of 30 minutes from advancing to the lines. I think RCI should consider having designated boarding groups, as do the airlines, so there would be a more orderly and fair process. Everyone we talked to about the embarkation on this cruise had a negative experience and we all hoped we would somehow forget it by the end of the cruise. Alas, I am writing about it now, so I obviously didn't forget. Note: I do admit that the unpleasantness of waiting in lines is greatly enhanced when the people in the lines act rudely. Most didn’t but it only takes a few to raise the blood pressure. The Ship. The Jewel of the Seas, the newest RCI ship (at least until April 2006) was beautiful and clean. We heard one couple complain of a slight mildewy smell in some of the stateroom halls, but I didn’t notice that near our stateroom. There did appear to be some water stains on the carpet on deck 4 outside the Tides Dining Room, but I didn’t smell any mildew there. The elevators were often full and sometimes took a while to arrive, but we only used them on formal nights. Because of the extra food we were eating, we committed ourselves to taking the stairs, which were never crowded and had interesting art featured after each flight. I was particularly impressed by the ship’s “Save the Waves” campaign emphasizing safeguards to the environment. There were recycling receptacles conveniently located on the decks and our room bill was printed on recycled paper. Way to go RCI! Our Stateroom and Room Steward. Our stateroom was near the aft on deck 3. We opted out of having a room with a window or balcony, although we heard from other cruisers on this ship that the balcony for their stateroom was very nice for lounging and enjoying the fresh air. The stateroom, though similar in size to the one we had with Carnival, had an excellent layout, with lots of cabinets and nooks for our belongings. The shower was smaller than what we had with Carnival, but it had a cool cylindrical design. The room has a minibar fridge with sodas, water, and candy bars in it. Pitfall: The cruise line charges crazy amounts for these items if you consume them, so bring your own from home if you think you’ll have a craving for them. We brought a suitcase full of bottled water and kept them cool in the fridge. This was a real treat for us to have iced water in our room during the cruise, especially after a gym workout or time on the shore. We had a very nice room steward who did a good job. He almost always kept the ice container full and replaced our towels (beach and room) daily. He made a towel animals, which are always fun, on three of the days,. Food Service and Dining. As with our Carnival cruise, the food in the formal dining room was superb – 5 star quality. We did not try the Windjammer buffet because we heard others say it was basically like family-style buffet in the US. Some who had children found that it suited them best, with its more flexible hours and less formal atmosphere. All the meals we ate on the ship were in the Tides dining room, where the service was excellent. A word about the menu: I read several reviews prior to our cruise that seemed to indicate that the dining room food was typical of that served in an ordinary family restaurant. The menu has items that range from the familiar chicken marsala to the less familiar tempura-fried mahi mahi. Bottom line: You get what you order. Order something ordinary, you’ll get something ordinary (though cooked excellently). Order something special, you’ll get something special. We typically ordered the “Chef’s Selections” and took the recommendations of our waiter. The Chef’s Selections were the most unique and innovative meals created by the ship’s executive chef. I have never seen items such as roasted peach soup in anything but fine dining restaurants at home and there were some entrees that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The offering of these creative menu items that were all delicious is the mark of a superb fine dining restaurant – which is what we judged the Tides to be. The beauty of a cruise is that you can be daring and try these items (even one bite) without paying extra. If you decide you don’t like it, you can order something else with no additional expense. Based on both of the cruises we’ve done, including this one, I discovered a fallacy about cruise dining. Many talk about how much food there is and predict weight gain with a cruise, but I observed that portions in the dining room were not the obscenely huge portions served in the restaurants in the US. They were portions that were reasonable and left room for several courses. I didn’t feel stuffed after these meals. There were also many vegetarian and low fat recipes that were excellent. The ship also has two specialty restaurants: Chops (a steakhouse) and Portofino’s (an Italian restaurant). These cost $20 per person, but I’ve heard from others that they are worth it. Unfortunately, we did not book early enough and missed out on Chops (which some have compared to Ruth’s Chris). If you’d like to try it, book as soon as you embark. To be honest, although we were disappointed that we didn’t get to try Chops, I was glad that I didn’t have to miss any of the fantastic dinners in the Tides or dish out $40 for dinner. Entertainment. The entertainment on the ship was superior to what we had on our Carnival cruise. Every night there was a show, which featured great talent, including a pianist, magician, and comedian. The RCI singers were extremely good (I’ve sung in choirs and productions and think I have a pretty good ear). We thought the magic show would be corny, but it was not a typical show and was really baffling and entertaining! The only problem we had was that some of the trivia (e.g., name that tune) and other fun activities took place after 10:00 pm, at which time we wanted to hit the hay in preparation for port excursions early the next morning. Mostly, the activities offered during the day on the ship were opportunities to sell you something: art, beauty products, and so on. The gym was very nice but not too crowded with exception of the ever-elusive elliptical machines, on which there was a 20-minute limit. My husband saw people trying to hide how long they were on the machines by draping their towels over the time meters. In fact, people also used their towels (as well as books, etc.) to reserve lounge chairs on the upper decks. Essentially, people find the deck chairs they want early in the morning, drop their towels there, then go off for hours (playing Bingo and such) while others cannot find an available chair in the sun. This is despite the clear posting of signs that prohibit reserving deck chairs. There is no enforcement of this rule and people abuse it rampantly at the expense of other cruisers. One fellow cruiser handled this by politely asking someone sitting by some of the vacant but reserved chairs if he could use the vacant chair until the person’s family member returned. The people reserving the chair agreed and the person’s family member didn’t return during his time in the chair. I think this was probably the best way to get around people’s inconsideration, but I really think RCI, not guests, should be doing something to enforce the rules. Ports of Call/Shore Excursions. The original itinerary of the cruise was Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Grand Cayman. By the time we boarded, we discovered that the itinerary had been reversed, with Key West being eliminated. Later in the cruise, weather and port conditions (due to damage from Wilma) at Cozumel required us to skip that port (due to unsafe tender boat operations in the past with similar weather conditions) and go to Key West instead. Thus, we ended up doing Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Key West (in that order). Though these changes were disruptive and disappointing, we felt that the captain had the safety and enjoyment of guests in mind. Early in the cruise, there is a talk in the theatre given about the ports of call and shopping. Don’t go to this talk unless you are really interested in shopping on the ports. They really don’t provide helpful port information outside of shopping. They try to lure you there by saying you get a free tennis bracelet, but I left a little early and never saw them being handed out. Also, the ship provides a map for each port, which is part of their Discover Shopping Guide flyer. Unfortunately, though, these maps mainly show the shopping sites and hardly any of the other sites of interest if you were to explore the port on your own. Therefore, in Key West, which we did on our own, we had to find a map once we got off the ship. The Discover Shopping flyers did provide some helpful information on the back, including typical cab fares to certain locations. There were many shore excursions offered through the cruise line. Although some book through independent vendors over the internet ahead of time, we found many advantages to using the RCI promoted excursions. First, we were refunded without question for the excursion we booked in Cozumel, which we were unable to make as we had to skip that port. I’m not sure of the policies of independent vendors. Maybe are also this flexible, but that information was not readily available to us. Second, the tours promoted by RCI have to be of a certain quality and the cruise line has standards for safety to which the vendors are required to adhere. Third, I had trouble finding these tours online before the cruise and it is difficult to find out if these excursions are any good. Fourth, the ship will not leave you behind if the excursions booked through them keep you later than time to set sail. This allows you to enjoy the excursion more, not having to worry about being left behind. Fifth and finally, everyone on the excursion is from the same cruise. We made acquaintances with fellow cruisers, with whom we socialized later on board. That said, really think about the excursion you choose. For example, we saw an excursion offered in Key West called “Key West Pub Crawl” ($42 per adult). You certainly don’t need help to pub crawl in Key West and you’ll probably save money and do more to your liking if you go on your own. The best values are excursions that are packages of several activities that would be difficult to do on your own. Below is information about each particular port and the excursions we did. Grand Cayman. We had to get on tender boats to get to shore. These were ok with exception of their bumping up against the ship during boarding, which jarred most of us on the tender boat. We did the Rays and Reef Combo with Lunch ($94 per adult). This allowed us to snorkel around a coral reef and then visit Stingray City, where we mingled with friendly stingrays. Then we were taken to a beach club resort (which didn’t seem like a resort) and had a lunch. The water and wildlife were really great for snorkeling. We saw eels and friendly sharks as well as some beautifully colored fish. The excursion staff were terrific and friendly. The stingray city was definitely a unique experience that is worth having. The lunch was advertised as “sumptuous” but was really wasn’t all that good (hamburgers, grilled chicken, pasta salad, etc.) The lunch’s only saving grace was that we were really hungry. After eating and lounging on the beach for an hour and a half or so, we were given transport back to the ship right on time for all aboard. In retrospect, we might have done better to do the combo without lunch ($66 per person) and found lunch at a beach club with better food that would let us use their lounges and gotten a cab ($5 per person) back to the ship. Costa Maya. Here we did the Bike and Kayak Adventure ($48 per adult) through the cruise-promoted excursion. I was pleased that the biking was not strenuous and it allowed for cruisers to see the town of Mahuhal, which I think gives a flavor for a coastal Mexican village. The kayaking was also very nice and the tour staff were excellent. The staff spoke English very well and were very helpful. After the excursion we went on our own to a restaurant in Mahuhal (cab fare from port $2 per person) and ordered chips, guacamole, pico de gallo, and salsa with margaritas and beers. The proprietor was welcoming and honest and did all the work (made the food, served us, etc.) This was very inexpensive and delicious. We had to shield our eyes from the unseemliness of the kitchen and had to withstand a dirty bathroom with a nonflushing toilet, no toilet paper, and no sink (it might help to pretend you’re camping). This might have just been this restaurant. There was not much in the way of a beach there, but maybe we did not go to the right place for that. Key West. We had a little more time here because of skipping Cozumel, so we spent some time after dinner walking around. Before anyone could disembark, everyone had to check with immigration on the ship. This was a very efficient process for US residents but not apparently for non-US residents, who we saw waiting in line for much longer. Key West is definitely a port you can do without excursions because everything is walking distance (at least for us, maybe not for someone with mobility problems). We rented bikes from Keys Moped and Scooters (305) 294-0399 for $4 per person if rented from 9 to 5 (take a left onto Truman off Duval). We talked to some people who rented them for $20 per person per day, so beware! We visited the Little White House – vacation home of Harry S Truman ($11 per person). The tour guide was a fantastic storyteller and it was a very interesting tour. Then we went to the Hemingway house ($11 per person), more because of my love for cats (there are 6-toed cats there) than for my interest in the author. It was an interesting tour and tour guide was very nice and knowledgeable. The cats were very friendly and one let me pet her belly. We also biked to the Southernmost tip of the continental US and had someone take our picture there. We met fellow cruisers who had gotten there by foot as well. Finally, we went to Zachary Taylor beach ($3 total, but regular admission is usually $3 per person). The beach was somewhat rocky, but still nice for a little lazy time. My husband spotted a woman there sunbathing bottomless (face down), so I suppose this was allowed there. It didn’t bother us, but might have bothered people with children along. There was a concession stand there where we got some Nachos and soda to share (total $8). The people there were very friendly and helpful. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at the Blonde Giraffe to share a piece of key lime pie (about $4). My husband is a key lime pie connoisseur and he thought it was great. Disembarkation. We signed up early to do what’s called Express Walk-Off, something that I think only RCI is doing. This allows people willing to carry their own bags to get off the ship first and forgo the waiting in the lobby and then the process of reuniting with their bags. With exception of a little disorder in the lining up process, this went very well and we were to the airport very early. We were advised not to book a flight before noon, but we actually tried to fly standby for a 10:45 flight (they didn’t have room, but we were having to wait for our flight at that gate anyway, so it was no problem). In retrospect, we might have done better to book an earlier flight given how quickly we were able to disembark in the Express Walk-Off group. There is limited space for the Express Walk-Off program, so get on the list as soon as you can at the beginning of the cruise. In Summary We had a very nice time on this trip and with this cruise line. We definitely saw a difference with being on a new ship and with RCI. The people on this cruise were a little older (fewer honeymooners) than the ones we met on the Carnival cruise. I think this might have been why we made many more friends this time. We’d definitely recommend RCI and the Jewel of the Seas for a nice and economical vacation.

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By Ann_CR

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Jan 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

We cruised the Jewel for 6 nights with our 3 children - 16, 14 and 11 leaving Fort Lauderdale Jan 2, 2006. Everyone loved the ship - it is still relatively new looking inside and the glass is stunning! The bank of elevators that faces out allows passengers to travel against a window area that provides a stunning view. We were concerned that the Jewel might be too large but this was not the case. The size was just right

and walking about provided a chance to get additional exercise. The children's programs seemed very extensive. Every day a schedule for the children was left in the room along with another information sheet about what was being offered in general. The children's programs are divided by age group (ie 9-11) so activities are age appropriate. The internet in the teen area is offered at half the price and this was appreciated by many. Our children did not attend the programs and enjoyed the general activities on board. The rock wall was enjoyed by all. Various levels of climbing are possible and 3 participants can use the wall at the same time as two climb on each side and one in the middle. I was not a problem to get on as lines went fairly quickly and often there was no line at all. The basketball courts were often in use and if interested people would just join in. Sometimes volleyball was substituted in the same area. If you followed the staircase up, the golf area was visible above. The children's pool had a waterslide and this was really utilized by the younger kids. The main outside pool had deck chairs around as well as deck chairs on the floor above. These chairs were claimed early and the 'no claim' rule did not appear to be enforced. The inside solarium area with pool and hot tub was great in the event of rain. If it rains kids are given limited hours within this area. In addition passengers can pass along the sides of the solarium as they are walking through to the main pool area. The solarium is large and full of plants, cushiony loungers, etc. A food area provides wraps, hummus, and crepes as well as quick breakfast items (yogurt, fruit, coffee) The crepes were always in demand and were drizzled with strawberry, chocolate, or caramel and topped with whipping cream. The Seaview Café was tucked in the back and had a menu of sandwiches, burgers, onion rings, wings, fingers, and also cottage cheese with fruit, brownies, etc. The Windjammer buffet served breakfast, lunch or dinner but as we are not big buffet fans we ate our meals in the Tides Dining Room. Breakfast in Tides was offered every day and included lots of variation including smoked salmon as well as various egg and traditional breakfasts. Efforts were made to vary the menu if you requested it. Lunch was served in Tides on days at seas. Also a nice menu. Dinner was very good every evening and we did not go to the specialty restaurants as Tides was so good. Our waiter and staff were excellent and again efforts were made to vary items when requested. In addition to five or six options, items from an additional side bar could always be ordered ie Black Angus sirloin steak, etc. It really helped to have such great staff and we met a great family that had been seated with us. We purchased a wine plan - Approx $115 plus grat. for 5 bottles of wine in the basic plan. Wine was served and could also be corked for the following night if it was not fully consumed. For kids lemonade, milk or chocolate milk were included without extra charge. In addition, for breakfast juices were included and for lunch lemonade and ice tea was included. A hot beverage area with assorted teas, coffee and hot chocolate were always available for no additional cost just outside of the buffet area. Soft drink cards could be purchased for approx. $25. A few weeks prior to departing the ports were re-ordered from the original schedule and Key West was dropped. Then during the cruise after Grand Cayman and Costa Maya the captain announced that the tendering operation to get into Cozumel would be too dangerous due to high winds. Further in the announcement it was stated that the ship would now sail on and would dock at Key West. This allowed us to see Key West at night and the whole next day. Unfortunately a cold front had gone through Key West and we needed coats and sweaters. This meant that we had left the warm destinations and beach weather behind but we explored the shops, etc. Fortunately however in Grand Cayman we spent a good part of the day on the beach - snorkeling and swimming. When we arrived by tender we had to walk past high pressure sellers right at the dock area and left this area to say that we were planning to go shopping. We then asked a clerk in a store where the city bus was (it turned out to be a block away). We took a city bus 2.50 per person to SeaGrape beach and swam (we had our snorkel equipment along but you could also rent on the beach), then took the city bus on to Hell (another 2.50 per person). You can see the turtle farm off to your right as you are driving to Hell. We then returned on city bus to the town area (another 2.50 USD) which is a block or two from the port. Grand Cayman also has many nice shops but with kids that was not to be. So the picnic on the beach was great. In Costa Maya we docked right next to the pier and could walk off. The resort area just off the ship has a pool with swim up bar and lots of lounge chairs but the village is neat to see. We walked out of the resort enclosure and did catch our own cab for 2.00 USD per person but the pressure is on to take one of the arranged transportation buses or vans from the port resort enclosure area. These all go to the village. Once at the village (not the cruise resort enclosure) we spoke to a few local guys and went on their boat fishing and snorkeling. None of the fishing boats were catching too much that day but the snorkeling was great. We were lucky that we did not leave this for Cozumel as this was the port that was dropped. In the village in Costa Maya lots of bartering is going on and prices were very reasonable. Beer was 2.00 and many little stands were set up along the beach with everyone selling something. In the resort enclosure area drinks were higher priced but a number of shop keepers were ready to drop prices pretty quickly on the goods that they were selling. If you just want to swim in a pool then staying at the enclosure is fine. What is important to realize is that the cruise ship can make changes as needed especially when related to safety concerns and this can change the order of stops as well as eliminate ports altogether. Overall we had a wonderful time on this cruise. We spent very little time in the cabins and participated in some of the organized activities ( a cooking demo, art auction, dance lesson, etc). The shows were great every night and the cruise director was a guy with a great sense of humor. We took part in the Quest game which was a lot of fun. We thought the loyalty program was fine - a reception for an hour and a coupon book which had some nice perks including free wine tasting. Many guests had sailed before and that of course is a reflection of the quality of what Royal Caribbean offers. In summary we had a great time

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Dec 17, 2005

Western Caribbean

This will be a fairly long review. First a little background on my wife and I. This was our third cruise, first on Royal Caribbean. We chose the cruise because we wanted a cruise that would get us home prior to Christmas. All things considered this was a very memorable vacation. We booked the cruise in early June and had originally booked a room on the port side on deck seven, direct through Royal Caribbean. A

little later in the year my wife was checking the Royal website and noticed that they had a price drop. The drop was substantial to the tune of about six hundred dollars. My wife found an aft cabin on the 10th deck, and she rebooked us to that cabin and still saved about three hundred dollars. We got a great price on direct flights between Kansas City and Fort Lauderdale, with Midwest Airlines. And we booked a room for one night at the Best Western Marina Inn and Yacht Harbor. In the mean time, my wife got on the cruise forums and got on a meet and mingle board for the Jewel of the Seas. This turned out quite well in that we were able to get acquainted with a lot of very nice people. This really added to our enjoyment of the cruise and I would certainly recommend this sort of thing for anyone. On 12/16 we left Kansas City on Midwest Airlines. I know that Midwest is more of a regional airline, but I would highly recommend them. The service was excellent, and again we were able to get direct flights both ways. Considering all of the problems we heard of, with people getting their itineraries changed frequently, we were very happy we chose Midwest! We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on time and caught a taxi to the hotel. The hotel is right on Port Everglades and you can see all of the ships coming and going. It isn’t exactly the nicest place in Fort Lauderdale, and is somewhat dated. The room was modern, but not particularly clean. One of two elevators didn’t work which is a pain if you’re on the 3rd floor. But they had a convenient shuttle to the cruise port, which was very nice. Embarkation. We have been on two Princess cruises prior to this one, and Princess seems to know how to get you on their ship with minimal hassle. I would say the same for Royal Caribbean. We were on the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the cruise terminal. One thing that I can say didn’t impress me much, was the need to wait until 1:00 o’clock to get into our stateroom. So you either carry around the luggage you walk on with, or check it. We did attend a meet and greet get together in the Safari lounge prior to the muster drill. This was a very enjoyable time, finally getting to meet the people we’d been emailing and conversing with on the forum. The Jewel of the Seas. The ship isn’t yet two years old. She is very beautiful. We heard several people from other ships and locals comment about how nice the ship looks. The interior is fantastic and with a few exceptions is very easy to get around in. We didn’t really have any bad weather or rough seas so the ship rode very smooth. One general complaint that I’ve read from other reviews of the Radiance class ship is the lack of stairs and elevators in the rear of the ship. It certainly would seem to be poor design, and forced backups in using elevators in the middle of the ship, which by the way are only on the portside with none on the starboard side. Our stateroom and room steward. We had stateroom 1604 on deck 10 at the back of the ship. This was a great room. Our room steward, Jauqina, was the nicest steward we have had on any cruise. She left us towel animals 3 nights, which is a nice touch, and she kept the room spotless. We had a huge balcony looking out over the back of the ship. The balcony did have it’s drawback in that the Windjammers outdoor dining area is right above the balcony and about half of the balcony is exposed to bombardment from diners on deck 11. Another issue I had with the room was the bed. It was hard as a rock. My wife and I both were sore from sleeping in the bed. Jauqina brought us egg crate padding to help, but it seemed to have been used so much as to be almost worthless. Food service and dining. Having been on Princess cruises and being able to dine at your leisure has somewhat spoiled us. Likewise Princess runs their buffets 24 hours a day which is convenient, especially if you don’t eat in port and want a snack when getting back on ship. We didn’t know how we would like the more traditional dining experience that Royal offers. We had requested a small table at main seating. We did get the main seating, but were sat at a large table with four other couples. I will say that I believe that we were lucky to get such a wonderful group of people to dine with. We really enjoyed their company. I still don’t know if I like that type of arrangement, but for this cruise at least it worked out well. Our headwaiter Dennis, and assistant waiter Volkan did an excellent job taking care of all of us. The food was very good. Also on Italian night all of the waiters got together to sing to us. It was very entertaining. We also tried the Chops alternative restaurant, which was excellent. I can’t say I was impressed with the Windjammer buffet. Breakfast was always the same thing with no variation. Lunch was OK, but your options were limited. It also closed in the evening so you couldn’t have a late night snack if you wanted one. Entertainment. We attended only one show, and it was OK. Several of the people we met commented that the Broadway show was excellent. We heard that the pianist/accordion player wasn’t very good! They had musicians playing a lot in the Centrum and they were of high quality. Shops and activities on the ship. I will say that the shops on the Jewel are very nice with a large selection of items. The casino was nice, but all I did was pass through it a few times. Other people we talked with said the casino personnel were very helpful with beginners to the gaming tables. The arcade looked nice with lots of up to date arcade games. The main swimming pool area was normally packed, but a very nice public area. The atrium pool area was really cool, and a very peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. The spa and gym looked nice, but the gym was almost always full, and I have a hard time getting motivated to work out while on vacation. Port Calls/Excursions. This cruise was in the Western Caribbean with stops at Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Key West. We found out about 3 weeks prior to sailing that Royal was reversing the itinerary from Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Grand Cayman, with a sea day at the end. The net effect of this was it cut down our planned port time, as well as disrupt excursions booked outside of the cruise line. First stop was Grand Cayman and an excursion through Nativeway to Stingray City, and Rum Point. This was a great excursion, first class all the way. But with the reduced amount of time in port we didn’t have any opportunity to shop around in Georgetown. Next stop was Costa Maya. Again we arrived later than originally planned. We had a mix up with our excursion and arrived late. The excursion was to Uvero Beach for their boat blast excursion. But they put us on the bus to the beach anyway and we were able to get the excursion in. It was a little rainy during the day, but driving the boats around was fun and the snorkeling was great. Next stop was Cozumel. We had been to Cozumel in January of this year and really looked forward to going back. It was disheartening to experience the damage there. But the people of the island seemed determined to get things back to normal. Unfortunately with this stop you now must tender to get to port, the piers are all either too badly damaged to use or totally gone. While there the sea was very rough, and boarding the tenders was, in my opinion, dangerous. I witnessed the tender boat, pulled up to the side of the Jewel, move vertically five feet. Likewise it was moving horizontally enough to almost drop the plank between the ships. It looked like the crew was timing when to send people across and crossing their fingers that no one fell in between the ships! My wife has a video of the process and the boat was moving at least three feet vertically. There were marks on the side of the Jewel as high as the deck 4 windows from the tender rubbing on the side of the ship. But we went to the San Francisco Beach Club and had a nice time with an all-inclusive package. They have very potent margaritas! Later we took a cab into town to do some shopping. Our last stop was at Key West, and again we docked late about 10:30. Before anyone could disembark in Key West we had to go through US immigrations. This process took until 1:00 in the afternoon, and we had to be back on the ship by 5:30. We took a trolley into Key West and looked around until about 3:30 and returned to the boat. This stop was a total waste of time, Key West is a nice place to visit but not for just four and a half hours. Very disappointing! Disembarkation. It’s our understanding that Royal is trying a new way of getting off of the ship. Basically if you carry off you own luggage, they will allow you to get off the ship first. I know a lot of people pack lot’s of bags to go on a cruise with, and for them it wouldn’t be practical. But if you don’t mind hauling you own luggage, this is the way to go. You still need to go to customs to declare what you purchased. But when they started disembarking from the ship we were down the gangplank and off to the airport with no complaints. Finally a viable alternative to sitting where ever you can find a place in a public area, and waiting with 2000 other people for your turn to get off. Big kudo’s to Royal for coming up with the process. Other cruise lines would do well to mimic this! In summary. This was a great trip. I know that I complain about a few things in the book I just wrote. But it’s meant to inform more than just to complain. It didn’t impact the enjoyment we got from taking this cruise. The Jewel of the Seas and her crew are first rate all the way and if we find another itinerary that we like on the Jewel, I wouldn’t hesitate to go on her again. Now it’s time to start looking for our next cruise!

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Oct 11, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

First I’ll rate the major categories as we viewed them, and then get to the day-to-day details. Food: B Good Chops: A++ Kristina, Oscar and the whole team are phenomenal - and the food is too. Windjammer: B It is what it is – a buffet. Seaview Café: A+ The fish & chips come out looking like Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks but believe me they are not!!! I’ve never had such fresh fish, we had them 3 times.

Cruise Director Karen Maybury: C We prefer CDs that are natural, not trying too hard. Bartenders: Champagne Bar – Freddie, he remembers your name and what you like to drink. Shanti & Me-Hai (sp?) at the Schooner Bar were a riot. Dining Room Waiters: C Our waiter wasn’t that good. He didn’t even ask any of us what our names were. When we asked what he suggested his response was “it’s all good”. On the nights he wasn’t busy he was good. He did tell us that when he goes back to get our dinners if they aren’t ALL ready he has to go deliver a room service order, then come back to deliver our meals to the table. Entertainment: A Lee Reed – Piano Melodies – GREAT piano player, very shy. A Caribbean Force – Poolside band A Rosario Strings - wonderful B Vortex Disco – DJ would play the same 10 songs until you came up with requests C Piano Bar – Barry from Boston – Plays the piano well, screams instead of singing. Day 1 Wednesday October 12, 2005 Departing Boston Cool drizzle 55° We arrived at the Black Falcon Pier at 11:05 a.m. Checked in with our Sea Pass, got our picture taken for our Sea Pass card, walked through Security. I even turned to the security guard and asked him if it was ok for us to board. He said “hurry and I won’t tell anyone”. I laughed, turned red and walked right on the Jewel of the Seas by 11:15 a.m. The fastest boarding we’ve ever had. It was fantastic not having to take a plane the first day of our cruise. We found our room (8598) dropped off our carry-on then off to explore the ship. She is beautiful, same class as the Brilliance. Luggage arrived at 1:15 (WOW!). Attended the mandatory life boat drill at 4:30, our Muster station was at the Schooner Bar. Thankfully, our Muster station wasn’t required to go outside. We went back to our room to change for dinner, we had early and for some unknown reason our dinner times were 5:30 and 7:45 instead of the norm of 6:30 & 8:30. I had met our tablemates on-line at www.cruisecritic.com, we decided to link our dining reservation so we could sit at the same table. Even though we hadn’t met face to face it was nice to sit with people we felt we already knew. After dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard Show and then to the Schooner Bar. We met a lot of nice people and the bartenders Shanti and Me-Hei (sp?) were great, they worked very well together. Day 2 Thursday October 13, 2005 At Sea WOW!!! We woke up to VERY rough seas. As my husband was shaving all he said was uh-oh. So we went to the purser’s desk for Dramamine and they gave us each a green apple. They explained that we needed to put something in our stomach with not a lot of moisture. We went back to sleep for a few hours and woke up feeling fine. I only took 2 pictures of the waves. Security had locked the doors to the outside decks and hung signs not to go out because it was too dangerous. We figured about 95% of the ship were in their cabins. We went to the Windjammer for lunch, there were only a few people eating lunch. It was quite a challenge to get our lunch and get to a chair before the ship would dip and your plate would land on the floor. Tonight was Captain’s night. We went to the Captain’s cocktail party then to dinner; there were a lot of empty tables. Marty Allen and his wife were real troopers they put on a great show considering how rocky the ocean was. We then went to the Schooner bar for the piano bar entertainment. Day 3 Friday October 14, 2005 King’s Wharf, Bermuda 82° Arrived at the Navy Dock Yard at 12 Noon (instead of 8:00 a.m.), first people off the ship was at 1:30 p.m. We bought the 2-day transportation pass. Hopped on the ferry to Hamilton, walked up one side of Front Street and down the other, took the ferry back to the ship in time for dinner at 5:30. After dinner we went to the Frog & Onion Pub for a drink, it was too quiet there so we went back to the Schooner bar and listed to a young man Lee Read (looked about 15 yrs. Old – very cute!) play the piano – he was fantastic! He played the piano vs. beating it. We didn’t go to the show Dima Belinski but we heard he was great. Day 4 Saturday October 15, 2005 King’s Wharf, Bermuda 82° 11th Wedding Anniversary. Had breakfast at the Windjammer – WOW where did all these people come from! Glad everybody was feeling better. We decided to just go off the ship and take a taxi tour. We went on a 3-hour island tour. Bermuda is beautiful; too bad our taxi driver didn’t have much of a personality. We came back to the ship had lunch went to the pool for a little while. We had reservations at Chops for our anniversary so we went back to the room and noticed we weren’t moving yet. The ship was waiting for 3 people (young girl, Mom and Grandma) Grandma couldn’t walk that fast so one of the Bermudians on the dock to watch the ship depart got in his car & picked her up and drove her back to the ship. We all applauded from our balconies. We went to the Champagne Bar before dinner, Freddie was great. Chops was perfect as usual. Oscar and his whole team were fantastic. They brought out an anniversary cake and everybody sang to us. It was wonderful. We were so stuffed we gave our cake to the bar staff at the Schooner Bar (Shanti, Eva and Me-Hai). We missed the show but we heard it was great, it was the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers “West End to Broadway”. We hit the disco until 2:30 a.m. Day 5 Sunday October 16, 2005 At Sea 85° We sat by the pool all day. MrSully entered the Blackjack tournament, he lasted 3 hands, he was dealt a 14, 15 and a 16. Attended The Quest – what a hoot! Day 6 Monday October 17, 2005 St. Maartin 85° St. Maartin – Our favorite! Took a cab to Orient Bay Beach, walked to the clothing optional section, got 2 chairs at the Tiki-Hut. The waves were awesome, bigger than the last time we were here. Unfortunately, with the waves/storms come the seaweed and the turtle eggs. I could only go in the water twice, the third time I just couldn’t get past the seaweed YUK! As our chairs were coming into the shade we started to get bitten so we left. Not really sure what bit us but my legs had a lot of red bumps. Back to the ship in time for another dinner at Chops. After dinner we went to the Champagne Bar and chatted with Freddie. Freddie is great, he remembers your name and order from the first time he meets you, he would even have it ready for you when you sat down. Day 7 Tuesday October 18, 2005 San Juan 85° San Juan has improved over the last 5 years. We walked around, went shopping, and bought a couple of t-shirts and a silver bracelet for our daughter. We were back on the ship by 10:30 a.m. We sat by the pool the rest of the day, loved those drinks in the fresh pineapple YUM. As we were leaving we had a few showers and the Explorer of the Seas pulled into the berth next to us. We loved that ship too. Day 8 Wednesday October 19, 2005 Labadee 97° We have been to Labadee a few times, so we decided to stay on the ship. Good Choice! 97° people said it felt like 120 on the island. We sat by the pool. Due to the short stay at Labadee they had the BBQ on the pool deck from 1:00 – 3:00 instead of on the island. They started setting up at 9:30 a.m. and about 1:15 the grills were lit. They set up several stations to get food which would have been very organized except you had to go to one station for your plate and utensils, another station for ribs, another station for chicken, another for burger and hot dogs and yet another station for side dishes. So by the time you sat down everything was cold. None of the stations were labeled so it was very chaotic. The ribs were awesome, we tried to go back for more but the line was too long. We went to the show “Tango Buenos Aires” it was good, we left after 20 minutes. We stopped by the Champagne Bar to see Freddie, Schooner Bar, then to the Vortex Disco until 2:30 a.m. Day 9 Thursday October 20, 2005 At Sea 88° We sat by the pool for a couple of hours; decided we wanted to see what else was going on around the ship, puttered around the ship. We went back to the pool just in time to see the horse races. The owners race was won by #1 Johnny Damon. Played mini-golf, worked out in the gym. Tonight’s show was Paul Boland “Man of 1,000 Voices”; he was very good, very funny. Being 70’s disco night, we chose to stay at the Champagne Bar until we went to the disco around midnight. Neither one of us wanted to hear the “Tribute to ABBA” or the “Village People”, we had enough of that the first time around. Closed the disco at 4:00 a.m. Day 10 Friday October 21, 2005 At Sea 60° The daily planner stated the temperature would be about 60°, with the wind chill it was more like 40°. We knew it would be a chilly day so we puttered around the ship, bought 3 photos, played Jackpot Bingo – didn’t win L, went to trivia. We had dinner at Chops for the last night. Went to the Schooner Bar for a couple of drinks, said good-bye to the people we met. Declined going to the disco – too much to do tomorrow. Day 11 Saturday October 22, 2005 Debarkation, Boston 60° We chose to carry our luggage off the ship ourselves. Finished packing, went to the Windjammer for breakfast, called the pursers desk to find out what deck we should be on, they said we debark from Deck 5. It took a ½ hour to get an elevator that we could get on, got to Deck 5, waited ½ hour and we were off and waiting for our ride by 8:15, home by 9:15 a.m. We had a GREAT time. This cruise tied with our favorite past cruise (Explorer of the Seas). We have loved all of our cruises and for us there is no such thing as a bad cruise. We thoroughly enjoy our vacations; life is what you make of it and how you choose to react to certain situations, especially situations you have no control over.

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Sep 21, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

This was a 5 star ship/cruise! We left Boston Harbor 9/22/05, what a spectacular sunset over Boston’s skyline! The ship was beautiful, a jewel for sure. We stayed in cabin 9610, D1 category w/balcony. This was a great room, with a 3 seat sofa too. We had a nice 10 day stay and felt very comfortable. The service was superb!. Dining room, windjammer, sea side café, and the 2 specialty restaurants (Chops and

Portofino’s) were outstanding. Lots to do on this ship, 9 hole mini-golf, pool tables (the game room is simply handsome!) And there’s the solitude of your private deck if you choose to read or listen to your favorite cd’s while taking in the most beautiful views of all! Entertainment: Out of the 8 shows we attended, 4 were excellent! Comedians were funny, and the solo violinist and guitarist were exceptional. Due to weather our 1st stop to Bermuda was cancelled (Bermuda port authorities could not allow us to dock to due high seas) Naturally we were disappointed, but this is the chance you take during hurricane season. The captain added St Thomas to our itinerary, which was fine for us. Good news came when we were in St Martten and were told that Bermuda was back on our itinerary due to calmer seas. (So we did get to go which made many people happy) This trip was a great relaxing and exciting one, We went with another couple and they too had a great time. We would sail the Jewel again! Bon Voyage!

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Sep 21, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

My wife, myself and our 21 yr old wheelchair bound son had a handicapped room on the 4th level - the room was ideal - it is the size of 2 regular staterooms and the bathroom is very adequate for showering someone either in their wheelchair or transferring to the wall mounted shower chair. The doors to the cabin open "automatically" once you put your card in the lock - best accommodations we have had thus far.

The dining room was roomy and we had a table in the back of the room - on any other ship we have been on - it would have meant the moving of at least 10 people in order to get Adam's chair to the table - not on the Jewel - even after everyone had been seated we could still easily get to our table. We have booked the same cabin for next September already. ps. We could not get into Bermuda on the way to the Caribbean so the captain got us a full day in St Thomas, St Maarten, San Juan and we hit Bermuda on the way back to Boston - no loss in not going to Labadee - it is just a beach with pushy beach wheelchair attendants who think that they need to hang around with you and your family until you leave the island and pay them - if i never go back to Labadee it will be too soon. Overall we had a wonderful time, the entertainment was also very good for a 10 day cruise

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Sep 21, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Getting on the ship was a breeze, everyone was very helpful and our stateroom was ready for us. Our luggage arrived in an acceptable period of time. Our cabin steward was personable and helpful throughout the cruise. We had to circumvent our first port (Bermuda) due to weather conditions but, our captain explained everything that was going on and made arrangements to stop at an additional port due to this inconvenience.

We would probably stay on board, next cruise, at the San Yuan port. It's nothing like St Maarten or St Thomas which we had thoroughly enjoyed. We'd rather stay longer in one of those ports and skip San Yuan. There was plenty of great food with many varieties so you didn't seem like you were eating the same types of food over and over. The dining room personnel couldn't do enough for you and all had great personalities. The staff throughout the ship fell into that category as well. There was a notice on our beds each evening that laid out the itinerary for the next day with times and locations of each activity that was available. There were plenty of "excursions" available from which to choose and they were well described as to what they entailed. Getting on and off the ship was quick and easy, also. On the way back to home port, the captain made arrangements to stop at Bermuda which we had had to pass by on the way South. Caribbean Cruises/Captain went out of their way to accommodate this Cruise. The entertainment on board was great with many varieties from which to choose. The shows (sans one) were outstanding and it was obvious the cast put a lot of work into their productions. The only real disappointment or complaint was the smoking situations. We were not able to go into the casino due to the smoking or sit around bar areas for the same reason. We had booked a stateroom with a balcony but due to a chain smoker next door (up wind) we weren't able to enjoy this feature as much as anticipated. Hotels, etc. have smoke free floors and the Cruise Line should do the same. Maybe smoke-free days/evenings in the casino and bars would make for a more enjoyable cruise for more people. All in all, we would not hesitate to recommend Caribbean Cruise Lines and will plan our next cruise with them.

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Aug 18, 2005

Baltic

My latest cruise of 12 nights around the Baltic Sea began on the 19 August 2005 in Harwich (UK) which would also be the debarkation port. It included 4 full days at sea and on the other days the Jewel of the Seas would be docked at Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn. This was my seventh cruise. Except on one occasion the ships I choose were new ships, never more than 14 months old. Such were

the cases of the Royal Clipper in 2000, Millennium in 2001, and the Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Also never have I ever repeated Cruise Company. So this was also my first time with Royal Caribbean. The itinerary is obviously extremely interesting. Personally the places I most enjoyed were St. Petersburg, Stockholm and also Copenhagen. THE PEOPLE The Jewel of the Seas (JS) was packed with 2210 passengers, below its announced top capacity of 2501. Such was the figure the guest relations desk provided me with upon my request. Out of curiosity, I always like to know with whom I am traveling with. In my point of view the word traveling is a synonym of the word observing. Seating on a chair while observing the people around you, their reactions to the various stimulus, is as interesting, if not more, than taking photos of a monument or landscape. Right after embarkation I went to explore the various venues around the ship since this is what I usually do to get acquainted with their exact location. I have the feeling that I was not the only one doing that same exploration. In and around the ship I heard some ‘wows’, ‘yeps’ and ‘yeahs’. I immediately jumped to the more than obvious conclusion that the majority of the passengers would be Americans. Prior to entering into the details of this review let me tell you that English is a foreign language for me and that I don’t get much the opportunity to speak it or hearing it. I am anyway deeply convinced that such exclamations of sudden joy or utter amazement can only be produced by people whose mother tong is effectively English and that they are deeply rooted on the ways and behaviors of a particular society. It would be very difficult for me to produce them. In fact when I asked the guest relations desk to provide me with the break down of the passengers by nationality, the only figures they provided me with, were Americans, more than 800 (but I can not remember the exact number) and al other citizens constituting all the remaining figure. There were obviously many other nationalities represented whose mother tongue was also English, such as citizens of the UK and Canadians. I also heard lots and lots of Spanish; it was for that obvious reason the second most spoken language aboard the JS. A pity for me that I can not speak it, even if I understand a little bit. Finally, in only one or two occasions have I heard French, German or Italian. I was not provided with the average age of the passengers although I suspect that it was high, not many children. I spotted just a bunch of couples that were very likely on their honeymoon. In fact I had a couple of honeymooners on my assigned dinner table. Let me tell you by the way that every night when retiring to my cabin the attendant would have left there the Cruise Compass or daily planner. That’s the normal procedure in every cruise ship. However from the forth day on, probably realizing that Portuguese was my mother tongue, he would leave the translated version of the Cruise Compass. This version was so scattered with misspellings, that I succumbed the burden of seeing my own grammar being treated so badly. The errors I saw were countless and recurrent. Finally I would not even read it, but just tear it apart and go to deck 4 at the guest relations desk, and take the original version in English or in French (this last one with barely any misspells). I left a note on the suggestions box, saying that they should consider not publishing it at all, rather than doing it with so many errors. THE SHIP The looks are impressive. The ship is new and in pristine condition. In every port of call, I found members of the crew repainting the hull or doing whatever work was necessary to keep it that way. I assume that good looks are very probably a way to draw the attention of potential future clients whenever the vessel is docked. The interior decoration is prone to discussion since it is a rather subjective matter. Some venues are in fact elegant and appealing, such as the main dinning room, both of the alternative restaurants, the Coral Theatre, the Congo bar (in the aft of deck 6 and allowing good sightseeing from the aft of the ship) and my preferred The Viking Crown Lounge or Vortex. This is situated on the top deck of the JS and allows impressive views to the outside, but I have to say that as far as the design of a ship is concerned I prefer the Cosmos lounge on the Millenium class ships of Celebrity Cruises, since they are more wide and the views to the see are not obstructed by the funnel, as it is the case on this ship and obviously in all of the other radiant class ships. Other venues however were not to my liking. The Centrum, rather showy and designed to attract the attention of unsophisticated likings, is where the lobby situated on deck 4 and spans across several decks (up to deck eleven). The consequence of this is that if you sit on any other given place close to the Centrum, such as the tiny library on deck 9, the internet terminals located on deck 8 and 4 or you just sit to read a book on the yacht club situated on deck 10 you are immediately disturbed by the noise, music or just the elevators. They have two elevator banks, forward (3) and midship where the centrum is (6). The elevators on the Centrum attract crowds and are the kind that ‘speak’ too much. On one of the see days I sat on the yacht club to read a book in a peaceful atmosphere but was constantly disturbed by their recorded voices announcing the deck were they were and weather they were going up or down. The decoration at the solarium does not lack creativity but it is more suitable as a Disneyland attraction. Kids under 16 are not supposed to go there except on unfavorable weather conditions and only for short periods of time under parental supervision. However, with such an enticing décor exactly suited for them, no wonder the deck patrol had to chase them (sometimes but not always)Should Royal Caribbean find a décor less appropriate for them and there would be one less reason for them to bath on the Solarium. Around this place the floor is teak, on the other pools and jogging track is anti skid. The interior was always very clean and I suspect that they even purified the air we breathed. I often found on the corridors a strange machine expelling air from a sort of vent. The machines were in shape pretty similar to the commonly known vacuum cleaners (probably a sort of ‘cousin’ of such appliances) only these ones were left working by themselves on their deeply mysterious task. The ship also tends to rock a little bit. We did not encounter very rough seas, but it seems that a reasonably strong wind is enough to get the JS on bouncing pattern navigation. Anyway nothing serious. CABIN AND SERVICE I had a balcony on deck eleven starboard side of the ship (cabin 1520). First advice for all those who will go in the future on this itinerary: Be aware that weather conditions around the Baltic are pretty unpredictable. It could happen that you pay for a balcony, and that you will never get the possibility to enjoy. For other itineraries aboard this ship, let me tell you the balcony does not have enough room for two loungers, although with the two chairs and small coffee table, (that was what they put there), it seemed spacious. I booked this cruise five months in advance and requested a cabin located on the aft of the ship. Balconies there are much more spacious, but it was already too late to get one. The cabin had the usual amenities on a cruise ship. There was enough closet and drawer space. More than enough space to put your books or travel guides, even with some corner shelves that I assume some people might never realize they are there. The suitcases fit perfectly under the bed providing they are not excessively thick. The bathroom is faultless as far as conception is concerned. The floor of the shower is round shaped and anti skid, doors are plexiglas giving it enough room for bodies with up to an acceptable average weight. Here again the shelves you need are hidden behind a corner mirror. They provide soap bars and on a dispenser on the shower they had shampoo with conditioner. Here I found a useful retractable clothesline. Finding the suitable water temperature is very easy, however water pressure of the shower was not enough in my opinion. Exiting the toilet one must be aware with the door, not to shove someone standing in front of the closet. This is a recurrent problem in every cabin I have been. I have never understood why it is so difficult to design sliding doors for bathrooms. There was a sitting area in my cabin. In all other cruise ships I have been on, the sitting area stands close to the sliding glass door of the balcony, which is in my opinion the best place for it. However in this cabin the sitting area is squeezed between the bed and the toilet. In my point of view this is not the best solution. The vacuum cleaning system of the toilet broke twice. The first time it kept working on and on, making incredible noise. I called maintenance and they came promptly. The second time, upon arriving to the cabin around midnight and already tired, the system broke up again and kept pouring water on the toilet causing flooding on the bathroom. Once more I called maintenance, once more they came promptly. Extremely apologetic, but they had to go back for some spare parts. I ended up going to bed at 01:15 AM. Part of the work they had to do was done from the outside of the cabin on the corridor. I have the feeling that the vacuum system of the toilets aboard new cruise ships often break. This is a recurrent problem in every cruise ship I go, the only exception being the Queen Mary 2 last year. And I also heard lots of similar stories from other passengers, so it is not only my problem. As to cleanliness around the cabin, well…. The balcony was always very salty (also a common problem in every cruise ship with balconies I’ve been on); the sliding glass door that led to the balcony was only cleaned from the inside; the carpet would have needed more vacuum cleaning; the railing of the sliding glass window was filthy. I think that my cabin attendant was the kind of guy who never suspected I would pay attention to such details. Men generally don’t. It is true that I never made any complain, and he might have thought that I was not the kind of person who would Inspect the carpet under the bed, or put a finger on the upper hedge of the frame of the picture on the wall and see it comes with dust, left alone making a review afterwards and telling a lot of people about it. As I was travelling with my father, I had requested the cabin attendant to separate the beds into two singles. Throughout the entire cruise they never put a cover on the bed after doing them in the morning. I assume they did not have covers for separate beds, only for king size beds. In the evening while I was at dinner they would come again, not to open the beds, as they were left that way from the morning, but just to lit the reading lights around the bed, eventually change towels, make their funny foldings and leave that irritant translation of the “Cruise Compass”. Apart from that, one of the hooks that sustain the curtain of the window was missing, so part of the curtain seemed to be falling. It stayed that way from the first time I entered the cabin till the day I left it upon final debarkation. These are probably just a few details, but even for a medium price cruise company as Royal Caribbean, I think they should take care of them, probably with better supervision. I was on vacation, I came to enjoy a cruise experience and the ports of call and not to make reclamations. When tip day came, I rewarded the cabin attendant according to the skills shown with towel folding. If you get me. I can not rate room service since I never used it. DINNING ROOM EXPERIENCE I had precisely the sitting I requested when I made reservations: The second sitting. It started at 08:30 PM, (that is my usual time for dinner while at home) thus allowing me to watch the ship leaving the port and all the fascinating landscapes around the fiord of Oslo and the canals of Stockholm. First sitting passengers missed a lot of interesting places to observe as the seating started at 06:30 PM. Dinner consisted of a three course meal with appetizer entrée and dessert. The list of appetizers was conspicuous but many of them were repeated every day, (for example the shrimp cocktail). As far as food was at stake, there were good moments and not so good moments, but never disappointments. The portions of the entrée were huge. For me that is always a cause of astonishment in every cruise restaurant I have been on. No wonder that I often found people with sleepy looks around the Coral theatre afterwards. Wine list was also conspicuous. There was no wine steward as I saw in other ships, the waiter or his assistant would take care of the orders. I prefer small tables, but they put me on a table for ten. I only saw a few tables for two in the upper floor of the restaurant. The room is elegant and they would play recorded music (mainly Russian and Scandinavian classical composers, as I managed to distinguish some tracks of the records). The service around my table was faultless. The waiter, Oggus from Turkey was efficient and smiling. And so was the assistant. Oggus was a genuinely funny kind of person. On every evening I ate there, after the meal he would come by and announce the opening hours of the restaurants for the following day. A piece of information that was anyway published on the Cruise Compass. He would do it this way: “Tomorrow we will be at…”, at that precise moment he would make a pause, would take a few small paper notes out of his pocket that he would turn upside down in his fingers, consider the calendar of his wrist watch, and finally conclude his sentence with a voice of ultimate revelation, an well kept secret that he would reveal just for us, his preferred passengers at his preferred table: ‘Stockholm’. He would then eyeball us as if to assess our reaction to the secret just revealed, and finally begin to instruct us with yet one more piece of information that we, utterly unfocused passengers, did not know: ‘The opening hours of the restaurants for the following day’. He would do that the same way every night, just changing the name of the place where we would be the next day, weather it was St. Petersburg, Tallinn or simply ‘at sea’. I noticed that there were other tables that were empty from the second or third day of this cruise, but that I am pretty sure have been occupied on the first day. I do not know how to explain this phenomenon, but it is probably because those passengers rather preferred to have dinner somewhere else. I never took breakfast on the Tides Restaurant and only had lunch there once on a sea day. I could choose from a menu or directly from a limited but pleasant buffet. For lunch, there is no assigned seating, so odds are that they will seat you wherever it suits them (along with some people you’ve never seen before) and not where you want to sit. WINDJAMMER CAFE (or lido Buffet) Nothing much to say about it. Food was standard. For breakfast I always found everything to suit my needs (coffee, reasonable assortment of bakery items, butter, fruit, yogurts) but there were many other items I generally do not consume for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, they had a choice between two different kinds a soup,(I only state this detail, since I eat soup daily and enjoy it) and they were good. Salads lacked variety, only two different kinds of lettuce, but one could choose from up to eight different dressings, none of them overwhelmingly notorious, by the way, but pleasant. As to pasta, I found them good until the day when I took one that was completely dry. Ice cream had to be taken from that sort of dispenser machines and were not outstanding as to taste and variety (chocolate and strawberry were the only two flavours, as far as I can remember). Reasonable assortment of fruit that one could choose from the dessert stands, where other delicatessen were presented, some very good, others only with a good presentation but with a taste not corresponding to their looks. Drinks such as water, lemonade or ice tea could be taken from two stands they called ‘thirst quenchers’. Unaware of the meaning of the word ‘quencher’ I have just looked on my dictionary, and in fact one must be very creative to find such names to give to stands. If you sit in a table without a drink a server will come by, as they are always circulating with trays with drinks and take one from him. Obviously for lunch and dinner you could also select wine from a list on the table (quite obviously with limited choice). For dinner one could also find sushi in one of the stands. Do not ask me whether it was good or not, I simply do not like it and did not try it aboard the JS. The layout of the room and the service around it seemed quite good (and let me tell you that I’ve seen in the past very bad examples of service around the buffet of cruise ships). Finding a table is difficult on those mornings when everybody is in a hurry for the tours and for lunch on sea days. This is however usual on big cruise ship but annoying should you take a full tray of food or even worst, drinks pouring off glasses. It was somewhat easier to find seating around the outdoor part of the Windjammer, at the aft of the ship. However the bellow average air temperature (at least comparing to what I am accustomed), would keep me away from such place. Let’s not forget that one can not simply pay for an average price rate for a cruise and expect first class amenities. ALTERNATIVE RESTAURANTS There are two: The Shops Grill and the Portofino. They charge $20 per person, but obviously you end up paying much more, since a good meal should always be accompanied by a first class wine. I tried both restaurants and both were excellent as to food, service and atmosphere. I did not appreciate the fact of being charged $2,50 for an espresso I order at the end of the meal, the day I was at the Chops Grill. This is a petty attitude in such a place. It would have been preferable to reduce the portions of meat and not charge for coffee or tea. The shops grill has a five course meal (appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and dessert). For the entrée you chose the sides and vegetables you prefer, from a list. Obviously I only had a soup (cheese n’onion soup, as they call it) and a fillet mignon (the only entrée where you could choose from small or big portion, I chose the small one which was already too much). I ended up paying $86,57 for a dinner for two. By the way I asked them to send the bottle of red wine to the Tides dinning room in order to finish it the next day, and it was done without problem. The Portofino restaurant was even slightly more pleasant than the Chops Grill, at list for me. When I got there the gay that welcomed me was Italian. He immediately spotted that I was not an Anglo-Saxon. Coming from a country in southern Europe I’m a Latin, as himself and asked me whether I would like my menu in English or Spanish. Jokingly I answered that I wanted it in Portuguese, something very unlikely for them to have. He did not blink an eye and just answered saying ‘Certainly sir’. He showed me a nice table by the window and told me he would call Pedro, one of the waiters. Pedro was himself a Portuguese, so around that restaurant I had the feeling that I was right at home Obviously you can order pasta on the Portofino, but that you can get it in other not so expensive restaurants. I followed the recommendation the waiter gave me which was fish and it was extremely good. I argued with Pedro saying that I liked fish very much and that I prefer it to meet, but had never had a good experience with the preparations of fish I had in any cruise ship. He agreed with me but said that anyway I should try his recommendation because that was precisely the exception that confirmed my rule. I was in fact surprisingly pleased with what I ordered. Desserts were also excellent. Since I did not order neither coffee nor tea and had just two glasses of wine (instead of a bottle as I did at the Chops Grill), the experience was less expensive, only $69,55. Again, I was displeased by the fact that in both restaurants portions were enormous. Forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but I only state this since it is for me uneasy to be confronted with a huge portions I can never eat. I do not think this is healthy anyway. It is hard to accept that around this world half of the population dies due to malnutrition and the other half dies as a result of diseases related to overeating. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES Obviously there was plenty of it. It is rather difficult to speak about this as I only went to see three shows. I selected those that I thought would suit more my likings. The Soul Satisfaction Group was excellent, Tango Buenos Aires also very good, but I did not see the usual jugglers and solo singers. I went twice to see a movie. They were relatively recent, but the room is only good if you sit on the two or three further rows from the screen. The others are too close to it. There was a very wide variety of activities to suit every taste through out the day. Some speeches about the ports of call that we would visit, given on the Coral Theatre, that could be later seen on TV. They would provide a few information about monuments to visit, but lots of advice on shops we should definitively go and what to buy. Since most of the countries we visited had a VAT (value added tax) that could be refund to passengers not belonging to European Community neither living there, we were encouraged to spend as much as possible, since, so we were told: ‘Ladies and gentleman, the more you buy, the more you save’ (due to the VAT refund). I only state this and retain it as one of the silliest things I have ever heard in my life. I used the ship shape centre a lot and it was very well equipped and clean. Generally I went there in late afternoon and always saw someone cleaning thoroughly and in detail every peace of equipment. There were classes and some of them required a $10 fee (Yoga, Pilates and what they called Wheels in motion). The library is for me a good option to spend some time after dinner. However and as said before, it was located on deck 9 of the Centrum, thus extremely noisy. This is definitively not the right place to put it. The choice of books is poor. The casino was well attended, but I do not gamble nor do I have in great consideration people who do. ITINERARY AND EXCURSIONS The itinerary (Baltic) was in fact very good, but there are some issues that could be improved. In fact I think that the departure from the port of Harwich is probably not the best option, since we wasted one day at see between Harwich and the first port of call and two days at see between the last port of call and the debarkation. In fact we had to cross part of the north see just to get to the Baltic. When navigating, our pace was around 23 and 24 Knots. The top speed of the JS is somewhere between 24 and 25 Knots. As embarkation/debarkation probably Amsterdam would have been a better choice. The other drawback I found was the fact that from Harwich to St Petersburg they had to set our clocks three times advancing one hour each time. When I got to the east most part of our itinerary (St. Petersburg), I felt pretty tired. I can imagine that for people coming from other continents, especially if they came without one day to spare in London, it was even worst. As to excursions, as always, they were rather expensive and not worth the price. Also the transfers from dock to downtown were charged $4,00 one way and $8,00 round trip. I had never been charged for a transfer before, except in Barcelona last year. Oslo The JS docked next to downtown. It was Sunday, no transfer was necessary. I bought one half day excursion. I ended up with the impression that in fact Oslo is not a very interesting place. I had heard that before from friends and relatives and I can confirm it now. However the landscapes around town are beautiful and I found the Folk museum very interesting. To get in and out of Oslo the JS had no made its way through the Oslo Fiord. Not the kind of spectacular fiord, however pretty interesting. Copenhagen Very pleasant and easy to walk around. I took the transfer in the morning and went for a stroll downtown. For the afternoon, I choose the cruise canal tour and enjoyed it. One of the touristy attractions is the little mermaid, a small sculpture (the size of a human being) that was made as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen. Our tour guide told us that once she had a group of Japanese tourists that were extremely disappointed when they saw this sculpture, convinced as they were that it was probably the same size of the Statue of Liberty in New York. They had planned to have lunch in a restaurant inside the little mermaid, so they told the tour guide. Stockholm I found it extremely interesting and would have gladly spent one more day there. The departure was at 4:30 PM, extremely early, but navigating through the canal in order to get to the open sea allowed us to see beautiful landscapes. At 08:30 PM when I went for dinner we were still navigating thought the canal. Helsinki Only marginally interesting as far as architecture is concerned. However many parks around the city are beautiful. Finland is a big country with a small population. They are rather cold people and not sociable. St. Petersburg Definitively the highlight of this itinerary. The city is rather new as it dates from the eighteen century and was built on the delta of the Neiva River. It is majestic and grandiose, and I think in knocks out Rome as far as exuberance of architecture is at stake. The JS was docked on the port of the city, the place is big, noisy and ugly, and rather far from the city centre. It was also the place chosen to refuel the JS. I think that Royal Caribbean my have cut some deal with the local authorities to get advantageous prices for it. There were no transfer buses to nowhere around the city. If you want to go on your own for a visit it would have been necessary to arrange for a visa in advance and transportation on your own also. Passengers on the tours had a special visa that was granted just for the purpose of the tour. I took three tours: the city sightseeing, the folkloric dancing show and the river cruise canal with visit to Peter and Paul Fortress. On the first tour our guide was Catherina. The pour girl hardly had enough time to breathe while we drove across the city, as whatever road we went buy there were dozens of points of interest that she would call our attention to and add a small description. Here again, coming from various places around the bus, lots of wows, yeahs and yeps. There were only two stops for photos and whenever this happened there were street vendors trying to seduce you with postcards, matriuska dolls or whatever they think might interest tourists. Quite frankly I have a hard time trying to understand some passengers much more concerned trying to find souvenirs than admiring the city. On the last stop of this tour, right in front of the majestic church of the Spilled Blood, there was a sort a flee market. I spotted a couple that as soon as they left the bus headed directly to the flee market, not even taking a picture of the church. As far as I ran remember it was a 30 minute stop and I ended the visit to the church with time to spare before the bus was due to leave. So I went for a very short stroll around the flee market where I found a woman trying to speak its limited English with a couple. She would do barely more than put one word after another in a desperate attempt to build a phrase while helping her with wide gesticulation. The couple I had seen getting out of the bus and heading directly to the flee market, were her interlocutors, and responded to that schematic English with a Morse code sequence of grimaces. I am sure they found some ground of understanding since the woman managed to add one more packet to the hands of the couple. The second tour was also very interesting. It was a show of folkloric dances. Our tour guide Irina, did nothing more than to salute us and welcome us to St. Petersburg (again, at list for me) while we drove to the theatre located near the most lively road of the city, Nevsky Prospect. The performers were professionals and the costumes very beautiful. You had to pay a fee if you wanted to take pictures. Again inside the theatre, lots of souvenirs were there waiting to be bought. On the second day I went to the river cruise canal tour. Our tour guide was Valentina, competent and knowledgeable. The tour was very interesting except for the last part which was a visit to Peter and Paul Fortress. On one part of this fortress there is a church where all the czars of Russia are buried. The place was packed with tourists that would have to elbow their way to follow their tour guides. The result was mass confusion. I could not hear one word of what Valentina said down there. I have somehow the feeling that around very touristy places, there are too many visitors at the same time. Besides that St. Petersburg has several buildings under renovation, as attested by the works on the façades. It’s a gigantic endeavour since there are so many interesting buildings and I assume also that a very expensive one, although the current high price of oil has busted Russia’s economy. On the roads of the city one can observe lots of expensive German made luxury cars, along with many once popular, locally produced Ladas. These tend to break easily, so I witnessed during the tours. It was a common sight while on tours seeing a Lada with an open bonnet and a driver bent over it with disillusioned looks while accessing the fatigued guts of the soviet era beast. Around the place trams are old and rusty and almost always empty. However they have vans equipped with far too many seats for their size, that I suspect, serve as collective taxis. A curious note: on every tour I went, the name of the driver was Vladimir. We discussed this fact with tablemates at dinner that also had other Vladimirs as drivers. I ended up with the feeling that in the Soviet era the name one was given as a child would determine their future occupation. EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION Whenever I go on a cruise I always arrive to the place of embarkation one day in advance. London is not new to me. I’ve been there twice before, but it is always a pleasant city to visit. I had found a hotel and paid for it through the net (using www.octopustravel). The Thistle Charing Cross hotel was comfortable, recently renovated and conveniently located close to Trafalgar Square on the Strand. Arriving at Heathrow at 11:00 AM, I was at the check in of the hotel one hour and a quarter later. I spent an excellent afternoon in London, with a beautiful sun shining day, however with slightly high temperature causing some discomfort, not very common in London. The day ended with an excellent dinning al fresco on The Strand. The weather in the UK is pretty unpredictable. The next morning, while shaving in front of the mirror on the bathroom, a voice pouring from the little holes of the backlit cover of a microphone, cautioned me against ‘lingering heavy rain’ for the eastern part of the UK. The BBC weather forecast was not wrong. I had booked a transfer by car with chauffer to get me from the hotel to the cruise terminal in Harwich, and in fact when we were slightly in the middle of the journey it was already raining cats and dogs. The consequence of this was that later in the day when I received the suitcases in my cabin, already aboard the JS, one must have been lying on the rain for too long since a little bit of moisture got inside. I even had to give a pair of pants for cleaning aboard (and I paid for it). I was somewhat displeased with this because I think that Royal Caribbean should take better care of passenger’s luggage. I was also displeased with the suitcase. It was only 9 months old and from a reputed and expensive brand. I’m now convinced that I was cheated and probably bought a Chinese copy of the suitcase but end up paying the price for the original brand. Who Knows? On the cruise terminal there were porters that immediately took in hand my suitcases. I had a small carryon that finally I also gave away to the porters since it had also a tag with cabin identification and I was not feeling like to be burdened with it through the procedure of the check in. I always attach tags on carrions since in case I loose them at the port terminal, it is more probable that someone gets it onboard the ship and do not put them aside thinking that it belongs to a passenger that has previously disembarked on the same ship. I would later regret giving it away. There were already lots of people around the terminal. They had three lines for check in (one for passengers with cabins on deck 2, 3 and 4, another for cabins on deck 7 and 8 and finally a small one for cabins on deck 9 and 10). Everything was well organizes and the procedure was painless. Finally it took me less than half an hour from the moment I gave my suitcases away at the porters and the moment I got aboard around noon. We were told that our rooms would not be available before 01:00 PM so I had enough time for my first lunch at the Windjammer Café. I was worried all the afternoon since the carryon I had given away to the porters was still missing at dinner time. I headed to the guest relations desk, and found about a dozen suitcases with no tags. My carryon had also been ‘lingering’ there probably for the all afternoon. The girl at the desk told me what was already obvious: Rain water tiered up a lot of tags. I replied that my bag had my name on it, on a little pocket on its side. In fact this pocket is precisely there for nothing else than putting your name on it, so they could have traced me. She replied that they did not like to touch passenger’s belongings but offered to arrange for someone to take it to my cabin. Debarkation was also swift and well organized. I must say that I never found a cruise ship with disorganized debarkation procedures. It is as if they want to get rid of their passengers. Earlier on the cruise they had given a flyer so that we could state our post cruise arrangements. Debarkation was done by colors of the tags they provided us with. In fact the usual in every other cruise company. I would take a flight back home that same day at 06:30 PM from Heathrow, so I had a whole day just to wonder around London. My advice for all those wanting to go from Harwich cruise terminal to London or making the opposite journey on the day of embarkation, is that there is a very convenient railway connection from London Liverpool station to Harwich. The railway station on the port terminal is called Harwich International. It takes less than 90 minutes to make the journey. The first class ticket is half the price the transfer by couch they were offering aboard the JS. By coach and depending on the traffic it can take from 90 minutes to 120 minutes. The train runs every hour during the day. There is however a small drawback. This was a commuter train and as a consequence there was not much room where to keep the luggage. Mine and those of all the other passengers were lying on the corridor of the wagon and on the subsequent stops that the train made and the closest we got to London, there were more and more commuters that boarded the train and had to travel standing up on the wagon. A young passenger that boarded the train at Colchester, not finding a vacant sitting place decided to sit on a huge suitcase lying there so he could read his magazine more comfortably. It is also true that I traveled during rush hour. I boarded the train in Harwich International at 08:06 AM. Should I have boarded the following train one hour later, I imagine it would not have been so packed. MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS I only witnessed smoking around the bars. Tipping is easily made since they charge it to your shipboard account and give you vouchers that you will then distribute to the servers. The amount they charge is fixed according to the guidelines they recommend. Obviously one can add additional dollar bills to the vouchers. I tried the SPA on two occasions. Out of curiosity I booked a hot stone massage. Prior to any treatment they give you a questionnaire for you to fill out, before they proceed with the treatment. Some very funny questions, I must add: ‘Had I any particular gynaecological condition? Was I pregnant?’. This treatment is designed to relax people. After the massage the girl who had performed it asked me if I felt relaxed. Politely I answered yes, however I was not more relaxed in the end than I was at the beginning. Somehow she also managed to sell me a concentrate of lavender, since in her saying I should put a few drops in my pillow every night, because lavender makes the brain give an order of relaxation to the rest of the body. The second treatment was a full body massage with a deep skin cleansing. In the end the girl came up with a program of natural products for me to use regularly (sun blockers, eye mask, night creams). All in all the set of products she was trying to advise me to take was worth $333. Obviously I refused all. My advice is if you really like Spa’s, do it at home since on cruises their prices are ridiculously high. Shops on board were nothing extraordinary. However I am suspect since I do not like to spend my precious money around shops. Photos were taken on every possible occasion and sold for $19, 90 each. Art on board is worth to be admired. Try to do the following: proceed to the top floor of each elevator bank and go down on foot through the stair cases. The most of the art around this ship is placed around the staircases. LAST WORDS I have to say that should I do this itinerary again, I would probably book a cruise in a smaller ship. In St. Petersburg other smaller cruise ships from Oceanic and Radisson were docked on the Neiva River around the city, making it much easier to just get out of the ship and wonder on your own. I would also caution people not to take the tours proposed on board on the various ports of call but instead opt for those kind of hop on, hop off tour buses that now exist in almost every major town in Europe (but not in St. Petersburg). You will end up spending half of the cost of the tour and have a more comprehensive visit of the places you go. This was my first experience with Royal Caribbean. It’s an average price cruise line, no big disappointments but also no big thrills. Further questions and comments arising from this review will be welcomed.

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Apr 30, 2005

14-Night Transatlantic

May 1st, 2005: Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Last year, I took a cruise on Legend of the Seas. Onboard, I booked a 5-night cruise on Voyager of the Seas. My mother and I were supposed to go on it. My mother moved to London a couple of months ago, so I canceled our Bermuda cruise and booked a Transatlantic with my girlfriend. The day we arrived on the ship,

I was so happy! We got on the ship around 3:00, and i took an hour-nap. My girlfriend booked us a seaweed-wrap massage. I had NO clue what that was, but I've gotten masages before on cruises, so I figured it was the same. It was maybe about 5:00 and the ship set sail, and we didnt have our luggage. We had Main-Seating Dinner, so we just had to go in our normal clothes. we met our waiter, assistant waiter and headwaiter. They were very charming and funny. After Dinner, we saw the welcome-aboard show, which was a good show. I personally don't really go to the shows so i must say the show was not half bad. Then, our luggage came, and I unpacked everything. I went to the Zanzibar Lounge afterwards, but I was so tired I went to my room and ended my day. Day 2, At Sea My Girlfriend and I went to the Seaweed-Wrap Massage. It was amazing, they wrapped you in seaweed and massaged you at the end! It was AMAZING! Later, we went to the pool area and I went in the pool while my girlfriend laid out in the sun. About 3:00, I went and played some basketball while my girlfriend went to the internet lounge. We met back at the room at 5:30 and got ready for dinner. We made reservations at Chops Grille. The food was outstanding, but when you go to Chops Grille, per person it costs 20 dollars. My girlfriend was excited for tomorrow, because she had only been out of the country once, to the Bahamas. She went back to the room after dinner and watched a movie and ordered room service. I went to the Schooner Bar. I must say, the Schooner Bar was so much fun. I met a couple from Norway, who were very interesting. I left the bar around 1:00 and went back to the cabin. I didnt fall asleap till around 3:00, because I sat on the balcony for a while with my girlfriend. Day 3, King’s Wharf, Bermuda I booked an excursion called “Glass-Bottom-Boat Safari”. We went to a dock area and boarded the glass-bottom-boat. They took us to Bermuda’s “Sea Gardens”, which was very neat! There were so many fish and the many beautiful Coral Formations which were so unique! It truly was an amazing site! I definitely suggest that excursion if you go to King’s Wharf. We were in Bermuda for two days, so we figured we could stay out as late as we wanted. I have a friend named Scott, who lives in Hamilton, Bermuda, not too far away. He came and met us and he drove us to his house. The drive itself is so beautiful. We stayed at his house shortly. We arrived back at King’s Wharf about 10:00pm and heard about a club. We went to the club and had a great time. At about midnight, my girlfriend felt nauseous, so we went back to the cabin on the ship, and we fell asleep not too long after. Day 4, King’s Wharf, Bermuda I woke up around 10:00. My girlfriend woke me up because she wanted to go to the beach. She also wanted to get off the ship, before we had 5 at-sea days ahead of us. We went to the beach for a couple hours, but we had to get back because the ship left at 4:00. The rest of the day, I stayed back in the cabin while my girlfriend went out. My back was aching very badly. I ordered room service for dinner and fell asleep around 10:00. Day 5, At Sea I woke up at 7:00, and ran around the jogging track a couple times with my girlfriend, and then we went to breakfast. My girlfriend and I went to the Solarium until it got dark, and we went to dinner. After dinner, we went to the Schooner Bar, got a couple drinks, and had a good time! Then we went to Champagne, a bar next to the Schooner Bar, and got a couple more drinks. I got tired at about 2:00 and so did my girlfriend. We went to sleep. Day 6, At Sea I went to the Online Lounge with my girlfriend. I got my e-mail and surfed the net. We went to the Solarium again because we had so much fun the day before! The best part about the solarium is there is a pool and you can get food there. I played some basketball and then that night we didn’t go to dinner. Instead, we got an early start at Champagne. I didn’t have any alcohol that night because I wasn’t in the mood for any. Instead, I had Diet-Coke and just plain old water. I went back to the cabin at around 9:00 and just sat on my balcony and had room service. I fell asleep in one of the chairs on the balcony that night. Day 7, At Sea I woke up on the balcony at around noon and I felt fresh. I went to the Shipshape Fitness Center and worked out. I worked out for about 4 hours. I went back to the room and took a shower. It was about 5:00 when my shower was over, so I got ready for dinner. I didn’t like the menu for dinner, so we left and went to the Windjammer. The food at Windjammer had pretty good food for dinner. Before I didn’t even know they had food at dinner, because that is where I go every morning for breakfast, which I must say is wonderful! That night, I went to the casino! I played blackjack for a while. Once I won, I left the table and went to a slot machine. Usually, I only play twice or possibly even three times but I won on my first try! It was about 2:00 and I went back to my cabin because I was so tired! Day 8, At Sea I went to church on the ship early that morning. My back ached all day so I stayed in the room. I ordered room service for breakfast and lunch, but around dinner time I felt better. I went to dinner and my back started to ache again! I fell asleep around 10:30. Day 9, At Sea I woke up thinking “Finally, the last at-sea day before Europe!”, and I was so happy! But I was also sad, because I’ve felt so relaxed, because I was out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! We went to the photo gallery and then we went to the Shopping Mall Area. My girlfriend went in every single store! We were there for hours! She got perfume, souvenirs, jewelry, gifts and more! She definitely enjoyed the mall out at sea! Later we went to Latte-Tudes and got coffee, even though it was around 1:00. I got the courage to climb the rock wall. The ship was rocking but believe it or not, I had a good time! We didn’t go to dinner, instead we got a bottle of wine and two fruit plates from room service. We went to the Schooner Bar for an hour or two and then went to Champagne for the rest of the night. I saw the couple from Norway again. We talked briefly, because they left and went to the Congo Bar. Then we followed them, but once we got to the Congo Bar, I felt tired and so did my girlfriend. I had big plans for the nexday! Day 10, Lisbon, Portugal I woke up around 6:00 and watched the ship dock at port. My girlfriend woke up around 6:30 because I made so much noise outside. We docked at about 7:00. I think we were the first ones off the ship. A man offered a tour by taxi to Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George Castle). We climbed up to a top of a tower and the view was beautiful. We stayed on the top of the tower for about 10 minutes till one of the greatest moments in my life occurred. I purposed to my girlfriend. She said yes almost instantly! We were so happy! She said she already saw the ring in my suitcase and was waiting for me to pop the question! We went back to the ship at 4:00. I went to the EXPLORATIONS! Desk and booked an excursion for Vigo, Spain called “Sightseeing and Bayona”. We asked the couple from Norway if they wanted to go to the Serengeti Card Club and play some cards. We played cards until around 9:00 and then me and my fiancé (no longer girlfriend) went to the Safari Club. We didn’t have much fun there so we went to the Viking Crown Lodge, where we went to the bar. At around 12:00, we went back to the room, because we had a excursion the next day. Day 11, Vigo, Spain Our tour started at 10:00 and we docked at 9:00. We got off the ship around 9:30. We met our tour guide and went to Bayona. Bayona used to be a major Spanish port for centuries and now is a historic landmark which holds once treasure-hunting galleons that now sit right in Bayona. Bayona was beautiful. Then we went sight-seeing around Vigo. It is a beautiful city and keeps its old charm. The city almost looks like you are stepping back far in time. I don’t remember when the tour ended, but once the tour was over, we walked around Vigo ourselves. We went back to the ship at about 3:45. We went to dinner and then we went to the Zanzibar Lounge. My fiancé wanted to go to the lobby bar so I followed her. We stayed out till about 3:00 because another at sea day was ahead of us. Day 12, At Sea I went Shipshape Fitness center and worked out until noon, and I went back to the cabin. I took a nice, long and very refreshing shower. After my shower, I went to the library. I read two books and when I looked at my watch, it was 5:30. I realized I had to go to dinner. I hadn’t eaten all day! I guess I forgot because I had my mind set on doing so many things. My fiancé looked all over the ship for me. I guess I forgot to tell her where I was going. After dinner, we decided to go to the show, then we went to the Congo Bar. I had a long day, and at around midnight I went back to the cabin, and my fiancé and I ordered some room service and watched some TV. Day 13, Le Harve (Paris), France We docked in Le Harve, France, about two and a half hours from Paris. We got a taxi to Paris. I lived in Paris for a year and a half because my father was in the army so I showed around my fiancé. We went back to Le Harve and arrived there around 7:00 and walked arount the port area. We got back on the ship at around 8:00. We ate dinner in Paris, so we weren’t very hungry. We didn’t go to any bars tonight, we went to the casino at around midnight and then we only stayed for about an hour or two. I ended my day back at the cabin at about 2:30. Day 14, Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium I booked the excursion “Bruges Sights and Beer Tasting”. The tour was so much fun! Bruges is a very interesting town. The Beer Tasting was lots of fun and I sure enjoyed it. We tasted so many different types of brew. I may have been a little loose once we got back to the ship. It was the last day! I was sad, but I had done so much on this cruise. We went to the farewell show that night. We packed all our stuff later on that night. My girlfriend and I went to Champagne, the Schooner Bar, The Zanzibar Lounge, The Safari Club, the Congo Bar and the Lobby Bar. Yes, we did a lot that night. I fell asleep at around 3:00 and got a got a wake-up call for 7:00. Day 15, Harwich (London), England I only got 4 hours of sleep and I woke up groggy. We had our final breakfast in the Dining Room. My mother waited at the port for us. We said good-bye to the Jewel of the Seas and met my mom in Harwich. She told us congratulations and we went to her apartment. Overall, I had a wonderful cruise! I will never forget this experience! I got on this cruise as a single man and now I am engaged! Onboard, I booked a cruise on Navigator of the Seas to the Caribbean, and my mom will come also.

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Apr 30, 2005

14-Night Transatlantic

May 1st, 2005: Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Last year, I took a cruise on Legend of the Seas. Onboard, I booked a 5-night cruise on Voyager of the Seas. My mother and I were supposed to go on it. My mother moved to London a couple of months ago, so I canceled our Bermuda cruise and booked a Transatlantic with my girlfriend. The day we arrived on the ship,

I was so happy! We got on the ship around 3:00, and i took an hour-nap. My girlfriend booked us a seaweed-wrap massage. I had NO clue what that was, but I've gotten massages before on cruises, so I figured it was the same. It was maybe about 5:00 and the ship set sail, and we didn't have our luggage. We had Main-Seating Dinner, so we just had to go in our normal clothes. we met our waiter, assistant waiter and headwaiter. They were very charming and funny. After Dinner, we saw the welcome-aboard show, which was a good show. I personally don't really go to the shows so i must say the show was not half bad. Then, our luggage came, and I unpacked everything. I went to the Zanzibar Lounge afterwards, but I was so tired I went to my room and ended my day. Day 2, At Sea My Girlfriend and I went to the Seaweed-Wrap Massage. It was amazing, they wrapped you in seaweed and massaged you at the end! It was AMAZING! Later, we went to the pool area and I went in the pool while my girlfriend laid out in the sun. About 3:00, I went and played some basketball while my girlfriend went to the internet lounge. We met back at the room at 5:30 and got ready for dinner. We made reservations at Chops Grille. The food was outstanding, but when you go to Chops Grille, per person it costs 20 dollars. My girlfriend was excited for tomorrow, because she had only been out of the country once, to the Bahamas. She went back to the room after dinner and watched a movie and ordered room service. I went to the Schooner Bar. I must say, the Schooner Bar was so much fun. I met a couple from Norway, who were very interesting. I left the bar around 1:00 and went back to the cabin. I didn't fall asleep till around 3:00, because I sat on the balcony for a while with my girlfriend. Day 3, King’s Wharf, Bermuda I booked an excursion called “Glass-Bottom-Boat Safari”. We went to a dock area and boarded the glass-bottom-boat. They took us to Bermuda’s “Sea Gardens”, which was very neat! There were so many fish and the many beautiful Coral Formations which were so unique! It truly was an amazing site! I definitely suggest that excursion if you go to King’s Wharf. We were in Bermuda for two days, so we figured we could stay out as late as we wanted. I have a friend named Scott, who lives in Hamilton, Bermuda, not too far away. He came and met us and he drove us to his house. The drive itself is so beautiful. We stayed at his house shortly. We arrived back at King’s Wharf about 10:00pm and heard about a club. We went to the club and had a great time. At about midnight, my girlfriend felt nauseous, so we went back to the cabin on the ship, and we fell asleep not too long after. Day 4, King’s Wharf, Bermuda I woke up around 10:00. My girlfriend woke me up because she wanted to go to the beach. She also wanted to get off the ship, before we had 5 at-sea days ahead of us. We went to the beach for a couple hours, but we had to get back because the ship left at 4:00. The rest of the day, I stayed back in the cabin while my girlfriend went out. My back was aching very badly. I ordered room service for dinner and fell asleep around 10:00. Day 5, At Sea I woke up at 7:00, and ran around the jogging track a couple times with my girlfriend, and then we went to breakfast. My girlfriend and I went to the Solarium until it got dark, and we went to dinner. After dinner, we went to the Schooner Bar, got a couple drinks, and had a good time! Then we went to Champagne, a bar next to the Schooner Bar, and got a couple more drinks. I got tired at about 2:00 and so did my girlfriend. We went to sleep. Day 6, At Sea I went to the Online Lounge with my girlfriend. I got my e-mail and surfed the net. We went to the Solarium again because we had so much fun the day before! The best part about the solarium is there is a pool and you can get food there. I played some basketball and then that night we didn’t go to dinner. Instead, we got an early start at Champagne. I didn’t have any alcohol that night because I wasn’t in the mood for any. Instead, I had Diet-Coke and just plain old water. I went back to the cabin at around 9:00 and just sat on my balcony and had room service. I fell asleep in one of the chairs on the balcony that night. Day 7, At Sea I woke up on the balcony at around noon and I felt fresh. I went to the Shipshape Fitness Center and worked out. I worked out for about 4 hours. I went back to the room and took a shower. It was about 5:00 when my shower was over, so I got ready for dinner. I didn’t like the menu for dinner, so we left and went to the Windjammer. The food at Windjammer had pretty good food for dinner. Before I didn’t even know they had food at dinner, because that is where I go every morning for breakfast, which I must say is wonderful! That night, I went to the casino! I played blackjack for a while. Once I won, I left the table and went to a slot machine. Usually, I only play twice or possibly even three times but I won on my first try! It was about 2:00 and I went back to my cabin because I was so tired! Day 8, At Sea I went to church on the ship early that morning. My back ached all day so I stayed in the room. I ordered room service for breakfast and lunch, but around dinner time I felt better. I went to dinner and my back started to ache again! I fell asleep around 10:30. Day 9, At Sea I woke up thinking “Finally, the last at-sea day before Europe!”, and I was so happy! But I was also sad, because I’ve felt so relaxed, because I was out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! We went to the photo gallery and then we went to the Shopping Mall Area. My girlfriend went in every single store! We were there for hours! She got perfume, souvenirs, jewelry, gifts and more! She definitely enjoyed the mall out at sea! Later we went to Latte-Tudes and got coffee, even though it was around 1:00. I got the courage to climb the rock wall. The ship was rocking but believe it or not, I had a good time! We didn’t go to dinner, instead we got a bottle of wine and two fruit plates from room service. We went to the Schooner Bar for an hour or two and then went to Champagne for the rest of the night. I saw the couple from Norway again. We talked briefly, because they left and went to the Congo Bar. Then we followed them, but once we got to the Congo Bar, I felt tired and so did my girlfriend. I had big plans for the next day! Day 10, Lisbon, Portugal I woke up around 6:00 and watched the ship dock at port. My girlfriend woke up around 6:30 because I made so much noise outside. We docked at about 7:00. I think we were the first ones off the ship. A man offered a tour by taxi to Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George Castle). We climbed up to a top of a tower and the view was beautiful. We stayed on the top of the tower for about 10 minutes till one of the greatest moments in my life occurred. I purposed to my girlfriend. She said yes almost instantly! We were so happy! She said she already saw the ring in my suitcase and was waiting for me to pop the question! We went back to the ship at 4:00. I went to the EXPLORATIONS! Desk and booked an excursion for Vigo, Spain called “Sightseeing and Bayona”. We asked the couple from Norway if they wanted to go to the Serengeti Card Club and play some cards. We played cards until around 9:00 and then me and my fiancé (no longer girlfriend) went to the Safari Club. We didn’t have much fun there so we went to the Viking Crown Lodge, where we went to the bar. At around 12:00, we went back to the room, because we had a excursion the next day. Day 11, Vigo, Spain Our tour started at 10:00 and we docked at 9:00. We got off the ship around 9:30. We met our tour guide and went to Bayona. Bayona used to be a major Spanish port for centuries and now is a historic landmark which holds once treasure-hunting galleons that now sit right in Bayona. Bayona was beautiful. Then we went sight-seeing around Vigo. It is a beautiful city and keeps its old charm. The city almost looks like you are stepping back far in time. I don’t remember when the tour ended, but once the tour was over, we walked around Vigo ourselves. We went back to the ship at about 3:45. We went to dinner and then we went to the Zanzibar Lounge. My fiancé wanted to go to the lobby bar so I followed her. We stayed out till about 3:00 because another at sea day was ahead of us. Day 12, At Sea I went Shipshape Fitness center and worked out until noon, and I went back to the cabin. I took a nice, long and very refreshing shower. After my shower, I went to the library. I read two books and when I looked at my watch, it was 5:30. I realized I had to go to dinner. I hadn’t eaten all day! I guess I forgot because I had my mind set on doing so many things. My fiancé looked all over the ship for me. I guess I forgot to tell her where I was going. After dinner, we decided to go to the show, then we went to the Congo Bar. I had a long day, and at around midnight I went back to the cabin, and my fiancé and I ordered some room service and watched some TV. Day 13, Le Harve (Paris), France We docked in Le Harve, France, about two and a half hours from Paris. We got a taxi to Paris. I lived in Paris for a year and a half because my father was in the army so I showed around my fiancé. We went back to Le Harve and arrived there around 7:00 and walked around the port area. We got back on the ship at around 8:00. We ate dinner in Paris, so we weren’t very hungry. We didn’t go to any bars tonight, we went to the casino at around midnight and then we only stayed for about an hour or two. I ended my day back at the cabin at about 2:30. Day 14, Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium I booked the excursion “Bruges Sights and Beer Tasting”. The tour was so much fun! Bruges is a very interesting town. The Beer Tasting was lots of fun and I sure enjoyed it. We tasted so many different types of brew. I may have been a little loose once we got back to the ship. It was the last day! I was sad, but I had done so much on this cruise. We went to the farewell show that night. We packed all our stuff later on that night. My girlfriend and I went to Champagne, the Schooner Bar, The Zanzibar Lounge, The Safari Club, the Congo Bar and the Lobby Bar. Yes, we did a lot that night. I fell asleep at around 3:00 and got a got a wake-up call for 7:00. Day 15, Harwich (London), England I only got 4 hours of sleep and I woke up groggy. We had our final breakfast in the Dining Room. My mother waited at the port for us. We said good-bye to the Jewel of the Seas and met my mom in Harwich. She told us congratulations and we went to her apartment. Overall, I had a wonderful cruise! I will never forget this experience! I got on this cruise as a single man and now I am engaged! Onboard, I booked a cruise on Navigator of the Seas to the Caribbean, and my mom will come also.

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Apr 8, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Let me start by saying that I have taken 4 cruises in the last 15 months all but 1 have been on Celebrity. The one that I am writing about is the last one I took which happen to be on RCCL, Jewel of the Seas. My friend and I chose this one because of the following reasons.. First the ship is approximately 1 year old and second the itinerary was suitable to both of

us. The embarkation went very smoothly and we were allowed on the ship very early. We went to our room to drop off our carry on luggage before heading up to the buffet for lunch. The room steward was in the hallway when we arrived and welcomed us aboard. We noticed that the bed had not been separated per our request and approached the room steward about this. He informed us that it would we done before bedtime. We went up for the first lunch buffet and the food was as we expected.....cruise ship food is not ever wonderful....just food. All went without a hitch until bedtime, our beds had been separated but no turn down service nor did we find a pitcher of water in our cabin as had been the case on other cruise lines. I proceeded to find the room steward and inquire about the above. he told me that turn down service would start the following night due to the tough day they have when the previous passengers leave and the new ones come on board, as far as the water he informed me that was handled thru room service and I would have to continually call them when we would like a pitcher of water. Needless to say we were both quite stunned and challenged this with our room steward. He became confrontational with us so we just decided to wait and see how the following 8 days unfolded. The ship is beautiful, nice job on the layout and artwork. The ports of call were great....all the shore excursions went well, although the departing off this ship each day became somewhat of a mystery as to why they kept changing the departure route. We found the ship to be not as clean and we thought it could of been. At no time did we ever see the staff vacuum any room. Even the main dining room needed a good cleaning. As the 8 days went on we began to notice things regarding the staff and the ship. The staff apparently were very unhappy about certain things and one person told us they were short handed. I have to say that I saw a couple of things where the staff and the supervisors were in a heated discussion regarding work issues. I thought this to be very unprofessional. Lets talk about the food......Breakfast was ok....standard items, egg station with one person doing all the egg orders, cereal, fruit, basic breakfast fare. Lunch was always buffet or burgers, there was a Asian counter where one could get stir fry, which was always fresh and tasty, also sandwiches and pizza. Dinner in the main dinning room was not good...We ate there for 3 nights and started going up to the casual restaurant due to this......food not good, service not good, staff not accommodating as far as simple things....In other words we were better off upstairs at the casual buffet with the same food and additional choices and helping our selves versus having to endure rude people. I enjoyed the cruise as far as the ports, the size of the ship but will not travel again on RCCL. My past experiences on Celebrity have spoiled me and I now expect certain things for my money. I hope this helps someone who is open minded in the fact that this is only my opinion but when it comes to cruising the accommodations, the staff and the food should be at a certain level for anyone to enjoy a vacation and when those things are not met.....we tend to not a have as good a vacation and we should.

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Mar 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Ship The Jewel of the Seas is RCI’s newest ship and it shows. There was little wear or tear anywhere and the ship really is amazing. From the 11 story Centrum lobby to the beautiful artwork which is everywhere this is one awesome ship. The colors are cheerful without being in your face happy or loud and I thought that the color scheme was classy.

Embarkation/Disembarkation Getting on was a breeze and was very well organized. Getting on and off at the ports of call was also a breeze with your ship’s seapass which you carry everywhere to pay for things and as your pass on and off the boat. In general security felt tight but not obtrusive and it was reassuring as I’m sure ships like this one are tempting targets for some groups out there. Leaving on the last day was organized. We were the last group called and were still off the ship by 10:20 am and there were lots of porters and taxis for everyone. I’d think twice about booking any flight out of Ft. Lauderdale Airport before Noon as the airport was a zoo, truly PACKED with people from lots of ships that came in and dumped their folks simultaneously. The Service and the Crew The crew was great and the service was also solid. They really seemed to want you to have a great time. From room stewards to room service, pool bars to the dining rooms the people of Royal Caribbean were great. Our Stateroom Our stateroom (an outside standard on deck 4) was very well thought out and had lots of storage space so it was easy to unpack a lot of stuff. The beds push together and are comfortable. The TV system is great and includes interactive TV so that you can check your account. The bathroom is tight but efficient with lots of storage and the shower was awesome with tons of hot water. Our room steward (Frankie) kept the place looking shipshape with twice a day service that was impeccable. My only minor complaint would be that they should teach those with no common sense to keep it down as you could hear people in the hallways late at night and the stateroom doors slam loudly. The Food In general the food was good and extremely plentiful. There are literally 3 to 6 places to eat at any given time including 24 hour room service and you will gain weight so just deal and enjoy. Most of our meals were in the “Windjammer” as it is quick, mostly good and very convenient as it is buffet service. I’m not a big fan of the buffet back home, but I have to admit that they do a good job. Breakfast there was good except for the scrambled eggs which were abysmal. If you’re willing to wait in line you can get omelets, fried eggs etc cooked to order which was good. Lunch and dinner were also good there with a lot of choices and salads which were all very good for the most part. The “Tides” dining room is the main sit down formal dining room and we only ate there once on the first night. The room itself is very nice and the food that night was only OK. Service was great but my prime rib was banquet quality. I’m sure that it is better on the whole though as I heard no complaints from other guests and on previous RCI cruises it was good. We ate some lunches at the “Seaview Café” on the back of the boat behind the kiddy pool and it was a nice escape as I truly believe a lot of people went the whole cruise without even knowing it was there. They had sandwiches and other good lunch/snack food and you could stay in pool gear and eat there which was handy. Another neat spot which was lightly traveled and great for a quick snack was the “Solarium” snack bar where they served great crepes and hummus with pitas. We made good use of the alternative dining venues. We ate at the “Chops Grill” twice and “Portofino Italian Restaurant” once. We all thought that Chops was great, actually really great. In my mind it stands up to comparison with the finest steakhouses anywhere and was better than some meals I’ve had at Ruth’s Chris. The 10oz fillet mignon was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the sides were hot and incredibly good. I guess really the best compliment that I could give would be to say that if Chops was a restaurant in the real world, I’d eat there. Combine this with great atmosphere, awesome appetizers and dessert and perfect service and you’ve got about the best deal going for a $20 cover charge which includes gratuities. Portofino was good as well. By way of truth in advertising I’m not a huge fan of Italian cuisine and so I thought that it was very good but not as great as Chops. No matter how you slice it though it’s also a steal for $20. Drinks Drinking on board is expensive but I didn’t feel gouged for the most part and the quality and service was good. They offer and we bought a pass for unlimited Coca Cola products and juices. I’d say that in retrospect it would have been cheaper to buy soft drinks a la carte but if you are a heavy soft drink drinker it’s probably a good deal. Entertainment Didn’t see a lot of it but what we saw was better then expected and the Coral Theater is very nice and very high tech. The crew did a good job of organizing things to do like Karaoke, games, etc and there was pool, the casino, numerous bars, the library the cinema the fitness club, putt putt golf, rock climbing, basketball and spa etc. If you’re bored on this ship you need help as there are lots of activities to keep you busy. Ports of Call and Excursions We stopped at Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Nassau in the Bahamas. We were supposed to stop at Grand Cayman but because of weather they cancelled and rerouted to Nassau, I’ve heard that it happens frequently. All of the stops were fine but I found Costa Maya to be the best because of the Chaccoben Mayan ruins tour that we did which was a lot of fun. The longer ruins excursion spent 5 hours on a bus, no thanks. Our tour was 4 hours total, perfect and enough time to really see the ruins with a good guide included. Key West and Nassau are warm tourist stops with lots of shopping but which from my point of view I could take or leave. Cozumel was good as a beach break spot but avoid the “Deluxe Beach Break” unless you’re under 30 and are looking for a rowdy good time with lots of alcohol. We heard Passion Beach Break was much better although a bit more money. Complaints Complaints are few but here goes: - The scrambled eggs at Windjammer tasted like powdered eggs, I’m sure they weren’t but they were awful. - The Spa while great, was expensive and you got the hard sell on “detoxification pills” or “skin treatments” that cost a lot of money. Kind of tacky in my mind to sell me a service and then hard sell the “add-ons”. - The stateroom doors slam shut which is annoying especially if your shipmates lack the class or the common sense to shut it quietly late at night. Conclusion This is a fun vacation and hard to beat for the money. RCI pulls in a nice crowd and other then the fact that it was Spring Break so we saw more then the average number of rowdy college types the ship had a nice mix of people. We are thirty something's and felt comfortable onboard. There were families with little ones and retirees and everyone seemed to be having a great time. My only complaints were the occasional noise at night in the stateroom corridors but I think that had a lot to do with the Spring Breakers and so we’ll do a better job of timing our trip in the future. We just got back last night and we’re already looking forward to our next trip with Royal Caribbean on the Jewel.

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Mar 6, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

This was our third cruise and the first time we have sailed on Royal Caribbean. From the time we reached the airport in Fort Lauderdale until we disembarked the ship eight days later we felt that the staff of Royal Caribbean were excellent. We chose the Jewel because it is a relatively new ship (about 10 months old). The ship itself is beautiful and the crew

members were the friendliest we have encountered. We had not pre-purchased a transfer from the airport to the cruise line. I asked one of the RCCL staff about doing so and I was told that it was cheaper and easier to just catch a cab (and where this could be done) and go to the port. The cab ride cost about $10 including tip. There was no line for checking in to the ship. We were onboard about fifteen minutes after arriving at the port. Two of the restaurants were open for business (as was the pool bar) so we saved ourselves the expense of buying something ashore and had lunch on the ship. The check-in process was significantly easier and quicker than it was when we cruised on Holland America. We were assigned second seating for dinner although we had hoped to be in the first seating. This turned out to be just fine and meant that we were not hurrying to get ready for dinner after being in port. It probably also meant that we were not having dinner at the same time as the folks who brought their kids on the cruise and on this trip there were a lot of families. The age range of the guests on this cruise was wider than we have experienced before with a lot of families traveling together. I don’t know if it was due to the time when we traveled (spring break for many schools) or if Royal Caribbean simply attracts families. The ship was very family friendly with special activities for both younger children as well as teenagers. The food in the main dining room was OK – not memorable, but not bad either. We had dinner one evening in Chops which is one of the Jewel’s specialty restaurants. That meal was excellent. The staffs in both the main dining room and Chops were great. If we had a say we’d vote for open seating for all meals as is available on Norwegian. The primary problem with the second seating for dinner was with the two special dining events – the Chocolate Buffet and the Grand Buffet. We were not too impressed with the Chocolate Buffet. It came across as an event that the ship knew was expected so they offered it. However, the Grand Buffet was extraordinary. Unfortunately it started at 11:30 and those of us in second seating had finished eating dinner at around 10:00. If we had known how super the Grand Buffet was we would have skipped the regular meal and just gone to the buffet. There was a lot of food left at the buffet. If the Royal Caribbean folks were more adventurous they would cancel the dinner the evening of the Grand Buffet in the main dining room and just go with the buffet and have it start at around 9:00 with the viewing from 8:00 – 8:45. We enjoyed most of the entertainment on the cruise. It was somewhat heavy with comedians (5 of the 7 nights). Only one night had a “Broadway” type show. We heard late in the cruise that the Jewel’s performers had just changed ships and the ones that came on the Jewel were practicing earlier in the cruise to get ready for their performance. We really enjoyed the two groups who performed every evening in the Centrum (the main gathering place on the primary deck). The group that performed pool side was also very good and very high energy. The ports were secondary to us on this cruise. We have no desire to return to any of them for an extended visit. San Juan and Antigua were especially depressing. Saint Maarten had a great beach (Ocean’s beach) which is clothing optional. Our experience is that the less someone wears at a clothing optional beach, the more they should be covered up!! The first person we encountered after arriving at the beach was a guy who had walked down from the nude area who weighed about 300 pounds. Needless to say he is not going to grace the cover of any fashion magazine anytime soon. You can get to Ocean’s Beach by taking a cab that is available near the dock. It cost is $5.00 per person each way which was significantly less than the ship. You rent a beach chair and umbrella ($6) at the beach. Go in the morning to get a good spot. BTW, Saint Maarten had by far the best price on liquor of any of the places we stopped. On Nassau if you want to visit Atlantis on Paradise Island you can get there by taking a water taxi ($3/each way) and walking about ½ a mile once you get to Paradise Island. You can see a fair amount of Atlantis without paying for a tour (including the aquarium and casino as well as much of the grounds). Departing the ship was much more leisurely than we have experienced in the past, however it was still a mess once we exited the ship. On Holland we were rushed (told to get off an hour earlier than they had said we would be departing so we almost missed our transfer). On the Jewel we went to the main dining room for a made-to-order breakfast, took our time, then sat on one of the decks while the ship was being processed by customs and the luggage was being unloaded. The coffee bar was also open during this time. I don’t think we actually got off the ship until about 9:30 or 10:00 then it was a madhouse looking for luggage and getting a ride to our hotel. Since we were not trying to catch a flight that day this worked OK for us, but we would have been going nuts if we had an early afternoon flight out of Lauderdale on the day the ship returned. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, we rate the Jewel between a 7 and an 8. It would have been a solid 8 except for the number of kids (not Jewel’s fault) and the number of smokers. The ship could have used more places that were smoke-free including some of the outside deck areas. The outside main pool was small although the deck was OK. The Solarium (an indoor adult’s only pool area) was beautiful but for reasons known only to Royal Caribbean the pool is salt-water. Finally, the Jacuzzi’s were not especially hot; if fact they were barely above luke warm. There is a lot of seating on the walkway located on Deck 5 and it was very easy to find a place in the sun (or shade) there. We would cruise on the Jewel again. I think everyone we met felt the same way. G. L. Hufford

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Dec 26, 2004

Western Caribbean

The Jewel is an attractive ship, but there is little substance to her shell. Loud music from various venues permeated the ship into the late-night hours, disrupting sleep for many guests. The food, although of great variety, was routinely mediocre. The service ranged from excellent (dinner and cabin service) to downright offensive and obnoxious (e.g., front desk). The shore excursion

staff knew little about the upcoming excursions. Unsupervised children regularly disrupted adults, even in adult-only areas, prompting a stern but unheeded loud-speaker warning to parents from the captain. Complaints during, and after, the cruise were essentially disregarded by staff and management. In short, there's absolutely no reason to travel on this particular ship and many reasons to avoid doing so.

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Sep 27, 2004

Canada / New England

After my first cruise on the Jewel of the Seas earlier this year I was really looking forward to this trip and to be on the Jewel of the Seas again and I was not disappointed. This Review is a little long again and for all of you that read my first review it maybe similar in some parts, but hey it was the same ship and cabin #61514;. I arrived

in Boston two days early to spend some time in Boston and to acclimatize to the different time zone. After going through immigration and customs I took a short taxi ride to my pre-booked hotel. It was a beautiful warm and sunny Sunday. I stayed at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. Check-In was a breeze and I got a nice corner room on the top floor of the south tower. I had one full day at Boston and next to walking around the town and doing some sightseeing and shopping I did the Duck Tour. I can recommend this tour which starts at several places around town and takes you on a City Tour around town and gives you in addition to the usual view of the City a great view from the Charles River. Embarkation: I had nothing planned for the embarkation day, of course beside of going to the ship. Because of the Hotel package booked through RCCL I had the Hotel to Pier transfer included. I got a letter from RCCL with all the necessary information about the transfer and luggage transportation a day in advance. They had setup the luggage collection for 11:00am with the Bell staff of the Hotel. The luggage should be delivered directly to the cabin on board the Jewel of the Seas. Bus departure from the Hotel was scheduled for 01:00pm. As I didn´t want to arrive at the pier with a crowd of people I decided to beat the rush and arrive there early by making my way on my own. I left the Hotel around 10:30am and took a taxi to the pier. I arrived at the pier around 11:00am and they had not started the check-in yet. The porters have been around immediately to collect the luggage to bring it to your cabin. I had to wait just for a few minutes until they started the check-in procedure. They set up different lines for check-in depending on what deck you are on. I didn´t recognize a special line for priority check-in. Later I saw that they used the pier-coordinator line for the priority check-in. However there have not been to many people that early and the line at the pier-cordinator was the longest one of all. Although check-in procedure was done in a timely manner it seemed to be little bit disorganized. At this early time the computers haven´t been set up correct already and many of them didn´t work. This slowed down the procedure a little. The cruise reps. At the check-in have still be learning to check-in the people and as they had to collect my passport it took some time until they got a signature from a purser for the passport receipt. Finaly they didn´t have my Seapass card ready and I had to wait at the pier-coordinator line again. After a cruise rep. recognized why I was waiting there again they took me to the front and it was done in a few seconds. They had started boarding too although they informed us that the staterooms wouldn´t be ready before 01:00pm. I was on the ship around 11:30am. The fire doors to the cabins have been closed with signs on them that the cabins wouldn´t be available until 01:00pm. I didn´t want to lug around my carry-ons and so I went to my cabin to drop them off. I placed them in the closet and I didn´t even saw anybody to hinder me from doing this. There have been many groups touring the ship and also the cabins. I toured the ship a little bit myself too. Especially to have a look at some of the different cabin categories. >From noon they served lunch at the Windjammer Buffet. The cabins have been ready from about 12:30pm. The muster drill was held at 04:30pm. Although the embarkation procedure could improve a little bit at some points it was still a breeze. Cabin: I had the same cabin like on my first cruise on the Jewel of the Seas (GS#1552). I felt home immediately. It is really nice to come into your room and be familiar with it on the spot. Just like coming home. Coming into the room you have the closet and bar area to your right and the bathroom to your left. The closet had three doors with large mirrors. The real closet was just between two of the doors. Behind the third one was just something like a space for hanging your jackets. There was also a bar in the room. Under the bar there are ten drawers and another closet and of course the fridge. The fridge was stocked with some items. It was no problem to remove them to put your own things in it. No sensors in the fridge like on some ships. By the way the Safe was in the closet too. It was one of the type where you have to put a four-digit number in to operate. Towards your left (opposite the bar) is the bathroom door. The bathroom is very spacious with a double sink, bathtub and toilet. There are another two drawers in the bathroom and a medicine cabinet behind the mirrors and closets below the sinks too. The bathroom is all marble and you don´t have the usual step to get into it. They provide you with bath-gel, shampoo, Lotion, Soap, cotton balls, Lip balm, Shoe-Shine, Showercap and more. The living room had a three-seater sofa, which folds out to a full size queens bed and two chairs. There has been a DVD-Player and TV too. On the interactive TV you can purchase Shore Excursions, review your Seapass account, get port information and many more. TV and DVD player are connected to a sound system. There are several speakers in the ceiling all over the cabin. Very good sound. The sleeping area could be divided with a curtain from the rest of the cabin. In the sleeping area there are two beds that can connect to a queen. The night stands have two drawers each. The vanity is also in this area it has another eight drawers. The balcony is reachable through a sliding door from the seating area. The balcony is spacious too. It is equipped with too chairs, a large table and an additional chair with a leg rest. I don´t know why they put only one of them on the balcony as it´s a double room and a second one could fit easily on. There is a climate control in the room too, but I didn´t touch it as the temperature was ok for me the whole time. The cabin was very good isolated against noise. I never heard anything in the room. Even if there was some loud music in the Centrum nothing could be heard as soon as the cabin door was closed. I also never heard anything from the deck above. The cabin location was very convenient to me. It is close to the centrum area and the concierge lounge. Every spot onboard is just a few steps away. The view from the balcony is OK. You can view forward and see the bridge. Looking backwards the hump is in your way. Looking straight down you look at the cover of the lifeboats but this is only if you lean over the railing and look really straight down. Concerning privacy on your balcony this may not be the best choice as it can be viewed from the balcony of #1554 - the hump cabin. But this one is not good for privacy either as it can be watched as easily from my room. No problem for me at all. I would choose this cabin again. Crew: Captain: James Macdonald, Canada Cruise Director: Karen Maybury, England F&B Manager Michael Ibrahim, USA Hotel Director: Nibu Sayed, India Executive Chef: Peter Howell, Australia Loyalty Ambassador: Matthew Clark, England Overview about Itinerary and Daily Schedule: Day 1 – Boston: Casual Welcome Aboard Show Day 2 – Bar Harbor: Formal Captain´s Welcome Reception Headliner Showtime “The Music and Dancing of The Guse´s” Day 3 – Halifax: Smart Casual Production Showtime “City of Dreams” Day 4 – Sydney: Casual/Rock&Roll M&M Headliner Showtime “The Comedy of Don Gavin” Chocolate Decadence Buffet Day 5 - At Sea: Formal Headliner Showtime “Romantic Tenor JC Fisher” Welcome Back - Crown & Anchor Party Day 6 – Quebec City: Casual Production Showtime „West End to Broadway“ Day 7 – Saguenay River: Smart casual Headliner Showtime Pianist Craig Dahn Day 8 – At Sea: Formal Platinum & Diamond C&A reception Captains Corner Production Showtime “Tango Buenos Aires” Dead again (Murder Mystery) Gala Midnight Buffet Day 9 – St. John: Casual Headliner Showtime Comedian Day 10 - Portland: Casual Farewell Show “Jeff the Juggler” Day 11 - Boston: Debarkation The ship is gorgeous. If you walk across the ship there are so many nice places to spot and watching carefully you can spot fine art everywhere. You can feel that there must have been somebody putting his heart into the design. It´s very easy to get around. There are 6 elevators in the centrum. All of them are glass elevators. Two facing the centrum area and four facing the glass facade and the ocean. In the front there are three more elevators. Sometimes the elevators get quite busy but all in all it´s enough capacity. On the promenade deck you can almost go around the ship. If you like to do a full turn around the ship you have to use the stairs in the front to go one deck up, to the Helicopter pad and down again on the other side. The Helicopter pad in the front is great as you get a nice view from there. You can also do the Titanic like feeling. In my first review of the Jewel from the 05/28 sailing I put some critic because I felt some areas to be very crowded. This was better on this sailing. I´m ont sure if it was just because I sat in a different area in the Dining room but it was not so tight this time. The waiters had much more space to move around. Also the Windjammer was not that crowded this time, even on sea days. It may have helped that they opened up the Windjammer Veranda (this was covered with an art exhibition on my last cruise). Food: Talking about the food I have to say it was good. I ate only dinner at the dining room and all other meals in the Windjammer. The Dining room meals have been great in taste, and well served. Our team of waiters (Adolph from the Caribbean and Alexander from St.Petersburg, Russia) have been great, giving recommendations every evening. You still had the choice of three salad dressings served from the assistant waiter. The bread is served too, but our assistant constantly asked if somebody wishes another piece. By the way I never paid for Orange Juice during dinner. The Windjammer is set up with different buffet Islands. With this setup you don´t have to stand in long lines. Although the place was always frequented well I had never to wait in a long line to get access to the food. The negative result of this setup is that you have to walk around a little bit to get an overview of the offered food and to get it together. The taste was good. I just tried the Seaview Café once. It was a nice place for having lunch or a snack. The food is cooked on order. You have to place your order at the counter and the meal is served to your table. They also serve great Milkshakes there. You have to pay for the Shakes but not for the food. I complained a little about the heat of the food on my first cruise. I have to say this improved and the food was always hot on this cruise. The menu was basically the same but that was OK to me. Service: Dining Room: Our team of waiters have been great. They have always been around to take care of us without being offensive or disrupting. They remembered already the second day our likes and had i.e. the drinks ready for us. Cabin: I rarely saw my cabin attendant team. They have not been as present in the hallway as I used to have it on other cruises. But I don´t know what range of cabins and how much of them they were responsible for. So it maybe I couldn´t spot them because they were behind the hump. But to make it clear this was no problem for me. When I left my room I put the Make up my room sign into the key slot of the door. And I don´t know how she made it but my room was ready every time I got back. This was very surprising for me as she couldn´t spot me when leaving as I said before. The cabin was made up two times a day and of course I had turn down service the first night too. I used the laundry service a couple of times too. My cabin stewards collected the items from my room and they´ve been back on time always. They do a great job on this too and the price is very reasonable. Room Service: I didn´t order room service but got delivered something complimetary to the room every afternoon. It was very nice. I got things like Canapes, Cookies, Truffles, Sweets, Shrimps, Danish, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Cheese, Fruit, Vegetables, etc. Concierge: Can´t tell very much about our Concierge Brett Goad, as I didn´t have anything to do for me personally. When I entered the lounge during his hours he was always friendly. The Concierge lounge is a nice place. They also have some Internet stations available there. Sometimes they have some sweets during the afternoon there too. Mostly I used the Lounge only for getting some very good coffee or something else to drink to take to my cabin. It´s a very small place and gets crowded soon, especially when the bar is open. I recognized that some people used the Yacht Club area as an extension of the Concierge Lounge in the evenings. Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Orange Juice and Grapefruit Juice is available 24/7. Bar Service: Although I didn´t frequent the bars too much but from the few times I´ve been there I can only say good things about the service. The Bar waiters have been around always. The service was prompt Guest relations / Excursions: The few times I went there I was always served promptly and to my total satisfaction. The staff was very friendly and when coming back there I´ve been recognized and addressed with my name. This is remarkable with 2000 people on board. So the overall rate of the service on this cruise is very positive. As I already said this was my second time on the Jewel of the Seas and I felt like coming home. One thing I was really surprised about was that I was recognized and greeted by crew members and they knew me from my first sailing (4 month between the two sailings). This happened to me even with crew members I haven´t had much contact to on the first sailing. A great crew is important for a great cruise expierience Entertainment: I can´t say too much about the animation program as I rarely took part in any of those activities. It was a quite port intensive trip and I took the Sea days for relaxation. I attended the evening Shows every day. The three Production Shows have been quite good. The best one in my eyes was City of Dreams it is just remarkable what they put on a cruiseship stage today. The Headliner entertainment was great too. Ports of call / Excursions: As this was only a 10-day cruise and only 2 seadays during this 10 days I decided not to do too many excursions. Another reason for this decision was that I visited most of the ports before. I pre-booked excursions for Quebec and St. John and booked a third one in Portland onboard. Tickets have been delivered to my cabin the first day. Bar Harbor: At Bar Harbor the ship is anchored in the Bay. Next to us the Grand Princess was in port too. We had to tender in. I used the Priority Tender Tickets from the Concierge and it worked well. No wait. I had no excursion booked for Bar Harbor. I had planned to just walk around town a little bit. However when coming on land my attention was driven to a trolley tour to the Acadia National Park. The 2,5 hour tour was $20,- and took us around the National Park. We stopped three times. One stop was at top of Cadillac mountain and we had a great, unlimited view that day. Another stop was at the Thunder Hole and the third one at the Wild Gardens. After the tour there was plenty of time to visit the shops in the City. Halifax: Again I had nothing planned here at Halifax. I went off the ship at my own leisure. They had a complimentary shuttle to another pier as we have been docked a little further down from the city. There have been the Galaxy and the Carnival Victory. I walked along the Harbourwalk which was a nice scenic walk along the harbourside. It ends at the Casino. It was a great day to do the walk it was a little bit chilly and windy but sunny. Around noon it got a little bit warmer. Unfortunately they had a power failure downtown, so many stores have been closed in the morning. I still spent a while and towards noon the power was back and the shops opened again. Sydney:: Sydney has a little downtown area which is only a few blocks. I did nothing special here just walked along the downtown area which was done in less than two hours. They also had setup a little market with local arts and crafts at the Harbour terminal. We have been docked here while the Galaxy was anchored and had to tender in. I relaxed most of the day on the ship Quebec: This was my first RCCL shore excursion during the trip. I booked the Walking Tour & Horse carriage Ride. We met our guide at the pier and it was just a few steps until we reached the Lower town. The ship was docked right in front of the Chateau Frontenac. Great View from my Balcony. Our first stop was at the Place Royal where we got some explanations. We proceeded then to the Petit Champlain and the Funiculaire. The Funiculair is an elevator that takes you to the upper town. Exiting the Funiculaire you are right in front of the Chateau Frontenac. We had some time for more explanations and to look around until our horse carriage ride began. It was an 40 min. carriage ride with 4 people in each carriage. I felt it was the best way to get around as you could see much more than from a coach. After the ride our guide showed us some more spots in the upper town before we walked downhill to the lower town again to view the huge wall painting. The tour ended at the Place Royal and everybody could decide to go back to the ship or stay at town. It was a great tour and I can highly recommend it. I went back to the ship for lunch and headed back to explore the town on my own a little bit in the afternoon. As the Jewel departed at 11:00pm there was also enough time to explore the town at dark. It´s a total different view to see everything lightened up. Saguenay River: We entered the Fjord very early in the morning. I set my alarm clock and got a great sunrise to see from my balcony. As it was very cold I watched the most of the passage comfortable from my cabin with all curtains open and a great panorama from the sofa and the option to step out on the balcony whenever I wanted. Only drawback was that the ship decided to not transfer the narration of the guide into the cabins as some passengers had complaint they want to sleep and feel disturbed by the narrations. St. John: For St. John I had booked the Ride the Rapids tour. I was warned beforehand to take some clothes to change with me on the trip as you get definitely wet. The tour started off a little late as they had to bring in another bus because ours broke down before it came to the pier. After a brief City tour we stopped at the Citymarket. This is an indoor market. We had about 30 minutes to explore it on hour own. After the stop we proceeded to the Reversing Falls for the Jet Boat Ride. Our group was splitted into three smaller groups. Every Jet Boat held 12 people. We got some instructions on the boat ride and they took our belongings aswe couldn´t take them on the boat. We have been outfitted with watertight clothes. Our shoes had to stay ashore too, We got some socks to wear during the ride. And finally we got gloves too. I have to say it was pretty cold. The ride was really fun and we got soaking wet. The provided clothes helped a little but however everything I had on got wet, including my underwear and it was the same with everybody. It was good I had something to change. At the conclusion of the Jet Boat Ride we got some refreshments including a lobster roll. I can also highly recommend this tour, but take warm clothes to change! In the afternoon I walked up to town on my own again Portland: This was the last port and also the last port of the cruise. I had a tour in the afternoon so I walked into town in the morning and used some time to start packing. In the afternoon I had a tour to Kennebunkport, a picturesque little town. We had some free time to walk around there. We also saw Walkers point the summer home of the Bush family. In the afternoon we had a great sailaway again with a beautiful sunset while passing the many lighthouses. Internet: Knowing about the bad connections on the Jewel of the Seas from my earlier cruise this year I decided to apply for the CyberCabin. I got the hook-up right on embarkation. It was $100 for the cruise. Connection was again not very good. Very slow and sometimes it took forever to get connected. Fastest connection rate was 46,2 kbps, sometimes slower. Public terminals are available at a cost of $0,50 / minute. They are available on deck 4, at the Latte-Tudes, at the Buiseness Center and in the Concierge Lounge. Overall rating: It was a fabulous cruise and it´s a great ship. I really enjoyed the cruise and as I said it was like coming home. My first cruise on the Jewel already was great but there have still been some minor things to improve as you can read in my former review. I think many of these things have been improved since then. I have only a few words to rate this cruise. Great crew, great ship, great cruise. A review is of course always a matter of personal opinions and subjectivity. I tried to reflect my feelings during the cruise and describe what I recognized. It´s always seen through my eyes of course again. I´m also not sure if I reflected all aspects of the cruise, the service, the ship and the ports. If you like to get any additional Information feel free to ask and I´ll try to answer at my best.

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Sep 17, 2004

n/a

Introduction: A very busy month of travel was to culminate in a 10 day New England cruise on the Jewel of the Seas. I was to join a large group of travel professionals for a seminar at sea, many of whom were good friends. I had been awaiting this cruise for months. The Radiance Class ships are my favorite in the Royal Caribbean fleet and I had heard only glowing reports about the Jewel. For all

of my cruising, I had also never taken a New England/Atlantic coastal cruise and was eagerly anticipating the total experience. Normally, I like to fly in the night before a cruise, but my tight travel schedule did not allow me the luxury. Besides, as I live in Cleveland and the ship was sailing from Boston, travel time was not a serious issue. I was, however, dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Ivan so I awoke with a bit of trepidation that my flight would be delayed. I arrived at the airport to find that weather in Boston was deteriorating, but fortunately we were able to fly, as scheduled. Embarkation: I arrived at Logan Airport, gathered my luggage and grabbed a taxi to the ship. The taxi ride to the port of took about 20 minutes and cost $25 (including tip). I arrived at the pier about 11:30 in the midst of a torrential downpour. As was forecast, the effects of Hurricane Ivan were definitely being felt. I had pier pick-up of my documents, however, the line was relatively short; so I was checked-in, passed through security and onboard before noon. First Impressions: WOW!! This ship was named perfectly as it truly shimmers and sparkles like a precious jewel, without being gaudy. Only a few months old (May 2004), it still has the feel and appearance of a brand new ship. The newest of the Radiance class ships, the Jewel is a unique blend of the best of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager and Vision class. Entering on Deck 4, the exquisite beauty of this ship is immediately evident. Massive expanses of glass, a lighted translucent stairway, polished brass and rich woods complement each other, providing an understated elegance. Everywhere you look there are distinctive touches that are a visionary delight. Without being overdone or excessive, tasteful art covers the walls and unique sculptures and decorative artwork are placed throughout the ship. The Tides Mural From the free-form suspended sculpture that is the centerpiece of the Centrum; to the 2-deck mural in the Tides dining room, this is a ship that tantalizes the senses. The rich mahogany and warm, vibrant fabrics that adorn the furniture used throughout the public rooms give the ship an intimate, old world appeal. It almost feels like you are in a very prestigious country club, and not on a cruise ship. My Cabin: Our group was assigned inside cabins on deck 9 and 10. I occupied cabin 9507, very forward on deck 9. Having sailed on the Radiance in a balcony cabin, I was pleased to discover that the inside cabin offered similar amenities and a spaciousness I was not expecting. Inside Cabin 9507 Granted the room is not massive, but for one person it was certainly more than adequate, with substantial drawer and closet space. The closet, however, had an interesting configuration that made the shelving virtually unusable. It wrapped around a post and was much too narrow to accommodate clothing of any size. Apparently, this configuration is not the same in all cabins, as very nice shelving was provided in the cabins of other group members. Stylish with warm but muted colors, the blues and golds of the furnishings complemented the honey wood trim. Other than my bed (configured as a queen), a small sofa and coffee table, two bedside end tables and a desk chair were the only other furnishings. The bed was high enough to allow for storage of suitcases and had rounded edges that made the space appear more expansive. (Excellent innovative design). The cabin was equipped with an interactive TV, very large safe and mini-bar. The desk had two electrical outlets, an additional phone jack and modem outlet for in-cabin internet access. There is a retractable desktop configured into the shelving/drawer space of the dresser, which is great for laptops or writing (a feature I found extremely useful on this cruise). The side mirrors of the desk/dresser area opened for additional storage. They were also positioned perfectly for styling the back of my hair. The hair dryer provided utilizes its own special outlet, keeping the other 2 electrical outlets free for other use. Be aware, however, that the hair dryer is one that requires you hold down the power button in order to work (a difficult maneuver when trying to style your hair). The lighting was another bonus. Adjustable reading lights have been added to the bedside lights, and soft, side lighting rather than overhead lighting is used around the desktop mirror (A feature which enhances everyone’s appearance). Cabin 9507 Bathroom The bathroom was small, but serviceable. The mirrors of the vanity opened for storage and lighting was good. Shampoo was provided in a shower dispenser. The rounded shower stall had sliding glass doors, rather than the typical shower curtain that never stays put. To my way of thinking, one of the best design advancements in the cabin! Now, if you know anything about my reviews, I evaluate the shower by the ease at which I am able to shave my legs. Well, I can report that the shower passed my test and, although I am short, it was relatively easy to accomplish this task in the confines of the allotted space. Excellent shower pressure, an adjustable shower head and retractable clothesline were added enhancements. The Ship: The Jewel of the Seas in Port At 90,000 tons, the Jewel of the Seas offers expansive public areas. As I wandered the ship comparing the Jewel to its sister ship, the Radiance, it was interesting to note that there were a number of small improvements and subtle design changes. Decks 2 and 3 are devoted to cabin space. Since there are so many balcony cabins on the Jewel, the only ocean view cabins (without balconies) on the ship are situated on decks 2, 3 and 4. The Lobby Bar The Centrum, or atrium, begins on Deck 4 and rises to deck 12 at the Crown and Anchor Society lounge. Although not large, this welcoming lobby area has a very nice bar, an attractive, marble dance floor surrounded by comfortable chairs and sofas and a waterfall. With entertainment nightly, it proved to be quite popular on this sailing and it was often difficult to find a seat. A free-form sculpture suspended above the dance floor is a focal point of the Centrum. This eye-catching sculpture made of aluminum, crystal and stainless steel is entitled “Northern Lights” and is aptly named. A lighted stairway, leading to deck 5, separates the dance floor and bar from the Guest Relations and Explorations (i.e. shore excursions) desks along the starboard side of the ship. Tucked in a corner on the port side of the Centrum is a small Internet café (Royal Caribbean Online), where you can stay connected for $.50 a minute. As you will see when I describe the other decks, this is not the only space that provides computer terminals, however. In fact, on both the Radiance and Voyager class ships you can have in-cabin internet access, provided you have your own laptop. Offering unlimited access at $100 for the duration of the cruise, it is quite a bargain. Tides Dining Room and Staircase Aft of the Centrum, on deck 4, is the main floor of the stately 2 story Tides Dining Room. Windows along both sides of the dining room, silk draped pillars, high ceilings, an expansive staircase and cascading waterfall all combine to make the area airy, yet elegant. Along the back wall of the dining room hangs a stunning 2 story mosaic of glass, brass and copper. Climbing the staircase of the Tides Dining Room leads to the upper balcony level on deck 5. Decks 5 and 6 are the main thoroughfares that run from stem to stern. Latte-tudes Coffee Bar As you leave the dining room on this level along the starboard side of the ship you will find yourself on one of the balcony levels of the Centrum at Latté-tudes. Latté-tudes is a specialty coffee bar. It offers some tasty brew, delectable sweets and even more computer terminals if you wish to surf the net while sipping on a latté or espresso. Shops in the Centrum Entrance Moving forward, a winding marble shopping street beckons you to browse in the numerous shops providing the requisite logo wear, and duty free shopping. The Photo Shop Continuing forward your stroll will take you through the photo shop and a rather pleasant art gallery. Somewhat hidden along the inside wall of the photo shop is the Conference Center. This large, stat-of-the-art conference area can be divided into two smaller areas. There is also a smaller conference space that is designed like a boardroom with a large conference table (quite nice for small group meetings). The Tri-Level Coral Theatre Deck 5 ends at the main floor of the tri-level Coral Theatre. Tri-level is a bit deceiving, however, as the theatre technically occupies 3 decks of the ship (4, 5 and 6), it is accessible only via decks 5 and 6 and appears to have only two levels of seating. The sight lines and acoustics are excellent in this theatre and seating is comfortable. Other than a striking stage curtain (an artistic depiction of the ocean), it is not ornate but provides a simplistic, functional and comfortable appeal. Traversing the stairs to the upper level of the theatre we can explore the public space on deck 6. As we venture aft, directly outside the Coral Theatre is a small movie theatre that has seating for about 100 people. Entrance is on the port side, but somewhat hidden and easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there. Movies were shown here daily. The Pit Stop From there we move aft to the Pit Stop. The Pit Stop is an excellent sports bar with numerous TV’s mounted above the circular bar and also along all of the walls. It proved to be a very popular spot whenever a professional football game was being televised. The comfy seating and appealing space is inviting, but unfortunately, it had limited operating hours. The Casino Walking aft from the Pit Stop will require a stroll through the casino. Here you will find all of the required games of chance, as well as many slots. Apparently a number of the members of our group found themselves here nightly and overall faired quite well. The Champagne Bar Once through the casino, the Champagne Bar around the Centrum is quite stylish and chic and its wall of windows provides a fantastic view. I found this one of the most engaging spots for a pre-dinner cocktail or for late night conversation, particularly on formal nights. We are now approaching perhaps my favorite public area on the ship. Entrance to the Schooner BAr As you walk through a replica of the wooden frame of a ship’s hull, you enter the Schooner Bar. No RCI ship would be complete without a Schooner Bar, and the Jewel is no exception. The Schooner Bar An excellent example of the attention to detail that has been spent on the design and décor of this ship is the teak and marine blue fabrics, accented by nautical antiques and reproductions found in the Schooner Bar. The leather sofas and chairs are arranged invitingly in conversational groupings. Appetizers and happy hour drinks are served daily, while a very good classical guitarist and talented pianist take turns entertaining you. There is even a large screen TV tucked into a corner for those avid sports or news addicts. Chops Grille Portofino Restaurant Access to the two specialty restaurants, Chops Grille and Portofino is through the Schooner Bar. Both restaurants are nicely appointed and are excellent alternatives to the main dining room, but more about those venues later. The Game Reserve and Safari Club Leaving the Schooner Bar you move into the Game Reserves and Safari Club. (It is this area of the ship that offers a “country club” appeal). The parquet flooring, large, deep, rich wood entertainment centers (hiding large screen TV’s), book cases, and 2 self-leveling billiards tables in the Game Reserves all combine to make this area quite appealing. Safari Club Sculpture Like no other show lounge afloat, a striking resin sculpture of a pair of giraffes occupies the entrance of the Safari Club. Rather than the typical large room with dance floor, it is divided into a number of smaller sections The Zanzibar Lounge (a corner bar) and the Serengeti Card Club are also sections within the Safari Club. Inlaid chess, backgammon and checkers tables beckon you, as do the floor to ceiling windows and sunken bar of the Congo Bar. In the midst of all this, is a nice size dance floor and stage. The entire effect is fantastic!! In addition to nightly dance music, bingo sessions, a 50’s sock-hop, and the Captains Party are just some of the activities that take place here. With the exception of a small area overlooking the Centrum on decks 7, 8, 9 and 10, all space is utilized for cabins. On deck 7 there is a small business center where there are more computer terminals and printer. On deck 8 the balcony space above the Centrum is the Explorer’s Court where limited board games are available. On deck 9 this space is utilized for a very small, but well-stocked library and on deck 10 it is a small sitting area outside the Concierge Club. The Concierge Lounge Ahhh! The Concierge Club! As a Diamond Member (more than 10 Royal Caribbean cruises) I had key access to this space. Breakfast pastries, coffee and cappuccino could be enjoyed here each day; and in the evening complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served. There were computer terminals available in one corner and a very pleasant sitting area arranged along a wall of windows offering unobstructed views of the ocean and passing scenery. The spa, main pool and solarium are on deck 11. Let me tell you about the solarium first. The Solarium As impressed as I was with the Safari Club, the solarium is equally impressive. When I first entered this space, I was totally blown-away! The Thai themed solarium is an example of the details that separate this ship from any other. A replica of a Thai temple, complete with a giant bell and bordered by large gold statues of elephants is the backdrop for the pool and whirlpool, both set at a perfect temperature. A tranquil, tropical garden of dense, live foliage surrounds you as you lounge in cushioned, teak chairs. The piped in sound of singing birds provide an added sensory experience. The retractable roof, a bar and café embellish this space. The Solarium Café proved to be a wonderful improvement over the snack bar that was on the Radiance. Coffee, cereals, yogurt and fresh pastries could be enjoyed there each morning. During the day and late in the evening, a variety of wraps and some phenomenal crepes (made to order) were served. This is a room that must be experienced to truly appreciate! Perhaps, the nicest feature was the extended pool hours. The solarium was open 24 hours for adults only – YEAH! The Main Pool Area In comparison, the main pool is a bit of a disappointment. The open deck area around the pool, as well as the pool itself, is exceptionally small for a ship this size. There was, however, a lift chair to accommodate the physically challenged so that they could enjoy the pool. There were two canopied whirlpools in the main pool area, which I used only twice during the cruise. (This was one of the few disappointments of the cruise, as they, too, are supposed to be open 24 hours – read my daily journal of the cruise for more details). One of the nice aspects of the main pool area was the pool bar seating. An additional bank of bar stools faces the main pool and was great for “people watching”. Ship Shape Spa Entrance The Shipshape Spa, forward of the Solarium is fabulous! Continuing the Thai theme found in the Solarium, the space exudes peace and tranquility. A full beauty salon, health center, massage room and thermal suite offer the ultimate in pampering. For $15 a day, one can enjoy the heated recliners, aroma steam room and tropical rainfall showers of the thermal suite. The Relaxation Room Soothing is the best way to describe the Relaxation Room with its gentle shades of orange, pink and cream décor. Aromatherapy diffusers throughout add to the environmental serenity. The Windjammer Cafe The Windjammer Café occupies the remainder of deck 11. I particularly like the design of the buffet area on this class ship. Numerous serving stations are scattered throughout the café, each offering a different kind of fare. These separate stations prevent the queues that can often arise in standard buffet lines. The space is attractive and much more aesthetically appealing than many buffet areas on other ships. Seating in the Windjammer Cafe Conservatory style seating with low tables, wicker furniture and expansive scenic views offer another dimension to the buffet dining experience on the periphery of the main dining area. Alfresco Dining Unfortunately, since the weather was not stellar, this alfresco dining space was not used to its maximum and the main seating area was often overcrowded. Deck 12 is the sports deck. Ship Shape Fitness Center The forward section of deck 12 is the location of the Shipshape Fitness Center. This excellent fitness center has state of the art equipment, free weights and a very nice size exercise floor, not to mention limitless views of the ocean. It was, however, used very sparingly on this cruise. In fact, even the supplemental classes, like Pilates and spinning, were cancelled due to lack of participation. This was definitely a disappointment to one of the avid fitness mavens in our group. The jogging track encompasses the forward half of the deck, encircling the fitness center and the exterior of the Crown and Anchor Lounge. The Sky Bar and Pool Bars The Sky Bar, which was rarely open on this cruise, is situated between the retractable glass dome ceiling of the Solarium and the balcony overlooking the pool. Midship on deck 12 is the Crown and Anchor Lounge. The View Into the Porthole A glass topped “porthole” table, in the center of the Crown and Anchor Lounge, provides an awesome view all the way to the Centrum floor on deck 4. Make sure to check it out! Fuel, The Teen Disco Next to the Crown and Anchor Lounge is Fuel, the teen disco. Another area of the ship that was relatively empty throughout the cruise. You see, on this sailing there were only 8 children on board. The Ocean Arcade The Ocean Arcade was across the hall from the teen disco, as were the separate youth facilities. I was unable to take pictures of Adventure Ocean, however. Since there were so few children on this sailing, the youth staff was assigned to other venues and on-call for accommodating the children on board. Adventure Beach Aft of the interior of Adventure Ocean was Adventure Beach and the children’s pool. Equipped with a slide, it was quite tempting, although off-limits to adults. The Basketball Court Next to the pool was a basketball court. Deck 12 ends with The Seaview Café on the starboard side and the Country Club on the port side. The Seaview Café offered a great outdoor dining area and provided a pleasant alternative to the Windjammer or the Tides Dining Room for lunch or early dinner. The Country Club The Country Club was the site of the golf simulator and shuffleboard courts. The Miniature Golf Course Deck 13, the very top deck, is the location of the miniature golf course and the rock climbing wall. The Vortex Disco in the Viking Crown Lounge The Viking Crown Lounge, with its 180° view, and Vortex, the disco, were also on this deck (actually one and the same). A revolving bar and comfortable seating throughout made the Vortex a nice place to meet. Due to the particular demographics of this sailing, this very attractive space was seldom occupied by more than a few people. The Hollywood Odysssey Rounding out the upper deck was the Hollywood Odyssey, a smaller lounge that doubled as the Cigar Bar in the evening. Only two glass elevators offer access to this deck, but definitely worth the trip. A balcony overlooking this bank of elevators provides some humorous art pieces in the form of whimsical statues of flamingoes dressed to the nines. Just another example of the many artistic touches that set this ship apart from all others. Food and Service: I have already described the various dining venue options on the Jewel as I described the ship, but let me expound on some of the particulars. First, the quality of food got mixed reviews from our group. Some found the food to be mediocre, while others found it to be satisfying and appealing. I fall into the latter group. Although I did not eat dinner in the main dining room every night, with the exception of one night, I found my meals there to be tasty and pleasing to my palate. Of course, I am a basic meat and potatoes gal from the Midwest, but I found the menus to provide a nice variety and offered a selection to appeal to most diners. As for the one choice to avoid: don’t order the pork chops! Even my waiter discouraged me from ordering them, but I did not heed the warning. You would think after all the cruising I have done; I would pay better attention to my waiter’s suggestions and blame myself for the poor selection on that particular evening. Speaking of the wait staff, we were blessed with personable and efficient waiters that made our dining experience all the more pleasurable. As a side note: one of the members of our group was a vegetarian and felt that this ship offered the best vegetarian meals they have ever had onboard a ship. Before moving away from the Tides dining experience, let me share a couple more issues. First, the tables in our area of the dining room seemed to be very close together. Not only did this make for the space to appear cramped, but it often made it quite difficult for the waiters to squeeze between diners to serve. Secondly, the one aspect of the dining experience that was quite a disappointment was the wine selections. On numerous occasions during the cruise the wine we ordered was not available, even though it appeared on the menu that evening. (Even the chefs recommended selections were not always available). Often the only wines available were on the high-end of their wine list. However, on the flip-side, we were never charged a corkage fee for the personal wines we brought to the table. My suggestion for Royal Caribbean would be to either better stock their wine cellar, or revise their menus to reflect the choices that were available. Now, let’s look at the other dining options: In the Windjammer food once again received mixed reviews. Some felt that the variety was outstanding, while others were somewhat disappointed. On this score, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I thought the breakfast offerings were good to very good, particularly the assortment of fresh fruit. At lunch the Asian fusion selections were outstanding, while many of the other choices were relatively pedestrian. I did not have the opportunity to sample the dinner fare, so I am unable to evaluate those offerings. There are two specialty restaurants on the Jewel, and we sampled both. The cost to dine in either is $20 per person for dinner and a $10 cover for lunch. We had dinner at Portofino on the second night and were somewhat disappointed. Since so many of the reviews for this restaurant are stellar, I was expecting a sublime experience. On the evening we chose to dine there neither food, nor service were exceptional even though it was virtually empty. However, in all fairness, others of our group dined there later in the cruise and found the Italian cuisine it to be outstanding. (This was another time when our wine choices could not be honored and we were encouraged to sample the most expensive wine offered. At the cost of wine onboard the ship, this tactic seemed to be an unwelcome and overbearing ploy to generate more onboard ship revenue.) Ahhh! Chops Grille! Now, here, everyone in the group was in agreement. The food, service and ambiance were all impeccable. In fact, one of the best steaks I have ever had was enjoyed here. From appetizers to desserts, there was not one complaint from our group. Our waiter added to making this one of the most memorable dining experiences of the cruise. The Seaview Café and Solarium Café both offered snacks and casual dining fare. I particularly liked the chicken wings and fries at the Seaview Cafe. The soups and seafood salad were also big hits with many diners. As for the Solarium Café, make sure to sample one of the various crepes offered there daily. The last dining option was room service and inconsistent would be the best way to describe this alternative. Full service breakfasts could be ordered in the evening before retiring or in the morning. For some, food ordered in the evening was not always delivered as ordered, or at the time specified. Others in our group found the morning service to be quite adequate. Lunch and dinner choices were somewhat more limited and unimaginative. Entertainment: This is an area in which the Jewel truly excelled. Although the group was divided on their evaluation of the food, there was no dissension in rating the entertainment. Everyone was in total agreement that the entertainment on this cruise ranked among the best afloat. There were 3 production shows on this sailing, all were exceptional. “Tango, Buenos Aires” far surpassed any expectations I had. It was original, innovative and offered an exceptional evening of entertainment. The featured dancers, tango champions Ruben and Sabrina from Argentina were superb. With the support of the Royal Caribbean International Singer and Dancers the show was spectacular. Definitely not to be missed! City of Dreams and West End to Broadway were not your ordinary production shows either. While I have been less than impressed with the lackluster, minimal set designs and mediocre visual effects that are becoming the norm on many cruise ships, these two performances were stellar in comparison. A very talented and energetic cast of performers enhanced the elaborate and impressive backdrops that adorned the stage for these performances. I found City of Dreams to be exceptionally electrifying and quite memorable, another show not to be missed. In addition to the productions shows, one of the Celebrity Shows on my list of “must sees” was Herb Reed and The Platters. I am not a great fan of variety shows, so I did not attend all of the Celebrity and Headliner shows, but those that did seemed to enjoy them. As for the entertainment around the ship, the Rosario Strings, Déja Voo, Leesa Gentz Showband and the Jewel Trio all were excellent musicians offering a variety of fare in a variety of venues. There was certainly not a lack of quality entertainment onboard. One of the favorite haunts of many from our group was the Schooner Bar, due in most part to the talented and very personable Barry from Boston. He managed to keep this piano bar jumping until the wee hours every night. The only entertainment venue that was a bit of a disappointment was the disco. This had more to do with the passenger load than the DJ, however. I love to work off my caloric intake at the disco, but it just wasn’t happening on this cruise. The Cruise: Day 1 (Saturday 9/18) – Boston: This is definitely a port that you would want to plan to spend a day or two pre or post cruise to explore. This vibrant and active city has much to share. Although I was not able to indulge myself with a pre or post trip this time, many of the group members did. These are some of their suggestions and favorite activities to enjoy while in Boston: Take the Hop on Hop off Trolley Tour. There are several to choose from and cost $24 for an all day pass. A senior rate is also available; Tour Fenway Park on one of the hourly tours offered daily; The Duck Tour, a land and water tour around the city and harbor was enjoyed by many; and, obviously, a bowl of clam chowder at one of the many casual diners is a “must do”. Public transportation is excellent and the train is easy to get to. Although we were permitted to board the ship, staterooms were not quite ready to be occupied, so we were relegated to public spaces for a short time. I was able to drop of my carry-on in my cabin and then headed off to do some initial exploring. I immediately ran into other members of our group and joined them for the buffet lunch at the Windjammer Café. Time quickly passed, and before I knew it, it was 4:30 and time for the mandatory lifeboat drill. This is one of my least favorite aspects of cruising, but it was relatively painless on the Jewel. My muster station was in the Coral Theatre. Upon checking in there was a brief instructional presentation and we were quickly dismissed to enjoy the cruise. Yahoo!!! We were scheduled to depart at 5:00 pm, but due to the deteriorating weather conditions, many flights were delayed. Thus, our departure was delayed and the poolside Bon Voyage Party was cancelled. A pre-dinner cocktail party was scheduled for our group at the Hollywood Odyssey. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and have the opportunity to meet new group members for the first time. After an enjoyable social hour, our group made their way down to the Tides Dining Room for our first dinner. Our group was rather large and occupied 7 tables on the portside of the main floor. Lingering over coffee, dessert and conversation I did not make the Welcome Aboard Show, but I seldom do, so wasn’t disappointed. After dinner we enjoyed listening to Déja Voo for a short time at the Schooner Bar and then made our way to the Vortex. Although it was relatively empty, our small group still managed to “dance the night away”. (As it turned out, this would prove to be one of the only nights that my need to dance would be satisfied.) Day 2 (Sunday 9/19) – Bar Harbor, Maine: View from top of Cadillac Mtn and Downtown Bar Harbor Bar Harbor, our first stop, was a tender port. We arrived in the harbor about 8:00 am, just as scheduled. Seven members of our group decided to go exploring together and met in the Centrum to collect out tender tickets. Tenders ran about every 15 minutes, but the wait was long for our tender to be called. We finally made it ashore about 11:00 am. Although there were no taxis or vans available for hire when we arrived, it was only a matter of minutes before a very personable young woman in a van pulled up and the 7 of us were on our way. We discovered that, unlike Mexico and the Caribbean, the fare for vans and taxis was non-negotiable. (Actually, this held true for all of the US and Canadian ports of call on this itinerary). We hired the van for $60 an hour and headed off to Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park is the second most visited park in the U.S. The leaves were just beginning to change color; and although not at their peak, made for a very scenic journey. We traversed the Park Loop Road, a 27 mile road that winds its way through the park, offering splendid coastline views and culminates with a drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. At an elevation of 1,530-foot, this is the highest point on North America’s east coast. Surrounded by mountains, forest, lakes and ocean, Bar Harbor is a scenic and charming resort town. It is also the departure point for whale watching expeditions and sightseeing cruises. After our 2 hour tour, our driver recommended the West End Café for lunch. Here we enjoyed clam chowder, lobster and blueberry pie. This is the traditional “Taste of Maine” fare. After washing down this very filling meal with some local blueberry ale, we all went our separate ways to explore the small downtown area of Bar Harbor on our own. After checking out the numerous shops, galleries and specialty shops along Main Street and the adjacent streets, I wandered back to catch the ferry back to the ship in anticipation of a short nap to revive me for the full evening ahead. For me, the first of three scheduled formal evenings began by joining other Diamond Members in the Concierge Lounge for cocktails. From there we headed to the Safari Club for the Captains Welcome Aboard reception. This evening we had made reservations at Portofino’s for a birthday celebration. We are slowly working our way through the ranks of my cruise companions, scheduling cruises around our respective birthdays. This cruise was in celebration of Janet’s birthday. At this point I must share that Janet is the supreme master of creative party planning. (An example of her talents can be gleaned by reading my review of the Mercury, Oct 2003). Unfortunately, I do not have a similar talent, therefore, by group standards this celebration was tame and ordinary. It was, however, a heartfelt celebration for a dear friend. Her birthday dinner was followed by an excellent celebrity show starring Herb Reed and The Platters. They had us dancing in the aisle and was the perfect way to culminate my evening. Day 3 (Monday 9/20) – Halifax, Nova Scotia Peggy's Cove Lighthouse We arrived at Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, at 9:00 am. Five of us met in the Centrum on Deck 5 at 10:30 to once again explore the environs on our own. Peggy's Cove We hired a van to take us to Peggy’s Cove (fixed rates - $90 for 3 hrs/ $110 for 4 hrs. + $7 for van) and provide a short overview of the city. Other than the lighthouse and a few shops, there wasn’t much to see or do in Peggy’s Cove. Given the opportunity, I would probably not return. Our return to town took us past Citadel Hill and the Old Town Clock before we dropped off at the entrance to the casino. Our plan was to leisurely stroll along the waterfront walk back to the ship. Unfortunately, I caused havoc with our original plans. You see, after walking a short way we decided to stop for a beverage only to discover that I had left my driver’s license, shipboard seapass and credit cards in the back of the van. In panic mode, we grabbed another cab and swung by the casino where we had been dropped off, just in case I had dropped my belongings getting out of the van. Well, God seems to take care of me in many ways and once again he was at my side. The van we had used was still parked in front of the casino and the driver was just getting into the vehicle. To my amazement my wallet was just where I had left it, sitting on the backseat. With the crisis resolved, we decided it was time to find a good place to eat and enjoy a celebratory cocktail. Granville Mall We found a pub in Granville Mall and dined on some very tasty haddock and fries. We then made our trek back to the ship along the waterfront walk, albeit not as leisurely as we had originally planned. The walk was very pleasant, and if I return to Halifax again, I would certainly spend more time exploring the shops along the way. This would have been another excellent port to schedule a whale watching excursion, had the weather been more settled. Waterfront Walk Unfortunately, we were continuing to experience the tail-end of the hurricane and seas were rough; therefore, many of the expeditions were cancelled. The terminal at the port offered more shopping opportunities and The Pier 21 Museum. Located on the upper level of the terminal, it provides an interesting history of migration throughout Canada and worth a quick stop, if you have the time. Upon my return to the ship, I did some much needed work on the internet. Unlimited access in the cabin was definitely convenient and well worth the money. I cleaned up and went to Concierge Club for a glass of wine, before joining other members of our group in Vortex for a pre-dinner cocktail hour. Eighteen of us from the group had chosen to make reservations for dinner at Chops Grille this evening. The meal was excellent and the service was impeccable. I highly recommend the filet mignon, but make sure you save room for one of the sumptuous desserts. Tonight’s show was the production show, West End to Broadway. Although, dinner went much longer than anticipated and I missed the performance, others in our group gave it rave reviews. It was rated as a definite “not to be missed”. I had a nightcap at Schooner Bar and called it a night. Although I was tired and looking forward to a restful sleep, that was not to be. It was a very rough night! Wind gusts exceeding 100mph and 35 foot swells made sleeping a bit of a challenge to say the least. Day 4 (Tuesday 9/21) - Sydney, Nova Scotia Scheduled Winds were so excessive our port stop in Sydney was cancelled and we headed back out to sea for the trek to Quebec City. Captain James MacDonald successfully secured a berth in Quebec City for an unscheduled overnight stay. This became another day at sea and we were now scheduled to arrive in Quebec City at 2 pm the next day. Complimentary beverages were served in the bars and lounges from 11:30 – 12:30 for the inconvenience of missing the port. Interestingly, this was perhaps one of the first times that our revised itinerary was actually preferred over the original. We had discovered that Sydney was almost a non-port. There was not much to see or do and many people were actually planning to stay onboard rather than even visit this tender port. Hmm, overnight in Quebec City and free cocktails, what a bonus. Thanks Captain MacDonald! I took advantage of this time to visit the fitness center to work off some of the calories that were already accumulating, while some of the members of our group scored some space in the Schooner Bar. After my abbreviated work-out, I joined the group were we enjoyed our free cocktails while waiting for a very competitive session of “Name that Tune”. After a few cocktails and with virtually no sleep the night before, I was ready for an afternoon nap. The seas had calmed by now and I reveled in blissful slumber. I awoke well rested and tackled some work, before getting ready for an evening of Rock and Roll. Dinner was again a treat and while some went to the evening show, featuring Bobby Arvon, I passed and made my way to the Schooner Bar. This was the fourth Royal Caribbean cruise I had been on that featured the “talent??” of Bobby Arvon, best known as the voice of the “Happy Day’s” Theme. In my opinion, one of the weakest entertainment offerings of the cruise. The Quest Game (truly a game to behold) and Rock and Roll with the Cruise Director’s Staff were the highlights of the evening. I was scheduled to attend a seminar the next morning, so I bid farewell to the group and headed off to bed. Day 5 (Wednesday 9/22) - Quebec City, Quebec With our seminar scheduled for 9:00 AM, I ordered room service as my back-up wake-up call. It was delivered promptly as ordered. My eggs were warm and coffee was piping hot (a great test of morning room service). The conference facilities on the Jewel are functional and offer all of the requisite media equipment necessary to conduct business on board. Time passed quickly on our 3 hour interesting and informative seminar. QM2 in Quebec City Due to the seminar, however, we missed viewing the Queen Mary II as we cruised past her. She, too, had missed her scheduled port due to the weather and secured extended dock space in Quebec City. In fact, she was tied up to the space we were supposed to occupy, so the Jewel was relegated to a dock some distance from the Old City. The Jewel did provide complementary shuttle service into the city, however. Originally, I had planned to do a preliminary exploration of Quebec City on my own, but shortly after docking, re-evaluated my plan. First, a rally had been scheduled for that day and coupled with the normal traffic, there was major gridlock creating 1-2 hour delays in getting into the city. Secondly, the sun was shining and it was the first hint of warm weather I had experienced since the cruise began. Weighing my options (and being a major sun-worshipper), I revised my schedule and decided to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool. I will admit that it was still a bit chilly, but for someone who suffers through winters on the shores of Lake Erie, the suns warming rays were quite pleasant. Before out itinerary change, this was to be the second of three formal nights. Due to our arrival in Quebec City, the attire was changed to smart casual. This was also the evening we had scheduled our group photo, but that was now postponed until our next formal night. Evenings were beginning to settle into a regular routine. I had a glass of wine at the Concierge Lounge before joining others of our group at the Champagne Bar. The melodic strains of the Rosario Strings wafted upward from the Centrum Lobby Bar, making our pre-dinner gathering relaxing and enjoyable. From there we moved into the dining room and once again were treated to a satisfying meal and pleasant conversation. I enjoyed a nightcap at the Schooner Bar with Barry from Boston. Tonight he performed a great hour of cabaret crooning, which was a wonderful way to end the evening. Day 6 (Thursday 9/23) – Quebec City, Quebec I awoke to bright, sunny, warm skies and looked forward to a full day of exploring, as we were in port until 11:00 PM. Kudos to the captain, once again. Early in the morning he moved the ship from our remote docking location to the more convenient slip along the shore of the Old City (where the Queen Mary II had been the day before). Quebec City Part of the city sits on top of the cliffs of Cap Diamant while the rest lies below. The Upper and Lower Towns comprise the district known as the Old City. Just measuring 10 square kilometers, it is the only walled city in North America. Narrow cobblestone streets and walled fortifications create a distinct appeal, reminiscent of the old world charm of medieval Europe. Chateau Frontenac From the spectacular Chateau Frontenac hotel to the Dufferin Terrace promenade, picturesque does not begin to describe the Old City. I couldn’t wait to get off the ship and begin my self-guided tour. Lower Quebec City My friend Barb, my infamous companion Pat and I headed out for a wonderful day. Due to the topography and the amount of walking we planned to do, we chose to have Pat use her wheelchair which proved to be a wise decision. Although the cobblestone streets were a bit tricky to maneuver, it was by far the best option for our journey. The upper city can be accessed by stairs or a funicular. We chose the funicular for our journey upwards. Reaching the top, we met the others from our group that we had planned to join. A quick visit to Notre Dame Cathedral of Quebec and the interior of Chateau Frontenac were first on our list of explorations. Wandering the cobblestone streets, we ventured upon a Créperie that offered dining al fresco and a folk singing musician. The perfect ambiance and luncheon fare combination! After lunch we chose to break-up and venture off in different directions, planning to join each other later in the day for dinner. I would highly recommend one of the provincial horse drawn carriage rides that provide informative tours of the Old City. It is worth the $66 for a 45 minute tour for two. Exhausted from sightseeing and shopping, I was ready to join the others for what would be a very memorable dining experience. Aux Anciens Canadiens The oldest home in Upper Quebec City is now the site of Aux Anciens Canadiens. Located strategically on St. Louis Street, this quaint restaurant with its checkered tablecloths and cozy environment was the perfect way to end this marvelous day in port. Items could be ordered ala carte or as a complete meal. Exotic fare, such as caribou, stag and buffalo were offered along with more traditional choices. I chose a delectable chicken in a puff pastry dish, topped off by a decadent chocolate cake with warm cream. Totally sated, it was time to bid farewell to this charming city. A few of us opted to traverse the stairs for our return to the ship, discovering more visual treasures along the way. This was definitely my favorite port of the trip! Upon our return from Quebec City, Barb and I decided a perfect way for us to end our day would be take advantage of the 24 hour availability of the hot tub. After all, what better vantage point to watch us sail away than from the comfort of the hot tub. Unfortunately, the tubs on the open deck were NOT open as advertised. The hot tub in the solarium was open, however, so we had to settle for that alternative. After a 45 minute session of blissful soaking, we were both totally relaxed and ready to retire. Wouldn’t you know that when we crossed the open deck to our bank of elevators, we discovered the outside hot tubs were NOW open. I guess there is truth to the saying: It’s all in the timing!!!! Day 7 (Friday 9/24) – Cruising the Saguenay River Saguenay River I rose early to catch the first glimpses of our arrival into the Saguenay River. A naturalist was onboard to provide an informative narrative of the journey. After capturing a few photos of the passing scenery, I chose to visit the fitness center in an attempt to work off some the abundant calories I was voraciously consuming. Statute of the Blessed Virgin Along the Saguenay River By the way, while walking my way to a svelte body (Ha! Ha!) the views of the river were awesome. I spent the latter part of the morning taking pictures of the ship for this review and then did some requisite internet work before meeting friends for lunch at the Seaview Café. Before I knew it, the afternoon was slipping away and I had some work that needing attending. You see, due to a scheduling conflict, the seminar leader for this cruise had to depart in Quebec City; and I was placed in charge of the final seminar scheduled for the next day. My personal need to be well-prepared and organized took precedence over the tempting distractions my friends were proposing, and I excused myself to address those needs. I was looking forward to this evening’s pre-dinner entertainment, “Tango Buenos Aires”, as I had heard nothing but stellar reports on this production. The world class performances of Ruben and Sabrina were extraordinary and I was certainly not disappointed. The romantic dance music theme continued after dinner with the Jewel Orchestra performing “big band” dance music in the Safari Club. This proved to be a very popular event with the passengers on this particular sailing. In fact, based on the demographics of the passenger load, Royal Caribbean missed the boat by not scheduling more of these dance venues during the cruise. Many of the guests found the interactive game, “Liars Club” following the orchestra’s performance quite entertaining. In preparation for the morning seminar, I once again left our band of merrymakers in the Schooner Bar and retired early. (See, I told you the cruise had fallen into a predictable routine). Day 8 (Saturday 9/25) – At Sea I began my morning with a full breakfast from room service, once again served on time and exactly as ordered. Our 3 hour seminar began promptly at 9:00 AM and all went smoothly. Time flew by quickly and I looked forward to my afternoon at sea. A poolside BBQ was scheduled, but the weather was not cooperating. Rather than completely canceling the luncheon option, the menu was slightly abbreviated and relocated to the rear of the Tides Dining Room. Having had our minds set on a BBQ lunch, Barb and I elected to sample the altered fare. Although not quite what we envisioned, it was tasty nonetheless. An afternoon work-out, some duty-free shopping in the shops onboard, dropping a few quarters in the slots and I managed to fritter away the afternoon. I opted for a quick dip in the Jacuzzi before beginning preparations for the evening. This was the second formal night of the cruise. Our group was meeting for cocktails in the Vortex, before the group photo scheduled for 8:10. We descended en masse for our photo on the impressive stairway in the dining room and then patiently awaited dinner. The comedy and variety routine of Kathy and James Taylor (no, not THAT James Taylor) was this evenings headliner show in the Coral Theatre. Although, a bit “hokey” for my taste, they were well received by the audience. Karaoke was also an option this evening and some from our group opted for that venue. As had become the norm for a large contingency of our group, the evening ended in the Schooner Bar with Barry from Boston. Day 9 (Sunday 9/26) – Saint John, New Brunswick We were scheduled to arrive in port at 9:00 AM and actually arrived a bit early. This morning our happy troupe of independent explorers grew from the core group of five to ten members. We set off with plans to take a horse drawn trolley tour and visit the Moosehead Brewery. Well, we weren’t off the ship more than a few minutes before discovering our plans would need to be altered. You see, we had forgotten that it was Sunday and the brewery was closed. The only tours that were being conducted that day were through the cruise ship excursions. FYI: We were later informed that security is extremely tight at the brewery and, in fact, no matter what the day, the only tours that are permitted are through the cruise lines. I was totally impressed with the warm welcome we received by the residents of Saint John. Ladies were greeted with the presentation of a rose, a band was playing and large craft tents were erected for the purchase of local handicrafts at the dock. Many of the residents on hand to provide maps, directions and information were dressed in Loyalist attire. It was quite a festive greeting. The festive spirit was, however, somewhat dampened by an unfortunate event. Somewhere along our trek into the Bay of Fundy, the Jewel had inadvertently hit a whale and it was still attached to the bow of the ship. It is believed that the whale was dead before it hit the ship, but it was still unpleasant to see. Horse Drawn Trolly We found a horse drawn trolley company just outside the gated area of the port that could accommodate our group of 10. At a cost of $20 per person (Canadian), it was $15 cheaper than the exact same tour being offered inside the gate. We were all settled in the trolley and ready to depart when the driver informed us there would be a 15-20 minute delay of our tour. It seems that one of the horses needed to have a shoe replaced, so we were treated to the opportunity to witness this procedure, first-hand. Saint John is known as the Loyalist City because a large number of Loyalists fled the American colonies after the American Revolution and began a cluster of small settlements here. Our tour took us through the downtown area where a restoration project is underway to preserve the Victorian homes and buildings that span 400 years of history. The tour ended at the Old City Market. Market Square The market houses a variety of local and imported goods, produce, meat, seafood and a few local crafts. Weaving our way back to the port we walked the short distance from King Street to Dock Street and Market Square. Market Square, along the waterfront, was most picturesque and the perfect setting for a late lunch and absorbing the flavor of this friendly city. I had a sumptuous bowl of baked clam chowder and the local Moosehead beer, before it was time to return to the ship for our 5:00 PM departure. And what a departure it was! Just as graciously as the Saint John residents greeted us, they orchestrated our departure in kind. We were bid farewell by the locals with a bagpipe band in full regalia. Although Quebec City remained my favorite port on the itinerary, the people of Saint John were unparalleled in their hospitality and made this one of the highlights of the cruise. Country-western was the casual theme for this evening. I am not a huge country-western fan, but my friend Barb was Texas born and bred, so this was her evening to shine. We decided to meet at the Schooner Bar for our pre-dinner gathering, which conveniently was where country trivia was scheduled at 8:00 PM. Barb, didn’t let us down, as she was the only one in our group who knew any of the answers. Interestingly, on this sailing U.S. Immigration inspections were being conducted this evening in preparation for our arrival in Portland, Maine the next day. We were to report between 5:30 and 8:30 PM (pre-dinner) with a final call between 9:30 and 10:30 PM. Now, I had been led to believe that this was mandatory and failure to report would affect everyone’s departure from the ship the next day. Hmmm, NOT SO! I chose not to wait in the very long line that had amassed right before dinner. Believing I could take care of this at final call, I went to dinner. During dinner an announcement was made indicating that this was the final call for immigration inspection. I was dining with a Canadian friend, who also had not gone through inspection. We excused ourselves from the dining room and proceeded to the Safari Club as directed. Well, the doors were closed and no one was there. We went to guest services to inquire and were told not to worry. There were only a few people that had not been processed and immigrations officers indicated they would contact those people in the morning before departure. It NEVER happened! I was not contacted and the next morning the ship was cleared without incident. Curious, don’t you think??? After our attempt to clear immigration had failed, we went back to the dining room to enjoy coffee and dessert with the rest of the group. We had decided to pass on this evening’s headliner, the music dancing and energy of The Guse’s (which, by the way, I was told was a mistake by a number of others from our group). I believe that I have already established that the Country and Western line dancing scheduled for this evening was not my cup of tea, so I chose to end my evening with another attempt to enjoy a late night hot tub session. Once again, the outside hot tubs were closed, but the Solarium tub was fully operational. Ah, well! Although disappointed, we made the best of it and thoroughly enjoyed this relaxing end to another fine day. Day 10 (Monday 9/27) – Portland, Maine We arrived in Portland as scheduled, and tender service was to begin at approximately 9:00 AM. This was the final day of the cruise and it was a gloriously warm and sun-filled morning. I had to make a choice. I had been to Portland and nearby Kennebunkport before and was weighing my options. I could take a tender and wander around town, utilize public transportation to do some shopping at the LL Bean Outlet Shopping Center, or I could stay onboard and enjoy my day on deck, soaking up the rays in relative solitude. Well, I wasn’t much into wandering around town (although one more bowl of magnificent clam chowder was tempting). I would have chosen to visit idyllic Kennebunkport, had I not been there recently. Outlet shopping was just not on my list of “must do’s”. So, that left me with the option of staying on board. Good choice!!! I reveled in the quiet, the sun and a day of total relaxation. What a marvelous way to spend the last day of a cruise! For a cruise that was rife with revised schedules, tonight was no exception. We had planned to meet as a group for our final get-together at 7:30 PM, before dinner. Well, now that the “City of Dreams”, the final production show of the cruise, was scheduled as a pre-dinner show at 7:15; we changed our final gathering to 5-6 PM in the Vortex. It was, as always, a bittersweet meeting in which we vow to stay in touch. Many of us reconnected that evening to enjoy a phenomenal performance by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers before dinner. The performance was outstanding, and that is an understatement. The singing, dancing and choreography was great, but the set designs and costuming was spectacular! Do not miss this outstanding performance, as it is certainly one of the very best at sea. Some of our group were a bit tardy at dinner due to their participation in the final Jackpot Bingo session. Although no one from our group won the prize, I did meet the young couple that did; and they were ecstatic over their $5,000 winnings. We lingered over conversation, at this, our final dinner together, and then separated to do the requisite packing and preparation for tomorrow’s departure. I managed to complete my “last night” tasks, met a few of our group for a final nightcap at the Lobby Bar and called it an evening. Another great cruise had come to an end and all I could do was look forward to the next cruise and another opportunity to rejoin the friends I had made. Excursion Recommendations/Suggestions: Since I was sailing with a large group of professionals, this mega-review became a group project. Based on a consensus of the group, listed here are comments regarding the various shore excursions they sampled on this cruise. Bar Harbor: “Acadia Park and Lobster Bake” for $88 per person was well worth the money, but pass on the “Best of Bar Harbor” ($56 pp) as it was disappointing and could have been better done on your own. Halifax: “Titanic-The Confining Mystique”($39), the “Historical Harbor Cruise” ($27 pp) and the “Become a Lobster Expert at Lunenb

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Aug 31, 2004

Transatlantic

For us the most exciting trip is the transatlantic crossing on a new ship; of course, the draw back is that in order to do this we must first fly to Europe, since currently most cruise ships are built in Finland, Italy, France and Germany. And the Jewel of the Seas was built in Germany. Consequently, we flew to London, England from Miami, Florida, on August

29th and spent two days in this splendid city. We had been there before, so no herd like tours for us this time. We stayed at the City Inn Westminster and spent a good part of our time at Westminster Abbey, where we even observed Matins. On September 1st, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) transferred us by bus to Harwich, England (home of the Pilgrims' "Mayflower" ship). Harwich harbor has had extensive growth recently, but the best thing about departing from Harwich is the Bagpipe band which plays as the ship sails away. This is an exceedingly touching moment as the passengers realize that they are headed for the ship's maiden transatlantic voyage. The band is elegantly dressed in full Scottish apparel, kilts and all. EMBARKATION The bus deposited us and our baggage just twenty feet from the port door. Excellent! There was wheelchair assistance from the entrance. We were grateful, because there is no elevator and the ramp leading to the ship has an unusually steep incline. The Crown & Anchor Society has priority check-in for its Diamond and Platinum Members. It also greets all passengers with freshly baked cookies and lemonade. All this welcome was nice after the two hour long ride from London through the quaint English country side. Between check-in and boarding, we were in our cabin in less than thirty minutes. SHIP When RCI conceived of the Radiance Class of ships, it truly designed a modern, classically shaped liner with yacht like overtones: 90,090 gross tonnage, GTV (Gas Turbine Vessel). The first of this class was the Radiance of the Seas (2001), followed by the Brilliance of the Seas (2002), the Serenade of the Seas (2003) and finally the Jewel of the Seas (2004), which concludes this class of ships. All were built at the Meyer Werft Yard, Papenburg, Germany. Last year, RCI also concluded the building of the larger Voyager class ships, five in all (Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Navigator and Mariner of the Seas), and recently it has announced the construction of two Ultra Voyager class, soon to be the largest cruise ships in the world. The Jewel is 902 ft. long, 106 ft. wide (Panamax). It has a 28 ft. draft and cruises at 24 knots. There are three acres of glass windows, giving passengers continuous views of the seas. There are nine elevators and twelve passenger decks with a maximum passenger capacity of 2,501. This trip the ship was full to capacity with passengers of all ages, from infants to elderly, and a crew of 859. The total number of staterooms is 1055: 817 are ocean view of which 577 have balcony; 238 are interior. There are 19 wheelchair accessible cabins distributed in various categories. All cabins have interactive TV, telephone, hairdryer, computer jack, refrigerator and 110/220 volts electrical outlets. We were happy to sail again with Captain James MacDonald, Chief Purser Francois Chevalier and Maitre D' Orlando Rosa. We felt like we had returned home. The first night we saw a gorgeous sunset while dining, with the sun, a huge red ball, slowly setting in the west over the sea. Then, at 9:30pm from our balcony, we watched the full moon rise, changing colors from orange, to gold, to white by ten o'clock. The air was so clear the craters of the moon were evident. In other reviews, we have described the Jewel's sister ships in detail and we refer you to our prior reviews for details. But each ship has a specific identity which arises from her unique art work. Many pieces are in the forward and Centrum staircases. Even though we extensively use the elevators, we manage to visit the ship's staircases, where we can view the interesting art work. Deck 2 has some ocean view and interior staterooms, but mostly non public areas. Look for interesting art pieces in the forward stairs between decks 2 and 3, such as David Stuart Forbes' unique "Luggage of Babel Part I" a work in neon, wood, metal, leather and paper. In the Centrum stairs between deck 2 and 3 are Pascale Riberolles' blown glass vases "Automne - Clairette" and Paul Cox' photo collage "Tafelberg/Curacao." Deck 3 has all ocean view and interior staterooms. In the Centrum staircase between deck 3 and 4 are Lippa Dalen's earthenware "Vase" and Ramon Enrich's acrylic painting "Paysage." Deck 4 forward has the first level of the Coral Theatre, midship are staterooms and toward aft is the Centrum, with the Guest Relations Desk and Explorations Desk. This Centrum is beautiful with a marble dance floor, bar and an eight deck tall atrium with balconies on each deck. There is a water fall and orchids plus a stunning sculpture by Nico Widerberg (Norway) entitled "Northern Lights" made of aluminum, stainless steel and crystal. This sculpture is lighted by an intricate system creating an awesome effect recalling the Aurora Borealis. Here also is the portrait of the Jewel's Godmother: Kathy Mellor, the U.S. Teacher of the Year 2004. In the forward staircase between deck 4 and 5 is Miguel Chevalier's holographic film "Flow" and in the Centrum staircase is Birgit Ten Berge's oil painting "Landscapes" Aft is the Tides Dining Room, whose entrance is magnificent. There are silk draped columns, stretching all the way aft to Mouls' Mosaic of Byzantine glass, brass and copper titled the "Full Moon Swing." The colors of the dancers' clothing are emerald, amethyst, ruby and tourmaline: tones reflected by the Ship's name (RCI "Art, The Collection," 2004). Prominent in this mosaic is the full moon. With artwork like this, the dining room is simple, but dramatic and tasteful. Deck 5 & 6 are all public areas. Deck 5 forward is the main level of the Coral Theatre. Its beautiful curtain ("Reef Rhapsody") has an ocean theme evoking images of sea fans and schools of fish. Midship on Deck 5 is the conference Center, Photo Art Gallery, the shops (logo items, jewelry, perfume etc.) and the Centrum with the "Latte-tudes" coffee shop. Toward aft is the Tides Dining Room Balcony with its wine cellar walls. In the corridors leading to the dining room there are some colorful glass panel scenes. Deck 6 forward is the Coral Theatre Balcony, where we sat at the back for shows. There is an excellent view of the stage from every seat. There is a Cinema featuring the latest movies. Toward midship is the Pit Stop Sports Bar and the Casino Royale. The Champagne Bar is located near the Centrum. Toward aft is the Schooner Bar and as usual some of the most interesting art work can be found here. The model of the "Soliel Royal" (Louis XIV, the Sun King) Flagship of the French Fleet launched in 1690, is exquisite in detail. Ebbing's ceramic statue "Beatrice" is amusing with its upturned nose. The corridor to the Schooner Bar holds a wooden boat with a steering wheel which fascinates children. The entrances to Portofino and Chops Grille are here and toward aft is the Safari Club, and the Game Reserve with self leveling gyro pool tables. All the way aft is the Congo Bar. Sinclair's "Pair of Giraffes" done in painted resin and Couts' oil paintings "Cheetah" and "Zebras" are found here. Decks 7, 8, 9 & 10 are all staterooms with the exception of the Bridge located forward on 10 and the Library on deck 9 and the Concierge Club on deck 10, located near the elevators. Art work in the forward staircase, between deck 8 and 9, includes Spaans' photographs of light sculptures "Three Dancers, Blue Corner, Yellow Door" and, between deck 10 and 11, Van Munster's neon "Brainwave" and "Moi." In the Centrum staircase there are interesting photographs: Deck 6 - 7, Ellen Kooi's "Velserbroek - The Bridge" and deck 8 - 9, Jorma Puranen's "Language is a Foreign Country 1-3." Decks 11, 12 & 13 are public areas. Deck 11 forward is the Ship Shape Spa and the Solarium, Vincent's favorite area. There is a whirlpool and a lap pool. The Burmese and Thai influence here is nice and includes the following: an antique Burmese Bell, a Temple gate flanked by two Golden Elephants and Manley's "Reclining Tiger" in bronze. Midship is the outdoor pool area and aft the Windjammer buffet with casual dining. Deck 12 forward is the ShipShape Center, Gym, the jogging track, and the Crown & Anchor Society Lounge. From midship to aft are located Adventure Ocean (arcade), the Teen Pool, Sports Court with its comical Kinloch Bronze "Catch," a stout man in a bathing suit trying to get up a beach ball game. There is also the Seaview Cafe`: an excellent place for lunch -- onion rings, Cuban sandwiches, fish and chips, soups and salads -- desserts too. Deck 13 forward has the Viking Crown Lounge, with its 180 degrees view of the sea, and Hollywood Odyssey (intimate night spot) plus a putting green, mini golf course and the Rock Climbing Wall. CABIN Stateroom #7114 is one of nineteen wheelchair accessible staterooms w/ automatic door openers. When entering on the left, there is a double armoire, with a set of shelves, private safe, and a large closet. Next there is a desk/vanity with lighted mirror, T.V. and refrigerator. There are two plush blue arm chairs and a large coffee table. A glass wall faces to the verandah with sheer drapes and heavy brocade blackout drapes. We found these useful, since the passengers in the cabin next door left their balcony lights on all night. Our balcony had a large table for dining or playing cards etc., two chairs and a chaise. Very nice. When entering on the right was the huge bathroom, with a 4'X4' shower, sink, medicine cabinet and plenty of safety rails all around, and eight hooks for hanging robes and clothes. There was also a chest of drawers, a king size bed, two night stands and reading lamps -- very comfortable. Our cabin attendant Glenford O'Garro was the best! He kept everything spotless and was so cordial. Thanks Glenford. FOOD & SERVICE Hotel Director Nibu Sayed runs a tight ship. He has high expectations for the crew and we feel that they are met. Anything that we needed was promptly and pleasantly provided. On a new ship, it is difficult to have all things come together so quickly, but Nibu managed it well. The Tides Dining Room and all of the many food venues are in the capable hands of Maitre D' Orlando Rosa. If a preference is just stated, his subordinates are on it and they relay it to the waiters (or vice versa). Their motto is "please the passengers." Mary asked for lemon wedges on the first night and they were on our table every night thereafter. Our waitress Anabelle and her assistant Daniel Ford were both very efficient and pleasant. We have done enough cruises to realize that when passengers are tardy to dinner it can disrupt the pace. Meals are usually served course by course to insure freshness and proper temperature. We are always amazed when passengers stroll into the dining room fifteen to forty five minutes late. The servers work in conjunction with the galley (course by course), which may be serving more than a 1,000 meals for each seating. Fifty years ago, when we first began traveling by ship, the dining room doors were closed fifteen minutes after the stated dinner time. People are not so punctual nowadays, but courtesy is always in vogue. We used Room Service on a daily basis. Full American breakfast every morning was hot and and inviting. One night we had dinner with soup, salad, Filet Mignon and cheesecake for dessert, all served in our room elegantly. We also dined with our friend Captain MacDonald, where an excellent meal was over seen by Maitre D' Orlando. Mary, seated beside the Captain's father, had a lively conversation with this very erudite gentleman. We were also treated to an exceptional luncheon by the Group Coordinator Elmer del Fierro in the Tides balcony with its wine display cabinetry. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Jill Tasker is part of the "Take Out Team," which brings on line the new ships, thus placing RCI's stamp on every ship -- from the Concierge to the Chef. This system provides uniformity of service throughout the fleet. The RCI singers and dancers were on their final cruise and really went out with a lot of energy. We felt that by far the best production show was Tango Buenos Aires, a revue built around tango stars Ruben and Sabrina direct from Argentina. Having seen the Argentinean tango champions in Buenos Aires over two years ago, we were thrilled to see this sinuous duo. Their routine with the boles was superb. John Christie was also in fine form once again. We missed the Celtic Tenors, but were assured that they brought the house down. Music in the Centrum featured "Deja` Voo" by Theo and Zlati (Bulgaria), his "Jail house Rock" and her "More" were something. The Rosario Strings played each evening before dinner and their Bass player also sang some great renditions of Johnny Mathis hits. In the Schooner Bar, Barry from Boston entertained with Broadway show tunes. There were "Olympic Games" at the pool, Horse Races, Guest Talent Shows, "Dead Again" an interactive murder mystery, "The Quest" an adult scavenger hunt, plus the usual Bingo and Slots Tournaments. After all, five sea days are a challenge for the Cruise Director, and she was up to it. Then there was also the sea itself which treated the passengers to many beautiful sunrises and sunsets. There were dolphins frolicking in the Atlantic at dinner time. There were terns, gulls, birds and spouting whales. Then, there were the many faces of the ocean itself: calm and serene, active with swells, glistening in the sun or even shrouded in fog with the ship's fog horn sounding. Don't forget the game of figuring the ship's course. Just after leaving Cork, Ireland, Vincent was convinced that the ship was going east instead of westerly. He was puzzled until the next morning, when the Captain announced the ship had returned toward Ireland to debark a lady with acute appendicitis, foregoing the usage of a helicopter due to a thick foggy night and transferring the patient to a boat which met the ship half way. Later Captain MacDonald reassured passengers that she had been operated on and was recovering well. PORTS OF CALL Naturally on a transatlantic cruise there are five restful sea days. However, this cruise started off with exciting European cities: London, Harwich and Plymouth, England; Le Havre, France; and Cork, Ireland. Then of course across the pond there is Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. We enjoyed this itinerary and found the approach to Plymouth lovely, while Cork whet our appetite for a return to Ireland. Sept. 1, Harwich, England Depart: 5:30pm We sailed into the sunset accompanied by the Bagpipes playing traditional tunes. Sept. 2, Le Harve, France Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 10:00pm LHA Tour: Paris sightseeing with Lunch cruise on the Seine, 11 hrs., $189. This is well worth it since it tours the Normandy countryside, the major sights of Paris and serves a gourmet meal on the river. There are three other tours of similar length and price to the Beaches of Normandy, Mont St. Michel and the Alabaster Coast. Sept. 3, Plymouth, England Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 5:00pm Tendering to the port is necessary. This was the last stop for the Mayflower prior to sailing for the New World. PYG Tour: Leisurely drive & Devonshire Cream Tea, 3.5 hrs., $56. Admiring the Devonshire moors covered with heather and drinking cream tea make an unbeatable combination. Sept. 4, Ringaskiddy, Ireland Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 5:30pm Ringaskiddy is the port for Cobh and Cork. CKB Tour: Scenic Drive & Blarney Village, 3.5 hrs., $40. This took us through the countryside to the Woolen Mills; with hindsight perhaps the CKA Tour of Blarney Castle and Panoramic Cork would have been a better one, because to get so close to the castle, one might as well see it up close and personal, rather than just from afar. We didn't take the CKA tour because of the warnings describing the presence of stairs. Sometimes we find these tour warnings are a bit exaggerated. There are also excursions to the Killarney Lake region and the Waterford crystal factory. Sept. 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9, At Sea. Sept. 10, Portland, Maine Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm There are an abundance of city tours and several tours for the sports minded: kayaking and lobster fishing. PWA Tour: Portland highlights & lighthouse, 2 hrs., $29. This not only tours Portland, but also does the rocky coastline. Sept. 11, Boston, Massachusetts Arrive: 8:30am Depart 5:00pm There are two highlights of Boston City tours by bus BXA, 1.5 hrs., $45 which ends at Logan Airport and BXA, 2.5 hrs., $45 ending at the Sheraton Boston or at the Hyatt Harbor Side Hotel. However, if there is time, the better part of the day, it would be nice to do the "Freedom Trail," a walking tour by the Boston Common, Paul Revere's house, the Old North church, etc.... DEBARKATION RCI has a color/number procedure with the Immigration/passport check done several days earlier on board. Boston has a simple system with a very short distance to the baggage pickup. There were an abundance of porters, taxis and busses right at the port terminal. We were met by Mary's brother Frank and his wife Regina. Just perfect timing -- we didn't wait a second and we were off to three days in Sudbury Massachusetts, Mary's home town. SUGGESTIONS Almost every day the NY Times FAX ran out, not enough copies, but there were too many copies of the German, French, Canadian and Spanish daily news sheets. Perhaps, at the end of the day a survey on the number of unused sheets and the unfilled requests of the other language papers should suggest the number of copies to be printed for the next day. CONCLUSION This was a wonderful cruise, passengers should expect a few glitches on a new ship, but this was almost perfect. We were amazed at the gentle kindness of all the crew. This always starts from the top: Captain MacDonald should be very proud of his subordinates: Francois, Nibu and Maitre D' Orlando. It was surely a pleasure to sail with them. We are looking forward this winter to booking two more cruises on RCI ships so we'll reach the number of 25 cruises for the status of Diamond Plus in the Crown & Anchor Society. In the meantime we have already booked a cruise on the new Caribbean Princess for November. Happy Cruising!

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Jul 14, 2004

The Baltic

The start of our trip was a little disconcerting as the reps at Gatwick had no idea that we had paid for seats on the coach...but after checking their computers we were allowed on. The ship is lovely and very carefully decorated. I could not really improve on much except tea and coffee making facilities would have been nice in the cabins as on P&O. We had

a cabin on deck 3 with an oceanview, it was all really very comfortable. A little more thought could have gone into where we meet for tours as sometimes we had to walk half the length of the ship to get the sticker and then back to the middle again. My Mum is 91 and found this a bit tiresome. obviously eating in the Windjammer was a bit if a squash at times as the dining room did not open when in any port so we all converged up there 2,500 of us!!!!!!I suppose not simultaneously!!!! The ports visited were I told really worth going to but I personally prefer scenery and nature and apart from 2 dead rats stuck together hanging from an overhead wire in the street in St. Petersburg we did not see much nature!!!!!Apparently my dead rat story was nothing compared to the week before when a dead man with a noose round his neck was in the water by the ship!! We were lucky with the weather anyway...

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Nov 30, -0001

Baltic

Jewel of the Seas is a splendid ship with excellent facilities and a very helpful crew. You can hardly feel or hear the workings of the ship and its jet engines give the smoothest ride possible. The staterooms (cabins to us Brits) are small but well equipped and the public areas are of a very impressive standard. The food in the main dining room is good, but not exceptional and the Windjammer buffet restaurant offers an

informal option that can be a nice relief from the over-attentive waiters in the "Tides" dining Room. They tend to dominate their tables with constant menu advice and a desire to make sure that everything is OK. The effect is to disrupt conversation and to be a bit intrusive. Of course they are motivated by the infernal tipping system employed onboard. The ship's ambience and culture are very American and this can be a source of difficulty for the more reserved British guests. Is Bingo a popular game in America? There is a clash of culture over the heavy concentration on "shopping" onboard and onshore. American cruisers obviously need considerable advice when it comes to deciding what to buy from the ship's shops and those in the ports. One of the ship's TV channels is dedicated to this theme. We were surprised by the lack of all-in drinks etc. We had to buy more than expected. Only the most standard coffee etc. was included for free. The impression is that Royal Caribbean are trying to squeeze as much money out of their passengers as possible despite the cost of the original bookings. Our advice would be to avoid this cruise line if you find Americans too assertive and noisy, though there were at least another 50 nationalities onboard and those in larger groups were the most annoying. The entertainments in the main theatre were of mixed quality but some were excellent. According to the (British) Cruise Director several had performed for Her Majesty the Queen of England. We did not recognize their names but they turned out to be top quality entertainers nevertheless. The theatre itself would grace any British city in its equipment and facilities. The only members of the ship's staff who seemed less than warm and helpful were those at the Customer Relations Desk (ironic!). Having overheard some of the complaints and questions from some of the guests (guess which ones!) we can understand a sort of cold sense of distance creeping in. Our only other complaint was that the champagne cocktails in the Champagne Cocktail Bar were made with "Lambrini" which should never be classed as a Champagne and in Britain is regarded as a low quality and cheap sparkling wine (not even a genuine wine since it is a perry) of very modest alcohol content. We suspected that this was also used at the Captain's Champagne Reception. If so this is very disappointing behavior for the management of such a prestigious ship. Our minor complaints did not spoil a very well organized cruise in which we were taken with great security and comfort to six very interesting countries. The ship's passenger control systems are excellent and we rarely had to queue to leave or return to the ship.

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