(I intended this to be short, but somehow it grew.)
I was on the 1/9/05 Jewel of the Seas 6 night cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, stopping at Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman (and one day at sea). Iím not going to write a day-by-day review, just some comments and observations.
I loved the beauty of the ship. Just gorgeous. Lots of glass and chrome. The Centrum is stunning. So different looking from daytime to night time.
I thought the food in the Tides Dining Room (where we ate every night) was fair. Not great, just fair . . . and Iím not a particularly fussy person when it comes to eating. Our wait persons (Laarni and Michael) were just great. Very accommodating and friendly. I was disappointed that (unlike Holland America) there are no more flaming desserts prepared in front of you anywhere on the ship. HAL stopped doing them in the dining room as has RC, but HAL still does them in a separate lounge following dinner for all who want them. Also, HAL still has the Parade of Baked Alaska. Jewel did not, or even offer it on its menu. I know itís corny, but it is tradition. RC did have the wait/kitchen staff gather on the stairs two different nights and sing a song which was fun though.
I had originally requested late dining, table for 2. The late dining was confirmed when I got my cruise docs. However, when we went to the maitreíd at the entranceway to the Tides D.R. as soon as we boarded, I was told that we could NOT get a table for 2 at the LATE seating, but if we wanted to switch to early seating (6:00-6:45 sit down) we could. We agreed to switch to get that table for two, and it was a nice one on the main floor (deck 4) right next to one of the large porthole windows where we could watch the ocean go by. Glad we did that in the long run since I deal with a great many people during my normal business day and on vacation I would just as soon eat with just my traveling companion.
Re bringing sodas on board, we had absolutely no problem. I bought a rolling cooler from Wal-Mart for $20 before leaving for the cruise, put some sodas in it (as well as some snack size munchies) and rolled that sucker right on there. As someone here posted earlier, security belt that you put your carry-onís through are NOT RC personnel run, but hired by the Port and they are not looking for soda, etc., only harmful items. I really donít think RCCL cares one way or the other was the impression I got about sodas/water. The only time I saw a sign posted about bringing liquor back on board after being at one of the port stops was posted at the entranceway at the gangway.
We got to Port Everglades at 1:15 p.m., took us all of maybe 15 minutes tops to get on the ship. Plenty of people rolling regular carry on suitcases with them so ours didnít stand out at all, if youíre worried about that, but itís really no problem.
I was glad we did bring sodas since I like to have one in the cabin and itís easier than ordering room service and, no, itís not because I donít want to spend the money. My traveling companion and I both bought the soda card, which were $41.40 per person total, including the gratuity that they tack on. Although you never ďneedĒ to add anything else when ordering a soda (which I didnít do at the stand in the Windjammer buffet), I did throw in a dollar in cash when I ordered from a waiter in the theater or at the Seaview Cafť. I know it means a lot to them and a buck here or there isnít going to kill me.
We had the ďfamedĒ 9256 cabin and yes, the aft corner balcony is wonderful! Had two loungers, two chairs, and small table. Now, I must tell you that upon the suggestion of another poster here on this board, before I left for this cruise I ordered over the Internet a thing called a ROLL-A-TABLE, and boy was I glad I did. Itís basically a camping table (about the size of a card table) that completely rolls up to a small carry-on and sets up in about 2 minutes. We set it up the first day on the ship, put it out on the balcony and ordered room service for breakfast every day and ate on it. Let it sit out there all week. It never got in the way. Was just terrific. Even without having the larger size balcony of this corner aft cabin, I can see that this table would fit on the regular size balcony too. Trust me, if you enjoy having meals out on your verandah, then order yourself one of these. The cost was around $40, but I think it was worth every penny as I will use it on all future cruises as well.
Speaking of room service, we ordered breakfast every day and it was there hot and on time every day. Plus, they give you a call on the phone about 5 minutes before they are delivering so you have time to pull yourself together in case you are still sleeping. That was a nice touch.
The cabin attendant Virginia was very nice, made the towel animals, and overall did a very good job. When we boarded she asked if we had any special requests (which we did, being I wanted to get two robes). Also, told her I had brought some of my own sodas and could she keep us in ice. Gave her $20 up front when I made these requests. The first night Ė no robes, no extra ice. The next day there the robes were when we came back to the cabin at one point, along with extra ice. Some days she would remember the EXTRA ice, some days not, but that was okay. She always filled the regular ice bucket each time she was in the room. I put some of my sodas in the refrigerator and just pushed ďtheirsĒ back. No problem. Had read they can empty it, but didnít bother with that.
A comment about some of the shipís furniture. The beige metal chairs used in the outside portion of the Windjammer at the very back of the ship are designed wrong, as are the loungers in the Solarium (which is beautiful by the way). The chairs in the back of Winderjammer hit your back too high and the arms are just slightly too high as well. The loungers in the Solarium are hard (not as comfortable as they look) and somehow donít hit you right when youíre lying on them. Iím 6í3Ē and my friend is 5í10Ē and both of us thought this about the furniture.
Also, one of the two styles of loungers around the ship are not quite right. We had one of each on our balcony. The most predominant one around the shipís pools and decks have this high curved arch for each arm rest, which are basically useless since they are really too high to rest your arms on. Strange. I canít imagine what the designer of this furniture was thinking when they were designed.
I went to most of the shows. Again, fair. I thought one of the best shows I ever saw at sea was back in 2000 on the Sea Princess. The singers and dancers here give it their all, but there really were no ďknock-outĒ voices or ďoutstandingĒ personalities. I kept thinking so this is where Miss Runner-Runner up goes from Miss America pageant. You gotta give it to them, they work really hard and do their best. Saw them one night when they were off stage up in the gym doing a dance rehearsal at 11:00 p.m.! The costumes Ė the usual glitzy stuff.
Oh! I did end up booking on Tuesday on the ship for Thursday for the Grand Cayman Swim for $45. I debated doing it spontaneously at the pier, but wasnít up to running from place to place or not knowing who Iíd be going with. It turned out just great. The guys on the Tortuga boat (sponsored by RCCL) were wonderful and made sure everyone got a chance to hold and kiss a stingray, if they wanted. Iíd say there were about 50 on our double-decker boat. Yes, it had a bathroom if you needed it. At the sandbar, there must have been at least 15 boats gathered in a loose circle, but everyone had plenty of room and was lots of fun splashing around and feeding the rays. Yes, they provided squid to give them as well. Tipped one of the boat guys $5 for the two of us upon getting off.
Well, I could prattle on but just wanted to put some thoughts to paper. If anyone has any question, please ask and Iíll see if I can answer.
Oh, with regard to dress for dinner. There was one formal, one smart casual and the rest casual. Formal I wore my black suit. I think I saw about 2 men in tuxes at the early seating. That was about it. Smart casual in the daily Compass guide was Wednesday so I wore nice khakis, white shirt and tie, no jacket. Well, boy was I over dressed. Almost all men were in casual. Now, here is whatís strange. On Thursday, which was listed as Casual in the Compass (and what we wore), many men AND women were dressed Formal. I didnít get it. I know on 7 night cruises usually the Thursday night is one of the two Formal nights, but here it specifically listed one of each, so I didnít get what was happening. I just assumed they didnít check their Compass for the day. No problem, just strange. Better over dressed than under, I guess. I did actually see one old man in his 70s dressed in shorts on night at dinner and another night a Brazilian woman had on skin tight jeans. Whatever, just too bad people canít at least TRY to comply with the suggested dress code.
All in all, it was a great week. Cabin 9256 verandah is great. Sold on aft cabins now, especially corner ones. Left the door propped open almost all week and the noise from the wake was like sleeping to a white noise machine. Wonderful!
Well, any questions or comments, fire away.