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Michael Cole

Age: 44

Occupation:Programmer

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Jewel of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 17th, 2005

Itinerary: 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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