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Ann

Age: 46

Occupation:Professor

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Jewel of the Seas

Sailing Date: January 2nd, 2006

Itinerary: 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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