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Gail Holmes

Age: 53

Occupation:911 Dispatcher

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Jewel of the Seas

Sailing Date: September 10th, 2007

Itinerary: 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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