PRE-CRUISE--Got a room at the Mariott Marina via priceline for only $74.00! Be sure to ask for a tower room overlooking the port. Went to the cruisemates party at 7:00 to meet other cruisemates that were cruising and some that came to the get together just to meet everyone. It was fun for all. Got to meet Kuki and his wife, Geela, Karl and Karen, Vacation Queen and Boo, and their friends, and Onemantax and his wife. This was my husband Tom and mine's 6th cruise, and are in our mid 40's. We have cruised RC 3 times, and Carnival 3 times, all in the past 2 years.
EMBARKMENT--Mariott Marina has a free shuttle to the port. We did not sign up for it as usually you have to wait for it. While waiting in the cab line, the shuttle comes along, filled up and left, and we were waiting, lol. Then, our cab comes, so we get to the port just behind the shuttle, and pay $10.00, and it is only about 10:30AM. They started to board the ship at 11:00, and we were on by 11:20. They had the hallway doors closed off, and we were not allowed to our cabins until 1:00PM. So we headed up to the Windjammer for some lunch. They began serving at noon. There were many people there, but with many serving stations, not a line. There were 2 salads and fruits, 2 hot foods, a sandwich and soups, and 2 dessert stations. After lunch, we went to our cabin to drop off our carry ons and went to explore the ship. We went to the top deck and walked around looking at all the ships in port. We were docked next to the QM2. Very large ship, but it reminded me of the Titanic. Very formal looking, with black bottom and white top with a red smokestack. Went back to the cabin to find our luggage had all arrived, so I unpacked.
OUR CABIN--We were in 9519, interior, forward cabin. The cabins are spacious with a small couch (seats 2) and the closet had plenty of hangers, and shelves down the middle for storage. There are 6 drawers in the vanity/desk for storage, but are rather small. You can store your suitcases under the bed. I also called housekeeping to ask for 2 of the terry robes to use for the week. Then we were off to the lifejacket drill, which is mandatory. You have to check in, and cannot leave until everyone on board has checked in.
THE SHIP--The ship is just beautiful. There are many painting throughout. The Solarium is done in Asian theme full of statutes and plants. This area became one of my favorite, as it is covered and the weather was a bit chilly on our sea days. The atrium is I believe, 9 stories high, and is just beautiful.
LEAVING PORT--Time to leave at 5:00, and Kuki had invited us down to his aft cabin, so we went to join them. The winds had died down, and it had cleared up, and we were off to a good start.
DINNER--We had originally booked late seating, and since most of the cruisemates had early, we changed ours to early. No problem. We sat at a table of 6. Unfortunately, one of our cruisemates had to leave the ship from San Juan, so Kuki invited us to sit with them for dinner the remaining evenings. The dress code was as follows, 1-casual, 2-formal, 3-smart casual, 4-50's & 60's, 5-casual/caribbean, 6-casual/country & western, 7-formal, and 8-casual. The dinners IMO, were very tasty. Some of the entrees we had were prime rib, filet mignon, lobster, turkey dinner. We went to Chops one night with the cruisemates, there were 13 of us, a table of 6 and 7. The food was exceptionally good, and the service was excellent. Our first experience at the alternative dining, and well worth the $20. charge pp.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the windjammer every day. At breakfast, they have the fresh egg station, with eggs cooked to order. Lots of fresh fruit, rolls, bacon, pancakes, waffles, menu seemed the same every day. We usually went between 7:30 and 8:00 and never encountered lines.
Lunch was very similar every day and the food was very tasty. Afternoon snacks served from 3:00 to 5:00. The seaview cafe is also tasty, with limited hours, but fresh to order sandwiches, nachos, onion rings, desserts and milkshakes (which you had to pay for). The solarium also had snacks and sandwiches, fresh fruits and fresh made to order crepes, the strawberry were very delicious.
Night 3 was the Chocolate buffet, with the largest chocolate covered strawberries I have ever seen. Get there early, as the good things get picked over, and they run out of some things. Night 5 was a poolside area midnight caribbean buffet. Lots of great food to choose from, tacos and nachos and dessert for me!
Night 7 was the Grand Gala buffet in the dining room. IMO, this was just ok, not as fancy as I had expected, and no chocolate covered strawberries!
ENTERTAINMENT-- Night 1-Jewel Expo-a review of the entertainment for the week Night 2-Judy Kolba a comedian w/songs. At first, I thought she wasn't very good, but she livened it up and was quite a hoot overall. Night 3-Magic of Drew Thomas-excellent show. I am still amazed at how they cut up the lady and wheel her apart and put her back together again. The "lady" is Drew's new wife, after 2 yrs. of working together. Night 4-West End to Broadway-nice show. Night 5-John Christie-can't remember much about this show Night 6-had to change shows as the seas were very rough, so Kelly Montuth, a comedian did his show a day early. He was a real riot. Very entertaining. Night 7-City of Dreams-the RC singers and dancers preformed an excellent show. Well worth the wait. Night 8-the Gizmo Guys, jugglers and comedians. Very good and they choose Tom out of the audience to go up on stage to participate. They blindfolded him, had him hold a straw with his teeth, and proceeded to juggle bowling pins back and forth in front of him trying to knock the straw out of him mouth!
TIME CHANGE-This is the first cruise we changed our clocks. The first night at sea, we moved our clocks ahead by 1 hour to be on island time in San Juan. We then moved the clocks back after visiting St. Thomas so we got back our hour the second day at sea to catch up on the much needed sleep.
THE QUEST-The wildest "adult game" at sea. This should be rated "R". It's like a scavenger hunt and it is hilarious. Be sure to not miss this. The cruisemates group were the winners and we all got t-shirts!
PORTS OF CALL San Juan--coming into port is an excellent view of the old fort and if you haven't toured it, it is very interesting. We had done that last time, so we just got off the ship and walked around old san juan, and they have public phones that you can make a call for 50cents for 2 minutes back to the states. Nice to check in at home, or call your friends at work to harass them.
St. Maarten--Our first time here, we hired a taxi driver for the day, and he drove us around the island and showed us many photo opps, stopped in Marigot to do a little " straw market" shopping, got good buys on beach towels and a beach bag. Then we went to Orient beach, and stayed for about 2 1/2 hours. The driver was back at our arranged time, and he took us back to town, where we then paid him the $80. and tipped him $10. He was very informative and the day was very interesting. We then did some shopping in town, and I found a slide for my omega necklace which is an X of diamonds one way, and emeralds the other. I have been looking for one since our first cruise, when I didn't get it in Aruba. I also picked up a small omega bracelet.
St. John's Antigua--first time here and booked a tour called Eli's eco tour. Got picked up at 10:00 AM at the dock on Eli's 52ft. boat for 6 hours of sightseeing of the North sound area, stop @bird island and hiked up to overlook the atlantic on one side and the caribbean on the other. Had a lunch of barbque chicken, tossed salad, pasta salad, plantains and banana bread. Also, lots of drinks of passion fruitjuice, pop, water and rum punch on the way home. Then, we went over to snorkel and see "hell's gate" which is a natural bridge of coral rock formation with a cave to walk through. This tour was the highlight of our cruise and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Eli was born on the island, and grew up there, and is very knowledgeable.
St. Thomas--2nd time here and had been to Meagans bay, so we were going to go over to St. Johns on our own for the day, and we were really disappointed in the weather. Waters were very choppy and the ship canceled their excursions to St. Johns, so we decided to just walk into town for some shopping and sightseeing. Rained for about 1/2 hour while there, and became very overcast, so no more sunshine. Went back to the ship to relax for the afternoon. Did buy a "parma" designer purse at the straw market.
Nassau, the Bahamas--2nd visit here, so we got off the ship, shopped a little at the straw market, and got a very tiny LV purse at the straw market along with some of the necklaces and anklets. Another day of clouds and overcast.
The 2 days at sea--very rough waters, the first night, I actually got seasick, woke up at 3AM, and was very nauseated. Put on the sea bands, but too late. After I got some food in my stomach, about 9AM, took some myclezine, which the pursers desk was handing out like candy, lol. I continued to take these while at sea days, and I experienced no side effects. The air was chilly, and it was cold to lay on deck, so we spend lots of time by the solarium pool, reading and relaxing.
Debarking--since we were staying one night post cruise, we stayed on until the end. Called off about 9:45AM, and went to get our luggage. Outside the cruise terminal, was poorly organized. We waited for over an hour just to get a taxi to the Amerisuites, which I had gotten on Hotwire at a decent price. Once there, we see they had a shuttle that would have been free from the port. We did know they had the shuttle to the airport, but never saw it at the port. Now we know for next time.
OVERALL--The ship is a real beauty. We will not cruise again during the months of january and february in the eastern caribbean. Too many sea swells and a bit rough ride for my liking. I would definitely cruise the Jewel again and highly recommend it.
The best part of the cruise was being welcomed into the cruisemates family with open arms. I would especially like to thank Kuki and his wife Geela for all their enjoyable cruise stories. It was a pleasure to cruise with them, and also, chat host, Mary Lou and her husband Gary, of which we only live about an hour away from, and our new friends Steve and Jill from Washington (the expert in the Quest game), and Karl and Karen from Florida, which I enjoyed talking about cruising and shopping. Since we are all cruiseaholics, we never ran out of things to talk about. I look forward to my next cruise with the cruisemates family and meeting more of you!