We (husband, sister/brother-in law and I) were looking forward to our first cruise on Royal Caribbean since booking the cruise in January. We weren't disappointed! The Jewel still smells 'new' and is a beautiful ship with lots of light everywhere. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around the entire ship and not get lost.
We flew into Boston from Florida and after experiencing 4 hurricanes in a little over a month (although with minimal property damage), we were concerned about weather conditions during October in New England and Canada. Happy to report that the seas were very calm and the weather, although a bit cool, was perfect. We were told that the temperatures were warmer than usual during September, so the fall foilage was still in brillant color.
Embarkation: The process in Boston was organized. We claimed our luggage, watched it loaded into the truck, then met the RCCL rep who took groups of about 20 people to the transfer bus. As we previously completed our pre-board documentation on-line, this process went very smoothly as did security.
Stateroom: Our balcony cabin was on deck 7 which was a great location. Above all the hustle and bustle on decks 4 and 5. Our room attendant was always at hand (not like some cruises where you think the 'invisable man' was in your cabin). As we have cruised before, we were not disappointed by the size of the cabin and were pleased with the storage space and bathroom/shower facilities.
Public Rooms: There was a lot of very attractive art work throughout the ship. The atrium bar was the most active area in the evenings with live music and dancing. There were 3 formal nights with a multitude of ship photographers to take pictures with an array of different backdrops. Captain 'James' and his officers were very gracious. The Captain made numerous announcements informing guests of weather conditions, ports of call, etc. which we appreciated.
Casino: The casino could have been a little larger, but being one of the many jackpot winners, I really can't complain!
Spa: My sister-in-law and I took advantage of the discount offered during one afternoon to treat ourself to a 'hot stone massage'. These are wonderful and very relaxing. The staff was friendly and competent.
Shows: The showroom was big and most seating was good except for some upper deck seats with obstructed views of the stage. The 'headliner' shows were excellent and I was told the staff production shows were also good. This being the case, you had to arrive early to get seats together.
Tides Dining Room/Food/Staff: We were fortunate enough to get a table for 4 along side a window and were able to watch the sunset during dinner. The food was good and well presented and our waitstaff was excellent; offered their opinion for the best selection on the menu each evening and gave us updates on ports of call. Would like to have seen a larger selection of sugar-free/low fat desserts, however. Breakfast in the Tides dining room and Windjammer was basically the same every morning. Did enjoy the freshly made omlets in the Windjammer.
Ports of Call
Bar Harbor: Took the Best of Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park tour which was excellent. Would recommend.
Halifax: Took the Horse-Drawn Trolley in the morning - would recommend. In the afternoon took the Tea at the Cidatal tour which was very interesting and our tour guide was extremely knowledgable. Would recommend.
Sydney: Took the Alexander Graham Bell Museum tour. Informative. Would recommend only if you have a great interest in Bell and his works.
Cruising the Saguenay River: Unbelievable! What a beautiful, serene, peaceful cruise between the rocks! We watched from our balcony, therefore, could not hear any of the narration as it was not broadcast into the cabins - pity!
Quebec City: Took the Best of Quebec City and Island of Orleans tour. There was nothing I didn't like about this city and area. Just beautiful. Had time to go back out in the evening to do some shopping in the quaint streets of Old Quebec City. Would highly recommend.
Saint John: Well, if there had to be a low-light of this cruise, this was it! We took the much anticipated "Moosehead Brewery & Saint John Highlights" tour and were very disappointed. The major complaint was our tour guide, John. Sorry RCCL, but John needs to RETIRE! Had no answers to any of our questions about the area, but was very good at telling jokes and poems and seemed to be right at home in one of the local pubs that we visited. Also, if that wasn't bad enough, the brewery, because of 'security reasons' , does not allow visitors into the actual brewing, bottling area, but instead, sat us in a conference room and showed us a video. We were also taken thru the famous "City Market" and I have only one question - Does this place ever have health inspections? Check out other Saint John tours offered - don't waste your money on this one!
Portland: Took the Best of Portland and Kennebunkport Tour. Again, there was nothing I didn't like about this area. Beautiful scenery; just what I would expect New England to look like. Highly recommend.
And, last, but not least - Debarkation: Once you've cruised, you know what to expect. On the last night, luggage tags are delivered to the cabin which are color coded. This is the color assigned to you at debarkation. You are assigned to wait in a specific area of the ship until your color is called. All went well until we retrieved our luggage (we had 2 bags each - 8 total). A porter managed to get them all on one carrier and deposited them on the sidewalk next to one of the many buses lined up departing for the airport.
Well, unfortunately, the bus that our bags were dropped next to was already full of luggage and passengers. We were told to move our bags along down the row of buses to see where there was room. While my husband and brother-in-law had some words with the person in charge of this operation, I managed to get at least one bag to the next bus and it was put on. We then had to retrieve all the rest of the bags, cart them around to the driver's side of the bus (passenger side luggage compartment was full) and stand out in the street to be sure they all were put on board! This entire procedure was disorganized, frustrating and totaly unacceptable!
All in all, we had a wonderful time on a new, beautiful ship with a great itinerary. If you go in 2005, enjoy!