For only their second cruise, Douglas Miller and his wife switched from P&O to Royal Caribbean International and headed for Italy and the Greek islands. Were they wise to make the change? Read Douglas’s report below and judge for yourselves.
We cruised on Jewel of the Seas, a 90,000 ton ship, writes Douglas Miller. Our accommodation was a balcony cabin, with plenty of storage/hanging space, and a separate shower room.
The food on board was excellent and very plentiful – this is not a holiday for those who are trying to lose weight! There is self-service in the ‘Windjammer’, and a more formal dining experience in the ‘Tides’ restaurant. I found the service outstanding. All the waiting staff were very friendly and helpful. The ship manages to cater extremely well to almost 3,000 passengers – quite a feat. There are variable meal times too, so one is not tied to strict seating times in the ‘Tides’ dining area. The ship also offered specialist dining at ‘Chops’ steakhouse, a fine Italian restaurant, and a sushi restaurant, all at extra cost. We purchased an additional package to try them all and found them good, but next time I’d be quite happy with the standard dining at ‘Tides’.
Drinks packages were available to cater to those who wanted soft drinks only, or alcohol as well. You didn’t have to buy a package but better quality coffees, teas, fizzy drinks, bottled water, and alcohol of course, were charged for otherwise.
The excursions were excellent: well planned and conducted by knowledgeable and friendly guides. Travel to and from the sites we visited was well organised and often much better than if we’d organised the travel ourselves. For example, the trip up to the clifftop at Santorini, as organised by the cruise staff, avoided a time-consuming cable car journey up the hillside that other tours couldn’t avoid. Advertised shore excursions are subject to change for safety reasons and our original itinerary included Ephesus in Turkey, but this was altered by Royal Caribbean to include an additional Greek island that was considered safer.
Security is taken seriously, and this is not a problem. I found it re-assuring that both I and my bags were checked carefully when we re-embarked after each excursion. You don’t need your passport to visit a foreign destination once on board, but you must show your ‘sea-pass’, a credit card-sized card that is also the only means by which you can pay for services/goods on the ship.
A minor niggle was the constant requests for official photos by camera-wielding photographers: they were ever-present as you embarked, disembarked, and at meals or afterwards in the lounges, all with the intention of charging you for a photographic package. Wi-fi for personal devices was expensive and charged per device, per day – something RCI should offer more cheaply in my opinion.
The entertainment and leisure facilities were very good; we were offered the latest cinema screenings, cliff-face climbing, crazy golf, swimming pools, a comprehensive gym, a health spa, a casino, a sports bar, several lounges, and good quality and varied evening shows in the theatres. The on-board shops offered essentials and higher-end perfumes, handbags, watches and jewellery.
Many passengers were repeat cruisers, and Royal Caribbean has a popular loyalty programme to reflect this. If you wish to see many different sights (and sites) it is a great advantage to visit these destinations on a floating hotel, which feeds you very well and allows you the luxury of not having to pack and unpack for each stop.