April 2015 - 7 Night Southern Caribbean (San Juan Roundtrip) Cruise on Jewel of the Seas
Jewel of the Seas is truly a gem out at sea
I took my 15 year old son on this cruise to experience the beautiful islands of the Southern Caribbean. Overall we had a fabulous time and I would recommend it to others. We found the Jewel of the Seas to be in great shape and clean. The dining room staff was excellent as was the food quality and choices. Our stateroom attendant took good care of us and we rarely saw him. He was unobtrusive, which was nice. The ports we visited were my driving force in booking this itinerary. It was very port intensive with only one sea day. We flew into San Juan to board the ship and the ports we went to were: St Thomas, St Kitts, Dominica, Barbados, and St Maarten.
In St Thomas we took an excursion to Tortola to swim with the dolphins. I booked this prior to sailing via Royal Caribbean. It was an enjoyable and educational time. I felt there was plenty of interaction with the dolphins and the dolphin trainer we worked with was very knowledgeable. The dolphin discovery place has photographers who take beautiful pictures for you to view and purchase afterward if you so choose-no pressure whatsoever. We did purchase the CD because we like to remember our vacation memories. The place also had clean facilities for showering/changing, a food service area, and a gift shop. It is set in a picturesque location and enjoyable to spend a day in such a park. The ferry ride over to Tortola from St Thomas is about an hour and you do have to pass through customs on each end. The tour guide gave us the appropriate paperwork to fill out in advance so everyone was well prepared, which sped up the process. There was a 15 minute ride from the ferry terminal to the dolphin discovery place each way.
On St Kitts we had booked a city highlights tour with Beaulah Mills from Welcome Tours prior to sailing. We got to meet Beaulah as soon as we walked out of the cruise ship terminal building and she walked us to our driver and made introductions so we could start off. We saw some beautiful gardens at both Palm Court and Romney Manor with opportunities to get out and walk around. Our driver pointed out many monuments, schools, hospitals, and businesses along the tour. We stopped at Timothy Hill and got to take pictures of a beautiful overlook where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet separated by a mountain. At the end of the tour you are left at a beach with unlimited beach time and at the agreed time the driver comes back to drive you back to town. We had lunch at a beach shack called Jam Rock and walked around to see all the wild monkeys and a mongoose or two. It was a fun and educational way to see St Kitts.
In Dominica we booked a tour through BJ's Travel. It took us to the Emarld Pool and Trafalgar Falls. Both places are uniquely beautiful. After visiting Trafalgar Falls (our last stop) we made a short stop to get our complimentary beverage. When we boarded the tour bus and took off all of a sudden the tour bus started making a terrible noise! A couple miles later when we started going up a steep hill the bus broke down. It was 3:50 and we were supposed to be back on Jewel by 4:30. Our tour guide called his company's office and they sent a replacement bus out to pick us up and also phoned Royal Caribbean to let them know our situation and RC held the ship for us. We wound up making it back to port to board at 4:28! That was wild! Memories...
In Barbados we booked a tour of the Agapey Chocolate factory right in Bridgetown. We walked to the factory in about 5 minutes from the cruise ship terminal and enjoyed learning about how to make dark chocolate. There were plenty of samples along the way too. It was a fun and interesting place to see. We bought several candy bars to take home as souvenirs and we knew to return to the ship and place the candy in our mini fridge right away. We then caught a taxi to the Boatyard where we enjoyed the afternoon on Carlisle Bay swimming and taking advantage of their fun facilities. There are plenty of additional packages you can buy at the Boatyard such as jet skis and swimming with the turtles. The Boatyard provides a free shuttle back to the cruise ship terminal and these shuttles leave fairly often so you can choose how long you stay at their facility. They do have a restaurant, bar, and restroom/changing facilities.
In St Maarten we did something very gutsy and left the island and took the public ferry to Anguilla. It was a self-guided tour. Although I had some anxiety I had done plenty of research online ahead of time on getting this whole thing to come together. We took a taxi from the ship terminal to Marigot, the French side capital, grabbed some food from Sarafina's (French boulangerie/patisserie) and then walked to the ferry terminal paid our fares and took the next ferry over to the beautiful Anguilla. We spent the day on Meads Bay (we got there by taxi from the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal). At 2:30 we reversed our route and took the ferry back to Marigot and picked up a taxi back to Phillipsburg where there were roads closed down for their Carnival parade. Turns out the day our ship stopped in St Maarten it was a holiday for the locals. Anyway our taxi driver had to let us out across town and give us walking directions the rest of the way. We walked about a mile but we made it in plenty of time thanks to good planning on my part.
We did splurge and treated ourselves to a delicious dinner at Chops. Chops is the specialty restaurant on the Jewel that specializes in beef. We had delicious filet mignons with all the sides we could want for. The service was outstanding as was the ambiance. It was a very relaxing enjoyable dinner.
I felt our stateroom was smaller than rooms we have had on other cruise lines yet there was plenty of storage space for everything we brought. We enjoyed having a balcony cabin on Deck 7. Several times a day I sit out on the balcony and just soak in the views. Does it get any better than that?
I have nothing but good things to say about my vacation. I do my homework ahead of time and research the things I want to do so there are no disappointments. Jewel is a beautifully decorated vessel that is sure to please every step of the way.