Third Mate

Hometown: Texas
Joined: 05/18/2011
Helpful Votes

About magicandbird


Cruise Lines: Royal Caribbean

Ports: Oranjestad, Aruba


magicandbird's Past Cruises

Jewel of the Seas

June 2014 - Jewel of the Seas to Caribbean - Southern

Great Week on the Jewel

My wife and I took this 7 night southern Caribbean cruise to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and we had an absolutely wonderful time. Overall we did not enjoy it as much as our 10 year anniversary cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas but other than a few relatively minor things this cruise was fantastic and just what we needed.


We arrived very early to the San Juan cruise terminal, dropped off the bags with the porters and were quickly through check in, security and on board the ship. Once aboard we noticed a gathering around the various tables where RCL was selling drink packages, spa packages, etc. This created quite the bottle neck right as you first enter the atrium area and is something RCL should consider moving. Once we navigated through the small crowd, we were up at Windjammer for some lunch. Windjammer is a buffet and like nearly every other buffet I have been to, the food is average. Other than for the date of embarkation we typically try to avoid Windjammer or any of the other buffets on board cruise ship. Later in the cruise we were reminded why when people were acting like it was their last meal and had zero regard for line etiquette or personal space. After eating lunch, our cabins were now ready and we went to drop off our carry on bags. Our cabin, an aft balcony was incredible. Surprisingly spacious with lots of little areas for storage. They sacrificed space in the bathroom to build more space into the cabin which is fine by me. After dropping the bags, we left the ship to walk around Old San Juan. The cab fare from the cruise terminal to Old San Juan was $15-$20 depending on who you spoke to (get a price up front before jumping in the cab). We toured the forts of Cristobal and Morro and had a great time before returning to the ship. By the time we returned our luggage had arrived and our cabin steward Olman had already placed them in our room for us. If there was anything we needed during our cruise relating to our cabin, Olman was on it and I could not have been more impressed with his level of service.


This particular cruise hit the ports of St. Croix, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados and I will write about each of the ports in the port review portion so I will not waste time here. The ship itself was clean well kept. If you looked hard enough you could find some area that need to be refreshed but there was nothing that just jumped out at you as a glaring issue as some others have written. The service in the dining room from Robert and Domingos was top notch. They went out of their way to greet the guests, explain the menu and get to know our dining habits. Overall the food in the dining room was excellent and I was pleased with the quality of food and variety of options. If you cannot find something to eat on the menu, you are either not trying or arguably one of the most picky eaters on the planet. One nice thing about this cruise compared to others is that the bar staff is not in your face about trying to sell drinks. On other cruises you feel like you are constantly being hounded to be nickel and dimed but not the case here. Thanks to cross marketing promotions we were able to dine in Chops one evening and it was excellent. Being from Texas, we take our steak seriously and Chops delivered. Every item we had was wonderful and the service was equal to the quality of the food.


The entertainment options is where this cruise has some concerns. On several nights, there was only one show offered which made it very inconvenient to attend if you were dining in the dining room during either of the time slots. You were either at dinner or prepping for dinner during the show time. On other nights when two shows were offered, the times did not seem to make sense. On every other cruise we have been on the show times exactly corresponded with the dining times so that while one group is eating the other is watching the show and vice versa. The Coral Theater itself was nice and I do not see the issues with the quality of the theater others have noted. That said I have only cruised with RCL, Carnival and Norwegian so maybe that plays some role in the dynamic. Other than the comedians, the show quality was not very good. This was particularly the case with the production show West End to Broadway. Whomever designed this show from the production value to the costume design to the music choices (for the most part) should lose their job as the show was a complete mess. I think the singers and dancers were talented enough but they were dealt a very bad hand with the show design. We did not make it to the other production show or the two variety shows. The production show by choice and the variety shows because of the aforementioned scheduling issues.


Disembarkation was great until we got to customs which is always a pain but seemed to take longer than it needed to. Having previously cruised with RCL we were allowed to stay in the upstairs dining area and disembark at our leisure which was a nice bonus. Overall this was a great cruise where we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


St. Croix - Due to the limited number of excursions available non of which appealed to us, we decided to make this a beach day. We walked off the cruise pier and turned left and just went to the beach right there by the pier. The beach chairs were $7 each. There were restrooms available as were several bar areas. The beach was nice but once in the water it was very rocky until you got out too deep to matter. We had a great time but this is a port the cruise lines should either avoid or poor some money into it as they have done elsewhere to make it more appealing.


St. Maarten - Having previously been to St. Maarten we decided to go to Maho Beach to experience the planes as they land and take off at the nearby airport. Originally we were only going to stay at Maho for a little while and then venture over to Orient Beach. Partly due to cab fare and partly due to our pleasant surprise at the quality of beach at Maho we decided to spend the majority of our day there and then go back to the cruise ship. This was a lot of fun and a great experience. Just note if you are anywhere in proximity to the beach area behind the runway when one of the big jets is set for takeoff, you will be sand blasted as the jet exhaust shoots the sand around at high rates of speed.


Antigua - This was the highlight of our cruise. Antigua is a beautiful island and our excursion allowed us to experience it all. Our tour consisted of a land/historical tour during the bus ride to the launching point of our excursion. We boarded boats and headed to the kayak portion where we kayaked through the mangroves and got to see a variety of sea life. The kayak portion was much longer than expected and although tiring was well worth it. We then hiked to the top of one of the islands points where we were blessed with breathtaking views of the island. It wrapped up with some snorkeling which was nice. Overall, this was our favorite island and excursion for the trip.


St. Lucia - St. Lucia is another beautiful and picturesque island with the Pitons as its most prominent feature. The Pitons are majestic and can be seen from just about anywhere on the island. Our tour took us through the banana plantations where we got to sample the local bananas, toured the fishing villages, visited the volcano, enjoyed the sulfur mud baths, swam in the a waterfall and dined at a postcard worthy resort overlooking the Pitons. It finished off with a short stroll on one of the beaches. Arguably the most picturesque of the islands we visited.


Barbados - Barbados was a lot of fun and were it not for the crowds at a couple of the snorkel stops, I would have scored this higher. We took the catamaran and snorkel tour which apparently there are a ton of companies offering the same tour with the same stops at the same time as part of their offering. We snorkeled at the shipwrecks where we got to see a wide variety of fish as well as several of the wrecks in the area. We then moved over to snorkel with the sea turtles and while there were not as many as I had hoped, it was a great treat to swim with these animals in such close proximity. We wrapped up as we anchored about 100 yards off shore for lunch and then you could stay on board and drink, swim to the beach or just swim around the catamaran. Whichever you chose you were sure to have a good time. Our crew was great and went out of their way to make sure everyone had a great time.

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Carnival Fascination

December 2012 - Carnival Fascination to Caribbean - Bahamas

Great Time for NYE

The NYE cruise of the Carnival Fascination is its last before going in for a two week dry dock and as such there may be several changes from the contents of this review. Embarkation We elected to park up the street for $8.00 per day versus the cruise terminal for $15.00. Jacksonville is a smaller port and does not have a parking garage, etc. so it seemed silly to pay extra for comparable service. The shuttle took us right to the porters so there were no real issues. Getting through the security check, check in and on boarding was a breeze. It was quick and painless. The ship was a bit late getting back from the previous cruise which was a minor inconvenience but did seem to throw everything off a bit (especially once on board). Cabin and Ship The Fascination is an older ship and the two week dry dock was probably a welcome sight for this old girl. The ship, despite it's age was still in good shape and for the most part well cared for. The common areas and dining rooms were clean and overall no real issues concerning the ship itself. My family had two exterior staterooms with an adjoining door. The cabins were still being cleaned well after the 1:30 target time (likely due to the late arrival). One of our cabins was missing a robe which was quickly replaced when asked. The other clearly had been occupied by savages at some point previously. The desk light did not work but was quickly repaired, the toilet stank even after it was cleaned and a couple of the desk drawers were broken. For standard cabins, they were spacious (185 square feet compared to 140 or less on other ships) and the beds comfortable. Dining Other than lunch on the day of embarkation and the obligatory grazing at random hours, all of our meals were consumed in the dining room. The food was very good with a wide variety. At no point was there a meal I did not like. The service was adequate the first night but vastly improved after that. The Mongolian grill, pizza and deli were all good as well. The food was enjoyed by everyone in my group and we had no complaints regarding quality, options, temperature, etc. Our server, Dwi, was excellent after the first day but will be on a different ship after his vacation during the ship's dry dock. Entertainment The welcome aboard show was the standard variety show one would expect from a cruise's first show. A little singing, a little dancing and a little comedy. The singers and dancers were OK in this performance but were vastly better in the production of "Far From Over". This show was very entertaining (get there early to ensure a good sight line). Unfortunately, this was the last performance of this show. As for the comedians Mark Hawkins was awful in my opinion and his adult only shows were worse. Azeem, however, was hysterical and his adult only shows were equally entertaining. The guy could literally do a 20 minute bit just picking on people in the audience. On the last night, the entertainment featured an action comedian of Michael James who was only minimally entertaining. Ports of Call Key West - We did our own self guided walking tour of the historical areas (Hemmingway's house, Light House, and Truman's Little White House). All have fees for actual admission into the structures so be prepared if you want to go in and get the full experience. Fees were from $30 to almost $60 for a family of four between the sites. While on shore we had some Cuban tapas from El Meson de Pepe which were very good and frozen, chocolate dipped key lime pie slices from the Key West Key Lime company. The port is nice with a lot of history and would definitely like to go back. Nassau - My wife and I had previously been to Nassau on another cruise and while we would have loved to take the kids to Atlantis on Paradise Island the $120 usage fee plus taxi was not in our budget. Instead we chose to walk to Junkanoo Beach (about a 15 minute walk after you leave the port area. The beach was nice with a lot of offerings and best of all no admission. While on shore, we had Conch Fritters from the Conch Fritter Restaurant. Avoid this place as it was overpriced and the food was not that good. There are likely other places to sample conch which would be better. Disembarkation The inability of people to follow directions is the biggest nightmare for cruise passengers (and probably the line as well) and is the biggest drag for the disembarkation process. As opposed to waiting in their rooms or the designated common areas, everyone crowded in the hallway of the riviera deck making it near impossible for us to get out of our cabins when our time was called. Fortunately, a family from Alabama (roll tide) let us out and from that point forward the process was quick and painless. The shuttle back to the parking lot was a brief wait and we were on our way home by 9:30. Overall this was a great cruise and it was enjoyed by everyone in my family.

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Norwegian Spirit

June 2011 - Norwegian Spirit to Caribbean - Western

p I have previously sailed twice...

p I have previously sailed twice with Carnival and once with RCL and had great experiences on each with the RCL ranking a notch above the other two. As this was my first experience with NCL I was both excited and anxious for this trip. I will preface the review with my family and I had a great time on our / br / We travelled to New Orleans the day before the cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome location. The decision was made primarily on the fact that they offered complimentary shuttle service to the majority of NOLA areas we were interested in visiting, complimentary shuttle service to the pier, and complimentary parking in their parking garage. That said, the day of the cruise we checked out of the hotel at 10:15, shuttled to the pier, arriving at about 10:30 and by 11:00 we were checked in and seated in the waiting area. We were on the ship within 30 minutes where we were welcomed by cheering crew members and an impressive atrium area. Upon embarkation there are areas for shore excursions, specialty dining, art auction, golf lessons, basically everything you might need. This is good as the state rooms would not be ready until 2:00 and this information is regularly shared over the ship#39;s communication / br / As for the ship, overall, she is in very good shape. The Spirit was well kept in the majority of areas and they are borderline germaphobic on this ship with sanitizers and such throughout. After embarking and taking a quick look around we went to have lunch at the Raffles buffet. In my opinion the buffet was lacking. The food selection was decent but the food was average at best. That said, it is a buffet and unless you are some place like Vegas a buffet is just that. If you spend any time in or around Raffles the terms Wakey Wakey, Smiley Smiley, and Washy Washy will become a punchline by the end of your cruise. We ate at Raffles only a couple of other times and more so out of necessity (which I will explain later) than anything / br / Once our stateroom was ready we went to drop off our carry on luggage and begin the unpacking process as our bags arrived. We had an inside stateroom in the back of the ship on deck 9. I do not recommend anything on deck 9, Aft (rear), starboard (right when facing forward) as it is directly under the kids club. This was my error in booking this room and not a knock on NCL although I think the kid#39;s club could take some measures to mitigate the stampeding elephants heard on my ceiling nightly. Generally the room was adequate. There were a few minor problems that were resolved within 24 hours after I left my Dear Prem note. Prem is the hotel director for the Spirit (at least for our cruise). The stateroom appears to be the area where the Spirit does show her age a bit. Nothing to ruin a cruise over but worth noting that there was some rust/water stains in the bathroom, some staining on one of the walls (appeared to be red juice of some sort) and things of that nature. Additionally, the room sleeps four but they pull one bed out from under another and someone basically sleeps on the floor. The two twins either could not or would not be pushed together to make a full/queen so the sleeping arrangements were not ideal. They are replacing the phones in all of the staterooms so we received a new phone. We had a broken leg on the desk which was repaired and a lipstick stain on the desk chair which was re-upholstered. As a result I felt very comfortable with the condition of the ship, the stateroom steward#39;s service, and NCL#39;s ability to resolve issues quickly and / br / Our dining was limited to Raffles (buffet), Windows (dining room), Blue Lagoon, and Bier Garden. The food at Windows was good. One side of the menu was the same daily and the other side changed daily giving a good variety throughout the cruise. Special note, if you are a lobster eater, when you see it on the menu get it because it is the only time it will appear on your cruise. The service on the other hand was average at best. The freestyle dining is great in that you can work your meal time around your schedule, you can choose to dress up or not (dinner dress code is not enforced) but you miss the personal attention of the same server you get with other cruise lines. The food at the Blue Lagoon was great but the menu is very limited. Bier Garden is fast food and buffet style and was decent. If you get the pretzels when they are fresh they are wonderful; otherwise, not so much. Overall I thought the food was very good and had no complaints. The only issue I had with the dining in general as on days when we were docking at 8:00, Windows did not open until 7:30. If you had an early excursion as we did, you were forced to either order room service the night before (very limited options, continental breakfast choices) or go to Raffles. I recommended via the Dear Prem box that NCL seriously look at changing this setup as Raffles was a madhouse on days with early / br / The entertainment on board is one of the biggest areas for improvement on this cruise. We saw the Welcome Aboard Show on the first night of the cruise and it is basically a teaser to display what the rest of the week has to offer. OK but not spectacular. Jorgos the magician has a slightly different spin on a lot of the same old tricks and takes too long getting to the trick so his show tended to drag along. Comedian Bill Hildebrandt was the class of the entertainment on board in my opinion. On day 2 we saw the On Broadway show featuring the Spirit singers and dancers and this was one of our favorite shows. On a side note, the female singers far outclass the male singers. On day 3 Duo Volgyi performed. This is circus variety show but if you have ever seen a Cirque show this will definitely disappoint. I may be in the minority but both my wife and I thought this show was slow, dull, and not entertaining. Day 4 featured Bill Hildebrandt and he was hysterically funny and clean which is a rare combination for comedians these days. Day 5 featured the Chicago improv group Second City. I missed this show; however, my wife and son both enjoyed it. Second City does an R rated show on the last sea day which per my wife was not nearly as funny as the clean show on day 5. Elements on Day 6 is the Spirit#39;s big production show featuring everyone but the comedians. It was good but was not spectacular. On the last night, the farewell variety show featured Jorgos and Bill Hildebrandt. Jorgos was slightly more entertaining but again his bit seemed to drag on and Bill H was great / br / A couple of other mentions, the aquaswims, steam rooms, and saunas in the spa are complimentary and if you actually want to swim I strongly recommend the aquaswim. This is a swimming treadmill if you are not familiar with it. The Tivoli pool was generally crowded with people who had over indulged themselves and acted the part. The adult only feature is also not enforced. The Buccaneer Zone for kids is great for the younger ones but not so much for your tweens which is probably why the Tivoli age limit is not applied. That said, my son did not get to use the pools much as I did not want him in the Tivoli, he was too young for the aquaswims and he did not like the Buccaneer Zone. Adult beverages are expensive on this ship and my wife who does like the occasional adult beverage found a couple of good bargains. The Pub Crawl, 5 drinks, 5 bars, $25 and the International beer tasting, 5 glasses of 5 different international beers for $15. The other big negative is that there is a lot of extras available but only at an additional cost. Whether it be booze, classes, specialty dining, alternate menu items (Blue Lagoon) it jsut seems to be more in your face with it than other carriers. If you are not careful this could make what was booked as a very reasonable family vacation a nightmare by the end. p span class=messageBody data-ft={type:3}Two other notes I just thought about. The jogging track on deck 12 is a joke. It is maybe two feet wide and winds and zig zags throughout the deck including through deck chairs, the Bier Garden and throw in the random jaunts around obstacles. Walk the promenade deck instead if you plan using out door cardio. Also, the casino has low table limits except Pai Gow which is available only on request and at $25 per hand. The video poker machines are the tightest I have ever seen (6/5 machines or 8/5 if you move up to the high dollar machines). My video poker friends will know what those numbers mean. The hold em tournaments have low limit initial buy ins ($60) but they have unlimited re-buys during the first hour which allows a person with a bankroll to bully other players hoping for the luck flop, turn, river./span p Disembarkation was just as painless as embarkation. We chose to stay on ship and have a nice breakfast so we procured the luggage tags for the approximate disembarkation time, placed them on our bags which had to be outside of the room by 1:00 am and did not worry about it after that. Once they called our color, we were off the ship, picked up our luggage, through customs, and back to the hotel to get our car within 30-45 / br / Overall as I mentioned before we had a great time but we have had better service and generally better experiences on other cruise lines.span style=display: none/span

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Carnival Fantasy

July 2009 - Carnival Fantasy to Caribbean - Western

Adventure of the Seas

June 2004 - Adventure of the Seas to Caribbean - Southern

Carnival Ecstasy

June 1998 - Carnival Ecstasy to Caribbean - Bahamas

magicandbird's Tips

Norwegian Spirit Norwegian Spirit - Ship is easy to navigate. Decks 7 and 8 provide aft to forward access without having to walk down stateroom hallways. Only the mid ship elevator accesses deck 13. Avoid Raffles like the plague if at all possible.

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received a helpful vote on their Jewel of the Seas cruise review - Great Week on the Jewel

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received a helpful vote on their Jewel of the Seas cruise review - Great Week on the Jewel

received a helpful vote on their Jewel of the Seas cruise review - Great Week on the Jewel

received a helpful vote on their Jewel of the Seas cruise review - Great Week on the Jewel

received a helpful vote on their Jewel of the Seas cruise review - Great Week on the Jewel

shared a quick tip for Jewel of the Seas"Going to dry dock later 2014 or early 2015"

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reviewed their Caribbean - Southern cruise on Jewel of the Seas and gave it 4 stars!

checked into June 07, 2014 cruise on Jewel of the Seas roll call and is traveling with 1 other guest.