We did something a little different this holiday season and took a 10-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas. Rest assured, Santa was able to locate the boat! We visited Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and St. Lucia on the cruise and the experience had some ups and downs. Read on for a recap and review of the Jewel of the Seas.
10 Day Cruise on Jewel of the Seas
My cruise experience started out a little rough, and I spent the first couple days battling seasickness. The ship was insanely rocky the entire trip! I thought maybe it had to do with the size, but Jewel of the Seas is the same size as the other cruises we’ve done, and this is the first time I’ve ever felt a boat rocking as much as this one.
I’ve been on several cruises and very rarely get seasick, but just in case I brought along the seasick bands and patches off Amazon. I’ll be sticking to the prescription patches from the doctor from now on, because neither of those things worked at all! My husband had to get seasick pills for me on the ship. I was pretty miserable the first day at sea.
I was happy to see the ship was decorated for the holidays! There was a big Christmas tree and decor for both Christmas and Hannukah. And on Christmas, Santa arrived by boat and gave a present to every kid under the age of 16.
The Ship and Amenities
The Jewel of the Seas is a pretty nice ship. We went for a cabin with a balcony, and the room was a decent size for the three of us. You’ll hear people say a balcony is a waste, that you’ll never use it, or that you won’t spend any time in your room. None of that is true for us, as we love to just sit out on the private balcony and enjoy the view of the ocean. We spent almost every evening watching the sun go down while playing Uno on our balcony. It’s totally worth the upgrade, especially if you are cruising with kids.
The bathroom in the room is very tiny, with one very tiny shower. On the Princess cruise ship we last went on, our balcony room came with a tub and more space overall. The shower area is round and smaller than a phone booth. It is like showering in a tiny capsule.
And they have the most uncomfortable toilets I’ve ever experienced on a cruise. I sat down and popped right back up because I thought I’d sat on the rim. But no, that’s just the toilet. It is basically a thin rim and no seat area. It took some getting used to.
The bed and pillows were comfy, and the pullout sofa bed worked well for our son. Overall, the room was decent and well maintained. Our room attendant was very good at quickly cleaning it in the morning while we were at breakfast and turning down the beds in the evening. We were a little disappointed that there were no towel animals waiting for us, but we did finally get them the last two nights of the cruise!
I usually like to do a spa visit for a massage when we go on a cruise, but the massages seemed way overpriced, so I opted for a pedicure. I chose the fancy sounding Sole Delight pedicure for $80, which was supposed to involve extra massaging or something. I’m not really sure because it seemed more like the $25 express pedicure I get at the salon at home. There wasn’t really much to it and very little leg and foot massage.
And then the nail polish refused to dry! It was still sticky ten hours later and my toes were sticking to the bed sheets. And then later the next day at the beach, sand got stuck all over the polish and wouldn’t come off. It was embedded in the sticky polish! I felt like I’d wasted my money on that one.
There were three pool areas, and they were usually not overly crowded. They were busy, but you could always find room. There was also a mini golf course, basketball court, pickleball court, ping pong tables, a game room and a water slide. Lots of things to do and explore.
There was also a casino where I managed to drop $20 in about five minutes before deciding gambling was not for me this time. They also allowed smoking in the gambling area, and I could barely breath so I guess I should be happy that saved me some money because luck didn’t seem to be on my side when I gave the slots a try.
My son loved going to the kid’s club! They have it on both sea days and port days. We usually took our son out on port days, but he did kids club on our stop in St. Kitts so he wouldn’t be bored to tears by the historical tour we were taking. On sea days they can go 9-12, 2-5 and 7-10. On port days they can go in at 9 and stay until 5, and then again 7-10. My son had so much fun in there that he actually complained when we arrived 15 minutes early! It’s all free unless you want them to stay after 10PM.
The kids club also has family activities on some days during the break times. We participated in the family selfie scavenger hunt and won first place! We all got ribbons, a hat, a water bottle and carabiner.
Cruising and eating usually go hand-in-hand, but we both found ourselves actually eating LESS than usual because the food was a bit “meh.” The Windjammer buffet was a bit repetitive and hit-or-miss with quality. It seemed to be mostly the same stuff every day with few surprises. Breakfast was tough with watery eggs, hard tasteless bacon, biscuits like bricks and gross watery gravy. The omelet station was very good though, and the avocado toast was fun.
The food options when the Windjammer wasn’t open were pretty dismal. During the day there would be two or three sandwich options, a fruit cup, a few desserts and a couple salads if you were lucky. At night they offered pizza, which was actually pretty good. You also always had the option to order from a limited room service menu for an $8 charge.
The main dining room’s food was just OK. Not bad, but not great. They did have a pretty good selection of new items each night, which was nice. And the desserts were actually really good. The service was very very slow, with dinner often taking just over two hours. The food portions were small, but you could order more than one dinner if needed. The teenage cousins with us usually ordered two dinners and a few desserts.
The best food (no surprise) was in the specialty restaurants Izumi and Giovannie’s. We did a five-course tasting meal in Giovannie’s and everything was excellent. We were also really impressed with the sushi at Izumi’s. Very fresh fish with good size cuts. The prices in Izumi’s were also very reasonable and we got so much we couldn’t even eat it all.
Five Caribbean Islands
Since I was sick of the rocking boat, I really looked forward to getting off on the islands. We didn’t book any official excursions and just did our own thing for each port. The shore excursions offered by Royal Caribbean were all really expensive (but they always are no matter the ship.) We found you could usually find the same things for half the price once you get on the island. Every island kind of offered the same thing- ziplining, historical tours, shopping or the beach. They really push the shopping and every map you get is geared toward where you can buy expensive jewelry.
Our first stop was a Labadee, Haiti, a private island owned by Royal Caribbean. It was a very nice island with plenty of open space and available lounge chairs right by the water. The water itself was a pretty blue, but a little murky and filled with rocks. You’d get pelted with rocks every time you tried to go in the ocean. Once you got past that, it wasn’t bad though, just murkier than I’d expected for Caribbean waters.
I pretty much relaxed in the shade the whole time trying to recover from the seasickness. You can get free food on the island because it’s run by Royal Caribbean, and purchase drinks with your sea pass card. You also pick up towels as you arrive and leave them on your way out. It was a nice relaxing start to the trip.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Next stop was Puerto Rico. We were just there in September but didn’t explore San Juan yet. We wandered down the road to check out the big fort and then realized everything was closed because it was Christmas! So we walked around the outside of the fort, checked out the cliffs and ocean and then went back to the ship.
St. Lucia was our least favorite, but it was our fault for picking a bad beach. We wanted to try and get away from the crowds, so instead of picking the closest and most popular beach, we picked Pigeon Island beach which was about 30 minutes away. It was a small and rocky with murky water. You couldn’t walk in the water without stepping on large rocks. We paid $20 for a beach chair with an umbrella, which is where I hid for most of the day. I wasn’t a big fan of the water, as the one thing I was really looking forward to was the crystal-clear blue water, and it was blue, but you couldn’t see your feet.
My son had a good time finding sea glass, however I kept telling him to be careful because most of it was closer to fresh broken glass and not like the ones with soft tumbled edges we find at home. There were several places to get a drink but few places with food, and we tried to get lunch but after waiting 45 minutes our ride back arrived and we had to cancel the food. The kitchen had gotten slammed, and we were still five customers away from having our order prepared. We couldn’t wait to get back to the ship and whatever food was available.
First stop in St. Maarten was to get a picture with the same sign I had taken a photo with 20 years ago when we stopped here on our honeymoon. It was neat to be back and bring our son. We did a bit of exploring the town area and stopped at the Yoda Guy museum before heading to the beach. I’ll be doing a full post on our visit to the museum soon with lots of pics!
We got a two beach chairs with an umbrella for $20, but later saw there were much better deals! The bars have signs outside advertising beach chairs that come with free drinks and wi-fi. So shop around a bit first before renting the chairs. The beach here is really pretty and we spent a good bit of the day just playing in the water and the sand.
We had a great time on St. Kitts and went on a three-hour tour all over the island in an open-air bus. We booked the tour off the ship with Beulah Mills from Welcome Tours. Once you get off the ship and enter the plaza, look for the lady with the big green Trip Advisor flag. She’s a fantastic tour guide! Very knowledgeable about the island history and very passionate about her hometown.
The tour for two of us was half the cost of the tours that were offered on the ship. The open-air bus was great, and it felt like you experienced more without being closed in a bus. We felt a bit sorry for the other tours we saw jammed in small vans.
We went all over the island and saw the black sand beach, the volcano (in the distance), the old sugar plantation and rum distillery and various places of interest.
As St. Kitts is home to 30,000 monkeys, a trip wouldn’t be complete without getting a picture with one! The French brought them to the island as pets and the population exploded. We only saw one wild one when we stopped at the rainforest, but everywhere you go there will be like five guys trying to put a monkey on your head for photos. I opted for holding mine. He was so cute!
One of the stops is a beautiful lookout where you can see the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.
A Good Trip Overall
Our trip concluded with our arrival in Cape Canaveral on New Year’s Eve. Overall, it was a good trip! But I think 10 days is a bit much for me now. I’ll be sticking to the seven-day cruises and visiting the doctor beforehand for real seasick patches and not the fake ones off Amazon!
Hope you all had a great holiday season and a good start to this new year! It’s good to be home, and on solid ground, lol.