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mhafod

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About mhafod

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Montreal-Canada
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    RCL-Celebrity
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Caribbean

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  1. Debarkation day: After a quick stop at the next cruise office, it was time to leave the ship.Since we had a flight to Malaga at 9PM, we did not take the bus that was available at the pier (20 euros to Fiumicino). Instead, we chose to go to Rome. The regional train was a bit crowded but fortunately we did not have any problems with our suitcases. One very good thing at Roma termini is the kipoint luggage storage office (5 euros per suitcase per day). That allowed us to be free for the day and visit other places in Rome. We did have time to visit another very well rated restaurant. A good news followed since we were able to find a better host in Malaga through AirBnB. The location was right at the center of the historic city center for the same price. Well, our cruise ended on a very good note. Some general observations: 1. The week did fly by very fast. Such is the case with cruises on RCL and Celebrity. 2. Jewel of the seas is small but for a Mediterranean cruise, it is perfect. We did not have time to visit all of the ship but I believe it is in a good shape and pleasant overall. 3. There were the regular activities in the Centrum. 4. Service was very efficient in the MDR. Our room attendant was very pleasant throughout the cruise. 5. There is now a lifeguard on duty in the pools and Solarium even if there are no people there ! 6. I was afraid the shows in the Corral theater were going to be dull (after reading some reviews). Well, the performances were really good. 7. While small, Jewel did not feel crowded at all. Deck 5 was my favorite. One small section was dedicated to Smokers. 8. Mediterranean cruises are port intensive compared to Caribbean cruises. Do plan your excursions. You will be exhausted by the end of the cruise! Thanks for reading and I hope you will have a nice experience on Jewel of the seas the next time you cruise on her.
  2. Day 5: For Palma de Mallorca, we planned to visit Drach Caves in the morning and then do a tour of the city. However, at the last minute, we decided to switch to a full beach day. Once we exited the terminal, we took a taxi to CanPastilla/Arenal beach. Once we got there and it was early in the morning there were not that many people and the water did not look very appealing. We quickly switched to plan B which was to go to illetas beach. That one was way much better than CanPastilla. The water is crystal clear and warm and with some trees in the background, everything that you need for a nice beach day. We did enjoy it very much and spent the whole day over there. We did forget about the time and once we realized it was time to go back to town, there wasn't much time left to tour the city. As such, we headed back to the ship and were onboard very quickly. We were in agreement that we will visit Palma again. One thing that I did not mention until now is that Jewel of the Seas offer an option that we did not find on other ships. In the MDR, you can order on top of the regular menus, specialties from indian or italian menus. We took advantage of this offer for most of our dinners, especially for the entrées. In the evening, there was a very nice show in the Corral theater. Two tango dancers from Argentina gave us a resounding performance. For the time being, the shows on Jewel were very good. The rest of the evening was spent at the pool tables on deck 6. That area of the ship as well as the casino are very nice to navigate. Tomorrow, we will be in Ajaccio, France. Day 6: This stop was a bit peculiar. We had the whole morning as a sea day since we did get to Ajaccio at noon. That allowed us to rest a bit. Once the ship was cleared, we headed to the town center which is right at the pier exit so there was no need to take a shuttle. After strolling quite a while through the market, we decided to head for Scuda beach, which is along la route des sanguinaires. There is a shuttle bus (navette des plages bus 5) that takes you there for 2 euros. In our case, we were not aware of this and took a taxi. There is another beach called Marinella which is adjacent to Scuda beach but both are top and with the water crystal clear. We did rent two beach chairs with an umbrella for 40 euros. Although we are fluent in French, we found out that the service was much better when speaking in English. By 5H30PM, we took the navette back to the town square. Since we had about 2 hours before going back to the ship, we decided to go visit a restaurant that served nice crepes. Little did we know that restaurants open generally at 7PM. Until then, bars and cafés are open for what they call l'apéritif, which is similar to happy hours in north america. I am not sure whether this is true but in our case, the restaurant owner did tell us that was the case in Ajaccio. Since we were afraid to miss the ship, we walked back to the pier. At around 7:10PM, we stopped by a restaurant and had our crepes. In the evening, there was quite a performance from a British band called the barricades boys. They did a rendition of some songs from Les miserables. However, the highlight of the evening was their outstanding rendition of bohemian rhapsody by the group Queen. For the time being, the performances were quite good. The rest of the evening was spent touring the ship (deck 12) and a stop by deck 5 for a nice stroll on the outside. On a small ship like Jewel, you can really get a feel of the peacefulness of the sea. I did not think we could go around the aft of the ship but once we got there, we could see the wake made by the ship. I spent some time there just watching the wake. Tomorrow is our last port of call at Portofino in Italy. Day 7: Portofino is a tender port so for people who wanted to get off before 11:30AM, they were asked to get tickets. The boats used were from Jewel and the whole operation was well done either way. Portofino is a very picturesque town with nicely colored facades for the buildings at the harbor. Once we were there, we quickly went on a side street looking for the stairs that would take us to the Brown castle. While the walk was a bit steep, we took a break midway and sat on a public bench facing the bay of portofino. The view is breathtaking and you can see the whole of the region in a bright light with the mediterranean and all the cliffs. That was one of best panoramic view I had in quite a while. We continued our walk and visited the small church before getting to the Castle. It was a nice visit. On our way down on the other side, I noticed a small sign. It was a tree planted on behalf of Denzel Washington in memory of one of his pals. While Portofino seems to be small, there are a lot of side streets with all kind of shops. Around 1PM, we went to a restaurant in a side street. Difficult to find but it had nice ratings and the prices were not quite as high as the restaurants on the main. We did spend more time there in the afternoon and before going back to the ship, we had gelato at one of the top gelateria in the whole region. It is easy to find (on a side street before you get to the tender boats). Before dinner, we spent some more time at the Solarium. One final show was scheduled for the evening. A French ventriloquist took the stage with his puppet. It was outstanding and with five people from the audience, he made us laugh very very hard. That's when I told my kids that it never occurred to me that we should have booked a B2B on Jewels since the next cruise was also going to the Greek islands. I myself did not know why. At least, I have scheduled a land vacation in Spain starting from Malaga, Spain. The surprising thing was when my son received an email from AirBnB during dinner. Well, our host canceled our reservation due to a bed bug infestation. That left us scrambling for an alternative and since we liked our cruise very much, I decided that it would be a good idea to check with the Next cruise office and see whether they had something for us for the cruise that followed ours. Unfortunately, the cruise was sold out and I was also told that the ship manifest was already sent to immigration so there was no way to add extra cruisers. Tomorrow is debarkation day.
  3. It is a really beautiful city with a distinctive architecture. It was a highlight of our cruise.
  4. That was our mistake. We did not know that when we got to Cartagena. You are correct in pointing out the correct hours for those that will be visiting Spain. Dinner at 11PM is quite normal for folks in Spain !
  5. I had two restaurants in my list but both were closed and were to open at 1PM. It did not occur to me to check the fishing harbor and I guess that was a big mistake. We want to sample the local cuisine wherever we go and that's why we were disappointed. Next time may be ... On the other hand, that was not the end of the world for us as far as far as Spain was concerned since we did a post-cruise land vacation throughout Spain. Restaurants in Malaga, Alicante and Madrid were in a league of their own.
  6. Day 3: Today is our first port of call. We will be in Cartagena, Spain. We have never been in Spain so we were a bit anxious for our first visit. From what I gathered before our cruise, the weather is quite hot in July and everything closes down from noon to around 5PM. Once the ship cleared customs, we walked off the ship and took a left at the end of the pier. For those wondering what kind of documents you need, we took our seapass cards along with a driver license. Once we arrived at the downtown area, which is like a 10 minute walk from the pier, we were a bit surprised to find some of the shops still closed. Overall, it had a pleasant feel but the area is very small so in about half an hour, we were done visiting the downtown area. We did not have the internet package so my son decided to get sim cards with Orange. For about 20 euros, that gave him like 25 Go for his internet needs. The good news is that it worked in Spain, France and Italy and for the most part, worked on some decks on the ship during the cruise. Around noon, we went to a restaurant that had high ratings. Unfortunately, it was still closed. The waiter offered us to wait in the terrace until 1PM when the kitchen was supposed to open. Given that it was really hot and that there was nothing of interest in the neighborhood, we headed toward the ship. We were told there was a beach about 40 min away (La cortina) but the sun was a bit hard. Along the way, we stopped at the Roman ruins for a quick look. We were onboard the ship around 2PM. We were a bit disappointed by Cartagena. A much better choice would have been a stop in Malaga which is not far or Alicante. They both have outstanding sites to visit. Another option which I will talk about would have been an overnight in Barcelona. The powers to be at RCL must have some reasons to have chosen Cartagena 😞 In the evening, we had a broadway, west-end show in the Corral theater. Compared to similar shows on the Freedom of the seas and Celebrity Equinox, it was on par and left us with a good impression. At this point, we still did not have completed our visit of the ship. For example, the casino, the schooner's bar and the pool tables on deck 6. So, after the show, we headed to deck 6 for a visit. The layout is a bit different but easy to navigate. Even though we went through the casino several times without noticing it but I believe it is smoke-free or at least most of it is smoke-free. Tomorrow, we are in Barcelona, the highlight or our cruise. Day 4: Our second port of call in Spain is Barcelona. We had a reservation for a visit to the Sagrada Familia at 3PM. This is the second most visited monument in Spain after the Alhambra. It is not possible to buy tickets on site so you have to make sure to get them online before your cruise (at least 2 to 3 weeks in advance depending on the season). Once we got off the ship, there was bus shuttle that took us to the World trade center in downtown Barcelona. The cost is about 4 or 5 dollars for a round trip. The nice thing about the shuttle is that it dropped us right at the start of the world famous La Rambla. Now, I have read extensively about Barcelona and was quite worried. My parents were mugged there in the 80's and lost their passports. Add to that that in the forums, there were stories about all the pickpockets that were stationed in La Rambla. From what I read, they were master of their art and had counter measures to all kind of protective stuff you can imagine. With that in mind, we started our visit. The first thing we noticed is the architecture and the facades of the building. It is a beautiful city. We kept walking until the end of La Rambla (around the Zara shop) when my nightmares almost came to life. In a fraction of a second, I saw two fingers, which seemed like giant chopsticks, plunging toward my daughter's purse. I locked eyes with the guy, who seemed cold as stone, and he just kept walking as if nothing happened. I must say that we did not have anything of value on us except for two credit cards and some cash in a pocket under my shirt. We then headed to Arco de Triunfo. It was built in 1888 for the Barcelona World Fair. Along the way, we found a small shop selling Tintin figurines. I was able to find Tintin, Milou and professor Calculus (Tournesol). Unfortunately, there was no captain Haddock or the Dupont. We tried to find a nice spot for a quick bite but most menus along the main boulevards were pretty standard. Since we were close to the Sagrada, we decided to start our visit. For those who don't know the Sagrada, it is a working church that has been in construction for over a century and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. It is a work of art and was designed by the architect Gaudi. Do plan for at least 2 hours of visit here. There is a lot to see. At the end of our visit, we stopped by a restaurant and had something quick to eat. Unfortunately, it was not a typical dish from Barcelona. Since we still had time, we took a ride (with cabify) to Barcelona's Park Güell. It was also designed by Gaudi. I was already exhausted by all the walking and was not able to climb to the top. My kids did get to the top and shared with us some magnificent photos of the city. At around 6H30 PM , we took another ride to the World trade center. The driver offered to take us straight to the pier but I declined since we had return tickets. That was a big mistake because once we got to the WTC, the lady told us we were to take the last shuttle bus. It was only 7PM and I was pretty sure we were told in the morning that we had to be on the ship by 7H30. There was no show in the Corral theater since we left Barcelona at 8PM. Instead, there was the love and marriage game. Now, I must say that Barcelona did live up to its reputation. I just hope that RCL will change its itinerary and instead of Cartagena will make an overnight in Barcelona. It is a city that deserves at least two days. Tomorrow, we will be in Palma de Mallorca, an island off Spain.
  7. This time, we were in oceanview on deck 3. Since we were on a port intensive sailing, we did not see a need for a balcony. There is a fridge in the room. However, it is more like a cooler than a fridge. For a kettle, I believe you can ask your room attendant for one. On a caribbean cruise, our attendant brought us one.
  8. This time, we were in oceanview on deck 3. Since we were on a port intensive sailing, we did not see a need for a balcony. There is a fridge in the room. However, it is more like a cooler than a fridge. For a kettle, I believe you can ask your room attendant for one. On a caribbean cruise, our attendant brought us one.
  9. Day 1-embarkation day: We got up early sunday morning. After a quick cappucino with a croissant, we walked straight to Roma termini. We already had our tickets for Civitivecchia and our train was scheduled to depart at 9H20 AM. The platform was a bit far from the entrance and we had to run a bit to get on the train. Even if it was a sunday, the first few cars were jam packed. We were lucky to find a half empty car toward the end of the train. One problem we had is that there was no space where to put our suitcases. After we left Rome, there were some french tourists who complained rather loudly about some cruisers. Fortunately, they got off after two or three stops. Once we arrived in Civitivecchia, we found the port shuttle waiting for us. For 2 euros and a quick ride, we were at the port entrance. There, we were shown the bus that took us to the embarkation pier. For those used to Miami or Orlando-cap canaveral, this one is a very small place. We were processed rather quickly and we were onboard in about 15 minutes chrono. On our last cruise on Celebrity Equinox, we went straight to the solarium but this time we had no idea what to expect so we went to the windjammer. Surprisingly, we were able to find a table for four. There were some special dishes which were only for embarkation day. Around 1PM, we were told that the staterooms were ready. Our suitcases were also quickly delivered. After muster, we went straight to the Solarium. It has a nice tropical theme. One nice thing to note about the Solarium is that there were no chair hogs at all during the whole week. A sign mentioned that any reservation of chairs is strictly prohibited. The Solarium bar was open at certain times and served pizza and some snacks. By 8H30 PM, we went to the Tides MDR. Our waiter Harina and his assistant waiter Supritech did an excellent job and remembered our preferences the whole week. As far as the selection of dishes is concerned, I believe there is a slight decrease in quality compared to previous cruises. The rest of the evening was spent touring the ship. While it is small, we were not able to explore it entirely even after one week. Day 2 is a sea day so we stayed a bit late on deck 5 facing the sea. Nothing beats a midnight rest on a lounge chair on deck 5! Day 2: Since it is the only sea day for this cruise, we did get up late. After a quick breakfast in the windjammer, we went to a presentation by the shopping director. We did not plan any excursions so I wanted to have his take on the different port of calls. Surprisingly, only Barcelona, Palma and Portofino were mentioned. That should have been a cue for us as far as Cartagena and Ajaccio were concerned. At any rate, the rest of the morning was spent discovering the shops, the helideck and deck 11. There were many offers for the drink packages (BOGO offers) as well as special pricing for the specialty restaurants. Lunch was at Tides restaurant since we were not able to get a reservation at IZUMI. The rest of the day was spent at the Solarium. One nice thing about the Solarium is that the water is lightly salted and warm. In the evening, the first show of the cruise featured two french performers. At the same time, Simona, the cruise director introduced herself and gave us a quick breakdown of the nationalities on the ship. Americans were the majority at over 1000 passengers. Tomorrow is our first port of call in Cartagena, Spain.
  10. After some cruises in the Caribbean, we decided this summer to cruise in the Mediterranean. Some years ago, we did the eastern Mediterranean on Navigator of the seas (Rome-Messine-Athenes-Kusadesi-Chania). Now was the time to try the western Mediterranean. Many posters on cruisecritic mentionned that european cruises tend to be port intensive so this time, we opted for two oceanview staterooms (on deck three) instead of balcony. I made a deposit during wave season and I guess the price we paid was very good since by july, the price was almost 100% more. On most cruises, we tend to go on excursions by ourselves so this time, I had some difficulties in finding some good infos on the port of calls that we were about to visit (cartagena-barcelona-palma de mallorca-ajaccio-portofino). One thing we like to do on cruises is to have one or more theme to follow. So this time, it was a foodie tour with possibly visits to historical sites. Before going into details, please note that reviews are highly subjective and like they say, any cruise (at least on royal caribbean) is better than no cruise. So, let's get started. Day -1: Our flight from montreal was quiet and we did arrive on a friday morning in Rome Fiumicino. The last time we cruised from Rome, we made a newbie mistake by flying on the same day our cruise started. This is a big no no for two reasons. One is that flights could be delayed or worse cancelled. Second, since you are coming from north america, Asia or Australia, you should give yourself some time to adjust for the jet lag. This time, we took the bus shuttle from the airport to Roma termini( the central railway station).The bus kiosk is on your right once you exit terminal 1. I chose a hotel close to the station, which was about a 10 minute walk. I do not know whether this is true for all of Italy but it seems that the definition of a hotel is quite different from the one used in north america. When I made the reservations, the hotel was shown as having a reception desk but in reality it was just a floor in a condo. At any rate, we were not there for the hotel so we took everything in stride and got rested since the weather was quite hot. Since we already visited most of Rome the last time we were there, we decided in the evening to go back to the Coliseum. I was surprised that the place was almost empty except for some very few tourists and street vendors. We spent some time there until dusk. Our next stop was saint Peter's square and again there were very few tourists there since visits for the day were already finished. I don't know where I got the info but for dinner, I already planned a visit to a nice restaurant(Ristorante Romolo). It is on a side street very close to the Vatican. It was full of locals and we were very lucky to get a table. Two things we learned very quickly is that you do not question the food served to you and that the waiter or waitress are quite serious about the food and can get very opinionated. The restaurant lived up to its reputation and once we were finished it was time to go back to our hotel. Day 0: For a long time, we wanted to visit Florence so this time, I arranged for a day trip. For those wanting to rent a car, it is a really bad idea with all the driving restrictions around Rome. In our case, I chose to take the high speed train (Frecciarossa). On the trenitalia website, make sure to look for Firenze as the name of the city. The trip takes about one hour and a half instead of about 4 hours on the regional train. The planning I had once we got there around 11AM: 1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore 2. Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence 3. Piazza della Signoria 4. Palazzo Vecchio 5. Uffizi Gallery 6. Ponte Vecchio 7. Pitti Palace 8. The Boboli Gardens The highlight of our visit was the Uffizi Gallery and we had tickets for 2PM. So, we started our visit by going straight to Ponte Vecchio. Overall, Florence feels like an ancient city and walking in its narrow street, you can feel you are in a medieval city. At around 1 PM, we wanted to have something to eat. Since we were on a Foodie tour, we went to a small place called Gustarium. Well, we had the best albeit not your typical pizza. You have to try it in order to understand why people give it very high ratings. By 2PM, we started our tour of Uffizi gallery. The museum is magnificent with all the artefacts that it contains. Do plan here at least two hours for the visit. Around 5PM, we continued our tour but unfortunately by 7PM, we were exhausted and we could not get to Pitti palace and the Boboli gardens. In my opinion, Florence deserves at least two days for a visit. At any rate, before going back to Rome, we decided to have dinner in one of those side street restaurant. While overall it was very pleasant, it wasn't as enjoyable as the one in Rome. Our return ticket to Rome was at 10:15PM but since we had the A/R in-giornata (same day), we changed it to the 9:15PM return in order to catch some needed rest back at our hotel. Part II to follow...
  11. While I was never questioned for my blood pressure pills, I have to go through US or European customs before getting to the cruise port. In order to avoid problems and to make it easy for the customs officer and myself, I keep the labels with me. Problem solved.
  12. We did cruise during christmas and also July (eastern and western caribbean). The ship has a different vibe in december and the summer months. My kids did make a comparison with royal as far as activities are concerned but overall we like to have a relaxed vacation (or I should say a more "balanced" vacation).
  13. Not really, it is still in top shape. In addition, the Equinox is going for drydock (although not as thorough as planned) in a couple of days.
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