, pub-4365197612565232, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Jewel of the Seas - [Day 1] Embarkation in San Juan

The interesting thing about Embarkation in San Juan is that it was very late. I believe the earliest possible check-in time was 12:30 PM. Aaron and I, as well as Stove and Judy had a 1:30 PM port arrival time. Rachel and Landon waited until like two weeks before the cruise, so they had a 3:30 PM check-in time. Rachel and I briefly looked into getting The Key, but it didn't seem like that great of a value, and we couldn't book it for six guest by the time we looked into it, anyway.

We had a 2PM checkout time at Aloft, so we weren't in a hurry to get up and get ready. Except for Landon who was stir crazy and I guess hungry... so he and Rachel set out on a mile walk to get a bagel, while Aaron and I stayed in the room and watched a totally unhinged adaptation of A Christmas Carol on BET (you know I had to look it up.... it's Christmas Deja Vu).


Also, our bag finally arrived! That morning, I got the notification on the Delta app that our suitcase had arrived. I checked the AirTag which confirmed. It took a few hours after that for our bag to make it to the hotel. Stove was out and about, so he volunteered to hunt it down. It wasn't at the front desk, but he's persistent... he walked around and found a room marked "Luggage Room," went inside and took the bag. Then an hour later, we got a call to the room from the front desk saying that they had my bag.... 


The past few times we've been to San Juan, we've stayed at the Marriott Stellaris Hotel & Casino which is on Condado Beach. I'd recommend staying on the beach for a longer stay, but for one night before the cruise, the Aloft is in a great location. However, it's not walkable... the distance is walkable, but it's not pedestrian friendly. (Besides, it was hot outside.)


Our room had a view of the Bellagio-like fountains (that were synced to music, like Bellagio) in front of the Convention Center.


Stove and Judy had a view of Distrito T-Mobile.... which is funny because the night before there was a DJ on the stage bumping music. They didn't have any complaints about noise, though, and the blackout shade were good at cutting out the colorful lights.


We checked out of the hotel at 2PM and took an Uber X and and an Uber XL to the cruise port. We figured we might as well see if Landon and Rachel could go ahead and board the ship.


The terminal was a little disorganized/unceremonious, but I appreciated the lack of crowds. I imagine that it may have been more chaotic earlier in the afternoon. Or perhaps having such a late departure time reduces crowds at the terminal.


We tagged all of our bags using these handy-dandy reusable plastic bag tag holders. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity use the same size bag tag, so we were able to reuse our holders from last year.


We dropped our bags with the porters and headed to check in. Judy, lead the way!


Check-in wasn't crowded at all, and the process was very quick since we had done the online check in. I actually printed out physical copies of the Set Sail Pass for Aaron and myself, and I thought that was super helpful to just have a physical copy and not have to worry about pulling it up on our phones.

Rachel and Landon had no problem checking in an hour before their scheduled time. It probably helped that it was later in the afternoon and the terminal wasn't crowded, anyway. I've heard that it really depends on the terminal and people working that day as to if they'll let you check in early or not.


They're making it almost impossible to cruise without the app these days. They really want you to download it. I wonder if there's anyone without a smart phone that finds this annoying, or if most of cruisers have smart phones these days, anyway. I used to get on a cruise and leave my phone in the room, but reliance on the app has made that more difficult.


Time to board the ship!



Here she is, the Jewel of the Seas!


It was rather unceremonious boarding... usually they play a little music and wave/clap or something. There was no boarding photo set up, either. We were directed straight to our Muster Stations. I really appreciate how Royal Caribbean has simplified the Muster Drill and no longer requires everyone to go to their muster stations at a set time. It's one Covid adaptation that I actually appreciate (wish Disney Cruise Line could have stuck with that).


Also, our rooms were ready!! No lugging our bags to the Windjammer. We headed straight to our rooms where our key was on the door. Really, anyone could pull a key and go into any room at this time.... I guess there are no personal belongings, but if someone was confused, they could accidentally flop down on the wrong bed.


All of the promotional papers were spread out for us. I do find it ironic that Royal no longer delivers a daily Compass, but will deliver handfuls of paper everyday for promotions. The digital cruise compass has very little to do with "Saving the Waves," and more to do with Operational efficiency.


Aaron and I were in room 7076 (category 1F), Stove and Judy in 7072 (category 1F), and Rachel and Landon were in room 1504 (category 6D). When Stove first asked for our room numbers and Rachel responded 1504, Stove said, "Wrong! Try again!" But she wasn't wrong... the numbering system is odd. Their room was on deck 10. On the newer ships with higher stateroom decks, their room number would be 10504... but I guess since 10 is the highest deck for staterooms, there was no need for the extra digits.


I reminded Aaron not to flop on the bed before I could take room photos.


I was glad that we had a room configuration with the bed by the balcony. This balcony stateroom had a single oversized chair (instead of a larger couch/loveseat), similar in size to our room on the Celebrity Summit. It also has a pullman bunk above the bed. I do think the Jewel could use a room revitalization similar to that the Summit received.... the finishes were a bit tired and dated.


This was also the most uncomfortable bed. The next morning at breakfast, Aaron commented, "We're sleeping on a pullout couch," and everyone was like oh my gosh! What's your room configuration like?!


Technically it's two twins pushed together, but man, it felt like we were sleeping on a pullout. Also, I'm probably sounding like a major diva now, but I found the bedding to be scratchy and comparable to that in a mid-tier hotel like Marriott Courtyard. Which I suppose is fitting. But the past few years we've sailed Disney, Celebrity, and Norwegian and I did not have the same bedding quality complaints for any of those lines. Not sure if it's Royal Caribbean or the older Radiance class ship, but the bedding felt sub-par.


This room had a lot of angled mirrors. Which had its advantages and disadvantages. Aaron was mind blown that he could see the back of his head (this was helpful for getting ready), but also (and this is truly a me problem) I had to be super careful with angles to avoid having his reflection in the shot.


I sat down to avoid my reflection here. See how you can see the television in the mirror? It's being reflected off the angled mirror beside me for this photo - that's why the cruise ship isn't backward in the reflection!


My only critique on the vanity is that it's super shallow, so while it works great for fixing hair and applying makeup, this wouldn't comfortably double as a desk if you're working on your laptop.

There's also only two plugs, so you have to be strategic with charging. In the past I've traveled with an outlet extender (not a surge protector - they'll confiscate those), but this time I decided I didn't want to waste the luggage space. It worked out fine, but I do wish they had outlets... or at least one outlet by the bed so I could charge your phone/watch beside me overnight and use it as a clock. I ended up charging up a portable battery during the day, then charging my phone from the portable battery overnight.


If you were wondering where Aaron was, I had him hide in the bathroom.


There's a good amount of closet/hanging space, and you could even fold the mid bar down if you wanted to hang more shirts/pants. I had Aaron hang up all of our dresses/shirts, and he set up my dresses on the left and his clothes on the right.


We had plenty of hangers, but also we did bring Aaron's two velvet blazers on their own jacket hangers.


Alright, Aaron, you can sit down now....


This salmon colored bathroom is so nostalgic to me. Again, plenty of mirrors and more bathroom storage than we actually needed (the mirror on the left is a medicine cabinet door).


That card you see on the toilet is a notice informing you that if you clog the toilet, you'll be charged $100. I'm not joking.


Double duty... hair and body, it does it all! According to Rachel, probably Barbicide (jokes!). I would never use this on my hair, but it worked fine as a body wash.


Your standard cruise ship shower.... I could never get the water hot, though. Every time, I turned it all the way up and it was just kind of warm.


This is on the smaller side for a cruise ship bathroom, but we really don't spend that much time in the bathroom. I get ready at the vanity in the room, so bathroom size isn't critical for me. It wouldn't hurt if it were a little easier on the eyes, though.


Our balcony was pretty large, but at our location on deck 7, we were tucked in right above the lifeboats which meant we were unable to look down and see the ocean. Instead, we had a view of the metal canopy.


We booked a guaranteed balcony, so really can't complain, but I would definitely describe this as obstructed view (not sure how much better it would have been in this location a few decks up). If you're choosing your balcony stateroom on Jewel of the Seas or a Radiance class ship trying to avoid this view, you'll want to choose a balcony that's on the "bump out" either forward or aft. That's staterooms 7048/7548 through 7014/7514 forward or 7152/7652-7170/7670 aft (of course, these rooms are less convenient to the stairs/elevators, so there is a trade off).


When we were in our room, our stateroom attendant Hector came by and asked if we'd prefer evening or morning housekeeping services. I chose morning.... we typically shower in the evenings before dinner, so I figured that would be the best for our towel situation. And I'd rather have my bed made in the morning than at night right before I'm about to hop in it. Personally, I didn't mind having my room made up only once a day. It actually kind of took the pressure off of me to tidy up before leaving for dinner. (I clean before they come clean... can't have the stateroom attendant seeing our room a mess!) However, I think this would be a disadvantage if you have a 3rd or 4th person in your stateroom and need the pulldown bunks.... I'm not sure what happens here. Do they teach you how to pull the bunk down/put it up yourself (seems like a liability to have guests doing that), or do you just always have the bunk down?

As Aaron would say, enough room photos. Can we go eat, now?


As we waited for the elevator, I peeked down at the Centrum where they were selling the drink packages.


Aaron and I did a full lap around the Windjammer before getting food. I guess it's been awhile before I've been on a Radiance class ship because I thought there were going to be more stations. Everything is in one area, and the offerings are mirrored on each side.

We did loop through the back and find the spacious aft outdoor seating area.




Back in the Windjammer, nothing was really appealing to me, so I opted for a salad.


Personally, I'm not a fan of buffets or self-serve. It's overwhelming to me. I get impatient in lines, feel pressure to hurry up if someone is waiting behind me, and also have a hard time deciding what to get when it's all spread out and I'm not sure what will go well together.

I went a little too heavy on the dressing, but otherwise it was a solid salad.


While we were sitting back here, Stove waived over an officer who was walking by and asked him, "Are your margaritas any good?" He was confused. "Yes, we have margaritas." "Can I get a Perfect Margarita?" We were all cringing and Rachel and Judy were explaining to Stove that this was an officer, not a bartender.

Rachel piped up, "We'll just go to the bar!" The officer objected -"No, I can get you a margarita!" He took Stove's SeaPass, and later, a bartender appeared with a margarita for Stove. That's service!


Since only Stove was bold enough to order a margarita from an officer, we decided to head down to the Centrum bar to get drinks.

This is the feature that I really remembered from the Radiance class ships - the glass elevators that look out onto the ocean. When we sailed Alaska on Radiance of the Seas in 2001, I thought these elevators were so cool.


Worm's eye shot of the Centrum, courtesy of Aaron (he shoots with a Google Pixel 6).


Another Google Pixel 6 shot, at .7mm -


They had a TV with a fireplace set up on as decoration on the 5th level... interesting decor.


The menu at the Centrum bar is the same as the rest of the ship. The only bar with its own menu is Schooner Bar. I later tried to order a Lavender Daquiri in the Safari Club, and they told me they only do that in the Schooner Bar (which is right next to the Safari Club). I took photos of all of the drink menus, and I'll post those later.

Most of the specialty cocktails are $14 which aligns perfectly with the Diamond drink voucher of up to $14. The Grey Goose is $13.99, so a Grey Goose martini is also a great Diamond redemption drink.

This was actually my first cruise as a Crown & Anchor Diamond Member. I earned Diamond on our Harmony of the Seas cruise in 2019. Judy and Stove were Diamond on that cruise, but that was back when they had the Happy Hour in the Diamond Lounge for free drinks. They've since changed the program so that all Diamonds get 4 drink vouchers (up to $14) per day. It definitely devalues the drink package for Diamond members. I was originally looking at buying the unlimited drink package, but at $85 per person per day (that was the pre-cruise savings price... onboard was $110 per person per day), I couldn't imagine getting that amount of value, especially when you consider the 4 Diamond drinks. So rather than buying the drink package, Rachel and I called and had Royal status match Aaron and Landon to Diamond so that they would have four drinks a day, as well.


I got the Mint Berry Delight because it seemed like a festive way to start the cruise.


And Aaron went Grey Goose martini.


We were spread apart at the bar in the Centrum, so we decided to head to the Schooner bar for some lounge type seating. I ordered the Lavender Daquiri.


While waiting on my drink, I snuck over to the Safari Club to take a few photos while it was empty.

Fun Fact: on the Radiance of the Seas in 2001, this is the venue that Rachel and I performed our Karate routine to Shania Twain's Man I Feel Like A Woman in the Adventure Ocean talent show. At the time I just liked the song, but now I look back and think wow, what a brilliant song selection for two little girls doing karate.



I returned to our table at the Schooner Bar, and everyone informed me that we had a problem.... do you see it?


Rachel and Landon were assigned My Time Dining. Stove kept saying, "Victoria, I thought you linked our reservations!" I did link our reservations, and they showed as linked on the App. I have no idea how this happened, but it was very annoying. Stove and I headed downstairs to fix the issue. Stove waited in line at the Dining Room while I headed to Guest Relations.


Stove learned that the Maitre'd was not at the dining room, and no one at the dining room had the ability to fix the issue. I finally got to the desk at guest services and was told that he couldn't fix the issue, but the dining room team needed to. I explained that we had already been to the dining room and no one could help us. "There must be something you can do?" "I can put in a request, but I can't guarantee anything." "Yes, please put in the request."

That was good enough for me for now.


Now back to the Schooner Bar where my drink was waiting for me...




It was 5:00, so we decided to head up to the Crown Lounge (formerly the Diamond Lounge) for some small bites. The Crown Lounge has a variety of food options daily from 5PM to 8PM (may vary based on your ship/itinerary). They also offer bar service, though the adjacent bar at Vortex wasn't open yet... I feel like they have to run a bit to get the drinks because it always took awhile. My guess is that they were going to Vintages on the 6th floor because later that night we were sitting at Vintages when several bartenders came for drinks that they were taking elsewhere.


The Crown Lounge also has a 24-hour espresso machine.


This is the view from the Crown Lounge -


Sailaway was at 8PM, the same time as dinner. We decided to head back down to our cabins and get ready for dinner, then meet up on the 12th deck by the pool for sailaway.

Our bags had been delivered, so I convinced Aaron that this was the opportune time to speed unpack (he was worried we would miss sailaway), and that if he helped me, we would be able to unpack so much faster. Well great decision, I must say! I am also so much faster at unpacking that packing, that's for sure, and I had already been scoping out the storage situation when I photographed our room earlier, so I knew where I wanted everything to go.

And, we finished before sailaway!


Nighttime sailaway is cool, but it's difficult to really see and get good photographs.


We were in port with a Holland America ship. I forget which one.... something Dam (hehe).


My Nikon D750 autofocus/LED malfunction glitch had been happening again earlier, so I decided to leave my D750 in the room to rest and instead brought my D7100 with 35mm f/1.8 lens and SB-700 speedlight.


I loved this setup with the prime lens. The SB-700 adds a lot of bulk, so it was nice to reduce the size of my lens with the 35mm.


At this point, it was 8:15, so we figured we better head down to the dining room to see if our table situation got figured out. They hadn't found a table for us yet, but temporarily sat us at a table 420 on Deck 5.


Stove dove for the bread basket.


Our server that night was Jorge from Mexico, and our assistant server was Jose from Honduras. We were bummed that this was only a temporary table for us because we loved this dining team.



I followed Aaron's lead and ordered a Grey Goose Martini extra dirty.


I was looking forward to trying Royal Caribbean's new menus. Tonight we had the Welcome Aboard menu.

I got the Spinach and Artichoke Dip as a Starter. It seemed like they emptied out the bottom of the bag of chips on my plate. The chips were stale and spongey, but the dip was good with bread.


Aaron and Landon both got the Crispy Crab Cake. I tasted Aaron's and commented that I had made a mistake, so Landon offered me his since he was feeling seasick, and I took him up on it. The crab cake could've been a tiny bit crispier, but the flavor was good. The cucumber onion mix of veggies really made it. Could've used a squeeze of lemon.


Rachel and Aaron both ordered the Roasted Tomato Soup. It had a drizzle of olive oil on the top which had a nice flavor when stirred. Rachel noted that it was appropriately labeled as soup and not bisque. Aaron said that it tasted a little like Campbell's, but in a good way.


For my main course, I decided to go wildcard and ordered the Aromatic Chicken Saag. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a great ratio of rice/sauce/chicken and very flavorful.


Rachel had the Spaghetti Bolognese which she said was pretty good. There was a good amount of sauce to noodles. She described it as tasting like your mom's, not Italian style, but more homey (unless your mom is Italian, I suppose).


Aaron had the Slow Roasted Prime Rib. He said it had the consistency of a ham steak. The sauce was good, but he couldn't really taste the horseradish flavor that was supposed to be in the au jus.


For dessert, Aaron got the Dark Chocolate Custard which he said tasted like thick hot chocolate.


The rest of us got Key Lime Pie which came in a variety of sizes/presentations.


After dinner, we headed to the Safari Club and played Majority Rules Game Show. We did pretty well, only missed three (and one was because Rachel chose a funny answer).







I was really digging the 35mm lens, it was perfect for the vintage look I was going for with evening shots.





We decided to leave Safari Club with no destination in mind.



We walked by Vintages and the bartenders Gusti and Joel waved at us to come over, so we sat down for a drink. We asked them where everyone was, and they guessed that maybe people were tired on the first night. Then we asked them about the nightclub onboard, Vortex, and Joel encouraged us to go. He explained that the club is only fun if people go. "You are the Vortex!"


So we headed up to Vortex on the 13th Deck, right beside the Crown Lounge.


You can actually see the Crown Lounge from Vortex... it's the warm light beyond the partition. I guess they split this space up with only a partition wall that wasn't floor to ceiling.


The warm light really bothered me. Totally ruins the club atmosphere. Meanwhile, Rachel was being sucked up by a Vortex...


Ah, restored!


Meanwhile on the dance floor, everyone was wearing white and walking around in a circle.


We talked later, and it was a large family reunion of over 60 people celebrating a 35th wedding anniversary.


We are the Vortex!


Aaron and I went to the bathroom, then couldn't find Rachel and Landon. A security officer came up to me and said, "I think I found your sister. Is that her?" and pointed inside the Vortex to the dance floor.


A nice guy came up to me and asked if he could take a photo of me with my camera. "I'm the photographer for my family. We're never in the photos! You deserve to be in some pictures." He was part of the large 60+ person family reunion, and I don't remember if I ever got his name, we all just referred to him as "the photographer" all week.


This one is for the boys.


We wandered down to the Centrum and had a silly photoshoot in front of the Christmas tree.


Then we headed up to the Solarium (Landon was searching for pizza), and learned that the hot tub stays open super late... maybe 24 hours! Rachel and I stuck our legs in and it was super nice.


Rachel and Landon went back to their room to order room service, and Aaron and I continued exploring the ship.



We found the photo center.


And the conference rooms!


Did a little window shopping...


Made our way back to the Centrum.... see Aaron taking a photo of me taking a photo him?


Where's Victoria?!


Inspired by The Studio photoshoots on Celebrity Summit last year...


Great first day! Good night!


NEXT: [Day 2] Christmas Eve At Sea

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you use the links in this post to make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase. This helps me maintain the website, and I appreciate your support!

No comments:

Post a Comment