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Shana9136

Jewel of the Seas 10/3/19 Greek Isles Review/blog!

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Guess what time we got up? I've seen the sunrise every single morning on this trip! Today it was in Athens.

We were up and off the ship by 7:45am or so and had pre-purchased tickets for the City Sightseeing bus tour on Viator. Once you exit the ship you walk through a terminal building, and once outside on the other side, turn left and head towards a large parking lot where the buses park (there are taxis available as well).

We eventually spotted the red bus from our tickets in the lot cleverly hidden behind another bus, showed our printed passes, and were given tickets for the bus along with a map and headphones to use for the audio available on the bus. You can buy tickets in person as well for the same price (around 20 euro/person for the combination Athens [red]/Piraeus [green] line). The staff there was friendly and helpful, and we waited for another bus to arrive to pick us up (it leaves around 8 or 8:15 am, although online they state a much later start time for the Piraeus line that leaves from the cruise ship dock.)

The bus we were on had a roof on the upper deck, but even with that shelter is was rather chilly and windy on the route. The audio worked just fine and was informative as we rode the Piraeus line along the waterfront to where it connects with the Athens line at the Acropolis. This is a hop-on-hop-off bus line, so with our combo tickets we could have gotten on and off either of the lines (there is another line for the beaches that we did not purchase) as much as we wanted, with 2 optional walking tours included at pre-set times leaving from the Acropolis stop.

We got off at the Acropolis (you have to get off there as it's the end of the Piraeus [green] line, but you could transfer to an Athens [red] line bus to tour the city itself. The time tables for the bus stops are printed in the map that was given).

The bus drops you off in or near a lot at the base of the Acropolis, where there's a little restaurant along with public bathrooms - I didn't use them but hubs said they were gross, but free.

You can see the Acropolis hill so just walk towards that and you'll go uphill a bit to the ticketing building. Tickets are 20 euro/person for the Acropolis and it's north and south slopes where you can get up close and personal with the Parthenon and Erechtheion, and look on the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Theater of Dionysus. There is also a combo ticket available that also allows access into Hadrian's Library, the ancient agora etc for 30 euro/person, or you can pay for individual access to those sites. Kids under 18 are free, but need some sort of ID to prove this.
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There was zero line when we went, but later in the day and during summer months this may be a different story. You can buy tickets in advance from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. This only allows you to skip the ticketing line, not the entry line. If you wish to skip that too, you should go with a tour or buy an official skip-the-line ticket.
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Fortunately there was no line for the entrance either, so after buying our tickets we walked right in and headed uphill along the path towards the entrance. We listened to a Rick Steve's audio tour of it prior to going which was helpful to understand what we were seeing and give more context to this amazing place as we weren't with a tour. It's a lot of steps, lot of hills, slippery stone/marble, and little to no hand rails, so choose footwear accordingly.
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Although there was no wait for tickets and entry, it did thicken up with people as we got to the top of the hill where the ruins are, even at that early hour. I can't imagine the crush of humanity it must be during peak hours and days. It was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of such famous structures, and we spent some time wandering around and just admiring the craftsmanship and skill of this ancient civilization.
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4 minutes ago, Shana9136 said:

Although there was no wait for tickets and entry, it did thicken up with people as we got to the top of the hill where the ruins are, even at that early hour. I can't imagine the crush of humanity it must be during peak hours and days.

We got there around 10am.  It took about 20  minutes to get up the stairs in this photo.  It was shoulder to shoulder, and they were actually sending people back down the same way, as the exit stairs were packed full.  At the top it was not possible to get a picture without other people in it.  Curse my love of sleeping in on vacation, or and the hundreds of steps at Santorini.  Even with the crowd, it was still an awesome site to see.

 

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Really enjoying your review.  It is bringing up fond memories.   We went the first week of June, and it already seems like years ago.

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On 10/23/2019 at 8:49 PM, Shana9136 said:

It's smelly, slippery, and hot

That sums it up perfectly.  People should also know that the donkeys (on our day at least) liked to hug the wall. So if you were walking along the wall when they passed, you were going to rubbed up with hot donkey. 

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After we had our fill of the Acropolis we headed back down, and walked towards the Plaka - a street of restaurants and shops with street vendors. (It's on the maps) We poked around there and in some of the shops, but we weren't really hungry enough to stay for a meal.
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I was game to either get on a bus again but for the Athens (red) line to do more of the audio tours, or try to link up with one of the walking ours, but hubs was getting tourist fatigue and was kind of done. Such is the compromise of marriage and traveling companions! It was a victory to get him to even go to Greece, so I was willing to put aside my natural urge to see every square inch of Athens. We headed back towards the Acropolis bus stop, listened and gave generously to a street musician who somehow managed to play Metallica on a lute, bought a little laurel leaf pendant to use as a Christmas ornament, and waiting for the next Piraeus (green) line bus to head back towards the ship.

Although you may see a City Sightseeing bus that has a sign saying Piraeus on the front... do not be fooled! If it doesn't match up with the estimated time table and/or the staff that hang out by the bus stops don't announce it is, in fact, a Piraeus line bus, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I guess sometimes they change the service of the buses and re-distribute them as needed, so the sign on the front may not actually be accurate. It led to a lot of confusion wth many people trying to board it and getting reprimanded by the driver. Just wait for the staff to shout that it's the bus you want, and then get on.

Although it was much warmer by now, we sat on the first level of the bus on the way back. There is free wifi on the buses, but it's spotty. There are at least 2 different cruise terminals - the Cruise Compass specifies which you will be docked at, but the bus driver was helpful and yelled out the cruise line associated with each as he stopped.

Once back on the ship I headed to my beloved Solarium and had the best pina colada/blue Hawaiian of my life (Timothy elevated this cocktail to levels never before tasted! He's an artist, and a heavy-handed pour, bless his heart!)
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Dinner was "dress your best" again - normally it's on the last sea day on this cruise, but it was moved for some reason. Seafood risotto was ok, french onion soup was good, cilantro crusted cod as good, beef bourguignon was good, chocolate souffles with praline sauce were yum, and one of the little RCI 50th anniversary cakes.
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After dinner we had another shuffleboard death match and then watched a movie poolside under about 10 pool towels because it was a little brisk. Also this is what happens when we try to take photos together. Hubs only has one face: photobomb!
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Our last sea day was a rainy one. I went up to the Viking Crown lounge/Vortex to read a while. It's a popular spot for people to gather and read or play card games.

It brightened up a little later in the day so it was time for more Solarium lounging, in between various meals and more yoga.

Dinner that night was vidalia onion tart (very good), prime rib (very good), gnocchi (ok), molten lava cake (yum), followed by drinks in the Schooner Bar until bedtime.
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As there's not much to report from today, just a few random words about the ship.

We've been on Radiance Class before (Serenade of the Seas a few times) so we were prepared for the smaller size, lack of central promenade, but lovely Solarium with pool and lots of glass everywhere so many beautiful views.

The ship is older but well-maintained with expected wear-and-tear. They were constantly repainting or refinishing the wood throughout the week. I found it to be clean and attractive, if a bit dated with some decor.

We didn't go to any of the shows in the Coral Theater so I can't comment on those, but we watched some of the random games that would occur in the Centrum or poolside. The Centrum doesn't have enough seating on the main level though, so we mainly ended up leaning over a railing from an upper floor to watch.

Trivia seemed popular on this ship, particularly when held in the Schooner Bar. Per usual the prize is a very fetching key chain!

The shops were only ok. We didn't buy anything there. The usual jewelry, perfumes/cosmetics, cruise-branded clothing, few more Mediterranean-inspired items like olives, donkey milk soaps etc, and snacks and sundries.

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We bought the Voom Surf and Stream for 2 devices prior to boarding and it worked fairly well the majority of the time. We kept our phones in airplane mode and turned on wifi and bluetooth and had no issue with unexpected charges. It was fine for email, web-browsing, Facebook browsing, uploading pics to Facebook, texting, Pandora, podcasts etc. But watching videos was impossibly slow with frequent buffering, and uploading pictures at their full size to Dropbox took an eternity (think many, many hours). We didn't find any true dead spots for the wifi and it worked well in our room (9th floor midship) as well as the public areas. There was one day where it was extremely spotty for some reason - I had to keep manually shutting off wifi, then turning it back on so it would reconnect, but it was just one day like that. Overall it got the job done.

Food in the main dining room (Tides) was good, not usually great, but perfectly acceptable. We always had the same table for two which suited us fine, and service was fairly efficient.

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Food in the Windjammer was also good, sometimes great, and we never had trouble finding a seat (we prefer to walk aft and sit in the outdoor but covered area where the blue cushioned/wicker chairs are just before the far aft open-air spot.) Coffee in the windjammer was spotty - some stations were incredibly bitter and full of grounds, so at times we had to try a few to hit one that was drinkable. The selection of food was varied and catered towards more Mediterranean tastes I felt, which suited me just fine. Tip: try putting the waffle station toppings in the oatmeal! Really yummy, especially the strawberries.

We didn't use room service so no comment there.

Chops was as expected, very good, though as I mentioned when I blogged about it I actually didn't like the bacon appetizer this time which shocked me as it used to be my fav.

I found the bartenders at the Solarium Bar to be the best and most creative. I think it wasn't as crazy busy, and they had time to be inventive and work with you to make something special. In the Centrum Bar they struggled to even make what was on their own menu (it was also often busy and loud so I'm sure that played a role), and the Schooner Bar was kind of middle of the road.

The Solarium had a curious issue at times - typically it has a background track of birdsong playing, but at times something changed in which I swear it sounded like death metal being played! I don't know if it was some weird acoustic malfunction where the birdsong rebounded off something, or it was a piece of machinery running, but it was very unpleasant to listen to. And then, like a switch had been flipped, back to birdsong! But sometimes the death metal seemed to be going most of the day. I thought perhaps it was related to having the roof open or shut, but that theory was squashed when I heard both the birds and Slayer cover-band both ways. ;-) Just an odd quirk. Didn't impact my enjoyment of the space, as on the death metal days I just listened to music through my air pods instead. They did have to close the pool at times as it kept flooding the space if there was rocking.
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I didn't have any issue with chair-hogging, which was a pleasant surprise. There seemed to be plenty of options in all areas even on the first sea day which was lovely.

The entertainment on the ship in terms of bands, activities (outside of the Coral Theater productions, as noted we didn't go to those) seemed a little lacking. Just not as many options that appealed to us (we are in our late 30s). But not a deal-breaker, as we picked this cruise mainly for the itinerary.

The staff was all pleasant and accommodating, so no issues there.

We would cruise Jewel again if the itinerary appealed to us (places we haven't been so lots of time off the ship) but I think I'd pick a larger ship with more activities for repeat itineraries where we tend to spend more time on board.
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Great review.  I admire and appreciate people like you who take the time to do this. 

 

Having done the same cruise in May, I think your review was fair and accurate, at least in comparison to our experience.  We did go the headliner shows and found them entertaining.  Although as you said throughout, we did so much during the days in port, we were exhausted by the time we ate dinner.  The Jewel was more than fine for this itinerary, and the staff was really good to us.  Definitely not an Oasis or Freedom class, and people should set expectations.

 

Belated condolences on your Mother's passing. 

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Great review.  I admire and appreciate people like you who take the time to do this. 
 
Having done the same cruise in May, I think your review was fair and accurate, at least in comparison to our experience.  We did go the headliner shows and found them entertaining.  Although as you said throughout, we did so much during the days in port, we were exhausted by the time we ate dinner.  The Jewel was more than fine for this itinerary, and the staff was really good to us.  Definitely not an Oasis or Freedom class, and people should set expectations.
 
Belated condolences on your Mother's passing. 


Thank you for the condolences. She was an avid cruiser right up until the end, so we kept her close to our hearts on this trip!
Glad you enjoyed your cruise as well. It is a lovely (though tiring) itinerary.


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i agree with jimbo! stunning photos


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Thank you! I’m forever holding my phone way above my head or finding an odd angle to get other people out of my shots. Thank heavens for digital pictures as I delete 90% of what I take!


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Your pictures are outstanding. Real high quality. Feel like am there.....

Thank you


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Hello Napoli! Up early - who is surprised? This was the only port where we did an RCI shore excursion, the Amalfi Coast by Land and Sea and Pompeii.
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We met at 8 in the Coral Theater to get our little numbered stickers and wait with our group to disembark. By 8:30 or so we were off and boarding a bus with our guide, Manuela (this was a popular shore excursion so they had 3 or 4 different buses.)

If you want the views of the coast, sit on the right side of the bus, and take pics by holding your phone or camera flush against the windowpane to avoid glare (I didn't figure this out until mostly through the ride, unfortunately). If you are afraid of heights and don't wish to see over the cliffs on the bus ride, sit on the left. And if you get car sick easily... I'd skip it entirely, or take a lot of dramamine! It's a very twisty road and that combined with the height and stress of passing other vehicles within mere millimeters is enough to turn anyone's tummy.
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We made our way along the Amalfi coast, taking in the beautiful vistas, with 1 stop at a limoncello factor to use the restrooms if needed and buy some souvenirs. (It was incredibly crowded in there, and I already have a lot of limoncello at home, so I squeezed through the crowds while hubs used the restroom and tried to stand out of the way.) Manuela was a very entertaining guide and we learned a lot about Pompeii, the volcano, and the coastline on the ride.
Her tips:
- Barilla pasta is crap, get Dececco instead
- if you aren't familiar with mopeds or driving in Italy in general, the Amalfi coast is probably not the place to learn
- I can't remember how to say it in Italian, but a wonderful little saying that goes something like... "the mother of an idiot is always pregnant" - meaning there is a constant supply of idiots in the world. I think we drove past a lot of them on the ride!
- they have yet to finalize an evacuation plan should the volcano blow again, so she advises going to Pompeii and arranging yourself in an interesting pose for archaeologists to find years later
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Once in Amalfi we had a little over an hour to explore on our own (I'm told some of the other buses had less time as they got snarled in traffic and arrived later). It's a beautiful little town with a lovely central piazza, lots of cute shops, a large cathedral, and plenty of restaurants. We weren't hungry but we got some fresh-squeezed OJ (expensive, 7 euro, but delicious) and a lovely hand-painted trivet with lemons on it. The water from the various fountains is potable as it's from the local springs, so it's a good spot to refill a water bottle. Don't miss the paper stores as you first enter the piazza to your left - lovely handmade paper, stationary, cards etc.
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After our time there we boarded a boat to take us along to Salerno. For the best boat views, sit in the very last row of seating on the upper deck, or on the port side of the boat.
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Once in Salerno we met up with our bus again, and rode on to Pompeii. We stopped for lunch first (it was a pre-set menu for our tour group, bread, salad - very oily and salty, canneloni with ricotta and spinach that was good, and a slice of lemon cake that was ok. It included bottled water and wine.) Not the best restaurant but perfectly suitable and filled our bellies.

From there we walked over to enter Pompeii after a brief tour of a cameo factory at the entrance (I'm sure it's an arrangement between the tour guides and the vendors, with the limoncello and cameo factory. The vendors let the tour guides use their restrooms in exchange for bringing in groups of tourists who may purchase something.) We used whisper audio headsets in Pompeii to be able to hear Manuela even if we wandered off a bit, and they worked pretty well. I've been to Pompeii before, but there's always new stuff to see, and Manuela gave us a nice overview that was a bit off-the-beaten-path as she knew many people in the group had been there before. Of course had to see the requisite phallus carvings and brothels! We were there later in the day, around 4, which was pleasant as the sun was low and and there was shade available. The last time I went to Pompeii it was midday in July and I felt I just may burst into flames!
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After Pompeii we had a smooth ride back to the ship (on the highway, as buses are only permitted along the coastal road in one direction) and got back around 6. (To get back on the ship, go up the stairs in the terminal building. There is also an elevator.)

We didn't feel like rushing to clean up for our dinner reservation, so we skipped it and hit up the Windjammer instead which was just fine. Then, sadly, it was time to pack to go home.




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