My wife and I just returned from a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas. The port of Tampa, especially our Sunshine Skyway bridge, can only handle smaller, older boats like the Jewel with a gross tonnage of 90,000. Compare that to its sister ship, Liberty of the Seas, rated at 160,000 tonnage which sailed from Fort Lauderdale at the same time and met us in Cozumel (in photo - click to enlarge). The Liberty has more technology in the form of a FlowRider surf simulator, a 3D theater, animation from Dreamworks and plenty more. Both the Jewel and Liberty are dwarfed by the size and technology in RCCL’s amazing new Oasis (with a tonnage of 225,000) that I blogged about here.
And Margaret booked boot camps at the ship gym and a tour to the ruins at Tulum to fill our days. So, I had my expectations set low when it came to technology on the Jewel. Turns out it was not shabby.
The room key was way more than just that. It was our ID in and out of the boat. It was our guide to evacuation zones and assigned dining. It was our on-board charge card. All the charges showed up on the room TV screen. All seamless. Wish hotels were so organized.
The internet access on board was excellent. Not cheap at 60c a minute, but that only rationed my time on-line. The on-board navigation maps – on every TV screen and around the ship – were crisp. Wish airlines were so good.
The fitness center had an impressive range of equipment and you just cannot beat the view. More impressively the trainers who worked us over pretty well during the boot camp spent time emphasizing the detoxification was even more important than exercise or nutrition. I heard about alkaline foods and algae detox treatments. An area worth researching was my response to the sales pitch for weeks of supplies. Wish gyms on land were so comprehensive.
The Tulum tour introduced us to the incredibly complex Mayan calendar - the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar) and the Haab (civil calendar) with 18 months of 20 days and 1 with 5 days. The ruins, particularly, The Temple of the Frescoes showed the ancient Mayans were adept at tracking the movements of the sun. Wish more tours were that visually impressive and educational - there's Silvia, our tour guide as we overlook the stunning waters that brace the ruins. Siliva speaks Mayan, Aztec, Spanish, English and who knows what else and was full of trivia on every topic.
At bars and dinner on the boat I met an agriculture professor who talked about genetically modified crops while we watched the Cowboys and the Steelers and a Blue Bell exec who talked over dinner about the ice cream business. I learned from him Miami is the only city which enjoys their Rum Raisin flavor. Wish more restaurants provided such varied conversation.
Oh, and the boat is no slouch. The 11 storey atrium and glass elevators, the retractable solarium ceiling, the massive Schat-Harding lifeboats – I could have spent time with one of the crew members explaining their nuances. Low-tech? Nah!
Finally a word about Mexico. Since my last visit to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo 6 years ago, the infrastructure seems to have improved significantly. The ferry service (the ferry dock celebrates swallows in photo below that Cozumel is named after) and the highways seemed much, much better. Oh, the military police were out with their weapons, a reminder of the drug wars that plague the country but the rides were clean, comfortable and on-time.