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And I wondered what made you pick RCI? As a t/a if I knew your previous cruising history was with Cunard I would have steered you towards Celebrity or Azamara. As they are all the same company you can switch brands if you seriously are concerned.
Oh dear. That is not a very positive attitude is it? If you start with a negative attitude then you will be sure to find faults with everyting. RCI is a large 4* American cruiseline - with 'large' American type service and flamboyancy. Jewel is a beautiful ship - called the 'ships of light' because of the windows, outside elevators, soaring atrium, she has fantastic art work and a great champagne bar location. No, she is not Cunard; personally I think Cunard is 'stuffy' in atmosphere and ambience. I do not know what class of stateroom you have, look on the website to get the square footage. Bathrooms on cruiseships are never large (unless you are in a suite) - but they serve a purpose. How long do you seriously spend in there?! Excursions on cruise ships are always expensive -it is one of the areas where they make their money (along with the Casino and art auctions) Enough research and use of the internet will enable you to pick up enough tips on how to do-it-yourself in each port. Apart from in St Petersburg where I recommend that you do not take the ships tour, but take a private Russian registered tour guide. This way you avoid the herd-mentatlity, the large coaches, and the never ending potty-stops. I used alla-tour.com and would happily recommend them to anyone, Friends used DenRus and were equally happy.
We have been on Jewel of the Seas and the QE2 so can make a comparison. Your cabin will be much bigger, with a fridge and up to date. The Jewel is a very nice ship with lots of open deck space and lots of swimming pools, golf course, climbing wall etc. The ports in the Baltic are very enjoyable so you should have a good trip. Food is very Americanised which you may or may not like and is shipped in from Miami, though is good. Excursion costs are about the same as any other cruise line, i.e not cheap. The negatives with RCI are, expensive shuttle buses, main restaurant closed at lunchtime in port making self service crowded, very small library which is not controlled and seems to just contain books left by passengers, and disembarkation starts very early in the morning.
I'm with A of N here but would like to know which restaurant you used on QE2. If you were in Caronia or Mauritania then you will find the standard on Brilliance is comparable, Princess or Queen's Grill would be superior but then you would have paid a lot more for them. The lay-out of Jewel is good and the food is ok. You will find that, unlike QE2, there is no bath in staterooms and they are small but clean and efficient. If, as you are implying, you have booked then go and assess the situation and let us know in a review what you consider to be the pros and cons but go and at least experience another ship so you have something to compare.
Yes excursions are expensive, they are laid on because so many people are to worried or lazy to do their own thing and they make good money for the cruise line. "Astronomically priced" no.
I do dislike it when people worry when they have no need to. Thousands go and are grateful that they are able to go just be grateful you are one of those lucky people. .... Neil