Jewel of the Seas - 12 Night Scandinavia & Russia Cruise
Back in February 2009, I was told to book the four night cruise on Vision of the Seas on the 3rd-7th May from Harwich to Oslo by my then boyfriend, Patrick Patton.  Flight, hotel and everything else was booked then a month later he informed me he'd got a job on Jewel of the Seas, flying to Miami on the 3rd to join the ship the following day.  I was devastated, since it was supposed to be our first holiday together.  He promised he would get me on Jewel to make it up to me.  I could only do three ex-UK dates due to other commitments - 10th June, 22nd June and 4th July.  I'd told him the 22nd was non-negotiable since during that trip it would be a year since we met but when he came to finally fill in the application on the 19th May after dragging his feet, he said it may be too soon and so I opted for the 4th July.  He submitted it the next day minus my passport number.  He phoned on the 29th when they were back in Harwich to tell me I was now on the manifest.  I now had five weeks to get things sorted,
which wasn't easy when the person you're a guest of won't answer your questions and no one at Royal Caribbean will either.  He only forwarded the email confirmation because Amy was convinced I wasn't really going.  It really would be more helpful if RC
CL sent a letter telling the guest what they need to take and to serve as a confirmation.  It would also be useful in case the crew they're the guest of is unable to check them in due to illness or something.  This would be a VERY different cruise.  For a start, while I would be a passenger, I would be staying in crew quarters with bunk beds.  I'm all for experiencing something new!  I've wanted to go on Jewel since I first saw her back in 2004 (the first Radiance class I'd seen) and this was one of the cruises out of my reach due to price.  Now I was doing both and all thanks to the QE2 for giving me a piano player a year before.

I was up bright and early on the 4th ready for my journey into the unknown.  
Jewel was docked and looking gorgeous.  The BBC weather forecast had said rain in Harwich, Copenhagen, Stockholm and day one in St Petersburg but dry in Helsinki.  Didn't go further than that.  Well so far it was boiling hot and not even 8am!
Patrick finally turned up gone 9.30am.  Many people at the Premier Inn were waiting for taxis to the ship but we got the one which was ordered by someone else but they'd taken another.  Once the rest realised he worked on the ship they didn't mind.  I was wearing my Indy T-shirt, since she was at home that day.  The second time I'd gone to Harwich and there was another RCI ship in Southampton.
We took my case inside the terminal building and had to queue.  When we got to the lady, Patrick explained I was his guest and was told we had to go to the pier manager.  She directed him to the desk at the very end.  It was painless enough.  He handed over a piece of paper, she asked for my passport and credit card.  Credit card was one thing I'd asked him about so didn't take it since he'd insisted all I needed was the passport.  After a slight disagreement he then turned around and said it was going on his anyway.  So why the fuss????  I was handed my Sea Pass and for the first time since Navigator it didn't say Gold Member.  I had been told by the Crown & Anchor Society these trips are logged as complimentary so I hope it's on my record.  The lady wrote out a luggage tag to 2818 and while Patrick took it to a porter outside, I went to board the normal way after having by photo taken.  It always amazes me at security how many seasoned cruisers aren't ready with everything they need to remove ready.  I went through no problem and took the looooooooooooong walk onto the ship.  They took my card for the photo and the machine said it was an invalid ID!  Great start.  I was asked several questions so explained my situation.  The man did manage to fix it which was a relief.  I began to get visions of that train ride home because of a simple cock up!  I'd arranged to meet Patrick in the Centrum but deck 4 was so stuffy I went up to the next deck.  I have to admit this was my first disappointment.  Vision is my favourite Royal Caribbean ship.  Like everything, there's room for improvement in some areas but besides that she's perfect, starting in the Centrum.  This was more like the Sun class Princesses and I wasn't impressed.  I waited for Patrick by the window and when he arrived he brought my yellow pass which entitled me access to the crew quarters but nowhere else - boo!  I would be in corridor I-95 and behind door 33.  We went to get some lunch in the Windjammer so I took a photo of the Centrum before we set off.
He asked if I wanted to see the Hollywood Odyssey on Deck 13 where he worked so we went up two decks.  He showed me The Vortex first, the disco.  I really liked this room.  It reminded me in a way of Vision and had plenty of space, unlike the equivalents on the Voyager and Freedom class.  Patrick said it doesn't really get busy.  While I snapped away, he was talking to his friend Stevie on the phone.  Stevie was currently on a break from Queen Victoria but would be returning there.  I had a brief chat with him before we went to the hidden nook that is the Hollywood Odyssey.
The Hollywood Odyssey is the cigar bar, not the ideal enviroment for a vocalist.  He called it Jewel's best kept secret.  It was a really nice bar but the doors to the deck were locked which wasn't any good.
He took me down to show me my luxury accommodation afterwards while instructing me to remember certain corridors.  I'd only been on five minutes!  He told me to try my Sea Pass in the door but it wouldn't work so we went to Guest Relations and was told it's just for the account and I'd need a door key.  I also had no idea what I was supposed to do at muster.  I asked someone outside the Coral Theatre since my card said A1 and he said to go there.  As it was nearing the time, I put my lifejacket on and Patrick couldn't help inspecting it to make sure it was on correctly like he was still a muster guide on Cunard!  He led me to the theatre via a crew door coming out by the stairs on deck 2 so I could go straight up, led me outside the theatre then said to remember the route before disappearing.  I walked in and those doing a roll call took one look at the 'Crew' on the jacket and told me to sit at the back.  It was the longest and most boring muster I've had on Royal Caribbean.  Afterwards I did remember the route to the crew door but the other side I took a few wrong turns before finding door 33.  I persuaded Patrick to come to sailaway, since he's usually having his siesta.  When I got outside I saw we were
already well away from the dock because it was about 5pm when the muster (in numerous languages) finally ended.  Thankfully I hadn't missed the blasting and was on the phone to my dad when the captain hit the horn.
Since the shore excursion desk was open again at five, we went in at 5.30pm we went down to book my trip in St Petersburg.  This is where I missed being in control of my cruise.  It would have been all done online had it been a normal one.  I wanted the walking tour since it was short.  Unlike many passengers who do two, three or more, as long as I see something of the places I'm in I'm happy - as long as it's not Zeebrugge!  It was done very quickly and the woman suggested Patrick put in to be a guide and write friends and family next to it so she knows and we could do it together.  That would be the next stop!  However since we did have the queue beforehand I took photos of the builder's plate which is next to Guest Relations.  The port presentation plaques were around the main door we went through to the I-95 so I could get those any time.  This is also where I had been introduced to Vasil, a Bulgarian guitarist, trombonist and vocalist and part of the Swing Street Trio who regularly played in the Centrum. He thought I was Patrick's daughter.  Not the only one!
Afterwards, since it had been a long day, it was time to join Patrick for his daily siesta.  He has these when working on ships.  A habit, he says, from working in Spain.  Despite it being bunk beds, he had made it perfectly clear no one was going on the top bunk, so that stayed covered in bags, boxes and clothes.  Unlike the QE2 in my single passenger cabin when he broke the rules, he was on the outside this time, but only because he slept on the right side of the bed usually.  I was crushed against the wall, having to clamber over him and avoid hitting that ladder as I got in and out.  Although I had been allocated first sitting in Tides, the main dining room, I wasn't given a table so decided to go with Patrick to the Windjammer for dinner.  It was a nice evening and the sun was beautiful as it was setting.  I really enjoy being at sea in the middle of nowhere when the sun's rising or falling.  I left him to it for a bit while I went out to the stern for some photos.
Afterwards Patrick wanted a coffee in the outdoor seating area adjoining the Windjammer.  It leads to the open deck and is portside (tables outside on the starboard).  I can understand why he likes it so much.  It's a really pleasant area - when you don't have a load of kids running about or playing table tennis!  You can even open the windows.  In one corner you can look at the side of the ship since it's part of an overhang whereas the other end leads to the pool.  Then Patrick had to get ready for work.  His hours this night were 10pm-12.30am with breaks.  Nice work if you can get it!  I should get in on this lark.  Probably won't matter to the passengers when they've had a few that I can't play or sing but I'll get loads of cash for the privilege of being untalented.  Something was going on in the Centrum but it was so far down I just held my camera over the side, pointed and hoped they would come out.
We went in the lift down to deck 2.  He gathered everything he needed for work and we went up to deck 13 where he set up while the waiter Reynaldo served the few people in there.
Afterwards we went to the Solarium for a late night pizza and coffee as he relaxed.  Then back down via the crew door nearby which had a rather slow lift (two if you went down a deck) and came out almost opposite door 33.  This was a really easy route to remember!  It had been such a long day so straight to bed.

The next day was at sea.  We woke up about 11am and I dragged Patrick around the deck since it was all new to me.  I did like the walkway between rock climbing wall and mini golf course.
After a bite in the Windjammer we went shopping then for a stroll since I wanted to go on the bow.  Having LOVED being able to stand and sit there on Navigator and Indy, I was thrilled when he told me Jewel's was open too.  It's as it should be.
I noticed the Promenade deck had a slope, something I hadn't seen since the Queen Mary in Long Beach or the QE2 forward inside in cabin areas.  He thought I was mad but it's unusual.
Since it was formal night, Patrick decided we should eat in Tides.  We went to see the head waiter but there was no one around bar a few waiters the other end so he decided to try again a few hours later.  I liked this restaurant more than Aquarius on Vision but it just needed the chandalier of the Voyager and Freedom classes to make it perfect.  Then it was back to the cabin to watch a little telly and to have a siesta.  This is where I gave him a present of his blue and white patterned shirt to borrow back (which he'd used as packaging in a box of gifts he'd sent in December, since the shirt was a long-running joke between us going back to our first two dates), and a thin, white tie.
While he went to find the head waiter again, I tried sorting out the mess that was my clothes and shopping while also getting changed for dinner.  I suppose it's easy for two people to share as long as they're both men!  The bathroom had a cabinet but it was full of Patrick's things.  It also smelt of sewage.  It reminded me of Oceana (minus the stink) but had a tad more elbow room.
Patrick came back saying he couldn't find the head waiter again so we'd just go and take our chances.  There was a little queue of people wanting to change tables and things.  One woman was holding it up insisting her waiter had told her the day before it would be sorted and she wouldn't accept there wasn't anywhere for her to go at a later time.  We were put "just for tonight" on a large table in a side part of the restaurant with several Canadians and an American and his English wife.  Patrick insisted I kept my mouth shut about him working on the ship and not drum up business in the cigar bar.  Barbara (one of the Canadians) had a Canon camera like Pam and took a photo of me and Patrick with mine.  It was a really pleasant meal and my only real complaint is how they put peppers (capsicum) into far too much, even in the Windjammer, so it limits choice for someone like me who's allergic to them or if people just don't like them.
We had our dessert and coffee/tea before the others were given their dessert menus.  Barbara asked who we knew to receive such fast service.  Patrick said no one.  He did admit in the end he was crew and had no hesitation when it came to it.  We didn't leave for a while though.  Barbara and her family left first.  We headed for the Windjammer then a coffee before he started work.
Once he'd finished for the night at 12.30am, it was to the Solarium again before back to the cabin.  A bit of time on the internet before bed.

The next day we were in Copenhagen!  The schedule on the noticeboard said there was a crew drill at 9.30am.  
Mein Schiff was due for 10am so I went up after the Code Bravo and saw she was already there!  Rotterdam was already in.  I decided to phone home and just after, at 10am, I had eight bells AND blasts of the horn down my ear!  I managed to get some of them on video.  I rang my dad again to tell him I'd been deafened by the racket.  It was a pleasantly warm day and, since there was a crew meeting afterwards to award things like 'Employee of the Month', 'Best Smile' etc, I went back to the cabin to wait for Patrick to
get back.
When Patrick returned, he told me the woman who booked my shore excursion won 'Best Smile'.  He decided we would walk into the city so we began the marathon trek just before 11am.  First stop, the Little Mermaid.
Patrick wanted to buy DVDs but the shop was so stifling with seemingly no aircon I almost fainted and had to get out.  He left me with a Coke while he went back for them.  After walking and walking to find him a cash machine, we headed back to the ship with me not even having anything for breakfast or lunch.  Our feet were killing us and he really should have known better since, while it was my first time in these places, he's done it three times already on this ship and also Ocean Majesty a couple of years earlier so knew to take the shuttle.  We ended up at a dead end so had to try and find another way out.  I had missed AIDAcara arriving for 2pm, which I wanted to see.
As I was taking photos of the two ships, it began to rain.  Not much but enough to be a nuisance so we hurriedly reboarded our ship and went to the Windjammer for food.  While Patrick had his snooze, I went on deck.  We were due to sail at 5pm, as was Rotterdam, Mein Schiff at 6pm and the AIDA at 8pm.  Which of us would go first?  It turned out to be us - more than ten minutes early!  It was still raining when I went onto the Promenade deck so ended up going to the stern to get the photos I wanted.  Some crew were doing the same thing while another had binoculars.  We all smiled at each other in acknowledgement.
Rotterdam was already away from the dock when we neared then backed up to turn and followed us into the open water.  It was getting harder to see with the rain and distance between us.
I joined Patrick for a nap after I went back to the cabin before dinner in the Windjammer as usual.  Normally when I'm on a cruise I dine each night in the main restaurant so this was the first time I didn't. But it was more out of convenience for him than anything else, even though we did discuss going back to the dining room one night.  Coffee followed before he had to go to work.
While Patrick was playing and singing away merrily, he indicated the window to me and I saw we had a rescue helicopter outside.  Many people went on the deck (and it's times like this that door should be open) but some of us stayed in the warm.  My feet were aching after all that walking in Copenhagen anyway so I was happy where I was although it would have been good to get a picture when it disappeared from our view.  It was around about an hour before zooming off with an ill passenger.
Solarium again for pizza and coffee then bed.  We were getting a routine here.

It was a sea day en route to Stockholm.  After sleeping until gone 11am we went for lunch in the Windjammer, did a bit of shopping, had a nap, then dinner in the Windjammer.  Such an exciting day!  I had heard an announcement while Patrick slept about a crew visit to
Oasis of the Seas when were were in Helsinki, lucky buggers.  I also took the opportunity to take photos of the corridors behind door 33.  I was a little nervous in case I was yelled at so took photos when no one was about to be on the safe side.
The evening entertainment in the theatre was British comedian Duggie Brown, who used to be really famous.  Patrick had seen him on Cunard and wasn't impressed but I'd never seen him before and wanted to go.  He took me to the Coral Theatre for the 9pm show then went for coffee and to go to work.  Duggie was very funny but did tend to use American words a lot.  Also whenever he was talking about the Windjammer, he kept calling it Horizon Court.  He also made many jokes about Sacha, the Russian musical director who was in the orchestra.  He was very funny and at the end posed when he saw my camera.  He said he was going into UK soap Emmerdale as another of the Dingle clan.  He had boarded in Copenhagen and leaving in Stockholm.
Afterwards I went up to the Hollywood Odyssey even though there was a 70s night in the Centrum.  What a really stupid place to hold something like that.  There isn't the room.  On Vision it was in the Viking Crown Lounge.  On Navigator and Indy they have things like that in the Royal Promenade.  All places with SPACE.  It should have been in the Vortex, which is empty enough as it is so would actually do good business.  The Centrum is hot and stuffy on a good day without a disco.  Someone has bad planning.  Anyway it was better in the Hollywood Odyssey even though for more than an hour Patrick was playing to just me and Reynaldo.  It was quite sad but he was very professional and didn't skive.
Back to the Solarium afterwards for pizza and coffee and this time we were joined by Vasil who does like to muck about.  He took a photo of me and 'papa' before I took one of him.
As we went back to the cabin, I took a quick photo of the guide in the lift.  It was a shame I only had access to the cabins.  There was so much on that list to explore!
The 8th July was sunny Stockholm!  This is also where we had a change of captain as Thore Thorolvsen left to be replaced by a Canadian.  I was up bright and early since AIDAluna was in, sailing at 7am so should pass us.  We were to be joined by Azamara Journey and Grand Voyager, though they wouldn't be docked near us.
I didn't stay for our docking but instead went back to the cabin to wash my hair.  Patrick was still snoring so I listened to music on my phone and ate those gorgeous garlic potato chips they sell onboard.  I didn't realise until grumpy complained I had the music coming through the speaker too.  By 10am when there was no movement I decided to bugger off and call home as well as get some dockside pics.
It was a little nippy and clouds became ominous so I went back to the cabin for my cardigan and umbrella and found Patrick gone.  I went to look for him in the Windjammer and there he was having breakfast, thinking I was in a mood.  We got the shuttle in.  This was one you had to buy a ticket in advance for.  We were the only ones on it!  While where we were in the city was sunny, a few miles away was dark clouds with thunder.
My feet were killing me so I didn't go to sailaway.  Had a nap instead.  I was beginning to pick up Patrick's habits rather too easily.  It was his night off so he booked us a table in Chops Grille for 9pm.  It was the last time available.  Before we went in, we sat in the Schooner Bar listening to Craig Andrews.  He wasn't bad.  He was doing this cruise and the next as a favour to their agent but because he didn't have a medical certificate, he was classed as a passenger while staying in a crew cabin.  While we were eating, the pilot boat came.
After he didn't let the steak beat him we left.  It was a fantastic meal with excellent service  and well worth the $25 cover charge.  We sat in the Schooner a little while again before heading into the Safari Club to listen to 23 Degrees, his friends.  I can't remember his name off hand but she was Michelle and had a really wonderful and powerful voice.  They did an extra number since people enjoyed them so much then Patrick took me over to be introduced before it was pizza time at the Solarium.
The next day was Helsinki.  I stayed in bed for the arrival since I was so tired despite all the napping.  We got the bus into the city which cost eight euros and was a bus.  He wanted to go cheap DVD hunting again so dragged me around.  It rained at one point so we dived into a cafe for some lunch before carrying on.
As we walked before doing a U-turn and heading back to the shuttle stop, we spotted Ocean Majesty unusually parked with the ferries!  Patrick had worked on her in 2007 and had a fondness.  He said when they used to do this run they were elsewhere.  It rained a little on us again so we went back to the stop via the park.

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© Patrick Patton & Patricia Dempsey 4th-16th 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission