My wife Lynn and I, along with our niece and her husband, recently completed an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard RCI's stunning Jewel of the Seas. This was our second cruise (both with RCI).
Jewel of the Seas is a gracious, large, beautiful, captivating, well laid-out ship. With 2,000+ cruisers aboard –- not that you would know it – I had the impression that time was well spent by the design crew in making this a masterpiece in roominess and comfort. Jewel is well-decorated, with eye-pleasing tones throughout the ship. Navigating around the ship was a breeze. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for providing a theme-designed interior and exterior. Every public room was tastefully done and absolutely stunning. We particularly enjoyed the Solarium Spa, Safari Room, and the Schooner Bar.
We tremendously enjoyed our balcony stateroom, mid-ship on level 10, room 1056. The room was always done up to perfection by the attendant. It was clean, large enough, and very comfortable, with plenty of storage space. Our cabin was next to the elevators -- our choice, and a very wise choice. There was absolutely no noise, and we had the convenience of being very close to the elevators. Being at this level has its perks; we were close to the Windjammer Café, the pool area, and outdoor activities -- just go up one flight of stairs and you are there. There was some pitching and rolling, but it was limited. Maybe because we cruised before it didn't make us seasick; in fact, it was comforting to fall asleep with this subtle movement.
Overall, the service was superb -- performed professionally with a smile, with two exceptions: The pool bar service and room service were very disappointing. The two pool bars seemed understaffed and consistently provided low-quality drinks. When we wanted good, properly-mixed drinks, we headed to the Schooner Bar or the Solarium Bar; service there was top-notch. Room service was a joke. We are not big users of this service so it really did not matter, but for those who are, it could be a problem.
We attended every show in the Coral Theatre. It's sad to say, but we felt only four presentations (50%) were very entertaining; the other four were of very low quality. We highly recommend all performances by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers (three in total), and a very strong performance by the group 'Spectrum' -- a tribute to Motown. The Denise Canby Trio and the Rosario Strings entertained in the Centrum lobby; not our style, but judging by the attendance every night this was a real hit. The poolside band, Kool Vibes, was not very good. The other resident band, House Party, was also mediocre. You could always find a group of cruisers up in the Vortex Disco shaking their bones to the tunes of DJ Johnny. When not on the dance floor, they were sipping refreshments at the rotating bar, a very neat feature.
There was always plenty to do: bingo, cooking lessons, wine tasting, art auctions, cinema, pool activities, rock climbing wall, golf mini-putt, shuffleboard, etc. The best part: We were not belted by noisy loudspeaker announcements that drive you up a wall. The announcements you did hear were important; usually it was Captain MacDonald giving data on the ship's course, the weather, winds and destinations.
All the rooms, including the washrooms, were spectacular, functional, and well serviced. Our favorites were the Safari Room, the Schooner Bar, Solarium and Tides Dining Room. All the rooms were very pretty and well decorated. The bank of elevators faced the sea, a wonderful idea with a great view.
We had late seating, but preferred the early seating as we had the first cruise. We ate all of our dinners in the dining room, where the menu had great variety, but the food was low on taste. We believe that all waiters will suggest a recommended choice; if not, ask the waiter for his/her suggestion and take it.
The Windjammer Café is a buffet-style option for casual dining and all breakfast and lunch servings. The room's design has improved efficiency and eliminated line-ups for food. There are islands scattered around, each with their specialty, giving you great variety and choice. But we thought the quality of the food was mediocre. The décor and vastness of the Windjammer is a real improvement and a hit with the cruisers. The quaint, smaller Seaview Café offers sandwiches and fried/greasy food – hamburgers, onion rings, etc. This is a good alternative when your taste buds itch for fast-food fare. Overall, the food was of good variety, but standard quality. We hope that RCI improves this.
We believe that RCI offers the best value for your money and possibly the best vacation on earth, and does it with style and service. Although you cannot please every cruiser's desire or expectations, an RCI ship -- especially the newer ships -- should meet most of your expectations. We are preparing to sail again in 2007 on their newest ship, the Ultra Voyager series -- either Freedom of the Seas or one that is not named yet.