I have been on three prior cruises (Carnival) and was looking forward to seeing what Royal Caribbean had to offer. My expectations were that RC would be a step up from Carnival in every aspect, but I soon found out that there were many things that didn't meet those expectations.
The good points of RC Jewel of the Seas -
Boarding. We pulled up to the pier at 11:30. RC staff quickly loaded our luggage and we chose to use the valet service ($80 for 5 days, well worth the extra $5-$10 vs. parking deck). Upon return they had our car to us within 2 minutes! Quickly went through the check-in process and were on the ship by 12:15! Didn't have to wait in line like we did for Carnival.
The Ship - Was a nicer ship than the Carnival ones we've sailed on. Didn't seem outdated. Very nice decor. Sailing was very smooth. At times couldn't even tell we were sailing. Our room was smaller than those on Carnival, but nicely appointed and comfortable.
Buffet food - much better variety than Carnival with lots of healthy options.
Reggae Band - played by the pool each day. They were great and played good music to lay out in the sun by.
The bad points (or things we weren't pleased with)
Dining room food - first meal was flat out terrible. We had 12 people in our group and every plate was bad. For steaks you either had the option of rare, or overcooked! We let our waiter know we weren't pleased with our meal and he was not overly concerned. Dinners got better throughout the cruise, but nothing "wowed" us. If you want a fillet or lobster, you have to eat at a separate restaurant and you have to pay $25+. Carnival offers you lobster and fillets for free in their dining room.
Service - RC staff didn't seem to go out of their way to make you feel welcome. At times they seemed understaffed and overworked. Not very attentive and at times they seemed rude. Our experience at Carnival was they were very attentive, always greeted you with a smile and "good morning" or "how are you today sir?" and they always stepped aside if they were in the hallway to let you pass. RC staff would make you wait or look at you as if you were in their way. Our server never learned our names. Never felt a good connection with him. Each of our servers on Carnival learned our names, established a good connection and made us feel welcomed.
The shows - First night was a comedian - it was painful to watch. Second night - Tribute to Broadway - another snooze fest, though the 60+ crowd seemed to like it! We attempted one more show on the last night of the cruise, but didn't make it 10 minutes before walking out.
Running track - OK, this is a bit picky, but it worth stating that the track is in the worst place imaginable! Upper deck, right through the main area overlooking the pool where during the day it is packed with people! In some places the lounge chairs are right on the track. Either have to use it very early or very late. Not practical during the day.
After hours food - from 9-11pm you have to go to a small eatery tucked away in a place that is way off the beaten path and hard to find even with good directions! From 11pm on food is in the the adult pool area. Just pizza, pre made sandwiches and cookies.
Tipping - was very confusing. Carnival automatically adds in per guest/per day tip. RC you had to fill out a form and designate an amount for each person who served you or you could use their predetermined amount. They also handed out envelopes to give cash. Wasn't very cut and dry on what to do. I also have a beef with tipping the Maitre-D. Didn't see him, and not sure what he did.
Room service - good luck getting it! tried 4 times, and when it showed up it was 1-1.5 hours after calling in the order.
It was a fun cruise. The bad points weren't anything that would keep us from cruising again with RC, we just expected it to be above and beyond our Carnival experience and it wasn't. If I had to choose I'd choose Carnival over RC.