This was my 5th cruise, first trasatlantic, 2 on Carnival on the Fascination and 2 on Celebrity on the Century and the Infinity. I was traveling with 2 single buddies and we selected their family stateroom (Cabin-8500, starboard side) which can accommodate up to 6 passengers with a spacious 319 square feet. It was on the 8th deck, 2 below the bridge, at the very front of the ship with 2 large circular portholes looking straight ahead over the heliport to the sea. Great for entertaining which we did. I checked out the family stateroom next to us on our right on the side of the ship and the biggest difference was the 2nd small bedroom was about twice the size of our 2nd bedroom, a big plus. Our stateroom attendant, Harold John, was outstanding and took immediate care of all our requests (some above and beyond the call of duty) in a very friendly but professional manner. We tipped him extra at the conclusion of the cruise. The only problem with the stateroom was the strong, somewhat offensive odor when going in and out of the cabin in the hallway.
The first thing I noticed when boarding the ship was the excellent overall design, both exterior and interior. The ship was built in 2004 and updated in 2007 I believe. Much glass is used in the area of the Centrum and also other areas to include the elevators, a very nice touch. The biggest difference I noticed from the previous 3 ships I have sailed on is the design of the Centrum. Most ship have a very large elaborate atrium with a big sometimes dual staircase which takes up a lot of room. With the Centrum you have a smaller very nice staircase BUT room for entertainment and dancing and people can view the floor and music on the higher decks. That's a real plus to be able to view the entertainment or dance prior to entering the main dining room or anytime for that matter. And, the main dining room is only a few steps from the dance floor. Other ships have the pre-dinner dancing/entertainment away from the atrium on single story decks, not as nice a touch as the Jewel's Centrum. I have read reviews from other professional ship critics and most agree the Jewel is well designed and much nicer than those square boxy floating hotels on a barge mega-ships like the ugly RCCL's 5500 passenger Oasis and Allure of the Seas! No thanks!
I found the food to be good but not great, like Carnival, and a step or 2 below Celebrity which has a nice sushi bar that opens around 5:30 for a pre-dinner snack prior to the late 8:30 seating. Even though the food was just fair to average, the pasties were outstanding! My compliments to the pastry chef! Our wait staff, Viktor Ficinger (Serbia) and Osden (India) both were outstanding waiters. Viktor, our main waiter, was very informative, professional and amusing and Osden, the assistant waiter, was very funny with his Indian accent when he said it was "chill out time" providing us with fantastic fruit drinks every night gratis! They allowed us to bring in our own "privately purchased" wine to the table w/o corkage fees. Also, in lieu of the speciality dining in Chop's Steakhouse for $30, you can merely order their filet mignon from Chops for $15 and Viktor will bring it to your table. We tipped them both extra as well. We had a great fun table, all Americans and 1 windowed Brit from Yorkshire, Frank. It was a little difficult understanding his strong Yorkshire accent but we prevailed. He was a nice guy and like us enjoyed life to the fullest! We met him in one of the ship's bars the 1st or 2nd night of the cruise and invited him to join us at our table. He had a great time which I'm sure helped him ease the pain of the recent loss of his wife. At the adjoining table were 3 stuffy, quiet and boring Brit couples who didn't appreciate our zest for life and the fun we had at our table! There were 2 verbal (almost physical)incidents that were taken care of quickly by the headwaiter. One Brit demanded security, he was a joke! He could have requested another table if he found us too loud. Btw, it was the younger "over served" guys at our table, not us old guys, that provoked the incidents, BUT the old tres amigos defended them to the end!
The entertainment was outstanding!
Embarking and disembarking was easy as the ship had 1900 passengers aboard on a ship with 2501 capacity. No long lines. Most of the passengers were older married couples but we managed to find quite a few singles. We were never bored during the first 7 sea days from Miami to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. We spent a lot of time in the excellent gym/spa working off all the calories from all the meals. One thing I noticed was the "size" of probably 50% of the passengers. I really hate to be so critical BUT the obesity was off the charts, but maybe normal for many people who cruise. At times I could tell the crew, although never commenting, still can't get over the obesity aboard as the crew were mostly from the Philippines, eastern European countries and Peru. And not obese! Very sad health wise to see so many people like this!
I found this cruise to be much more fun than my 4 previous cruises. We met many nice people and had fun with them. The 3 ports were fun as well (Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Brest, France and then Cherbourg, France in Normandy). We visited a charming french village, Carentan, and then Utah Beach with a couple from our table. We wanted to visit Omaha Beach as well but not enough time to do it right. As always on a cruise you only get a small taste of the ports.
I will cruise RCCL again and probably do another transatlantic, westbound this time, to gain hours instead of losing them. Transatlantics are a great value, if you have the time, and much fun! One great cruise! After the cruise we spent 5 days in Puerto Banus (Marbella) on the Costa del Sol, then 4 days in Madrid and flew home. Pura Vida!!!