This was our first cruise on RCI. We departed on January 10 on the Jewel of the Seas on a short 4-day Cozumel and back cruise from Tampa. A word about Tampa - it is the easiest departure I have ever had on a cruise. The facilities are new, the staff friendly, signage is clear and hotels and shuttles are close by. The parking garage (we flew) is across the street. We went from shuttle to buffet lunch on the ship in less than 30 minutes. Our bags made the room in less than an hour. Returning, we went from breakfast on the ship to the Tampa airport in 45 minutes and that was only because of construction on the freeway that slowed us down. TPA is also a great airport for service. The Floridians are friendly and eager to help. (It took me 5 1/2 hours to get off a Carnival ship in Los Angeles last year, with some of the rudest porters and customer reps I have ever encountered.)
First, my ONLY SMALL complaint was the cabin's balcony. Our cabin, 9048, had the window washing equipment secured outside it. It appears to be permanently stored there. This does not show up on any deck plans of the ship that I saw. The equipment blocks about 2 feet of the balcony. Not a major hindrance but it should be disclosed by RCI. The next-door cabin, 9050, also gets a small piece of the equipment.
Our room steward, Donna, learned our names immediately and was charming and efficient. I left her an extra tip above the pre-paid gratuity because of her efficient service.
The ship itself is full of artwork. I spent sea days exploring the art collection, which is everywhere.
Cruisers ran the gamut from retired to families. 2,500 people were on-board and except for the pool area, the ship did not feel crowded. There is a separate kids pool and an indoor pool. Dress is casual but we saw people dressing up for photos and dinner.
We tried both specialty restaurants, Chops, and Portfino, and both are worth the $30 and $20 surcharges. Our experience at Chops was marred slightly by a loud group of 8 who acted like Honey Boo-Boo's parents at a Waffle House on a Saturday night, but that it not the staff's fault. The wines are marked up about restaurant average and the list is pretty extensive for a ship. We had Duckhorn Merlot for less than we pay at a Las Vegas Strip steak house.
As Las Vegans, we did not use the casino, (hey, we can gamble in grocery stores) but it looks like fun, with a variety of games.
Dining with My Time is a breeze, though the table are a bit close together. The food in the buffet is plentiful and well-organized. There is plenty of fruits and low-cal options.
We saw a number of cruisers in wheelchairs and scooters. The ship looks very accessible for handicapped people, though some of their fellow passengers would crowd them out of the elevators. Suggestion to RCI - designate one elevator as handicapped priority first or only.
A small cafe in the aft of the ship, Sea Breeze, offers made to order sandwiches and has a great, uncrowded view aft.
I used the fitness center each day. A good workout with a great view high up in the front of the ship.
On the way out fo Tampa, go to a late dinner because you will want to watch the passage under the Skyway Bridge. The ship barely clears it. I did it coming back into Tampa at 3:45 am. Very impressive site.
Cozumel is just another Mexican port. I have been to them all. The vendors are pushy and the sites just so-so. We went back to the ship and enjoyed an uncrowded day around the pool.
I will definitely add the Jewel of the Seas to my cruise rotation.