The Jewel of the Seas is our favourite class of ship on RCCL, big enough to offer all the amenities but not so big as to be like a holiday camp. We chose the itinerary out of Tampa for a short cruise prior to a longer cruise in the eastern Caribbean. The 5 night itinerary went to Key West and Cozumel, with two sea days.
We drove to Tampa airport from Orlando, dropped the car and transferred to a cab at 11:30, and were on the ship by 12:00 - not much wrong with that. As usual you can't access your stateroom until 1:00 but, as we were in a suite, we could sit in the concierge lounge until it was ready. Our Grand Suite had plenty of room, a full size bathroom and loads of storage. My wife and I disagreed about the decor, I thought there was too much brown on the carpet and the chairs, but I suppose it's a matter of opinion.
The room attendant was excellent, particularly at trying to resolve some of the issues we had with the room. These included problems with the television, which were only partially resolved after three days, and warm water coming out of the cold taps (basin and bath/shower), which was not.
We were very impressed by the helpfulness and willingness of every staff member we came into contact with, whether it was just serving a drink or sorting out a problem, the can-do, will-do culture is not always found on other ships.
We prefer 'my time' dining and had booked our time slots in advance. The system worked extremely well, not necessarily our previous experience on some other ships, but here it worked as it should - you arrive at the time booked, there is no queue, and they take you to a table (our preference is a table for 2) straight away. Food quality was very good and we had the same waiting team throughout the cruise, they were excellent. Suite guests are able to have a continental breakfast in the Concierge Lounge or a full breakfast menu in the Chops Grill. This is great as it avoids having to queue in the Windjammer. We are not fans of buffets in general but, in fairness, the Windjammer felt roomy and un-crowded on the two occasions we had lunch there - a good point is the deck area at the back where you can sit and eat in the open.
Our first stop was at Key West where the ship docked in the navy port and we were shuttled into town for free. If you have been to the town before you will know that there is not a great deal to see but it is pleasant to walk around. At Cozumel we took a ship's tour to the Coba ruins which were excellent - a bit of a drive, but very interesting, especially the climb to the top of the largest pyramid. It included lunch and a folkloric display - we thought it good value.
The choice of activities on sea days was average. Luckily we like trivia, but towel folding, ice sculpture, bingo, art auctions and a series of commercial presentations on acupuncture, teeth whitening etc from the spa are not enough -though the captain's Q and A session was a good idea.
The evening entertainment in the theatre was fine if pretty standard, there were two evenings of production shows, one better than the other, and a couple of comedians. Music for dancing was available in the Centrum and several of the lounges, which is more than you normally find on other RCCL ships. There were a large number of repeat cruisers (over 800 Diamond and above members) so there was a cocktail party almost every night.
Disembarkation - we opted for express departure where you take your own luggage off with you as soon as the ship has been cleared. We were in a cab within 20 minutes which was great.
Overall a pleasant short cruise slightly marred by avoidable issues that should have been easy to resolve but which took too long to deal with.