The Jewel of the Seas is the sister ship to the Serenade which we have cruised on in previous years, so we knew what to expect in terms of layout. The ship is SPOTLESS --- The crew was constantly cleaning public spaces both inside and on deck. Purell stations are EVERYWHERE and RCI has recently developed a 'no handshake' policy in order to avoid the spread of germs. All public restrooms have huge signs regarding hand washing. We saw sanitizing going on regularly. Since I am a germaphobe -- this was ALL good to me!!!!
The ship is smaller than the larger mega ships, but I didn't really feel that we sacrificed anything because of the size. We had plenty of room on deck and the shops onboard were adequate. We enjoyed the "Centrum area" very much. Although it is not a "Promenade" area like the larger ships, the Centrum is open to all floors above deck four so that passengers could enjoy the music and the entertainment from almost anywhere inside the ship. Because we sailed from San Juan, the ship had a decidedly Latin flavor which we really enjoyed. The Latin band that played in the Centrum was EXCELLENT and many people were dancing. The asst. cruise director offered Latin line dancing several times throughout the cruise (both on deck and in the Centrum), so everyone could participate.
Our cabin was two rooms away from the business center and the Centrum elevators. While we could hear the band playing, it was never "too much noixe" and we enjoyed having the sounds of the music filter into our cabin. We were never disturbed by hallway or elevator noise. Our cabin and the cabin next to ours had extended balconies because of their location on the ship. We enjoyed having the extra room on our balcony!
We enjoyed the food onboard and the service was very good. RCI has changed their gratuities policy so that all gratuities are charged to your seapass account. You have the option of offering an additional amount for excellent service, but the ceremonial handing of envelopes on the last night of the trip no longer exists. We chose to give our room steward an additional gratuity because our room was always spotless!
The ship's captain was very strict regarding the mandatory life boat drill. we waited until every passenger attended and when there were stragglers, he came on the loudspeaker to announce that the drill would continue until ALL passengers were present. I liked this!! It was clear that they took safety very seriously (evidenced, I think, by the successful evacuation of the larger Grandeur of the Seas due to a fire). The crew was always present and visible at events, on deck and around the ship.
I have two negatives regarding the ship. The first 9and most important because it affects all passengers) was the Cruise Director. While her staff was engaging and very pleasant (especially her Assistant Cruise Director Elvis - yes, that is his real name!) - the Cruise Director herself was TERRIBLE. She seemed to be going through the motions for much of the trip, her delivery was off putting and she seemed to have an attitude of superiority. One example I can provide is during the Walk for Make a Wish that RCI sponsors. Keep in mind that this is a walk for charity and NOT a race of any kind; therefore, one would expect the cruise director to chat with people as she is walking with them around the track. Instead, she chose to PASS up passengers as if she were running a race and needed to get ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, I have seen what a good cruise director can do for a trip. On the sister ship, we had a gentleman from Jamaica who was absolutely excellent. He put his whole heart and soul into his work and it showed. He interacted with people all the time and never seemed "above it all". By comparison, I would have to rate the Cruise Director of the Jewel as a D.
The second complaint would concern an event we attended in the specialty restaurant Portofino. It was our anniversary and we decided to splurge on a dinner at Portofino that was also a Murder Mystery Dinner entitled "Badda Bing, Badda Bang"... We typically do not go to the specialty restaurants because we have always found the meals in the main dining rooms very good; this made our disappointment that much greater!!! First, we were ushered into one of the lounges outside of Portofino where we were served wine and hors d'oeuvres. They were HORRIBLE and no one at the table could really eat them. This part of the evening took way too long. It was close t 7 before we were even allowed to enter the restaurant. Because this was a special murder mystery dinner, the menu was limited to two choices. I chose the filet and it was very good. My husband chose the shrimp - the serving was very small and we ended up heading to the windjammer so that he could eat dinner after leaving Portofino!!! The service was slow and the food was "light" considering we paid an extra 20 per person OVER their typical surcharge. It was billed as a five course meal, but the courses were very small. Dessert was Tiramasu, but it was really just a glorified sundae. We were also expecting the 'theater" portion of the event to be entertaining and well -acted. It was neither. The acting was WORSE than a high school play. Worse still was the use of mulpitle stereotypes regarding Italian Americans (they are all in the Mafia, the men all have mistresses, the women are loud and cheaply dressed with big breats and exaggerated buttoms). As an Italian American female, I was offended and my husband (who is not Italian) pointed out that had they chosen another culture to portray in this stereotypical way, they would have never been able to get away with it. So ..my STRONG advice is AVOID Porofino and DO NOT spend money on the Murder Mystery Dinner theater. It was MORE than a waste of money!!!