We've taken about 10 cruises, this one the first with Royal Caribbean. We think we'll stay with them.
We booked stateroom 1528, a handicapped room, as we never know when the wife will need to be in a wheelchair. Thankfully the wheelchair function was not needed this time, but the room was very nice, and included a HUGE balcony with teak flooring, and the storage of clothing was very adequate.
We arrived in San Juan a day early just in case the wife had health issues. For some reason unknown to us, La Concha put us into their best suite at no extra cost. I measured it and found that the air conditioned part was about 1,800 sq. ft., and the balcony 1,600 sq. ft., with hot tub. My 21 year old daughter lived out there most of the night. Being the landman/nerd I am, I also counted how many folk the suite could comfortable seat - 56 folk. Almost a waste on the 3 of us, but a great start!
Embarkation was professionally done, and we were on board and eating within 45 minutes, by 11:30 a.m.
We had booked 6 p.m. seating at a table for 8, so as to get acquainted with folk. We were the only ones at the table for the first 3 nights, but folk joined us later in the cruise. The food was VERY good throughout the cruise, and our servers, Mark and Jesus, were marvelous. On the first night Mark, our waiter, looked at my 21 year old daughter with doubtful eyes when she ordered 3 desserts. It then became a game every night as to how many desserts any one of us would order. I think he was amazed that such skinny, beautiful girls could eat so much.
We don't do ship purchased excursions as we find them such a huge waste of perfectly good money. Thus, on St. Croix, we just walked around town (that doesn't take long, except for my girls being professional shoppers while pop tries to find shade) then walked to the left of the ship and found a beach where I sat in the bar and daughter went swimming. She reported amazingly clear water and lots of fish nipping at her heals.
St. Maarten is a paradise for my professional shoppers; however they bought little, while I got lost in the maze of street vendor stalls in which my girls feel at home. We then caught a bus ($6 each) for a 45 minute trip to Maho beach to watch the planes land just over the beach. What a hoot! And I would spend hundreds on a ship-sold excursion why?????
Antigua was a bust, as we never left the port area. The local stores had no deals we could find, but the ladies in the local bazaar have a "fear factor" going for them! If you don't buy their stuff, they will chase and berate! The taxi vendors are way too agressive for our tastes. One guy insisted that I liked to "party" and ought to go with him. I still am not sure what he was selling! But the ladies got their hair braided and that was fun.
We had no plans for St. Lucia other than do our normal thing of checking out local stuff. It soon became clear that we would have to walk at least a mile to do that. Along the way, after escaping the usual aggressive taxi/tour operators, we came across a guy that was just right - not agressive but very relaxed and obviously knew his island. We agreed with Elias to do his "short tour" @$90 for all 3 of us. By the end of that tour I asked him to keep going for $140 for the full 4 hour tour. Wonderful! We made it down to his home town Soffries, with many stops along the way. We went through several back areas where the streets were so narrow, yet the ladies were out with their brooms sweeping them and keeping an eye on all that transpired. After our first visit to St. Lucia, we can't imagine not touring the countryside with someone like Elias. Drats, I didn't get his phone number for future visits, as he was the best we have ever encountered!
I had booked a "tour" on Barbados with a man named Cameron Reid who I found on this site. He took our preferences as to what we liked and sculpted a marvelous tour. The gardens were amazing. The east coast of the island was mesmerizing, especially St. John's Church, with 400 year old family crypts. I can't wait to get back to Barbados and see the north coast now. $130 total for all of us, and he has a very nice, very air conditioned van.
Jewel of the Seas does not appear to have suffered the ravages of bean counters so evidently prevalent in other reviews of other lines by folk like me who have cruised for 20+ years. We don't cruise often, but enough to keep track. We did an Alaska cruise last year with HAL. Never again. We think Jewell has maintained the standard for which we all pay and hope to get. I think we'll stick with RCL on all future cruises; but, we will continue to monitor reviews here.