This was our second cruise, first time with RCCL (other cruise was with Carnival)
Our family has two teens (17,16) and a toddler (4) as well as me and my wife.
We are not "diehard" cruisers, we tend to take a variety of vacations (Disney, all inclusive Jamaica, etc). We are "middle of the road" types, i.e. 3 star accommodations are typically good enough.
It had been ten years since our last cruise, and our toddler was old enough, so we decided to try it again.
Itinerary was 7 night "Southern Caribbean" leaving from San Juan. We stayed in Old San Juan for two nights prior to the cruise to see the historic sites, rain forest etc.
Arrived at 12:30 to terminal - five minutes to drop bags, five minutes to go through security, and five minutes to check in / get sea pass cards (had done on-line check in already).
So we were on the ship and headed to lunch by 1:00 - very efficient and easy process.
Cabins were ready by 2:00, we More
had adjoining Ocean view rooms (G) on level 3 forward (3030, 3028). Rooms were a bit smaller than Carnival, but plenty of storage and good use of space. Two teens shared a room, wife, myself and toddler stayed in the second (toddler slept on couch, but it is more of a love seat, I doubt anyone over 5 could sleep there. We had a pull down berth, but the toddler was scared of the height)
Ship: To me this is a decent size ship - there were 2400+ passengers on board, and for the most part it was not crowded - only had one issue finding a table for breakfast. Some others have commented on upkeep, I thought the ship was in pretty good shape -not brand new, but well maintained. The layout to me was very intuitive, by the second day the whole family (except my wife) could get around with ease. My poor wife was always mixed up fore and aft....
Dining: Breakfast and lunch typically in the Windjammer (if not on shore excursion), dinner in MDR using "My Time" option.
Windjammer: liked the multiple stations, never a line to get food, good selection. Not gourmet, but very good for a buffet style. Salad and fruit always fresh, dining room always clean.
MDR: We had Ricky and Ricendo (sp?) for our waiters, by the second night they knew our names, our preferences, etc. A plate of fruit was always waiting with a booster seat for our four year old - keeping him busy while we settled in with the menu. Food ranged from average to excellent, with a good selection every day. Chilled fruit soups should be tried, very interesting. And they have certain appetizers/entrees/desserts always available - in case you don't like any of the choices.
We never tried any of the upscale restaurants, as we were happy with the MDR.
They have a pretty extensive wine list, with many options also by the glass. Unless you are very picky, you should be able to find wines you enjoy (#709 pinot noir was one of my staples...)
Pools: Only used a few times, sometimes it was hard to find a chair, but in general no issues. Adult only pool seemed louder than expected due to being "inside"
Fitness Center: Good selection of equipment, never had trouble getting a treadmill. Enjoyable if you can get out of bed early enough to be running while pulling into port. (Gym faces forward)
Adventure Oceans 3-5: My four year old loved the club, it was hard to drag him out. Made crafts, played games, free style play, movies etc. Highlight was mid-cruise when they had the "pirate party" - all the kids dressed as pirates (complete with face makeup and head scarves) and did a parade in to the centrum to take over the ship.
Teen club: mixed experience, my 17 year old perhaps was a bit mature for the crowd, a lot of 14-15 year olds horsing around. She did find a few older teens that she became friends with. My sixteen year old enjoyed it more.
Shows: Production shows generally good. Beatlemania show was excellent. Also, don't miss the seventies disco dance party in the Centrum - what a hoot.
Bars: We typically turned in by 11:00, so not many late nights. On the last night we stayed up in the Schooner bar, listening to Gustavo on the piano. Three of the performers from the Beatlemania show were also hanging out, as well as the female singer from the band "Zig Zag" and the house magician. By the end of the night, all of the performers were somehow singing, playing piano, etc....a very nice way to close our cruise.
Tips: We tipped our steward (Derick from India) and our MDR wait staff extra due to good service.
Debarkation: We were assigned an early de-bark time - which I had changed to the latest one (09:30) since our flight was early evening. Process was ok, customs was a bottleneck.
Overall happy with RCC, would use them again. Less
Jewel of the Seas Cruises to the Southern Caribbean