Our family of four chose the Jewel because its itinerary (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curacao)went to islands we had not yet visited (other than St. Thomas), and the schedule fit our vacation times. We had previously been on the Serenade, so we were familiar with that size of ship, which is now one of the smaller ones (panamax) in the RCL line. Having since been on larger ships, the Jewel has a special appeal due to the many places on deck where you can sun or read quietly, but you can still get to the bar or pool conveniently. Judging by the number of Diamond, Diamond Plus and Platinum members we met on the roll call and on ship, it is very popular.
The cabins were clean and the stewards were on the ball. We had a small problem with the plumbing one morning but it was fixed immediately.
We found the food in the main dining room to be very good, though seldom outstanding - but that is what we expected where there are so many tastes to serve. My husband loved a certain spicy soup but others barely touched it - too spicy for them. We also went to Portofino's for one meal and it did not disappoint. Our table mates in the early dining raved about Chops and went there several times. Our waiters Vilson and John were excellent. One great food surprise was the Sea View Cafe, where we had fabulous reuben sandwiches made to order. Sometimes we had "second dinner" in the Windjammer to try the sushi or another dessert!
Due to the fact that school had already started for many districts, there were not many children on board, and overall there was a lot of space at pool and at the gym. My daughter and I went to the spa and I think we were the only people there that entire afternoon (the service was excellent, by the way). Nevertheless, I don't think the ship was by any means empty since the evening shows were well attended.
There was a VERY large Cruise Critic Roll Call for this cruise and I was surprised that the Cruise Director did not personally attend the Meet and Mingle (Ron the activities director came instead). On other cruises, several officers would attend the Meet and Mingle, including even the Captain once. It's not hard to see that this is an excellent way to connect with your most loyal repeat customers, who are going to cruise during those slow times when you can't get the low-hanging fruit.
On the down side, I did have some trouble getting the ship to recognize the promotions that I was given in my booking (complimentary specialty restaurant dinner and spa treatment), and I eventually gave up on some of them (I'll take it up with the travel agent), so I would just advise that if you receive these promotions in your booking, check with Guest Services at the beginning of the tour to make sure you are getting them automatically. There was no problem with the On Board Credit and the shareholder benefit.
Also, Jewel's "library" is pretty dreadful, period. It's tiny and even then doesn't have much of a selection. Also, it's right on the Centrum, so it's not exactly quiet.
We took only one ship excursion - to the zip line in St. Thomas, which was great. We arranged private tours in St. Kitts and Aruba - our review of those and the links are posted on the boards for those ports. As usual, we followed other CC recommendations and the guides were great.
On the whole, it was a great time and we met fun and interesting people.
We arranged a private tour - see our posting on the Port message board. The thing about Aruba is that it is much thinner on forts, museums and historical things, but it has this big Palm Beach tourist areas with malls, famous restaurants, hotels and a great beach with chairs to rent. Not much Caribbean flavor but convenient for all water sports and active fun.
There is a LOT of shopping in Curacao that you can walk too right off the ship. It is a safe and quick walk, and you can either take the pontoon bridge or the free ferry to the other side of the city. We only planned to enjoy the architecture and have lunch at Mondo Bizzaro, a cool local restaurant. Next time, we'll take the whole island tour.
Brimstone Hill is worth seeing - very historical, great views and well kept. The secret of enjoying St. Kitts is to get a tour that takes you away from Basseterre, which is not the most picturesque place.
Great time; we would recommend it.