This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise, I chose it because Princess does not sail out of San Juan anymore. Even though the overall service was good and the food was great, after cruising with Princess, the Jewel of the Seas disappointed us in several ways:
- The balcony stateroom (Deck 8) was too crammed, the queen bed was too large for the cabin, the small sofa was too large for the allotted space. I could not place my two suitcases on the floor, I had to take the sofa pillows out to use the sofa as a suitcase stand. I placed the small coffee table away in order to have safe walking space in the cabin. The cabin had dust in the cabinet and finger marks in the mirrors, which stayed there for the entire cruise.
- In public areas, I was able to view the same paper dropping on the hallway carpet for the entire cruise. No one from the staff picked it up. I seldom saw staff cleaning windows, some were with dust from weeks. The staff was busy decorating the ship for the Christmas Cruise.
- The Lunch Buffet at the Windjammer restaurant placed the same deserts every day. The soft-serve ice cream quality was inconsistent. One day the ice cream was good, the next day it was bad. There is no open grill at lunch to order burgers, hot dogs, etc. The sandwich diner opens only after 2:30 PM.
- In the Windjammer restaurant, in two occasions I found the seats dirty with food droppings from the night before.
- Dinner service at the Tides dining room was great. I had two great waiters who were very discreet, professional, and went out of the way to please us. We saw waiters from other tables socializing with their assigned guests while they were waiting for their dinner, "selling" themselves for a good extra tip. Sometimes they talked too loud that I could hear them in their socializing.
- Lunch service at the Tides restaurant is slow. The attendants did not ask you where you wanted to seat and pushed you wherever they wanted. One female attendant laughed when I requested to be seated somewhere else.
- Even though I prepaid the tips, the line strongly promotes an "additional tip" policy. They openly advertise it and encourage guests to pay the "additional tip", making you look bad if you do not give the extra tip. This policy makes the waiters to tell guests their life and family stories to soften your pocket. They also promote for you to give them an excellent rating in the cruise evaluation form for them to get job promotions or keep their jobs. Our waiters spent their time actually doing a great job, without advertising it.
- Before purchasing a watch or jewelry on ship, please check on shore stores first. I was able to purchase two watches of the same model at a lower price on shore than on ship. The ship did not publish the "Price Match" program, and they balked at me when I returned the two watches previously purchased on ship because I got them at better prices on shore.
- The ship store spent every night making raffle giveaways, with loud music and the employee screaming the winning numbers over the microphone.
- The ship used the "Centrum" lounge on Deck 4 to stage their presentations and orientations. The area is too small for the many people attending them. They could have used the Safari Lounge or some other large meeting area to hold many guests in a comfortable setting.
- Shore excursions offered on ship were too expensive. We grouped and got the same or better excursions from local licensed taxis in port for only $20 or $25 per person.
This cruise route has been previously criticized for carrying local Puerto Rico residents. In our cruise, everyone, including the local PR residents were very friendly, orderly, and cooperative.
If you need to debark fast, the line offers a Self-Debarking option, when you can be the first one, wheeling your own bags off ship.
Overall, this is my first cruise with Royal Caribbean, in the Jewel of the Seas. I do not know if this level of service is the same in all Royal ships, but based on this experience, I would choose Princess cruises as the first option first and leave Royal for last.