I've sailed many times with Royal Caribbean, and this was my second time aboard Jewel of the Seas, a ship I absolutely love. Previously it was in an interior cabin with my brother on a family trip, this time it was with my GF in a balcony on Deck 9.
The ship itself is wonderful, very well laid out and easy to get around, and seemingly never crowded in any area. Our stateroom was everything we could have asked for, having never stayed in a room with a balcony before, I had no idea what I was missing - the ability to have an outdoor area entire to ourselves was a welcome addition to our vacation. In our location near the front of the ship, we heard very little noise besides the chit chat of our neighbors on either side when our sliding door was open, very peaceful and quiet. Assuming I cruise again, I'm inclined to book the exact stateroom or something as close as possible.
Since the GF and I purchased the premium liquor package, we went to work familiarizing ourselves with the bar staff on board - we had no idea we'd made such an impression on Day One until we showed up at the Schooner Bar after dinner on Day Two and were greeted (by name) by Deepu, a bartender who took fantastic care of us all week long in the evenings. It's a great feeling to have someone who barely knows you ask you if you'd like your "usual" before you even are comfortable in your stool. If we're able to track him down, he's going to be a bartender at our wedding.
I can't really speak to the quality of the excursions or ports of call, we are really not "adventurous" travelers and mainly stayed on board to enjoy the pool deck while everyone else was off exploring. We were disappointed that our planned afternoon snorkeling excursion in Antigua was changed to the morning, but that was a minor inconvenience. One comment I'd like to make regarding excursions is based on our experience in St. Lucia when we took the Catamaran cruise to the Pitons. If you're going to offer a brief opportunity to swim, it would be really nice if we weren't dropped off among several vendors in kayaks hounding us to buy seashells and palm hats. It was like we were a bucket of chum for the sharks - I'm used to being offered things on a daily basis when I'm home in NYC so I know how to say no, but you could tell some of the other travelers were uneasy with it.
Speaking of the pool, we very much enjoyed both the outdoor venue as well as the Solarium, if there's a better place to take an afternoon nap than in a beautiful sunny room with faint bird chirping noises around you, I'm yet to find it.
However, there was one area of disappointment during the week, and that was the food in the Tides Dining Room. I'm not sure if I'm remembering incorrectly, but having sailed with RC many times, I seem to recall the food being of a higher quality than we received this time around. A pink rubbery piece of "Prime Rib" is the meal that sticks out most in my head, but in general the meals were very ordinary, and quite a departure from what I remember RC delivering previously.
That said, the dining staff was most accommodating in allowing us to switch our dining times early in the week, we found that the 6pm seating was just too early for us this time around, and they were able to find us a table at the late seating with relative ease. If they hadn't, I would have been fine eating my meals in the Windjammer anyway, given the less-than-stellar nature of the dining room fare.
It was an entirely different story on our last night, when we booked a reservation at Chops Grille and enjoyed a spectacular meal. My filet was cooked to order beautifully (I wanted rare, I got rare) and the sides and service were phenomenal.
Overall, it was a wonderful vacation, and if I do cruise again (as opposed to an all-inclusive resort) I'm very likely to seek out Jewel or a similar class ship. See you soon, Deepu!!