After our experience on the Jewel of the Seas, I can honestly say that we will never cruise again. Our first ever cruise was with Disney on the Fantasy three years ago and we were "wowed" on a 5 day cruise! Last year we took a 12 day Eastern European cruise with Norwegian and were again "wowed" even though the ship was 12-14 years old! Although I have to admit the Jewel of the Seas is a very well maintained ship, the scheduled events, dinners, limitations on food hours, the disgusting food, and the pretentiousness of the crew made the cruise very unenjoyable. This was the first vacation that I couldn't wait to get home from! The staff worked extremely hard but didn't seem genuinely happy as will other cruises. It was as if they were going through the motions in order to keep their sanity. They made sure to remind us that we were not only loyal Royal Caribbean passengers but that were not in the select group of people who paid an exorbitant amount on our two rooms for our family of 4. We were sat in a small niche between the entrance to the restaurant and sandwiched between the two waiter stations. We could never see the silly waiter's singing show and were often forgotten since we were hidden. Our wait staff did their best and worked hard but they could only do so much. The menus often had food and dripping of them which made me wonder about infection control. If it were not for the wait staff, we would not have showed up to any of the 8:30pm dinners. It took them a very long time to bring out our food and it was obvious that the food was either pre-prepared or from a box or package. Honestly, how long does it take to open a packed or box and boil water. It was as if they were making this disgusting food that almost always came out cold, so that we would be pressured into spending extra on the "fine dining". On Disney and Norwegian, the food was so good that I could only imagine what the fine dining experience would be, which is commiserate to a 5 star restaurant in New York, DC, Los Angeles, Florence or Paris. I did not even want to imagine what kind of crap they were serving upstairs for an additional cost! It often felt as if they were using left overs from the morning and lunch to create dinner entrées. It was apparent that they made the same entrées and deserts as the buffet which left us wondering why were waiting until 8:30pm to eat nasty, cold, food at a venue where we couldn't even see the show. They forgot our anniversary celebration which was that week. The waiter sang to those who had birthdays but the singing was horrendous. If you can't sing or if you are going to joke and sing at the same time then please don't sing! The person on the microphone would force us to applaud the service and food by continually stating after asking for applause, "come on, you can applaud louder than that!"... "let's try that again, did you thoroughly enjoy your dinner?". I felt as if I was in church and they were getting ready to ask for tithes, offerings or the building fund! Please don't get me psyched up for a lack luster experience!
We booked our own excursions which went extremely well as the ports of call were exceptional. The bands they had on board were great. The White Party was fun! The bar staff sucked. If you don't drink alcohol and ask for water only, please be prepared to be shunned! The teen and kid's club was lacking and our 11 and 15 year old vowed not to visit it while on the ship because of the lack of enthusiasm and organization of events. A Romanian woman at guest services lied to us and stated on the first day that since we boarded the ship she didn't think we could leave the ship to return our rental car even though we had 4 hours before the ship departed! On the last night she stated that the elevators would be shut off on the day of disembarkation for ship maintenance issues and that we could not carry our luggage off the ship. The day of our disembarkation the elevators were working perfectly normal. The process to leave the ship was disorganized and very unthoughtful. We were told to be in the Coral Theater at 8:30am. When we arrived at 8:30am on the dot no one told us what to do so we waited for 15-20minutes when I asked the staff what was going on and that were group 11. They simply stated that groups 11 had already left that we would have to wait for the next group to leave. I though to myself, when were we going to be told this? There were others who felt the same way and crowd control became an issue as others began to cut in front of those who were waiting for 30-40 minutes by taking the stairs or elevators to go directly to the doors leading to the customs officials.
Over all the trip was exceptional no thanks to Royal Caribbean. The ports of call were incredible islands and we made the most of them by booking our own excursions. They continually used scare tactics to get cruise guests to take their excursions by listing the dangers of the locals who are not pre-screened with Royal Caribbean. They also limited thief choice of foods in both the dinning room and the buffet so as to force you to pay for what other cruise lines serve as standard food. The food lacked thought, quality and was often cold! The Windjammer shut down at what seemed to be peak hours after excursions and the only option was on the 12 deck where you were served fried fish, fried chicken, onion rings, French fries, and or a salad which all seemed to come out of a box or package (except the fish on the salad). We were extremely disappointed!