Having always cruised inside before, a trip North in mid-summer made the decision for us to upgrade to a balcony stateroom. We went in for a Cat X guaranteed balcony and goit allocated a great D1 cabin on the stern. It was all you could hope for and the attentdant, Parasandi was quietlt efficuent. The balcony is great: two loungers, two chairs and a coffee table and being at the back, sheltered from the wind on a sea day. Well worth the extra.
Had a late dinner seating for a change and it worked out quite well. Though it was a little odd eating after the theatre on occasion. We ate at Chops Grille twice and the fillet mignon was just superb on both occasions. We were booked into Portofino, but never made it because the sickness descended.
Somehow Norovirus made its way on board. Despite the crew's best, if sometimes confused and misguided efforts to clean. By the time we got home more than 400 people had gone down with it. 48 hour cabin confinements and missed ports, along with a lot of sickness were not pleasant. There were reports of long and insanitary waits in the medical centre, but I was ported there and back in a wheelchair, got triaged within ten minutes and seen by the doctor within thirty. There's no way round it, if you get it, it does ruin the back half of your holiday.
Jewel looked great in most parts. Just some signs of being six years old creeping in. Some of the fabrics could do with some attention in places, but that's very nit picky.
There is a sense that RCL are doing this on a budget these days. No turndown chocolate at night, no more endless towels and blankets round the pool, higher shop prices, premium coffees served in paper cups, regular coffer served in yellowing plastic, no grand midnight buffet and a strict three courses in the dining room. Gone are the days when US cruisers enjoyed a soup and a salad and an appetiser and an entree and a dessert and cheese. Little touches that on their own are of little concequence, but taken together indicate a lesser level of service.
Ports were great, but then they always are in the Baltic. Copehagen, Stockholm and St Petersberg are the stars. Unless you really want to take an RCL excursion (and in Russia you have to for visa reasons) then stick with the shuttle bus or get a taxi. It really is cheaper. Avoid the Russian Bazaar on board and get your Russian stuff in St Petersberg for the same reasons