We (couple mid thirties from Finland/Europe who enjoys travelling the world) went on the 7th March departure, 11 day Jewel of the Sea cruise. We have cruised with Carnival and MSC previously and can only compare the Jewel and RCI to these companies.
CHECK IN: Check in was very convenient and fast. We arrived at 11.30 and were at the ship 30 minutes later.
ROOM: We had room 7674 aft stateroom. It was a great room and a large balcony, with a wonderful view over the sea. We were lucky with the sun on 2 of the sea days so we could tan on the balcony and we just came out for some food and drinks. The stateroom was large and clean and very convenient. Lots of space. The room is located above the safari bar, but we did not hear any sound from it at any time. Our stateroom attendant was Garnet Rolle, the most friendly, polite and kind person we ever met on a cruise ship. He right away knew our names, was always there when we needed something and had always time for a chat. A+++.
FOOD: We did not go to the dining room at any evening. It is not our way of having a relaxing holiday. As I wear a suit at work every day, is it the last thing I want to take with me on holidays. Of course I understand for the majority of passengers it is one of the highlights of the cruise.
We always ordered breakfast at the room. Partly because to avoid the overload of buffets and partly because of the wonderful balcony we had. Room service breakfast menu is limited, but the coffee and some sausages and yoghurt and fruits keep you going until lunch.
We used Windjammer for lunch, mid afternoon snacks (which is more or less a lean lunch buffet) and dinner. We were pleasantly surprised. There is so much food. So much variation. We can only give compliments. Of course some items get repetetive on an 11 day cruise and there are some hits and misses, but overal, the food at the Windjammer was great. The station set up caused the Windjammer never to be crowded (except from time to time finding a table was a challenge).
SHIP: I can understand very well that the Jewel is for many people their favorite ship. It is cosy, the amount of windows makes it feel spacy. The ship is super clean (and we do pay attention to this), easy to navigate. The pool area is maybe not the most modern pool area, but it was fine. We always found lounge chairs at any moment of the day (except the pool area might have been full, but we don't like to lay there anyways). The shops are nothing special, but I guess shopping on a cruise ship is not the most exciting thing anyways. The loungers could use an upgrade and it would have been nice to have lounge towels provided at the room, rather than to pick them up every day from the pool area.
PASSENGERS: All kinds of passengers in respect of age category and nationalities, though I would say the average age would be around 50 and the majority of the passengers are American. Not a lot of kids.
ENTERTAINMENT: That was nothing spectacular. The shows were allright, but nothing special. The theatre was packed every evening though. The cruise director Simeon was about average. His sidekick, I don't know the name, but I believe an English girl tended to be on the annoying side.
PORTS: We made an emergency stop in Haiti due to a passenger becoming sick. It mixed up our schedule a bit, but of course health of a passenger is the most important. Anyways, we got to see Haiti without getting off the ship. It looked nice, but wouldn't choose a cruise specifically to go to Labadee.
Aruba: Nice port, straightforward buss transport to Eagle beach which was a very nice beach, not too crowded. We really enjoyed our time there.
Cartagena: We have travelled a lot around the world, but Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen. Just fantastic. It is very safe there and there is lots of police on the street. Be aware that the souvenirs are nice and better prices than in the ports following. Try to buy coffee in the city and not at the port shops. But at least get the Juan Valdez cookies at the port, simply delicious. We did Cartagena on our own, 5-10 Dollars for taxi one way. I believe you should not pay more than 5 Dollars. Be aware, there were 4 cruise ships in port that day, it was quite busy in the old town.
Panama: Very interesting, we did Portobello, Playa Langosta and Gatun Locks by private taxi. It is a bit confusing to get a safe and reliable taxi at the port. We paid 35 Dollars a person for the whole day. Our driver was Vivian Tugwell, very kind, a gentleman. Portobello is interesting, Playa Langosta is an of the beaten track beach. It was more about the experience touring through the country side. Gatun locks of course really intetesting. Colon is a place you don't want to walk around on your own. As mentiond, we have travelled a lot, but Colon easily comes in our top 3 of places you rather not walk around by yourself.
Costa Rica: Fell in love with the country, amazingly beautiful. People are nice, the nature is breathtaking. We got a private tour by taxi for 60 Dollars per person. This included Tortuguero canals, Puerto Viejo and Cahuila. Tortuguero canals are fantastic. We saw a lot of animals, cayman, sloths, birds, monkeys. We went on a private boat. We saw a boat from an organized trip and that is not recommended. So many people and it would be difficult to spot a cayman e.g. Puerto Viejo and Cahuila are wonderful. It is not that developed and this is how e.g. Thailand would have been in the early days. Beautiful beaches and such a laid back atmosphere. It was difficult to leave. Also the drive to Puerto Viejo was beautiful.
Cayman Islands: Our least favorite destination. Mainly because the beach we went to was overcrowded. It was public beach. Also the beach can't compare to e.g. Eagle Beach in Aruba or various other beaches in the Caribbean.
CHECK OUT: Until the passport control, the best ever. You can relax in your room till the last moment. However, the passport control (at least for non US citizens) took ages. I believe we were in line for at least an hour.
All in all, it was a perfect trip, the nicest cruise we ever had. A very clean, cosy and wonderful ship. Very friendly personel, great food and amazing ports of call. I can only recommend. Negative things....I would really have to think thoroughly and be very picky and I can only come up with very small things such as bathing towels should be provided in the room. PS: the captain, James, was very informative and seems to be a kind and professional person.