Let me start off by saying the Jewel of the Seas was probably the nicest large ship we've ever sailed on. It is not too big and not too small. It has almost all of the amenities you would find on the largest cruise ships and yet it is easy to navigate your way around the ship. Everything on the ship is tastefully done. Not the gaudiness found on many cruise ships.
Harwich UK port is really in the middle of nowhere. It is a commercial shipping port. It is 100 miles from London. Getting there is not difficult by rail from the Liverpool Street station in London (12 pounds sterling each). Embarkation is a breeze. The train deposits you about 500 yards from the ship. You will have to move your bags yourself. We were probably on the ship within 20 minutes of getting off the train.
The ship was very clean and modern. Service was excellent throughout with one exception. The coffee bar. The staff there never made us feel welcome. We were even told we could only get one sweet (cookie, muffin, cake) at a time. Not what one expects to hear on a cruise ship.
Our cabin was well laid out with more than enough room. Everything worked perfectly. Our cabin attendant always knew when we left the room and had our room made up when we returned. No more chocolates on the pillows and yes we did have to tell him we wanted ice every day.
We opted for my time dining which basically meant you go eat dinner anytime between 530-930 PM in the Tides 5th floor dining room. We always asked for a table for two and most nights we had no wait and the maitre de always did his best to get us seated quickly and at a nice table by a window. Only once did we feel the dining room was crowded and hectic. The food ranged from good to very good. Choices were sometimes more limited than we would have liked (part of RCL trying to save money and cut a few corners). You could always get a steak, chicken or salmon. Of course seconds and even thirds are cheerfully offered.
Portofino's restaurant is well worth the $20 surcharge. Might have been the best Italian meal and service we ever had. And the desserts-wow!
Chops restaurant was very good but if you are going to choose only one specialty restaurant opt for Portofino's. Both had fantastic service.
The itinerary was great except for Gothenberg which is a commercial shipping port. The sea days always seemed to come at the right time between hectic days in port. St. Petersburg is all it's cracked up to be. We booked a 2 day tour with Alla tours-very professional and well run. Would use them again. Be forewarned-they keep you moving for the entire 2 days. You will be tired! But you will get to see all the tourist attractions.
Stockholm, Tallin, and Helsinki were all wonderful. Loved walking around on our own in Tallin. It is easy to find people who speak English in all the ports.
Prices in Stockholm, Helsinki and Gothenberg are very expensive.
Entertainment on the ship was better than we expected. The cruise director and her staff worked hard and did an excellent job. there is always something going on if you want activity.
Getting off the ship-a breeze!
In conclusion, a most enjoyable cruise.