Sailed on the Jewel of the Seas 12/24-12/29/2011. Family of three: 2 adults and our 10 1/2 year old son. Flew into Tampa (from Baltimore) on the morning of cruise and took a taxi to the port. Easy. Checked our luggage in with a porter and were through registration and on board before noon! Port of Tampa was easy to navigate and plenty of people there to help and point you along the way. Had a decent buffet lunch as soon as we boarded and explored the ship until we could get to our rooms (which was around 1 PM).
Ship is a nice size, big enough to have lots of different spaces- but easy enough to figure out and get around. Ship is well kept/maintained. Crew seemed very friendly and made a point to always say hello and smile. Also- pool waiters remembered our names- nice.
Cabin was clean and we had an excellent room steward named Carlos. The only thing I didn't like about our room was the carpet seemed kind of old and could stand to be replaced. Especially in More
the area near the balcony door. I was glad I brought slippers! plenty of storage for a family of 3.
I felt the dining room food was only ok. Service was excellent- our head server was named Sixto and he was from the Phillipines. He knew all our names by the end of the first dinner. Our assistant waiter had our preferred drinks waiting on the 2nd night. Service was great....food just wasn't amazing.
We did try a specialty dining room- Chops. It did NOT impress. The food was nothing special. We have tried specialty dining on Disney- and that was amazing. We have tried the steakhouse on Carnival- and it was excellent. The RCCL specialty was not worth it- rather disapointing.
Entertainment was good. The theater is lovely and comfortable. Lots of great seats. Having a movie theater on board was nice, too.
We booked our own independent shore excursions in both ports and that worked out well. Enjoyed both ports.
Our son seemed to like the kids programming. Only complaint I have is that it is not open enough. We had late dining- so he couldn't really go after dinner. Two of the nights he opted to eat in the Windjammer so he could go to club instead of formal dinner. That was fine. We also gave him permission to sign himself in and out (not sure how old they have to be to do this) and that worked out well as we avoided the "crush" of getting kids in and out of club.
They had a Santa on board and he gave out gifts to all the kids on Christmas.
Late flight out of Tampa- so we spent the day at the Florida Aquarium (you can walk there from the ship). That was a nice way to spend the day- they even stored our luggage for us- no problem with that.
pick up at port was smooth; sorted us onto vans and we were off. Guide was excellent. Ruins were amazing to see. Lagoon was ok. Food was fair to good- but serviec was excellent. Very nice people there.
Beach Break at Nichi Cocum. Decent experience. We pre-booked "add ons" which was nice for us as we were able to avoid all the "hawking" that went on as they tried to get you to book extra stuff. It got annoying hearing them try to "upsell" other vacationers. Beach clean, bath was maintained, pool was nice. Food ok. Drinks were good and flowing!