Jewel of the Seas, which debuted in spring 2004, is the fourth and last limb on Royal Caribbean's Radiance-class family tree. At 90,090 tons, Jewel of the Seas, like its classmates, has just enough space for some of the storied Royal Caribbean innovations, such as a rock-climbing wall, beautiful solarium pool, expansive Adventure Ocean kids' facility and two lovely alternative restaurants. At the same time, its layout is so well designed it's easy to forget the ship carries 2,100-plus passengers.
Jewel is a gorgeous ship, with lovely dark woods throughout countered by an infusion of glass and light. The art collection is striking, and a nautical theme is apparent -- without being overstated -- throughout the ship's public areas.
Service was consistently top-notch. Our cabin steward was particularly delightful, greeting us by name whenever we met her in the halls. Dinner service in the main dining area, Tides, was strong, with waiters remembering our likes and dislikes, even though we ate there only intermittently. Passenger relations staff were helpful when needs arose, addressing them quickly.
Cuisine was consistently good, from the main dining room to the alternative restaurants, particularly at dinner, when roughly half the ship is ordering and eating simultaneously.
Entertainment ranged from the fabulously ridiculous (such as the always-funny Newlywed Game) to the pleasantly subdued (various vocal and instrumental offerings).
We do offer a caveat, though: Jewel of the Seas is an exceptional experience, but it's still a big ship, which means you might have to fight for a deck chair on a sunny sea day and pay out of pocket for myriad expenses, from fancy coffees to soda. In tender ports, you'll have to line up for a ticket. Standard staterooms (with or without balconies) are pretty small, and bathrooms offer fairly basic amenities.
Even so, Jewel of the Seas blends laid-back and informal into a quality experience.
It's worth noting that Jewel of the Seas is scheduled for dry dock in 2016, when it will get a number of upgrades and modern amenities, including several new restaurants, a new bar and the line's signature Royal Babies & Tots Nursery. Cabins will gain flat-screen TV's, and a movie screen will be installed poolside. Wi-Fi, currently limited to select areas onboard, will be vastly improved.
What is fun about Jewel is it attracts so many different types of passengers -- older, younger, active, laid-back and, when school isn't in session, kids.
Dress is casual during the day. On weeklong (or shorter) cruises, there is one formal night; on the ship's eight-night sailings, there are two. On formal nights, most folks wear dark suits (men) and cocktail dresses (women). Otherwise, country-club casual pretty much dominates in the evenings.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $13.50 per person, per day ($16.50 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise; those opting for flexible My Time Dining must use the prepay option. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the reception desk while onboard. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.