Jewel of the Seas Dining
The Tides Dining Room is a gorgeously decorated, two-level main restaurant. It's open daily for open-seating breakfast and on sea days for open-seating lunch. At dinner, Tides offers Royal Caribbean's flexible My Time Dining program. Passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining or opt for flexible dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.). With My Time Dining, you can change your reservations on a daily basis. Those opting for My Time Dining will need to prepay gratuities.
The dining room is decorated with a romantic moonlight and tide theme. More significant, though, are the service and the food (both consistently excellent). Of particular note at dinner in the main dining room is a perfectly cooked, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank. Breakfast proved equally appealing: Eggs Benedict, ordered lightly cooked, arrived just as requested. As with other ships in the line, diners onboard Jewel of the Seas can order certain extra-fee entrees, including Maine lobster ($29.95), surf and turf ($37.50) and a Chops Grille filet mignon ($14.95).
During the day, there are plenty of other options. The Windjammer Cafe is the ship's buffet venue, which serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. It closes between meals. It features a number of food stations, divided into hot dishes, salads and desserts. The room is elegant for such a casual place and whimsically nautical in decor. Behind the Windjammer, toward the aft of the ship, is a covered, outdoor area and a much nicer outdoor seating area that's partially covered. Breakfast and lunch were pretty much the usual cruise fare, plus a hot egg station for breakfast and a pasta station for lunch. The Windjammer offers casual dinners, generally featuring menu items also being served in the dining room. Food was typically mediocre, with a so-so salad bar and few highlights.
Junk food junkies: Don't miss the fabulous Seaview Cafe. It's tucked up toward the back and top of the ship and easy to miss, but it's a great spot for fish and chips, burgers, Reubens and Cuban sandwiches. The onion rings and chili are superb, as are the "feathers and fingers" (chicken wings and nuggets); if you're hungry, order two, as portions are appetizer-sized. It's usually not open until about 1 p.m. and closes at dinnertime, reopening for late-night noshing. The Solarium Cafe offered so-so pizza.
Chops Grille and Portofino are the ship's two alternative restaurants. Chops is a steakhouse-style venue modeled after on-land places like Morton's. It's got an open kitchen, and service teams of two wait on each table. Try the rib eye or the mixed grill, and split the red velvet cake for dessert. (You won't be able to finish it by yourself.)
Enjoyable as Chops was, the real highlight of onboard dining is Portofino. Favorites included tiger shrimp risotto (which you could order as an appetizer or an entree) and spaghetti with lobster sauce. And don't, whatever you do, bypass the tiramisu for dessert. The interpretation was fantastic -- it was set in a chocolate cup and layered on the bottom were crushed raspberries.
Both Portofino and Chops Grille levy a per-person service fee ($20 in Portofino and $30 in Chops).
Cafe Latte-tudes, a coffee bar on Deck 5, serves up specialty, a la carte priced coffees and free pastries.
Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended) between 5 a.m. and midnight; late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.