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Jewel of the Seas

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Jewel of the Seas made its debut in spring 2004. Measuring 90,090 tons and carrying 2,100-plus passengers, it was the fourth and final limb on Royal Caribbean's Radiance-class family tree.

When launched, the ship had the same DNA as its classmates; it featured all the innovations of the time, such as a climbing wall, solarium and Adventure Ocean kids' facility.

In 2016, the ship went into dry dock for a nip and tuck that gave it two new speciality restaurants, a new wine bar, an outdoor movie screen and also gave its staterooms some TLC.

The makeover didn't change the ship beyond all recognition, however. Its look is still quite classical. With the exception of the revolving bar in the Vortex nightclub and the racing theme of The Pit Stop bar, the ship doesn't really go in for gimmicks. Instead, it drops nautical hints throughout, with lots of dark wood, blue-hued fabrics and brass.

The entertainment offering imitates the ship's look. Daytime activities include cruise ship classics like line dancing and trivia sessions, while the nighttime line-up features cabaret, karaoke and live piano music.

Food on the ship can be a bit of a game of roulette. The Windjammer Café buffet restaurant is consistent as a crowd-pleaser. However, the main Tides dining room giveth one night and taketh away the next, especially when it comes to portion sizes. The speciality restaurants, meanwhile, knock the proverbial ball out of the park, and are pretty reasonably priced.

No matter where you eat, service is first-rate. In fact, great service doesn't just apply in the eating areas. Waiters, bar staff and cabin attendants are friendly, attentive and have the memories of Mensa members.

Jewel of the Seas is ideal for cruisers who don't go in for bells and whistles but instead prefer a traditional cruising experience. It's a laid-back ship, where customers enjoy long lazy mealtimes, a few G&Ts an evening and a bit of nostalgia when it comes to entertainment.

One final thing to bear in mind when deciding whether to pick this cruise ship is that, as mellow as it feels on sea days, there can still be some 2,000 plus passengers onboard. That means there can be a bit of a crush in tender ports. Another downside is that you have to cough up for quite a few additional expenses, such as speciality coffees and room service.

During the daytime, passengers dress casually. Passengers dress to the eights rather than the nines on formal nights. For men, the ratio is about one bow tie for every six or seven neckties, and some men even go for open collars. Women, meanwhile, tend to go for cocktail dresses over ball gowns.

Theatre

The Coral Theatre colonizes three decks of Jewel of the Seas. It opens occasionally during the day to host enrichment lectures, but in the evenings the multi-coloured seats fill up for cabaret, Broadway recitals, magic shows and tribute performances. Performances are usually staged at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. On the whole, the offering isn't that imaginative. It's bland and a bit old-fashioned. The odd act even came across as borderline amateur.

At the opposite end of the ship, there's the Safari Club, which has a stage and a dance floor. Live bands and singers perform here in the evenings.

Daily Fun

Activities follow hot on the heels of breakfast on Jewel of the Seas. The lineup starts around 9:30 a.m. and is pretty traditional. Things like quizzes, line dancing sessions, beginner language classes and towel-folding demonstrations take place in various indoor venues like Schooner Bar, and at outdoor locations, such as by the side of the main pool.

There's a movie theatre on Deck 6, which shows a combination of classic films and slightly more up-to-date flicks. Films are also shown on the open-air movie screen by the side of the main pool.

Alcohol is the theme of a lot of paid-for daytime activities. Depending on the length of your cruise you'll be able to book on to wine-, beer- and martini-tasting sessions.

At Night

Evening entertainment mirrors the daytime lineup in many ways on Jewel of the Seas. Quizzes take place in the bars, dancing takes place near the Lobby Bar and movies flicker on the screen on the cinema. Evenings on Jewel of the Seas have more of a soundtrack than daytimes, though. Guitarists pass the mic to live bands as evening turns to night near the Lobby Bar on Deck 4. Piano music lilts out most evenings in Schooner Bar, while karaoke and salsa are a regular occurrence in Safari Club.

There's also a smoky casino with the usual slots and gaming tables. Various tournaments are staged here, mainly Texas Hold'em.


Jewel of the Seas Bars and Lounges

The bars on Jewel of the Seas are anything but one size fits all. Each one has a different temperament. Some are quiet and low lit while others are louder and bright. The thing that unites them, however, is the drinks menu. With the exception of Vintages wine bar, there's not a great degree of variation in the tipples available at each of them.

Lobby Bar (Deck 4): This bar is corral shaped, so bartenders can serve drinkers at all 360 of its degrees. It's haloed by barstools and close to the Centrum dance floor and stage, which has a few tub chairs and a couple of sofas around the edge. The seats fill up fast here when there is live music on. Martinis are popular.

The Pit Stop (Deck 6): Checkered flag panelling, racing flags and flat-screen TVs showing sports make this bar deserving of its name. Barstools and tub chair seating are available.

Vintages (Deck 6): Plush red wing chairs frame the main bar area and its barstools were added in the 2016 renovations. Wine is sold by the glass and bottle here, and you can add cold meats and other light tapas-style dishes to your order for a couple of extra dollars.

Schooner Bar (Deck 6): Royal Caribbean's trademark Schooner Bar is decorated with sails and wood fashioned to look like the ribbed hull of a ship. You can sink into comfy sofas here or hang at the bar.

Congo Bar (Deck 6): The clue is in the name here. It's located at the aft of the ship and its floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the ocean. Passengers come to read their books here in the daytime, while it's the place to watch karaoke competitions and live music in the evenings.

Pool Bar (Deck 11): Right next to the main pool, this place serves beer, soft drinks, wine and cocktails to thirsty sunbathers.

Sky Bar (Deck 12): Overlooking the main pool, this is the place to go to get a beer, wine, soft drink or try the cocktail of the day, which range from Woo Woos to Mai Tais.

Vortex (Deck 13): The bar in Vortex nightclub revolves. It's surrounded by barstools, where tired dancers sit after their turn on the floor.


Jewel of the Seas Outside Recreation

Pools

The main pool area is vibrant and well used. Loungers on the deck overlooking the pool are in more demand than those right by it, because sunbathers can catch more rays here. Some of the loungers by the pool are in the shade and spurned by passengers who want to top up their tan. Two whirlpools flank the pool.

Jewel also has a glass-domed solarium. It's decked out in a Thai theme and comes complete with a bronze tiger and an 18th-century Temple Bell from northern Thailand. Wooden deck chairs with rust-coloured chaise pads surround the pool. There's a whirlpool here, too.

Recreation

Decks 12 and 13 are the places to go to up your heart rate. There's a climbing wall, a sports court with basketball hoops, a children's water slide and a mini-golf course.


Jewel of the Seas Services

Guest Services, the public-facing nerve centre of the ship, is located on Deck 4. The shore excursions desk is just a few footsteps away. Up one floor, there's the ship's shopping arcade, where brands include Ray-Ban, Guess and Swarovski. The art and photo gallery stand shoulder to shoulder with the shopping arcade.

Wi-Fi can be purchased from Royal Caribbean Online on Decks 4 and 7. It's not the strongest signal in the world and cuts out frequently, especially on sea days when multiple passengers are using it at the same time. Two Wi-Fi packages are available. The Surf package offers basic net access and costs $12.99 per device per day. The Surf and Stream package lets you stream videos and upload photos and costs $17.99 per device per day. Passengers who don't have their own devices can visit the business centre on Deck 7 to use the computers.

In terms of a library, there are a few blink-and-you'll-miss-them bookcases in the Zanzibar Lounge, which also stands shoulder to shoulder with the card room and the Game Reserves, where the self-levelling pool tables can be found.

Laundry is a bone of contention on this ship. There are no self-service facilities or even ironing rooms. The price list for laundry services ranges from $1.99 to have a pair of socks washed and pressed to $14.99 to have an evening gown ironed. Steaming and dry cleaning services are also available.

Spa

Vitality spa offers a full range of treatments, from massage to collagen eye treatments. They're not cheap, though. A 50-minute Swedish massage will set you back $119. Keep your eye on the Cruise Compass newsletter for daily offers. There's also a sauna in the spa that's free to use. Spa gratuities are automatically added to the bill.

Fitness

The fitness area on Jewel of the Seas is large. Treadmills, bikes and the full range of strength equipment are set out in a horseshoe around a central aerobics floor with mirrors. Classes are a mix of free and for-fee, with a $12 surcharge for most yoga, Pilates and spin classes.

There's also a jogging track on Deck 12, where six laps equals 1 mile.

There are both hits and misses when it comes to the dining options on Jewel of the Seas. When disappointments with meals do occur, they are fairly forgivable, thanks to the atmosphere and service in all eateries Special dietary needs, such as gluten-free and vegan, can be met in all eateries. If you don't see anything suitable on the menus, just inform your waiter.

Free Dining

Tides (Deck 4 & 5): Jewel of the Seas' main dining room is split across two floors. Looks-wise, it's a bit The Great Gatsby. Curtains cascade from the top to the bottom floor to look like pillars, there's a waterfall feature at one end and a 1920s-style mural at the other.

It's open daily for open-seating breakfast -- when made-to-order dishes like eggs Benedict are served up -- 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 or just show up whenever you want. You're not guaranteed to get a table right away, but you won't usually have to wait long before you are seated. Those opting for My Time Dining will need to prepay gratuities.

The evening menu has a theme -- such as pimento or pomodoro -- every day. There is always a pasta, fish and meat dish on the menu and a selection of "classics" that never change, such as sliders and New York strip steak. Vegetarian options include the likes of linguini and risotto.

The dessert menu features a few options that never change -- such as cheesecake and a cheese board -- alongside nightly specials like poached pears or baked Alaska. Sugar-free options are also available, although they're not that imaginative and usually amount to a bowl of sorbet.

As with other ships in the line, diners onboard Jewel of the Seas can order some extra-fee entrees, including Maine lobster ($29.95), surf and turf ($34.95) and a Chops Grille filet mignon ($16.95).

There's also a three-course Vitality option for waist watchers, where the calories in the dishes add up to just 800 calories.

Windjammer Cafe (Deck 11): The ship's buffet venue 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, such as Hot & Tasty, Fresh from the Garden and Healthy and Sweet. The dishes are typical cruise fare -- think eggs, bacon, pastries and cold meats for breakfast, and pizzas, pastas and stews for lunch and dinner. The evening menu also tends to include a few regional dishes -- like gyros when you are near Greece, and on the whole, it's tasty stuff; think decent pub grub. Windjammer can get a little crowded at breakfast -- expect to do a few laps before you find a seat, especially on sea days.

Solarium Cafe and Pizzeria (Deck 11): This pocket-sized cafe serves rectangles of pizza and a range of sandwiches. It's open from noon to 6:30 p.m. and between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Room service: You can fill out a card in your room and hang it on your doorknob to ensure that breakfast is delivered to your room in the mornings. Continental breakfasts are delivered for free, but other options -- like pancakes or scrambled eggs -- come with a convenience charge of $7.95. Other snacks and larger meals are available 24 hours a day. The menu features dishes like hot dogs and quesadillas. These orders also come with a convenience charge of $7.95.

Fee Dining

Cafe Latte-tudes (Deck 5): This coffee bar serves up speciality a la carte coffees and sweet treats, like cookies and cakes. Coffees cost around $3 or $4.

Giovanni's Table (Deck 6); $29: Added during the 2016 renovation, Giovanni's Table is a speciality Italian restaurant. It's got a contemporary bachelor pad look to it with leather seating, dark wood tables, and black napkins. The food here is of the cut-above variety. A starter option is a plank of antipasti. Main meals, meanwhile, include a fist-size filet mignon with a Barolo sauce, grilled prawns with garlic butter and Italian herbs, and braised veal osso buco. Desserts are brought around on a trolley, so passengers can choose the dish they like the look of best. Open 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Chops Grille (Deck 6); $35: This smart steakhouse features an open kitchen, stained glass-style wall murals and booth seating. The food knocks you right between the eyes. Starter options include plump, springy scallops and three-cheese roasted onion soup. Main meals include jumbo shrimp and a range of conversation-stopping steaks. Don't miss the truffled french fries as a side, either. Open 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.)

Izumi (Deck 12); a la carte: This Japanese restaurant catches the eye with bright murals of Japanese carp and colour-pop cushions on the seating. The menu is split into starters, salads, carpaccio, soups and noodles, nigiri/sashimi, signature rolls, hot rock/ishiyaki and desserts. Prices range from $3 for miso soup and $10 for five pieces of sashimi to $19 for a mixed seafood hot rock platter. The wine list, meanwhile, features seven different sake options and a range of Asian beers. Open for lunch, noon to 2 p.m., and for dinner, 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

On the whole and with the exception of suites, Jewel's cabins run on the smaller side of the industry average. Not counting single occupancy cabins and the Owner's Suites, every cabin features twin beds that can be converted into Royal Kings. Each room also comes with a private bathroom, a dressing table area with a stool, hair dryer, closed-circuit TV, phone and safe. Electricity sockets are American. Colour schemes marry ocean blue with rose gold. In terms of storage space, there's just enough; suitcases, for example, can be stored under the beds.

Bathrooms also fall on the small side; more than one elbow has been bashed in the ship's showers. Individually bottled toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, are made by BioEnergy and smell pleasantly peachy.

There are cabins to accommodate disabled passengers in many categories.

Interior: Inside cabins are 170 square feet, with the exception of single-occupancy studios, where a twin bed, vanity area and private bathroom fit into 108 square feet.

Ocean-view: Most ocean-view cabins measure 170 square feet and come with a window (apart from those on Deck 2, which have portholes). Exceptions to the rule when it comes to size are the family rooms.

The Family Ocean View Staterooms feature 319 square feet and come with two twin beds, a sitting area with a sofa bed and a private bathroom. Plus there are additional bunk beds in a separate area of the cabin.

Then there are the two-bedroom ocean-view family cabins on Deck 10; these measure between 319 and 592 square feet. In these cabins, the master bedroom comes with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King and a master bathroom with bathtub, and an additional bedroom with a twin bed and two Pullman beds. There's also a living room with a double sofa bed and second bathroom with a shower.

Balcony: Balcony rooms fall into two categories on Jewel of the Seas: Deluxe cabins are smaller, with 179 square foot of interior space and balconies measuring between 27 and 47 square foot. Superior cabins are larger, at 204 square feet, with balconies measuring between 41 and 172 square feet. Balcony spaces are furnished with basic mesh-seat and mesh-back chairs and small tables.

Mini-suite: Junior Suites are located on Deck 10 and feature 293 square feet of interior space and a 41-square-foot balcony. Features include two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, and a bathroom with a bathtub. There's also a sitting area with a sofa bed.

Suite: Two bedroom suites with balconies are peppered across Decks 7, 8 and 9. These come with 584 square foot of interior space and a 191-square-foot balcony. The layout features two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to Royal Kings and two bathrooms. The second bedrooms have two pulldown beds. The master bathroom has a bathtub. These suites also come with a concierge service.

Sitting pretty on Deck 10 are the Grand, Owner's and Royal suites. The Grand Suites are the smallest, at 385 square feet, with a 106-square-foot balcony. The Owner's Suites measure 589 square feet, with 106-square-foot balconies. Perks here include a whirlpool bath in the bathroom and a separate shower and bidet. The Royal Suite, meanwhile, stakes its claim over 1,001 square feet of interior space, has a 106-square-foot balcony and treats its occupants to a grand entrance with a private doorbell and a self-playing baby grand piano, among other things.

Those booking Grand Suites or higher will have personal concierges, luxury bath amenities, bathrobes, 24-hour-a-day room service, dedicated suite attendants, invitations to exclusive cocktail parties, reserved VIP seating in the main theatre and priority departure.

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