Ship Reviews

Ship Review: Jewel of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International are homeporting Jewel of the Seas in the Middle East for the 2019/2020 cruise season, offering roundtrip Dubai cruises in the Arabian Gulf. This 90,090-ton, 2,100-guest ship offers the active Royal Caribbean experience with more of a classic twist than the city-at-sea Oasis-, Freedom-, and Voyager classes.

 

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The nine-deck atrium aboard Jewel of the Seas (Image courtesy PND Cruise Reviews)

Launched in 2004, Jewel of the Seas was at the time one of the larger cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

She was the fourth addition to the cruise line’s Radiance-class, which does the adventurous Royal Caribbean experience in a more contemporary and classic cruise environment than the larger ships in the fleet.

She features all the Royal Caribbean innovations introduced by the Radiance-class, such as a climbing wall, solarium and Adventure Ocean kids’ facility, as well as self-levelling billiards tables.

In 2016, she underwent a refit and refurbishment that saw all staterooms refreshed and two new specialty restaurants, a new wine bar, and outdoor movie screen added.

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New outdoor movie screen aboard Jewel of the Seas

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The restaurant Portofino was replaced with Giovanni’s Table, the Champagne Bar became Vintages and the Seaview Café was renovated into the Asian restaurant Izumi.

The Shoreside Dining Room, Explorer’s Court and Yacht Club were all removed to make room for 42 new staterooms and the Diamond Club was added to the Viking Crown Lounge.

In addition, the restaurant Chops Grille, the Spa and several retail shops were all renovated. The Hollywood Odyssey was also replaced by the Concierge Club.

Jewel of the Seas design and décor

One of the most noticeable things about the Radiance-class design, and which wasn’t changed during Jewel’s refurb, is the amount of glass used in their public rooms.

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The Windjammer Cafe offers impressive views (Image courtesy Dave Koz Cruise)

It brings the outside in when sailing scenic destinations like Alaska, the Norwegian Fjords, or indeed Khasab off the Musandam Peninsula in the Arabian Gulf.

Jewel of the Seas’ atrium, the social heart of the ship, has a five-story wall of glass on the port side, and the Viking Crown Lounge, Singapore Sling’s piano bar, the Sky Bar, Vintages, and Windjammer Café all offer expansive views.

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The refurbishment of Jewel of the Seas brought her up-to-date with the other ships in the Radiance-class, but stayed true to her on-board character, which has always favoured classical over gaudy.

Jewel of the Seas has the feel of a classic ocean liner on the inside, with dark woods, blue-hued fabrics and brass incorporated into the décor.

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The uber-millennial Vortex nightclub with revolving bar

The only ‘wow’ factors for the millennial cruise market are the Vortex nightclub’s revolving bar and the racing theme of The Pit Stop bar – a perfect spot for the Dubai ‘influencer’ selfie.

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The Pit Stop Sports Bar (Image courtesy Dave Koz Cruise)

All the way aft on deck 6 there are five intimate, interconnected lounges with a lovely old-world feel thanks to Oriental-style rugs, parquet flooring, and wood wall panelling.

The Congo Bar piano bar stretches across the entire stern, offering views through floor-to-ceiling windows and is one of the most romantic places on-board.

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The Congo Bar aboard Jewel of the Seas

Adjacent to it is the the colonial-style Game Reserve with those gyroscope-enabled pool tables.

This whole aft area on Deck 6 is colonial African themed, with a Zanzibar Lounge adjacent the Safari Club and the Serengeti Card Club.

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The Safari Club aboard Jewel of the Seas

The ship’s main theatre is the place to go for Royal Caribbean’s renowned Broadway-style shows and nearby is the large Casino Royale.

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The theatre aboard Jewel of the Seas

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Casino Royale aboard Jewel of the Seas

In addition to the Pit Stop Bar and Sports Bar, there is also a nautically themed Schooner Bar; a specialty-coffee bar; and the Viking Crown Lounge, perched up on Deck 13.

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Schooner Bar

Royal Caribbean is a cruise line that does nightlife and entertainment well, but it also caters to families.

The Adventure Ocean center on Deck 12 includes a large, multi-area playroom, a video arcade, an outdoor pool with water slide, and a separate teen disco.

Accommodation aboard Jewel of the Seas

Staterooms on board are tasteful and spacious. All cabins have a small sitting area, roomy closets, vanities with pull-out trays for laptops, interactive TVs, minibars, and en-suite bathrooms.

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Standard outside stateroom aboard Jewel of the Seas

The en-suites are slightly on the tight side for a ship this size, except of course if you’re staying in one of the suites.

Most of the suites are located on Deck 10, and range from the 294-square-foot Junior Suite to the 951-square-foot Royal Suite.

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Balcony suite

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The Royal Suite is the grandest aboard and has a separate bedroom and living room, whirlpool bath, baby grand piano, and 283-square-foot veranda.

More than half the staterooms on board have private balconies.

Entertainment aboard Jewel of the Seas

While Jewel of the Seas’ entertainment offerings are more true to the classic cruise experience than the more innovative offerings of Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Bliss or Royal Caribbean’s larger Quantum or Oasis-class vessels, there’s still much fun to be had aboard.

Daytime activities include cruise ship classics like line dancing and trivia sessions, while the night-time line-up features cabaret, karaoke and live piano music. This puts Jewel of the Seas in direct competition with MSC Cruises’ Dubai-based ship MSC Splendida.

Outdoors, sports and spa on Jewel of the Seas

Up on the pool deck, there is a large and often busy main pool area, as well as a covered, Asian-themed, adults-only Solarium.

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The adults-only solarium aboard Jewel of the Seas

Higher still there’s a Sports Deck featuring a rock-climbing wall attached to the ship’s funnel, a basketball and volleyball court, a 9-hole miniature-golf course, a golf simulator, and a jogging track.

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Jewel of the Seas’ spa and fitness centre is a two-story space on Decks 11 and 12, with a huge aerobics floor, dozens of exercise machines, more than a dozen individual treatment rooms, and a Thermal Suite with heated tiled loungers and showers that simulate tropical rain and fog.

She has few gimmicks then, but plenty of amenities.

Dining aboard Jewel of the Seas

Jewel of the Seas is a big ship, and her size is reflected in the vast array of dining options aboard.

Guests can choose from several elegant speciality options, or dine in the two-story Tides Dining Room. This is the ship’s main restaurant, with a glamorous ocean liner feel.

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The dramatic columns that line the room are draped in silk, and the entire space is dominated by a split grand staircase.

In addition to Giovanni’s Table and Izumi, there is also the intimate, 90-seat Chops Grille steakhouse.

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The popular Chops Grille steakhouse.

And scattered throughout the ship almost every bar and lounge serves quick, casual meals and snacks, including the Windjammer Cafe buffet restaurant and a pizzeria in the Solarium.

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The Windjammer Cafe is the ship’s main buffet restaurant.

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The Windjammer Café is one of the best ‘complimentary’ places to eat after the main dining room. It serves the same kind of food, but in buffet form.

Guests will have to pay a small stipend to dine in the speciality restaurants, but they are all consistently high-quality.

One more thing to add regarding dining is that, thanks to the huge size of the main dining room and buffet, the ship seldom feels crowded at meal times, despite carrying more than 2,000 passengers. The same can’t be said of the tendering ashore process (there’s no cruise terminal at Sir Bani Yas Island).

The dress code at meal times is generally smart-casual, which is left open to interpretation.

On the one formal night during her Arabian Gulf cruise program, expect to find many men wearing shirts with open collars, and female passengers wearing cocktail dresses over ball gowns. During the day, the dress code is a case of anything goes.

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Types of passengers aboard Jewel of the Seas

While this is the first time that Jewel of the Seas has been homeported in Dubai, cruising roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf, it can expected that the types of passengers aboard will be similar to those on Splendour of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas, which have previously cruised in the Middle East.

Most passengers will likely be Europeans and British, with a sizeable portion of Americans as well.

Jewel of the Seas is ideal for cruisers who want a few bells and whistles, but more of a classic cruise experience than the modern Instagram fest that can be found aboard newer, larger vessels. This is a laid-back ship, with long lazy mealtimes, a few drinks in the evening and a varied nightlife long into the wee hours.

Jewel of the Seas will be homeporting in the Middle East from November, 2019 to March, 2020, cruising roundtrip from Dubai on 7-night voyages during the winter season.

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