What is it like to set sail on one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships? Unique cruise ports, spectacular views from the dining areas, and fewer people on board are three reasons to book a cruise on one of Royal's Radiance or Vision Class ships!
General Ship Overview
The Radiance Class ships include Jewel, Serenade, Brilliance, and Radiance of the Seas. These ships have 14 decks, 1097 guest cabins (approximately half are balcony rooms), and 61 suites. There is one main dining room, six specialty dining areas, and the ship's buffet, The Windjammer. Room service is also available. The ship has two main pools, with one reserved for adults only.
There is a small waterslide available for children, a rock climbing wall, a miniature golf course, and a movie theater on board. Live shows are performed nightly in the Coral Theater. This ship explores the Caribbean waters in winter months, and repositions to Europe for the summer months.
Cabin Layout and Size
We had a balcony cabin suitable for a family of four. The couch bed was made up nightly, and a bunk pulled down from the ceiling for our fourth child.
The room is 165 square feet (15 square meters) and the balcony is 45 square feet (4 square meters). We had a desk, ,closet, and full bathroom in our cabin. We stored our suitcases under the bed to help keep our room organized, and used magnetic hooks to hang our lanyards and hats on the ship walls. The cruise cabin was small with four people using it, but manageable with children. Now that our children are teenagers, we would likely book a balcony cabin and an inside cabin across the hall, and have the boys stay in the inside cabin.
We ordered room service one morning and it was absolutely wonderful to pull into port, watching dolphins alongside the ship, with coffee in hand. Balcony cabins do run at a higher price than inside or ocean view, but we really loved the extra square footage and sitting outside to read or watch the ship enter port. We had a port-intensive cruise, however, so we did not spend a lot of time in the cabin.
There are two main dining areas that are included with the cruise rate: the main dining room and the Windjammer Café (buffet option). There are also six specialty dining areas (including an ice cream store and a café) that are not included and must be paid for separately. We did not eat at any specialty restaurants, and had plenty of wonderful food without doing so. I would love to try one on our next cruise, however, for a special night out with Dennis.
Diners may choose to have a flexible dining time or may have a set dining time. I pre-set our dining time before the cruise, because we had younger kids at the time and getting food into their bellies was a very important consideration. We had a lovely table for four right by a window, and we loved watching the port departure as we ate our meal.
The menu rotates nightly and we loved trying new things. One big benefit of cruising is that a child can try new foods without any pressure - if they don't like it, they can get something else. My boys loved everything they tried and we were impressed with the onboard food.
While we ate at the main dining room every night, we chose to eat at the buffet for breakfast. We also ate there for lunch on two days - we ate on the islands the rest of the days. The buffet was fantastic for breakfast options, and we regularly left for our excursions with very full bellies.
The Windjammer also had unlimited ice cream, and was a necessary post-beach and pre-dinner stop for the boys!
The specialty restaurants onboard (we did not try them) include:
Izumi: Asian cuisine including sushi.
Chops Grille: A steakhouse.
Giovanni's: Italian cuisine.
Chef's Table: Exlusive 5 course dinner with the chef.
Ben & Jerry's: Ice cream.
Café Latitudes: Coffee shop.
For a small ship, the Jewel has a lot of activities to keep everyone entertained. The activities include:
A miniature golf course
This was a fun activity to do while the ship was at sea, as it is very hard to get a good putt in when the ship is moving! We played a few rounds while we were on this cruise.
A Rock Climbing Wall
This was a favorite activity (our family is pretty active). The wall is quite high, and towering over the sea adds another element of adventure. The ship provides climbing shoes once you register for the activity. Those who reach the top can ring a bell. We loved the fact that several passengers watched our boys as they struggled to near the top and cheered when they rang the bell!
Pools and Water Activities:
Two pools are onboard, including a gorgeous adult-only pool. We didn't spend time in the adult pool, as we were generally with the kids. There is also a waterslide, which is only for children. The waterslide moved very slowly and could be enjoyed by very young children. Our boys went on it a few times, but preferred swimming in the main pool.
The main pool was extremely crowded on our only sea day. It was empty on the day of boarding and on port days. I will say the water was COLD on our first day, as it had just been cleaned and refilled! The water was much warmer by the next day!
There is a movie theater on-board. Dennis and I watched Doctor Strange while the boys were in the children's club. While the movie was fun, the screen was dim and it was hard to see the movie - hopefully that will get fixed soon! There are also many dance parties, competitions (like dodgeball), and games onboard. The show Quest is a must-do activity on a Royal ship! We loved the basketball courts for playing a few games with the kids - these were never crowded and we really enjoyed the view while playing!
We joined a balloon animal class on our sea day, which was very fun. Check the daily itinerary for entertainment options, because there is always something going on!
Kid's Club Activities:
The Royal children's program is absolutely amazing. Our boys begged to go each night, and wanted to stay until the program closed. We generally took them out by 8:30 pm, as they needed rest after their long days on the beach!
At the time of our cruise, the boys were ages 9 and 11. They were in the Adventure Ocean Program offered by the cruise, and this program had the most amazing counselors. They learned a lot of new games (including rooster-tail tag) and made new friends almost instantly. This did provide Dennis and I plenty of time to spend together, and gave the kids a break as well. I don't have many pictures of the kids' club, as they are very secure and prevent adults from entering if they are not picking up a child. They do allow a tour on the day parents board the ship. Children are broken up by age group. Aquanauts are ages 3-5, Explorers are ages 6-8, and Voyagers are ages 9-12. Teens have their own program onboard, with a teen-centric nightclub and hang-out area. There is also an arcade onboard, which was located at the entrance to Adventure Ocean.
Smaller Ship Benefits
While Jewel might be a smaller ship, it has some advantages. Fewer people onboard makes disembarking to your port easier. In addition, the ship can dock at some locations larger ships cannot access. We stopped at the port of Dominica on our itinerary, and only smaller cruise ships are able to dock here. This was my favorite docking location, as the waters were absolutely filled with dolphins and the ship was moored to posts by ropes thrown to local dock workers in motor boats.
Pool chair access was not a problem except on the one sea day we had. On the sea day, the pool was essentially "people soup," and we avoided swimming. There were plenty of chairs available, however, away from the pool. The Jewel has a lot of glass and places to watch the sea go by from a deck chair - even on a sea day.
The focus on the ship is really evident with the Radiance Class. The elevator is all glass and faces the ocean, with stunning views every time we headed up to the buffet. While we normally take the stairs to try to burn calories, we did have to take the elevator a few times for the view!
The buffet is also located at the rear of the ship, with amazing views of the ocean from nearly every outdoor table. We enjoyed this when we had breakfast or stopped for ice cream. We never had problems finding a table, and we frequently had an ocean-front dining spot!
While we would like to try some of the other ship classes that Royal Caribbean offers, we absolutely loved our trip on the Jewel and hope to get back to cruising one day soon!