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Sue Underwood

Age: 42

Occupation:Paralegal

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Adventure of the Seas

Sailing Date: February 17th, 2002

Itinerary: San Juan, Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Thomas

As a first time cruiser I had many pre-conceived notions (both good and bad) about what to expect on my cruise. Some were realized, while others were not. I was cruising with 25 other family members as part of a family vacation. About half of us have never cruised before.

When we arrived at the docks in San Juan I expected a lengthy delay in boarding the ship, since boarding time was not scheduled until 2:00 pm. I was pleasantly surprised when arriving at 1:00 they allowed us to board right away. It was a painless hassle free experience.

After boarding we found our cabins and all of us had inside staterooms, even though we had requested upgrades. We assumed the ship was probably full since it was during Winter break in the Northeast. This was not the case, but no upgrades were offered. [For “The Lowdown on Upgrades” please read this article – Editor’s Note]

Our first meal was in the Windjammer Restaurant that was a buffet and offered breakfast from early a.m. until about 10:30 a.m. and then lunch and dinner accordingly. Food was good, however not what I expected (again, pre-conceived notions). Staff was friendly, constantly removed dirty dishes and offered refills on coffee, iced tea and lemonade.

Our luggage arrived earlier than 10:00 p.m., another pleasant surprise, since I had heard stories of not obtaining luggage until well after midnight. The first evening we ate in the Vivaldi dining room and food again was good, but nothing spectacular.

One major disappointment was the wait staff in the main dining room. We had requested that the entire family be seated together, however the sheer size of our party prohibited such. Unfortunately they put ten of us at one table, eleven at another and a family of four at yet another. The tables were in somewhat close proximity, but not what we had hoped for. After the third night, the head waiter did scoot the family of four over to one of our main tables, which was appreciated.

Our waitress, while friendly, just didn't seem to genuinely like us, or go out of her way to be helpful. As an example, at one point my husband asked for a cup of coffee after dinner was served, and she stated that she "didn't do coffee". Unbeknownst to us at that time, serving coffee was the responsibility of the assistant waitress (who by the way was a joy to know). While we realized afterwards the roles of each of the wait staff, I think a more appropriate response would have been, "Certainly, I'll let "Elsie" know you would like some coffee." On more than one occasion when an entree or appetizer appeared that was incorrect, the staff questioned us if we were sure we didn't order it.

The cabin stewards were very competent, however again, they never acknowledged any of my cabin mates by name. On the other hand other family members who had different cabin stewards were very impressed by their helpfulness and friendliness.

We had booked a snorkeling excursion in Aruba through the cruise-line on-line prior to leaving. It was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. We were met at the docks by the snorkeling company and had a great time in Aruba. Booking through the cruise line certainly held advantages since no other transportation arrangements have to be made.

We had such a great time snorkeling in Aruba we decided we wanted to try it again in St. Thomas. Two days before arriving in St. Thomas we attempted to book an excursion through RC's interactive television service and were unable to. My husband then went to the main desk on the fifth floor to do so and was told he had to make those reservations through Sea Trex on the eleventh floor. After going up to 11 and finding Sea Trex closed, he was extremely disappointed in the customer service.

We had thirteen kids in our party, nine of them teenagers and they had the time of their life. There was constantly something for them to do, whether it was at the arcade, rock climbing wall, ice-skating rink or relaxing in the hot tubs. Some of the kids were disappointed since a lot of the activities had limited hours. It's a big ship to travel from one end to the other only to find out something was closed!

For the adults a variety of clubs, bars and shows always kept us busy and the performers were excellent.

Debarkation should have been a painless process except for an "incident" just as our flight was being called. We were waiting in a lobby area that also contained cubicles for internet access. Two of the younger boys were sitting in the cubicle with the shutter-type doors closed, when another child (I admit it, it was my son), came up and kicked on a small button at the bottom of the cubicle. The doors were locked! We tried everything to get them open, but nothing worked. After calling Guest Services someone came and tried to get it open and muttered something to the effect that the same thing happens on the Explorer of the Seas also. When a master key was unable to be found, maintenance had to be called to drill the lock out. All of this happened just as we were disembarking, and added an extra half hour to that process. I was truly amazed that any lock would exist on that ship that didn't have a master key!

All in all we did have the vacation of a lifetime, but I think that the staff of Adventure of the Seas needs to take some refresher courses in customer service.

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