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Jennifer Kepler

Age: 26

Occupation:Architectural Drafter

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Adventure of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 7th, 2004

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

This was my first cruise experience so my mind was completely open. In short – it was not a disappointment.

Getting onto the ship was easy and very organized (they even had complimentary cookies and juice in the waiting area). The first thing we did was check out our room. Although they weren’t done prepping it, I was excited to see the room. It wasn’t nearly as small as I expected (although I’m not a big person to begin with) and there were three of us in a room. We had an outside room on the 2nd deck. I was glad to have a window. The 2nd deck was great because it was close to deck 1 where you get off at the ports. This was key when everyone was getting on or off the ship (the elevator wait was kind of a pain – use the stairs and enjoy all the wonderful art when you can).

After seeing the rooms we went to the pool deck. Since we boarded around noon there weren’t many people out there yet. This was perfect as the sun was shining and I was ready with my bathing suit in my carry on. My boyfriend and I celebrated the beginning of our vacation with frozen drinks at the sky bar. Drink prices, by the way, are reasonable. They range from $4.50 to $6ish for the fancy ones. Remember they put gratuities right on the bill already. Also, some evenings offered 2 for 1 specials. Otherwise, lemonade, iced tea, water, coffee and tea are free.

The first evening we went to the dining room for dinner. Often people crowded in front of the dining rooms waiting to get in. I wouldn’t worry about getting there a few minutes late to let the crowd pass through. We were a party of five and had a table all to ourselves. This was fine because we rarely had dinner with each other otherwise. Our head waiter, Simon, was a doll and the other waiters were great too. We had the later seating. This is a good way to go if you plan of exploring during the day – no rush to make it to dinner. My boyfriend and I ate there a few nights and the others at the Windjammer Buffet or the Promenade, 24-hour pizza, sandwiches and desserts. The food was good. I can’t compare to other cruises though. Some items I thought were a little salty, but overall a wide range of choices. (Try new things while you’re getting anything you want!) Also, if you happen to be a picky eater, not to worry – there are simple alternatives every night.

The group I went with loves to gamble. There’s a decent selection of slot machines and table games (no poker). I played craps for the first time and actually won! This got crowded by the last night at sea because there is only one table. The casino was only open when out at sea. They held some tournaments (slot & blackjack) and their bar also had some 2 for 1 specials.

The first day at sea was great for exploring the ship. I checked out the gym, which is spacious and has some great machines. This was the only day I actually used it as we kept finding more to do. They also had classes and mini-seminars during the day. Also onboard is the rock-climbing wall, volleyball/ basketball court, ice rink, in-line skating, etc. I was content to sit in the sun. When the sun was out.

I checked the weather forecast beforehand and it predicted rain. I was told not to worry as “it never rains in Aruba.” Let’s just say the bus drivers, tour guides and locals were scratching their heads on Tuesday when the clouds covered up the sun. They say it was a “good drinking day.” It was disappointing to not have that first look at the blues of the Caribbean water. Still, we went on with our day. My boyfriend and I went on the Rhino Rider Excursion. This was a lot of fun. We were worried it would be cancelled because of the weather but ultimately we were going to get wet anyway so it didn’t matter. I recommend this excursion! You get on these seadoo/ raft things that zip around on the water. You have to go pretty fast but is very safe. We went to a little dock where you can jump in and snorkel (equipment provided). You might want to check your mask out before you go because mine leaked. Also, don’t bring much with you. They tell you only bring what you want to get wet. You just need yourself in a bathing suit and an underwater camera if you have one (which I wish I did). The other stuff is left in a shack (behind a locked door they told us?!) We saw some fish and coral, etc despite it not being super clear because of the weather. A fun trip, beginners or otherwise.

Monday night was formal night. My boyfriend wasn’t prepared for dressing up for the occasion but got away with a nice shirt and khakis. Some people were very dressed up in ball gowns and tuxes. It looked like anything would fly though as long as you looked nice

The next island, Curacao, felt similar to Aruba. The shopping was similar as well as the surroundings. We went to Mambo Beach on the island in the morning. There was an interesting cove area to swim and beyond that I’m told there was good snorkeling. You can swim out to some rocks and check out local crustaceans (snails and huge crabs!) Watch the rocks and coral!

The next day at sea was the best. By now, we knew the ship and felt relaxed since we didn’t have to rush off the boat. That evening we saw the ice show. It was pretty good, especially since the size of the rink is small and you’re on a ship. The music and costumes were great, not to mention the talent. Our room was right next to the rink so we heard the music a few times, but not to worry, the show is only a few times a week and only 50 minutes long). This was the second formal night. It was fun to spend the whole evening dressed up. After the show was dinner (lobster – order two!), more casino time, and then we went to Jesters, the night club. It was 80’s night, which we kind of enjoyed reminiscing about. They had a Michael Jackson contest that was impressive. A fun place to let loose in – lots of types of people, not just the young crowd. This night was also when the midnight dessert event was taking place. We were having so much fun dancing we forgot. I hear it’s great though – I would have liked to see it. (And all the chocolate desserts I had tried at dinner were awesome – even the sugar free choices).

My favorite islands were St. Maarten and St. Thomas. By then the sun was shining a bit more and it was hot! The best beaches and shopping – especially flea markets. (Buy your liquor here – it’s even cheaper than the ship specials.) We went to Bikini Beach in St. Maarten (bikinis optional). There were fun trinkets and jewelry here. During one of the brief rain showers passing through we even saw a rainbow on our last day (it made up for not so great sunsets on the cloudy horizon).

As far as other ship activities, they had line dancing by the pool, a Caribbean Midnight Buffet by the pool one night, mini-parades on the promenade and lounge chairs everywhere to be a part of the activities (or not). The other shows that went on were the Battle of the Sexes (silly but funny), Love and Marriage (awesome – don’t miss it) and some others I missed. I heard the comedian was good but some of the others not so much. You can always leave if you don’t like it and you can catch it on the in-room TV’s where they repeat it during the week.

Getting off the ship is the least fun. Packing the night before and having everything you need for the next day in your carry on is a pain. The wait to get off the ship was a bit long. Go to the buffet for breakfast if you can to kill time (if you don’t have an early flight). Also, be prepared to show your passport a million times between customs and the airport (and wear slip on shoes).

I would recommend staying away from the Internet on the ship, but try out all the places to eat (we skipped Portofinos). If you want to climb the rock wall sign up early. Take your time getting to dinner or the buffet when it first opens, unless you like lines, and take the stairs when you can. Don’t worry too much about motion sickness. I usually get sick in the backseat of a car but the movement of the ship didn’t really affect me and we were definitely rocking. Double-check your bill – we were charged for something in the min-bar that we hadn’t touched (I suspect the motion of the boat may have knocked a sensor). And no matter what the weather is, enjoy the Caribbean and the ship because it is a great vacation.

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