Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
Sailing Date: 2005
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
My wife and I just got back from our cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas. We are both in our early 30’s and had sailed on Carnival together four previous times and wanted to try a different line. I’ll hit the highlights and the “issues” that others have written/asked about and also compare to Carnival. Much has been written about the islands themselves, so I will focus more on the ins and outs…warning…kind of long!
Day 1 – Arrive in San Juan.
Our flight arrived at about 11:15 into San Juan. It’s not the nicest airport, but hey, we are off on a cruise, so who really cares! We had arranged our transportation through RCCL. In the baggage area, there was a representative who directed us to a line to wait with our luggage for the bus to take us to the ship. As it was early, and buses were still bringing people to the airport, we waited about ½ hour. Once the bus arrived, it was nice to be able to leave your luggage and not have to deal with it again until it was delivered to the stateroom. The only suggestion I would have is that outside nobody really told anybody what to do. Instead, I think the head of the line was told and then everyone who followed just kind of did what the people in front of them did….which was leave your luggage on the curb as someone loaded it into some cargo vans. So, your luggage does NOT go with you on the bus and you hope it is delivered to your room. Which it was!
The bus ride took about 20 minutes and when we arrived at about 12:15, there was a short line outside the terminal. Having arranged the transportation form the airport, we did not have to carry our luggage through the line, which was nice. We waited here about 15 minutes and once inside, it moved SO quickly, as they really had their act together. We were on the ship by 12:45. The obligatory “welcome aboard” photos were taken, but not causing any delays!
Once we got on, the doors to the stateroom hallways were closed and we had tostay in the public areas. They open the doors at 2pm, so don’t plan in getting to your room much earlier! We went to the Windjammer/Island Grill for some food. The buffet setup is similar to the Carnival Conquest-class ships (in number of stations), and the food selection/quality is comparable. What was amazing, though, was the quality of service in the Windjammer/Island. Rather than just clearing your plates, the staff members in these areas are constantly refilling your lemonade/fruit punch, etc. and are always asking if you need anything. Great service in here! Be forewarned though on Day 1…you may wait a bit in line on this day, as this is really the only place open for a lot of hungry travelers. You need to expect that, but don’t fear…it is the worst line of the week, and you will never wait more than a minute or two! Also, the key here later in the week is if you see a line when you enter, go around to the other stations out back (Island Grill)…same food, shorter lines!
The ship is beautiful. Having been on the Carnival Fantasy, Destiny, and Conquest class ships, this one took the cake. While we liked the “themes” that Carnival has on their ships (each ship has a theme throughout the ship), overall the décor was nicer. The Royal Promenade was more impressive seeing it for real and the pool decks have much more open deck space and chairs. On the Destiny/Conquest-class ships, saving deck chairs is a problem because there are simply not enough chairs/space. Their deal is that they give you two “beach/pool” towels in your room and if you lose them, they charge you $20. This is supposed to encourage people not to leave towels out to save chairs, but it still happens here. Though it is really not a problem because you will find one somewhere in all of that open space! And they (staff) do not pick up your stuff if you leave things unattended for over 30 minutes, as several signs warn people. Bottom-line…plenty of space, saving chairs not an issue!
Our luggage arrived around 10pm, but we are able to eat in the dining room with what we had on. The dining room is unbelievably impressive…three levels and very elegant. We ended up changing our seat assignment, and they were very accommodating. Food was comparable to Carnival, though again, the service was far superior. We thought the menus were a little corny. Water glasses seem to be magically filled up as soon as you take a sip!
Day 2 – At Sea
All of the typical activities you would expect…bingo, pool games, etc. I did notice there were more “teaching” activities, where you could learn to play piano, cook, etc. Nice touch in addition to the regular items.
Bingo was offered everyday. Carnival has the announcements in your face 24/7, whereas RCCL is more subtle about it. The price is more though. $35 for 6 cards for five games (6 on each game). This can add up obviously, and we only ended up playing once!
On Monday morning, I think around 9, you can line up to get tickets for the ice shows. They are worth seeing. They offer four shows (two on two different days). They are general admission tickets and you do need one to get in. The line backed up if you were not there just before 9, but here’s the trick….save yourself the aggravation of the line and just go to Guest Relations later that day or later in the week. They had plenty left over for three of the four shows. If you are not picky about the day/time, why bother waiting in line Monday morning when you can get them later on line-free!!
Day 3 - Aruba.
We found the excursions to be slightly cheaper than Carnival, and they have a nice system on the TV, where you can see videos of some tours and book from there. No port talks like on Carnival where they briefly mention the tours and then tell you about all the places to shop! You can learn right from your room.
Even though the tours were reasonable, we often did our own things and save more money. On Aruba, we rented a taxi for two hours and our driver took us all around. The taxi rates in Aruba are high…$40/hour, but you can see most of the island in 2-3 hours. What’s nice too, is they post all of the taxi fares on the piers and there are no surprises when it comes time to pay the driver.
Oranjestead was a pretty town, a lot of action, and we stayed docked until 1am. What is particularly impressive about here and Curacao is that you don’t feel pestered by the merchants at all. They do not hassle you and let you shop without any pressure at all.
Day 4 – Curacao
Again, we did our own thing in the morning, taking a taxi to the Hato Caves. They are not advertised much anywhere, but are definitely worth seeing. I think we paid $40 and the driver stayed with us while we took the tour…he was with us for about two hours. And we avoided the busloads that pulled in as we were leaving!
We did take the RCCL excursion to the dolphin encounter. On the day the Adventure is in town, you can only book it through them and not directly through the Dolphin Academy. We tried, but no luck…RCCL has the monopoly on it on Wednesdays, but oh well….a very nice place and a memorable tour!
Day 5 – At Sea
The rock-climbing wall called! You sign up and don’t have to wait more than ten minutes to get on. They keep it moving, with 2-3 lines going at once. I made it to the top, but didn’t really know what I was doing. The staff is there to help you out if you get stuck halfway up, bit didn’t expect much in the way of instructions at the start!!
Johnny Rocket’s is definitely worth doing once. It is $4/pp cover charge and when we went while on a sea day, we did not wait at all.
Day 6 – St. Marteen
We had been here before, so we took a van to Marigot. It is pretty over there. The taxis are reasonable ($12 total to get there….1/2 hour) and the taxi dispatch is organized, stuffing as many into a cab as comfortable and off you go!
Day 7 – St. Thomas
Having been to St. Thomas several times, we stayed on the ship. The only hassle here is the immigration line. Between 7 and 9am you have to present yourself to the officials in the dining room. We went around 8:30, and the line started at the dining room, went back all the way through the Promenade, and looped halfway back again. The good news is that is moves quickly (they look at your passport real quickly), but it is the longest line of the week if you catch it at the wrong time.
Day 8 – San Juan
We had arranged RCCL transportation from the pier to the airport. They call you off according to a number they give you based on your flight info. Our flight was for 1:15 and we were called off at 9:15. We decided to wait a bit and get some more sun. They ask you to wait in lounges, but don’t seem to have any problem with people waiting on deck. We finally dragged ourselves off and picked up our luggage in the terminal. The in became chaotic. If we had gotten off before 10am, we could have checked it with American Airlines right there and not had to deal with it again. This was never really made clear previously, but no big deal, as it just meant we’d board the bus with our luggage and check it at the airport. This is more of the problem though: your luggage gets put in a cargo van and you have to pick it up at the airport to check it. The issue is that the van does not necessarily leave when your bus does. Once your bus fills, you go. Once the van fills with luggage, it goes. So, if your bus fills, but the van is loading other luggage for other buses, you wait at the airport for it to show up. We waited about 20 minutes, but others waited 30-35. And when it arrives, there is no RCCL sign on the van (just remember which one you put your luggage on). Bottom line save yourself aggravation, time, and money, and take a taxi yourself from the pier to the airport.
Entertainment was solid, with a lot more live music than Carnival, but one less production show. Comedians galore…three over seven nights.
Love & Marriage is just like Carnival’s Newlywed Game. What is really worth seeing though, is the Adventure Quest “Scavenger” hunt game. It is held in the ice rink with a cover over the ice and teams compete to bring a variety of things to the audience. They didn’t really push this show, but it was full and clear to see why!
Cabins are about the same size as Carnival’s, though more thought put into them. Sliding doors on the showers, sliding doors to the balcony (no propping them open with a chair), and much more drawer/cabinet space.
Service was unbelievable. Everywhere you go, a staff member says hello, asks how you are, etc. Carnival has good service, but I did feel that RCCL went above and beyond. Once I asked if they had an extra copy of the newspaper they print up and put in the library. The Guest Relations rep apologized they were out and gave me ten minutes free Internet time. I hadn’t even complained!
Having sailed on Carnival several times and only once on RCCL, I would definitely recommend both, but we will definitely take another Voyager-class ship aboard RCCL soon! As they say, Get Out There! Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the ship, trip, etc.