Number of Cruises: Two
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
Sailing Date: August 17th, 2003
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
Onboard service = A
Food quality = A
Cabin accommodations = A
Off-shore excursions = A- (can be pricey)
Ship amenities = A
Casino slot machine payouts = don’t ask
This was the second cruise for my wife and I. Our first cruise was on a smaller ship (to the Western Caribbean) in the mid 1990’s. This time we wanted a larger cruise ship and we wanted to see islands in the Southern Caribbean. After a moderate amount of research, we decided to book our 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean. The cruise was on the Adventure of the Seas, which departed San Juan, Puerto Rico and cruised to St. Thomas, St. Marten, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados.
We arrived in San Juan a day early and stayed at the Marriott Hotel Resort. Check-in was pleasant and quick and we had a room with a beach/ocean view. As we arrived in the early afternoon, we decided to grab a quick lunch and head to Castillo de San Felipe del Morro (a fort in old San Juan considered a National Historical Site by the National Park Service). From the Marriott, it was an inexpensive taxi ride (less than $15) to the fort. By the way, taxis do not run by meter. The charge is by destination. The fort was part of the defenses of old San Juan built by Spain when they controlled the island. We then walked briefly around old San Juan before heading back to the hotel for showers and dinner. All in all, a nice, relaxing way to spend the day before the cruise.
The next day we took a taxi to the pier to begin our cruise. Taxi fare was once again below $15.00. Boarding time began at 2PM and we arrived shortly before 2PM. Luggage is collected before you enter the embarkation building and we wound up leaving three pieces of luggage with port workers and tipped them $3.00. Tipping, however, is optional. We then entered the building and were asked to sit down in one of the many rows of seats and wait for our row to be called. At this point let me digress. When your documentation booklet from Royal Caribbean arrives, you will find a page within the booklet asking for personal information. This is to be filled out and presented to the check-in agent prior to boarding. You have the option of filling out this information via the Internet or filling out the form and having it ready at check-in. I filled out the forms (one for each of us) on the Internet and all information was computerized and available at check-in.
When our row was called, we proceeded into the main check-in area where the line was long but moved smoothly and reasonably quickly. There was a duty-free store selling liquor and giving away free samples of rum-laced fruit drinks. I took the opportunity to sample a number of flavors. There was not enough rum in the samples to worry about getting tipsy, so for those of you who have low tolerances to alcohol, go for it. When we reached the check-in desk we were pleasantly greeted and were asked for our passports and credit card. Our personal information (see previous paragraph) was already in their computer. The check-in agent then generated a plastic card the size of a credit card which is used for all on-board purchases and as your room key. We learned that no cash is required to make any purchase on the ship. All you do is present the card given to you at check-in and they automatically post it to your on-board spending account. At the end of the trip they will give you a listing of the amount you’ve spent and the total will be posted to your credit card number (you may be thinking, this can add up quickly; your right). The best way to see how much your spending is to access your account daily on your room TV). After check-in (which took no longer than 30-40 minutes) we proceeded to board the ship. If you’ve never been on one of these floating behemoths before, you’re in for a surprise. It is huge from the outside and lavish and even more impressive from the inside. We felt we had boarded a floating palace. We proceeded to our room where we found two bags waiting for us in front of our cabin. We unpacked the two bags and left to explore the ship. After this initial exploration, we returned to the room to find our third bag waiting for us. We unpacked this bag and proceeded to see the rest of the ship.
14 decks (I think). PC room (internet access at $0.50 per minute), library, Studio B (ice skating rink), art gallery, Lyric Theater (shows), numerous bars/lounges with different themes, pools, hot tubs, one mile jogging track, workout club, complete spa and hair salon facilities, aerobics area, three levels of main dining hall connected by a grand staircase (think Titanic staircase), Windjammer café (huge café buffet style), Portofino Italian restaurant (extra charge per person), Johnny Rockets 50’s style hamburger diner (extra charge for goodies like shakes, malts, floats, etc), casino (nickel, quarter, dollar slots and $5, $10 and up tables), rock climbing wall, basketball court, miniature golf, child’s skating area, video game arcade, child/teen area, wedding chapel, shuffleboard courts (I was told they exist, but I did not see them) and the Promenade. The Promenade is on deck 5 and consists of a British style pub, deli style eatery, and numerous shops (liquor, cigarettes, jewelry, clothes), shore excursion purchase area, and guest service area.
Staterooms forward and aft. Staterooms aft are closer to the Windjammer Café and main dining Hall. But no cabin is really far from anything. We stayed on deck 7, aft, inner cabin. The room was fairly large with a King size bed. The room had a control for piped in music and contained a 19-20 inch color TV. Half the stations were in English and the other half were repeated in Spanish. There was a thermostat in the room that gave you control of the temperature. The bathroom was adequate in size although the shower was definitely built for one (honeymooners take notice). We had toyed with the idea of paying extra for a room with a window or balcony, but based on our daily activities, we were hardly in the room. At night, it is pitch dark outside so a window is useless. A balcony is nice if you plan to sit outside and read or sun. We read in the library and sunned poolside or on a beach. So in our case, the money we saved on the room we spent on board the ship and on the islands.
Food and Food Service
Dinnertime included a 6:30PM early sitting and a 9:00PM late sitting. We chose the early sitting. Food service was exemplary. There was a primary waiter and assistant waiter for each table. A headwaiter circulated around the tables making sure everything was all right. Service was unobtrusive and on the level of a high-priced fine dining restaurant. Orders were taken and returned promptly and all food arrived at temperature levels appropriate for the dish. If you left the table for any reason, your food was covered to retain its cooked temperature. Food quality was high and quantity was adequate. Extra servings for each course were available (upon request). We ate dinner each night in the main dining hall; for breakfast and lunch, we ate in the Windjammer Café (buffet style). Food in the Windjammer Café included hot and cold dishes, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, soups, salads, fruit, cereals, dessert bar, and beverages (coffee, iced tea, lemonade, and water). Soda, beer, and wine were extra cost items. Quality of all food was excellent. The Windjammer Café has an extra meal each mid-afternoon known as Tea Time. This is the equivalent of lunch number two. We had the early seating for dinner and we were off ship every day, so lunch number one was sufficient for us.
If I remember correctly, off ship excursions ranged in price from $35.00 per person to $100.00 per person. Excursions included beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving, going undersea in submarines, kayaking, 4x4 tours, hiking tours, distillery tours, island tours and others. You have the opportunity to purchase tours via the Internet after you receive your cruise verification number or you can wait until you board the ship. We decided not to book on the Internet as we wanted to know the times of tour departures and how long each tour took. This information may have been available online, but we couldn’t find it. In any case, once you board the ship, you will be given a list of all tours, their departure times and their durations. We found we had enough time to book whatever tours we wanted after boarding the ship. Tours are ordered by filling out a tour sheet and leaving it at the tour desk on deck 5. Tour tickets are then delivered to your room the same day. For those not wishing to purchase offshore excursions, you can disembark at any island and hire a taxi driver to take you to areas that interest you. We did just that on St. Lucia and our driver took us to one part of the island and returned us to the main downtown shopping area. We negotiated a $35.00 fee for the 1.5 hour tour. Whatever you decide, you are permitted to disembark after docking but you are requested to return to the ship by 5PM for a 5:30PM departure.
We were always off-ship during the day, so I cannot tell you what shipboard entertainment took place during daytime hours. However, with the onboard amenities available, those who did not wish to leave the ship had more than enough diversions to occupy their time. Evening hours included singing and dancing shows (with small orchestra), comedians, game playing (newly wed game etc.), karaoke, promenade parades, ice skating show, rock and roll party, pool party with food, one mid-night buffet (make sure you bring your camera), casino, art auction, and loads of bars and lounges with live or piped in music. All performances were first rate and I would suggest attending every show available to you.
One of the great pastimes of cruising is the duty free/tax free shopping awaiting you on board the ship, at the pier, and at islands of call. Items most often purchased include jewelry, watches, liquor, tobacco products, and women’s clothing. I did not see bargains for men’s clothing or electronics. Your best bargains are at downtown stores on each of the islands although onboard stores guarantee to meet all prices you may have seen off ship.
I guess the best conclusion we could give for this cruise would be to say that we recommend this cruise without reservation. Royal Caribbean should be commended for the excellent training they provide their staff, the quality of service the staff provides, the quality of food served, and their cabin accommodations. My only nit-picking request would be for Royal Caribbean to include soft drinks in the price of the cruise. Other than that, all aboard for a cruise you won’t likely forget.