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Dan

Age: 30

Occupation:Airline Pilot

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Adventure of the Seas

Sailing Date: January 8th, 2006

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

My wife and I recently returned from the 7-Night Southern Caribbean itinerary aboard Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Eagle-class ship, Adventure of the Seas. This was our second cruise. The first was last March on Norwegian.

We arrived in San Juan PR the day prior to sailing (Saturday) as did our friends. Our friends used the option to include airfare and transportation from the ship to the airport after the cruise. I am not sure if because they arrived a day early that option was not available to bring them to the hotel, or if the hotel we stayed at was not part of the RCCL package. You will have to check with RCCL if you wish to have ground transportation set up prior. My wife and I arranged our own travel. Getting a cab was easy and not all that expensive. It cost $20 for a cab from the airport to the Sheraton Old San Juan. Nice hotel and easy location to the town and several of the piers. Plus it was the least expensive by far. I think the pier used depends on ship traffic. We embarked and disembarked from the Pan American Pier, which will require a cab ride. Other piers are located directly across the street from this hotel.

Sunday boarding began at 2pm which allowed us to walk around town some more and go to Fort San Cristobal before heading to the ship. The hotel will hold all bags and arrange cabs for you. The fare for the cabs is based on car load and bags, not per person. Don’t eat lunch though – you can get that free on the ship after you board!

The boarding process had its problems. Arriving at the pier there were no signs directing you where to go. Further, there were no Royal Caribbean personnel helping either. This was in stark contrast to our Norwegian cruise where you stepped from the cab, and were immediately greeted and your bags taken for you while being directed exactly where to go to get in line, through security, and onto the ship. Easy. This time you stepped into a mob of people and bags. Once finding what appeared to be a line to drop our bags off we then had to stand in another line to have our tickets and passports checked. The interesting thing here was my wife and I walked right into this line no questions asked, but our friends were stopped at the beginning of the line as well to show their passports. This seemed rather inconsistent. Some people were being stopped twice, others not at all. Once inside the pier is where you clear security and the process went fine from here on. Quickly and easily we got our Sea Pass cards and were off the ship. (For those unaware, Sea Pass cards are like a hotel room key that gets you on and off the ship and into your cabin. It is also linked up to your credit card for all your purchases onboard. So you really don’t need to carry anything other than your Sea Pass card. Norwegian had the same basic thing called an Embarkation Card. I would assume all cruise lines have the same basic thing).

Once onboard, you realize quickly how big this ship is! There were plenty of RCCL employees around at the stairs and elevators to direct you to your cabin. We were on deck six, mid-ship, with a balcony. We recommend balcony cabins. Many people say all you do is sleep in your cabin, but it is relaxing to go back to your own view of the water, sunset, port or whatever. We had breakfast there a few times as well. Our friends were on deck six with an inside cabin and said they will get a balcony from now on. The other thing we suggest is getting onboard as early as you can. This allows you to start learning your way around the ship before you even leave the pier. Plus who needs the stress of rushing to the ship an hour before you leave.

If you haven’t signed up for your shore excursions prior to arriving for your cruise, do it right when you get onboard. We had no trouble and booked all we wanted to do in about 5 minutes. This is probably true for anything else you want to do onboard as well as far as spa appointments or dinner reservations at the Italian specialty restaurant, Portofino. We never went to Portofino – the food in the main dining room was excellent and we figured why pay the up charge? I have read in other reviews that Portofino is worth the charge and it probably is. I have also read that the dining room food was only average, and this I would have to disagree with. We thought the main dining room food was excellent all week. Naturally the lobster tails on the Friday night were fairly small, but you can ask for more if you want more, they are happy to get you more of anything. The buffet was your typical buffet with parts of the menu being altered slightly each day it seemed.

The one thing we didn’t like about the dining room was the assigned seating time. This was new to us as Norwegian is “free style” cruising allowing you to eat at whatever time you want. We were second seating which was at 8:30pm all week. This first seating was at 6:00pm and we figured that might be too rushed after getting back onboard from shore excursions perhaps as late as 5pm, depending on which port you are at. Turns out all the excursions we went on were early morning, but we still would have liked a 7:45 or even 8pm seating time. By the time we left the dining room it was 10pm or later. However, having the same time all week allowed us to get to know our waiters and learn about where they are from, etc. Hakan and George were great; too bad they can’t see the review….

Overall I was impressed with the cleanliness of the ship. Having 2,000 plus people, most of who appeared to be slobs, to clean up after I figure the staff did a great job keeping things clean. At the ports they even cleaned the outside of the windows! Each night the pool deck was power washed as well. And speaking of the pools, they were open 24 hours (except of course when cleaning was taking place). There is also a solarium that is reserved for adults only. It is kind of like a roman bath type pool and has two rather large hot tubs. The “adult’s only” rule was actually enforced too, for the most part. We were surrounded by about six 12-14 year olds at one point fairly late at night. They spoke Spanish so I guess they didn’t understand the signs. They weren’t being loud or obnoxious so it was no big deal to us

Onboard entertainment was not as good as Norwegian. The ice rink was neat to see and I give the skaters credit for doing jumps and so forth when shifting around over the waves. The rest of the shows were not that great. Some of the selections needed large ensemble casts of 15 or more to work but were being done with 4 or 5. It seemed rather amateur.

The quality of photography however was excellent. The only problem here was that all you could buy was the displayed picture. You couldn’t even get a different size. Norwegian allowed you make up whatever package you wanted. Some of the pictures we would have liked in 4x6 but were only available in 8x10 for example.

As for the ports, each island got progressively better in our opinion. Aruba was a let down actually. We did a horseback riding excursion there that was nice but after that, just walking around the area was not all that impressive. Next was Curacao. Better than Aruba as far as appearance, but there was no easy way to a beach. We had been told that a beach was a five minute walk. No way. We went to the top of the ship and looked around – the only beach that looked walk-able distance was a hotel surrounded by factories and what appeared to be a junk yard! We guessed it would be at least a 25 minute walk….along the highway.

After a second sea day, we arrived at St. Martin. Our excursion here was the America’s Cup Regatta. We highly recommend this!!! It features four of the America’s Cup boats from the 1987 America’s Cup race. Two are Canadian boats (True North and Canada II) and two are Stars and Stripes. The sailing you do is real too, or as real as they can with tourists onboard. You get going quite fast, boat tilted in the water and you are a working crew member, while the boats pass by each other within a foot or two. All in all, the best thing we did. The pier in St. Martin we were told can hold five or more ships making for what I assumed would be a mess of people….we were the only ship there that day. Last stop was St. Thomas. The ship docks a fairly easy walk (10 minutes) from the town. More of your typical shops and stores but you can get a cab to nearby hotels and enjoy the beach and water.

Disembarkation seemed less organized than what we remember from the Norwegian cruise. Seemed you waited in stopped lines a lot even though we all had “assigned” times to leave the ship.

Overall, we were impressed with RCCL and the Adventure of the Seas. The ship has a ton of places to go. The casino, bars, rock wall, inline skating, ice rink, pools, sun decks, gym, etc. One other neat feature was the Peek-a-Boo-Bridge. This was located one deck above the bridge and had a window looking down over the bridge. Get there early if you intend on watching a docking, as the area fills up quickly. I enjoyed watching from here and it is the next best thing to a full tour of the ‘behind the scenes’ of the ship – which is unfortunately not offered.

An overall friendly staff makes the Adventure a great choice. We will definitely cruise on Royal Caribbean again in the future. I hope this was a help to someone and that you enjoy whichever cruise itinerary or cruise line you choose.

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