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Chris

Age: 34

Occupation:N/A

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Adventure of the Seas

Sailing Date: February 26th, 2006

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

Background: This was our 5th cruise, our 3rd with Royal Caribbean, the first on Adventure of the Seas. We’re a 30-something couple with two kids, ages 5 and nearly 3. All four of us went.

The ship / facilities: This was the biggest cruise ship we’ve ever been on, and we were somewhat worried about feeling crowded. Actuality was quite the opposite – we felt the least crowded as we have ever been on a cruise ship. There were so many different and diverse things to do onboard (mini-golf, sports court, ice skating, casino, shows, shopping, movies, kids pool and waterslide, pool, bars, gym, spa, etc) that people tended to be very spread out – never nearly everyone onboard in all one spot like some cruises. Even though I didn’t personally use all the facilities (not sure you can in a week), I really appreciated that they were there. Makes for a very “open” ship.

The food: Dining room is standard cruise ship fare. Not five star (if expecting that, RCL is not your cruise line – keep what you get in perspective to what you pay), but decent and certainly better than we eat at home. Johnny Rockets makes an excellent burger, and Portofino’s is well worth the $20 additional fee (had a great filet mignon). Additional dining tip: Bring your own wine. For a $12 corking fee, they’ll serve the wine you brought onboard at dinner. Although the onboard wine prices weren’t terrible (what you might expect at a local restaurant), buying your own at home +$12 is still generally cheaper.

The entertainment: The ice show was by far the best, not to be missed. Very well done, quality skaters (think about what it takes to pull off triple jumps on a moving ship on relatively small ice). Big theater shows were decent, but again, standard cruise ship stuff.

Kids programs: “Adventure Ocean” (the Royal Caribbean kids program) was the absolute best thing about the cruise. Although not quite three (stated minimum for the program), they did take our son into the program (he is fully potty trained, which is a non-negotiable requirement). Our kids LOVED it. They stayed over dinner a couple of times, (they take the kids to Johnny Rockets), spent some afternoons there during the two sea days, spent all day in St. Martin there. Great staff, great activities, all included in the base cruise fare. Couldn’t keep our daughter away. Kids have fun, parents get some time to go off by themselves, both on and off the ship. The “Adventure Ocean” program is the single largest reason we’ll be back with Royal Caribbean.

The ports / excursions: Nothing booked through the cruise line. If you’re willing to do a little advance homework and look around, nearly everything the cruise ship offers can be booked directly for cheaper, even considering transportation. Everything described below also available through the cruise ship.

Aruba: Went on the “Jolly Pirates” sail, snorkel and (rope) swing trip. Big pirate looking sailboat, holds maybe 40. Three swimming and snorkeling spots, plus lunch and drinks. Highlight was snorkeling at the “Atilla”, an old German wreck. Low light was lunch, very dry, room temperature chicken breast.

Curacao: Went to the Sea Aquarium. Very reasonable in price, very interactive. Highlights include the sea lion and dolphin training demonstrations. At no extra cost, were also able to sign up for a kiss from a sea lion at the end of the show (we did buy the picture….). Compares very favorably with Sea World in my opinion (been there too) at 1/3 the price and 1/20 of the crowds.

St. Martin / Maarten: Kids got left at Adventure Ocean and we went to Orient Beach. Yes, THAT beach, and THAT part of the beach – the nude beach, and yes, we fully participated. Orient Beach is among the best beaches anywhere in my opinion. The clothing optional (nude) section in front of Club Orient is generally far less crowded than the more covered section, almost alone reason enough to go to that part. People there are pretty typical of those that you’d see anywhere, which is to say mostly middle aged and nothing special to look at – which is precisely the point. Anyone expecting to be titillated will be disappointed. If you’ve never swam naked in a tropical sea, laid out nude in the Caribbean sun, try it, you won’t regret it. Shedding the clothes in this situation (far from home, around other naked people who you’ll never see again) is easier than you think. We walked off the beach feeling more relaxed than we’d been in a long time, could barely move a muscle. Did some shopping in Phillipsbug on the way back. Best shopping in the Caribbean (cheapest alcohol and jewelry) in my opinion.

St. Thomas: Went to Coral World. Not nearly as nice as the Sea Aquarium in Curacao in my opinion, but decent value for the money. Highlight was the open water “aquarium”, which was an open water undersea observatory maybe 50 yards offshore in ~15 ft of water. Surrounded by coral, it was neat knowing that none of the fish or features were just dropped in a tank, and you truly might see anything. Coral World also has some traditional aquariums, but not nearly as cool. Also did some shopping in Charlotte Amalie. Decent, but not quite as good as St. Marteen.

Overall: We really, really enjoyed ourselves on this cruise, one of our best ever. Right up there with our first during the honeymoon. Adventure Ocean really made the trip, both us and our kids had more fun at times off on our own. We loved the flexibility to be able to do stuff and be with our kids, but also keep the “mommy / daddy” time too. Adventure of the Seas is a great ship and I’d recommend it for anyone, but I’ll especially recommend for young families.

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