Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
Sailing Date: December 17th, 2006
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
The Embassy Suites in San Juan served as our overnight accommodations. It has a fantastic location; close to the airport and highway, a 10 minute cab ride to the port. We could walk to the beach and it is near restaurants and shopping center; this came in handy especially when certain hair appliances were broken in the luggage and we traipsed to the nearby Walgreen's to replace and also purchase sunglasses which somehow I always neglect to pack.
We arrived at the Adventure around noon and avoided the check-in crowds. It took us maybe 10 minutes to get on the ship, record time for us. This was our second sailing aboard the Adventure, the first being 3 years ago on our Honeymoon. Not much had changed since our honeymoon and the ship is just as fantastic as my memories. One caveat to early boarding was that our rooms were not ready until 2 PM. So we lugged our carry-on bags up to the buffet at Windjammer which was terrific in selection and taste. Then we retreated to a quiet chaise lounge chair in the Solarium by a window to read and relax in until our room was ready.
Our room was as we remembered it. The cabins are fairly large for a cruise ship with a sofa sitting area with a coffee table. Then, we changed into bathing suits to hit the Jacuzzis and the pool. The first day is a great time to take advantage of the ship’s amenities without the crowds and we sat in the Jacuzzi watching the newly arrived walk by with cameras and bags in tow exploring the ship.
At dinner that night we met the other couple we would be dining with. We hit it off and had a great time the entire cruise sharing experiences with Eric and Jessica. Food and service were superb and very filling throughout the cruise. Derya our waitress and Mustafa our head waiter kept all of the dinners entertaining, spectacular, and deserve kudos.
A few observations about the ship experience before discussing the ports: this time the ship at times felt very crowded. The stated passenger capacity of the ship is 3100. On this week there were 3600. There were times when the promenade was jammed (captain’s reception, parades, even random evenings when the shops had sales), and it was difficult to find a seat at breakfast in the Windjammer. Breakfast in the dining room was heavenly compared to the noisy, crowded Windjammer. Also, the ship was probably a bit more than 50% Spanish-speaking. This was not a problem as everything on board was still in English, but I know that some families with kids were hoping to meet more English speaking groups.
The pool deck was surprisingly un-crowded even on sea days. There were always ample chairs and even room in the Jacuzzis in the solarium. The adult pool was refreshing with the exception of some drama we encountered when a woman refused to stop doing the butterfly stroke with flip turns in the 10 foot pool (WITH A DOZEN PEOPLE).
We made use of the gym and the equipment a few times during the week to keep from gaining 10 pounds (I still gained 5). Equipment was never hard to come by and we even used the track on the top deck a number of times for walking and jogging. One of my favorite things to do is walk around the top deck during the sail away from an island. The views of the sun, ocean, and the islands are truly breathtaking.
A note on Portofino: a pay restaurant. The meal was truly an event and very nice. The food was a step above the dining room because it is made fresh to order. We both got so full before the main course that we kind of wimped out and didn’t even get desert. I don’t think I would pay to do it again, but it was nice to do once.
Richard Spacey, the Cruise Director, was fabulous. He was funny and energetic throughout the trip and very visible. He really puts on a great show. Make sure to check out Richard at the Decades Party. Do not miss this. The entertainment was very good overall.
An especially funny comic was Rondel Sheridan. Music was good
although we didn’t see much of the live music. We did go to Jesters a few times.
It is always a very fun scene. One highlight for me was dancing at the Frank
Sinatra hour at Jesters.
Aruba – Public Transportation is great!
We took the bus to Palm Beach for $2 round trip per person. Very easy to negotiate and tourist friendly. This was a very high quality beach with nice calm water and soft sand. Lots of facilities at the hotels and opportunities for chair and umbrella rentals. The ship is docked long enough in this port that we could go back to the ship for a late lunch, change, and head back out to the city. Carlos and Charlie’s was a macabre must-see as Natalie Holloway’s final stop before disappearing. This has a great party atmosphere where they will actually pour liquor down your throat for free!
Curacao – Don’t do Public Transportation.
We walked into town after docking. This is a great walk, very neat little shops built into an old fort. The town is probably the best we have seen in the Caribbean. It looks Dutch and is very colorful. The town is photogenic and great for shutterbugs like my wife. We tried the bus system here but it looked municipal and there were no other tourists there so we took a cab to Mambo Beach. This beach looks very nice, but it is still under construction. It does cost to get into the beach, like $3 a person and money to rent chairs as well. There was lots of concrete mixed in with the sand and it was not so pleasant on the feet. The water was nice but got deep very quickly. I probably would try a different beach next time in Curacao.
St. Maarten – Second time is the charm.
We went here on our honeymoon and it is still just as nice. We shared a cab with some other cruisers to Orient Bay Beach, which is one of the best beaches in the world for good reason. The water is electric blue and there are actually some small waves (a rarity in the calm Caribbean). Great sand, nice facilities, cheap chair rental with umbrella and drinks, all added up to lots of fun. A little free entertainment was provided by the Club Orient all nude beach just beyond the rock jetty. It was priceless to see people with no tan lines (and no shame) wearing only Santa hats playing cards on the beach.
St. Thomas – You’ll get wet.
For this island, we took a ferry to St. John to go to Trunk Bay. Sitting on the side of the ferry outside, we were warned that we were in the wet zone. This was fine for me since it was hot outside and I figured that a little splash might feel good. However 2 tsunami waves later I was blindly groping for the door to the inside of the ferry as buckets of water were crashing against me. As I stood in the doorway, the other ferry members got quite a chuckle taking in my soaked visage as I dripped to a nearby indoor seat. Trunk Bay is a visually stunning beach and part of a national park. It does lack amenities as there are no chair rentals, the beach is very narrow and can get crowded, and the ship excursion there only gives you a couple of hours on the beach. Snorkeling there is below average, but there are some nice underwater plaques to read about the fish. St. John’s is probably the most photographed beach in the Caribbean and it is good to see it at least once.
Overall for the trip, it was a great experience. Leaving the ship was exciting for us because we had an 8:30am flight out of San Juan on Christmas Eve. I have to give props to the early departure Guest Relations angel, Carolina who made sure that my wife and I were the first two off the boat. She was pulling for us to make the flight and without her help and phone calls to ask Homeland Security to clear the ship, we would not have made our flight. As it was, we only made check in with minutes to spare. Thank you, Carolina.
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