Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
Sailing Date: April 8th, 2007
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
We decided on the Adventure of the Seas because we currently live in Puerto Rico and the port is close by, the Adventure is thought to be the best boat from Puerto Rico (i.e. biggest, most amenities, and newer), and my kids had their heart set on going ice skating. We are living down in Puerto Rico as expatriates temporarily. We have 2 daughters, aged 10 and 8.
We sailed on April 8, on Easter day. We got a ride to the pier around 11:15 am and hauled our bags to the luggage pick up area. The porters look like they are from a moving company vs. uniformed. Doesn’t really matter, but it is just a little different than what I expected to see. We had 6 bags. The porters like to remind you that they work for tips. I flipped them a few dollars after they threw my bags into a container pile.
We then got in line. We waited maybe 20 minutes and the line began to move. They checked our passports going into the building. I had them all lined up with photos exposed to keep things moving quickly. Lots of people had to fumble around for their ID’s to get in, but in all fairness it was not obvious exactly what we needed to get through the door until you got close.
Inside the terminal, it got a little confusing. We had our Set Sail Pass all ready to go. I believe this expedited the process. The organization was a little confusing as to how they were coordinating the multiple lines, but we just went with the flow. It took us approximately 20 minutes to get through the line in the terminal and get our cards. We headed toward the ship and passed the Bacardi cart. We knocked 2 flavored shots back for free which set a nice tone to start our cruise. They took each of our photos for the embarking and disembarking process for the islands to store into the computer. Then it was up and away into the escalator and subsequent ramps. We headed to the 4th floor of the ship. They took our photo (first of many, many photos!) and we crossed the plank to board the ship.
As we entered, a Canadian employee began to welcome us in Spanish. We had a good laugh because he really struggled in Spanish. We let him finish (it was a slow, deliberate welcoming) and we let him in on the joke when I responded “thank you very much!” We had a good laugh.
While the ship is certainly big, I was surprised that it was not bigger. The beam was not as wide as I had imagined. I think I’ve read too many reviews as to how big the ship was and, since it is my first cruise, I imagined it to be bigger. First thing, we got our kids checked in with bracelets. We had no idea what they were for until later that night, but they are for identifying which muster station the minors are to report to if they are not with their parents in an emergency. The kids wore them for the whole cruise, as expected.
We headed for the Promenade on the 5th floor. We began to familiarize ourselves with the ship a little. We purchased the soda passes for my wife and kids. It was $6 per day for adults and $4 per day for the kids. They tack on gratuity for a grand total of $112.70! You have to sign up for the whole week or skip it altogether. I passed. While my wife certainly is not, I’m cheap and couldn’t bear the thought of making a $50 investment in soda for the week for myself. We learned as we went through the week that the drink passes were not that great of a deal and we would pass on them the next time and pay as we go.
We headed up to the buffet in the back of the boat for lunch. We sat in the very back (The Island Grille) and enjoyed the perched view over San Juan. It was a perspective of the city we had not previously enjoyed. You are not going to hear a lot of details about food in this review. The food was decent, but not super spectacular. We found the buffet adequate. The family ordered drinks to go with lunch (soda for my wife, water for my younger daughter, lemonade for my older one, and unsweetened iced tea for me). Now, for a quick lesson on drinks… Lemonade, fruit punch, water, coffee, and iced tea are included free of charge. So, now that I spent $112.70 on these soda cards, my kids drank mostly free stuff through a lot of the cruise. Go figure! I drink a lot of diet soda (don’t like the sweet drinks) and fell in love with the iced tea.
Now we explored the ship. It was almost 2pm and we were able to get to our room. We booked the cheapest room we could get. We did this for 2 reasons. First, this is not the big break away from the cold vacation for us like it was for most of the folks from the states. It was a nice week break from home, but not my big trip of the year. Hitting the nice beaches was nice, but is not nearly as special for us as it is for the shivering Upstate New Yorkers or the folks freezing in Detroit. We were not going to go all out and spend a lot of money. Second, we are planning a trip to Europe and were testing out how well the kids could travel with us. The room was commensurate to a sleep car on a train and we wanted to see how the kids would react to it. They did surprisingly well. Net, we booked an inside room for the 4 of us. We actually could have paid a little less (~$60) by booking 2 separate inside rooms, but we did not want to be separated.
We dropped off our carry-on bags, changed into bathing suits and headed for the deck. We dipped in the pool a little bit and milled around to get familiar with the ship. The captain informed us that there were over 1000 children on the boat this week. That is more than I ever saw posted and he was asking for help in managing the crowd. I never had any problems with kids running around (sure some did, but they are kids), but nothing out of control. The boat is pretty well designed for families and it looks inviting for bringing children. The sports area in the back of the ship has rollerblading, basketball court, rock climbing wall, and mini golf which we played that afternoon.
We went back to find 5 of our 6 bags waiting outside of our room at approximately 5pm. That was a relief because I changed room reservations approximately 1 month prior to boarding. We had already received our documents with our old room number. They do not issue you new documents with a room change, so I was nervous that our bags would get lost for a while. I manually relabeled our bag tags so it was clear where they were supposed to go. Our room attendant, Alberto, was there and I informed him that there is still one more that we are expecting, but was glad that we got our stuff before dinner without a hitch. We began unpacking. I was very impressed with how well designed the room was. Four people with 6 big bags were well accommodated for. Every inch is designed for use. We put our passports, money, camera, and camcorder into the safe. Our 6th bag arrived shortly thereafter.
We headed for our dinner at 6:30pm. We were stuck in the very back corner of the room. We met another family at our table from Virginia who were very nice and we had good interaction with, but the other seats were empty for the whole cruise. It was hard to see what was going on in the rest of the dining room, which was beautifully decorated. We later learned that we could have asked to be moved. Some experience cruisers informed us that this is the only job the Maitre ‘D has and you should take advantage of it. Ok.
After dinner was the muster drill. That was an interesting experience. We all jammed into a small room and learned where we needed to report in case of an emergency. Then, it turned into us being a captive audience to buy all sorts of junk from them. This was just the beginning of the demonstration of what a captive audience we were. To be fair, I’m not the type of person that likes to be marketed to (e.g. I like to browse a shop before asking for help rather than be waited on), so this bothered me a little more than the average person.
After the muster drill we continued to explore the ship. We found 90% of all the areas that night. We stayed up to watch the 10pm sail away even though the kids were tired. It was exciting to watch the fort go by from that vantage point as we swept into darkness and heard the motion of the sea. It was a very pretty setting. In conclusion, with all of the logistics on the first day, it certainly did not feel like a full day. It felt like less than half of a day.
Wait! I can feel the ship moving. We thought the ship was so big you would not feel anything. It doesn’t move a lot, but you definitely know you are moving. The super queasy could have a problem, but my wife is a Dramamine Queen and she had no problem throughout the cruise. You will walk down the long hallways a little wobbly sometimes.
I stayed up with my little one who wanted to see the parade on the Promenade deck. They rolled the barrier lines out. Shortly thereafter, singers and dancers along with dress up costume animals, and people on stilts came by. It was like a Disney-like theme park type parade. I was a little worried since I’ve taken my kids to Disney over a half dozen times and I definitely wanted to do something else on this vacation. I almost lost it when my 8 year old told me it looks like Disney Studios to her. In many ways, the cruise felt like a grown up Disney experience. That’s ok, but it was not what I expected.
The next morning was a sea day and we went to the dining room for breakfast. The selections were more upscale, but there was less selection than the buffet upstairs. This was the last time we ate breakfast in the dining room. While the kids did well with the breakfast, the variety and simplicity of the buffet worked much better for them. In addition, the buffet was quicker so we could start our day earlier.
First thing we did was go rollerblading. That was surprisingly decent and it was completely empty. The track did not look like much, but it was more than adequate to move around. After a nice little workout, we went to get changed into long pants (requirement) and hit the ice skating rink. It is a little rink, but my kids loved the ice skating since they don’t get much opportunity to do it. The rink was pretty empty since all of the pale white northerners were briskly roasting themselves at the pool for the first time in months. Needless to say, they all left a different color than how they started. It was pretty surreal to be in the Caribbean Sea on the way to Aruba while ice skating. After lunch, we hit the rock wall. My younger daughter made it to the top after some effective coaxing from the instructor and was so proud! She did better than her dad!
We dressed up for formal night. I wore a suit and a tie which was par for the course. There were a few in the over 50 crowd who donned tuxedos, but this was more of an exception than the rule. Women wore various levels of dresses. They go around and take photos during dinner. Now, it is time for another learning rant. We found the formal nights to be more trouble than they were worth. I don’t aspire to dress up like this on vacation. When I get home from work, I can’t wait to get the formal dress off of me. Packing all of stuff, storing it in our tiny room, taking the time to change, fussing with the kids, etc. was simply not worth all of the hassle. Our tablemates were equally uncomfortable and we ditched the ties on the next formal night. Next time we cruise, we are just going to skip the formal nights altogether and save the suitcase space. The smart casual night, by the way, was completely indistinguishable from any other casual night. My wife used her smart casual outfit for the second formal night because she felt her cocktail dress was too fancy for the occasion. She went casual on the “smart casual” night which I honestly have no idea which night that was.
After dinner, we went to the Lyric Theater for see a comedian do his routine. I don’t know his name, but he was the father from the “That’s so Raven” sitcom on the Disney Channel. He was very funny while being age appropriate for the kids. My wife and older daughter laughed and laughed. My younger daughter was upset because I think she was expecting to see the guy in his Disney Channel character. She felt ripped off since that was not what she expected.
The kids were tired and they all went to bed and I went to the late night, adult comedy by myself. I think his name was John Wise. He was pretty funny, but not as polished as the previous performer. Obviously, some of his stuff was a bit edgier and I don’t take any of that kind of stuff seriously, but some people had a mixed reaction to it.
Tuesday, we arrive in Aruba. I woke up at 6:30 am while the rest of the bums slept in, as usual. I jogged around the track on deck 12 (5 laps is a mile) while watching Aruba get closer and closer. We docked in Oranjestad right at 8 am, as scheduled. I was expecting to see a dry island, but I was surprised at how flat Aruba was. I woke the family and we ate breakfast while the hordes disembarked. We went straight down to the 1st floor after eating with our backpacks. Getting off the boat was a breeze and I was pleasantly surprised given the size of the ship. You need identification and your Sail Pass Card. They run your card to track that you are now off the boat. You need identification to get back into the port for the Aruban authorities. The ship personnel said that this is an American requirement that we insist the islands follow. As it turns out, Aruba was the only place that checked for photo identification. Everyone else just checked to see that you had a Sail Pass Card. We brought multiple copies of our passports. We did not want to bring our actual passports with us to the beach and this was acceptable.
We did a little light kiosk shopping. The people of Aruba are very nice and hospitable. We crossed the street and got on the 10A bus to the “hotels.” My wife was in Aruba over a decade ago and she remembered the beautiful beach she was at. We deducted it was Palm Beach. For $9.20 roundtrip for the 4 of us, we took off for Palm Beach. We got there, walked through one of the big hotels to the shore and were disappointed. My wife realized that this was not the beach she remembered. I saw how commercial it was and knew this was not where I wanted to spend my afternoon. We walked south down the beach until we hit a pier. We got the kids a bottle of water and were solicited politely for a timeshare. We kindly refused and began to chat with the gentleman about how crowded the beach was and we wanted to know how far Eagle Beach was. He told me he likes Eagle Beach better also and that is where the locals go. He pointed how to get the bus and we hit the road again. Eagle Beach is wider, quieter, and has far fewer people. It was, however, extremely windy. We located a bunch of loungers with fixed straw roofed canopies and sat down. I looked around to see if there was anyone to pay for it, but there was no one I could identify. I figured if there was money to be paid, they would find me. It was so windy; the back of the lounger swung and nailed me in the back of the head while I was sitting up. Ouch. A gentleman did approach me, but informed me that the furniture was for the little hotel across the street. I had no idea and informed him I’d move without any problem. He stopped me and simply asked that if his hotel patrons begin to fill up the beach, then would we kindly move for them. How nice is that?!
That was my experience of Aruba. He didn’t even charge me anything. We headed back for lunch on the boat and then went shopping again. I got an Amstel (hard to get anywhere) and we picked up a few souvenirs. We spent only $25 the whole day. One other thing surprised me about Aruba. My whole family is fluent in English and Spanish. Nearly everyone in Aruba was more comfortable communicating with us in Spanish than English. While everyone speaks English well, that was a big surprise. I was not expecting to speak Spanish in Aruba.
We went back to the ship for dinner. We had the ice show tickets for that night at 9 pm. It didn’t feel right to be in the port at Aruba until 1am, but sitting on the boat watching a show. From a logistics standpoint, I would have rather been walking Oranjestad and seen the ice show another day. That felt a little like a lost opportunity, but late nights on the town with the kids were not necessarily in the cards anyway.
Wednesday, we arrive in Curacao. We got a late start after breakfast again. We never tried to be the first off the ship. Curacao is an island that I had the most trouble investigating. I soon determined that information was not easily available because the Dutch have been wisely keeping it to themselves. The island is beautiful. It is much bigger than Aruba. The one thing I did know about Curacao is that this is the place to dive or snorkel. We did not want to do any of the foo-foo excursions from the ship. It was important to me to get lost ourselves. We got a taxi to Caracas Bay where there is a sunken tugboat that is close to the shore and good for snorkeling. It cost $25 to get there and we arranged to be picked up at 1:30 by Alvin.
There was a huge boat for snorkeling off the shore with over 50 homo-sapiens swimming over the tugboat site that were from our ship. That was exactly what I did not want. I’m sure with that many people, it has to affect the marine life you’d see.
There was a little shop at the shore that we were not expecting, but a young Dutch gentleman named David came out and offered us a snorkel tour for an hour to 90 minutes. He gave us wetsuits and offered snorkel gear, but we brought our own. I sat down with my family with a book and gave a quick, 5 minute review of the different sea lift he was going to show us. Again, he spoke English and Spanish to us (he wanted to practice). Curacao was like Aruba in that regard and we were speaking a lot of Spanish.
David took us out and we first headed under the pier there. He dove down up to 35 feet in some places and picked up marine life and brought it to us. I quickly realized that he knows these waters well and knows where to find all of this stuff. The first item was a “Donkey Dung Sea cucumber.” I held it while he snapped a photograph with the underwater camera he provided for us. My kids loved it! Sea urchins and wild starfish that I’ve never seen were incredible. David showed us a huge variety of coral and he was very knowledgeable. He dragged our kids on a floatation device when they got tired and was fantastic. By the time we were done at the pier, all of the people with their fins were back on the boat and sped away and it was time for us to go to the tugboat. We had it all to ourselves. We saw huge, colorful fish. David pulled out a banana and fed them. Wow! What a great experience!
We had an extra half hour and had a drink at the bar, which was included with the tour, and I chatted with Jerry. I learned that they took over this little shop (www.downtowndiving.com) months earlier. Jerry, who was originally from Aruba, spent time explaining Curacao at a level that I was unable to through my own research. Curacao is very Dutch and it shows. I saw a lot of Dutch people vs. Americans like Aruba. It was a European sideshow. I mentioned that I missed an opportunity to buy Gouda cheese in Aruba, and he asked Alvin, the taxi driver, to bring me to Albert Heijn to buy some. He said it is a great place to go. Alvin stopped there on his way and we went Dutch supermarket shopping. I thought I was in the Netherlands. I wanted to make sure “oud” meant “aged” and I asked a pretty, bright blonde Dutch girl if she could help me. She couldn’t find the word in English, so we figured it out together.
We got back to the ship with a 10 lb. wheel of Gouda ($100 worth of cheese for $29. Please don’t ask what I’m going to do with all of that cheese.). I put it in the refrigerator and we headed back out to town. Willemstad, the port town, is gorgeous. Pretty pastel colors with Dutch façade. The layout of the town had a European feel too. We walked around the Otrabanda side of the city and picked up souvenirs. There is a ferry that shuttles you to the other side, named Punda which is even more picturesque. We were worried about the time since we needed to be back on the ship by 4:30 pm and decided not to go to Punda. We did not want to risk missing the ship by some inefficiency of the ferry schedule although it looked to me like it went back and forth every 10 minutes.
This is our next learning that we experienced. The captain told us to be back on the ship by 4:30 for a 5:00 pm sailing. They do really leave people behind if you are late. However, they do know who is not yet back on the ship. They start announcing people’s names who are late and attempt to find them. They also can see a ½ mile inland from the top of the ship and keep an eye for people because they really don’t want to leave people behind. Now, you would be a fool to tempt fate at 5:00 pm, but we realized that there was no reason to be ultraconservative and be back on the ship by 4:00 pm. We could have easily taken our full 4:30 pm embarkation time and we would have gone to Punda with that extra 30 minutes. Rookie mistake…
Went spent $55 on cab, $60 for snorkeling, and $15 for the underwater camera. It was cheaper than the cruise excursion and I’m sure it was far superior in quality. I felt great supporting this little local business off the cruise ship tourist-trap path. I felt like I got a little slice of Curacao that way. This was our favorite experience on our entire cruise and we want to come back to Curacao for a week. Curacao is big, so renting a car is probably a better option if you want to move around a little more than we did.
Back on the ship, we ate dinner. We went to a show called Velvet Rope. The kids had a lot of sun and with the lights dimmed down, they were dragging. They walked out. I’d like to think it did not have something to do with the fact that the show was incoherent and the transitions were rough. I had no idea what the freak show in really bad costumes was all about. I got back to my room and read a description and at least figured out what they were trying to do. Yes, I really thought it was that bad. And, I’m a really tolerant person. I’ve never walked out on a movie or show because I did not like it.
I wandered the ship that night. I tried to find all of the little corners I had not seen before. The observation point at the front of the ship on the 11th deck is cool. You can see them driving the ship. But, the absolute best, not to be missed experience, is to go to the 4th level. Go outside and head toward the front of the ship until you have to go up a flight of stairs. Continue until you reach the bow of the ship and get on the helicopter pad. If you do this on a sea day at night, you will experience the starriest night of your life. It is absolutely gorgeous. I did this every night of the cruise from that point and took my family. It is no wonder that 1000’s of years ago, people charted the stars. They were able to see them much better than we ever could with the naked eye. Don’t miss it!!! It is worth the theme park admission.
Thursday, the next sea day, was more of the same. This time I got to the top of the rock wall twice. A boat like the Adventure is handy for sea days. I’m not sure what we would have done without all of those amenities. Sitting at the pool is not a big deal for us. Having said that, there were so many things on the Adventure, we never got to experience everything that we wanted to.
Formal night was dressed down. My kids did amazingly well with the dinner (meaning they were very happy). I was not happy that my 8 year old ate chicken nuggets and French fries every night, but she was (and we were on vacation, so indulge). Both found food they really liked and ordered it time and time again. Reynaldo (from the Philippines) was our waiter for the last 6 days and took good care of us. Dwayne (from Jamaica) was fantastic. He took time to show my 8 year old some amazing tricks with forks and toothpicks. He really made my girls feel special. Moshen was our headwaiter from Tunisia. He was pleasant and stopped by to say hi. Honestly, I have no idea what his job was other than chit chat. We were supposed to tip him for his services, and I still don’t know what that was for. That is something we never learned on this trip.
That night we went to another show. This one was music based. It was interesting, but we, again, were tired. This time we all stepped out early.
Friday, we arrived at St. Maarten. We grabbed a cab and went to Orient Beach on the French side. Everything was Dutch, so now we wanted to go French. For $25 we got dropped off at the Bikini Beach section of the beach. We wandered a little bit looking for a place to drop our stuff down. We saw some nice loungers and walked over to Kakao Beach. The loungers (2) and umbrella were $25 for the front row and $20 anywhere behind. We got the front row. We got there early. Before it gets crowded the people from Club Orient, the nude part of the beach, like to wander up the shore fully nude. We had to have a little chat with our girls to explain after they were a little taken back. We made no big deal out of it, so they did the same. After 9:30 am, we did not see any more wanderers. All of these folks are well over 50 years old. There were some topless women on the beach. This comprised itself of less than 5% of the women and they were primarily French women over 50. We were surprised that this was the first place that we had seen any topless women since Aruba and Curacao are also European influenced islands. The beach was gorgeous. My wife’s favorite.
We headed back to Phillipsburg to do some shopping. Alain was our driver and he liked to talk so we had some fun. I sat in the front seat with him. He told us about the island, the people, what it is like to live there, the relationship with the French, European investment on the island, etc. and it was all very interesting.
Shopping in St. Maarten was pretty good. Prices seem to be better than any of the other islands. We were not “jonesing” jewelry or anything. Shopping is not my idea of a vacation endeavor, but we just want a couple simple memories and I wanted to sample the town. From there, we walked back to the boat. It was a 15 minutes walk. Another lesson learned was that the water taxi is a cute idea, but if you are not averse to walking, you’ll probably get into town faster by foot. We should have rented a car in St. Maarten. They were cheap. Our tablemates got one for $55 and roamed the island while we spent $45 on taxi fare and went to 2 places. Next time I’ll rent a car.
The other thing we would do differently is eat at the second seating. We noticed that the early dinner impeded on a lot of things. Sail away was missed, sunsets were missed, and hurrying back to the port was a hassle with dinner right on the heels at 6:00 pm. Even with the kids, we could snack to get us to dinner. We found we were not even hungry at 6:00 pm. To think that our kids would be too hungry to eat at 8:30 pm on a cruise ship is ridiculous. There is food everywhere! Woof!
Saturday, we arrived in St. Thomas. We had breakfast at the buffet. It was crazy up there because the dining room was not serving breakfast. It was hard to get a place to sit. The dining room was being used for customs/immigration. We needed to deal with customs/immigration since we are hitting a US port again. We were shocked at how efficient they have this down. We showed them our identification, they marked our passes and we are done. If you don’t do this, they won’t let you off the ship. They also scan your card, so they have any accounting for everyone. I saw a lady trying to convince security that she did it, but she got sent back because she did not have the marking on her card. They need everyone so they can “clear” the ship.
Once off into St. Thomas, we wife decided to change our plans and go to Magen’s Bay. We hop onto an open air taxi. The taxi drivers are loud, rough, and aggressive. You pile into their taxi until it is full and off they go. It is $8 per person to Magen’s Bay including kids and it is regulated by the government. There is no other way to get their other than renting you own car. This is St. Thomas’ solution to provide employment to the island. There are a lot of taxi drivers and they wait in a long line for their turn to fill their taxi. They won’t go until their cab is full. I figure they probably take 3 roundtrips a day to make a living and that is it. The rest of the time, they are off or are waiting in line for their turn.
Once we got into the taxi, we’re off on our 4 mile $32 ride when the taxi driver behind us accosts our taxi driver. They have a dispute over whose passengers we were supposed to be. So, we get thrown out of the cab in the middle of a hairpin turn going over the mountain and get in the other taxi. The new driver is mad so he is flying down the mountain at high speeds. I was inches away from getting gashed by the foliage in the OPEN AIR taxi. We were a little scared, and I drive everyday in Puerto Rico!
Magen’s Bay was beautiful. We laid out our towels under a sea grape tree for shade and enjoyed the beautiful tranquil beach. There were no motorized sports there, which made it peaceful. We took another taxi back for another $32 dollars to the pier (no other choice) and did a little light shopping before getting back on the ship. I will either take the bus or rent a car the next time I’m in St. Thomas. I know they drive on the left side of the road and the bus is a little bit of a walk, but I’m not willing to support that taxi business again. That left a bad taste in my mouth about St. Thomas, but we had a great time at the beach.
That night was primarily for goodbyes. We tipped everyone and packed our bags. They picked it all up from the hallway at around 1:30 am. We did see the end of another comedian show which was good. The stars were not nearly as bright since we were not far from Puerto Rico and the light pollution has a big impact on the visibility. Oh well.
They number you from 1 to 10 based upon your need to get off the ship. You get this on your final night. The folks with early flights are typically first. For some reason we had a number 2 on our departure schedule. I expected to be number 10 since we didn’t need to get on any flight.
Sunday morning, we got up at 7 am. We needed to shower and pack our carry-on bags since our bags were already taken. We got to the buffet by 8 am and it was crazy as well. In retrospect, we should have taken the advice we got and woken up later and gone up to the buffet at 8:30 am. After eating, we found ourselves with nothing to do and we were ready to get off. We walked to front of the ship and down the stairs to the 4th floor and got right off the ship. We handed in our customs card with no problem. They directed us to our designated bag area (Yellow 1) and we got our bags and hit the street. We were picked up and headed for home.
Some final thoughts:
1) There were over a 1000 kids on the ship due to the Easter holiday. The boat is designed for families. We sat with an older couple during lunch that made a comment that they did not realize there would be so many kids. If you don’t want to be around children, for whatever reason, choose a more upscale cruise line like Celebrity. Otherwise, go with it. I did not observe anything inappropriate as far as people being inconvenienced by children. I did observe some uptight adults with extremely low thresholds of patience.
2) Yes, everything is in English and Spanish. You need to understand that you are traveling away from the mainland between North and South America. A good percentage of the boat had Spanish speakers, but nearly everyone was bilingual (except the Americans). I am sophisticated enough in Spanish to realize that a great deal of the Spanish I heard was not Puerto Rican. Americans travel down to Puerto Rico to get on the boat, while some South and Central Americans travel up to Puerto Rico to get on the boat. Both languages are appropriate for the audience. If you want to be only with “your kind” and only hear English, then you shouldn’t leave the mainland US for travel. If you are going to travel to Puerto Rico and leave out of that port, you should EXPECT to hear Spanish being spoken (it is the primary language of the island).
3) I did notice that some things were not kid friendly. We did our best to respect all of the adult only aspects of the ship, but there was a moment or two where I just wanted to say to heck with it. The solarium area is a walk through area to get access to the front of the ship. If the adults don’t want kids walking through, then that is next to impossible. There are 2 large adult only Jacuzzis in the main pool area and 2 smaller ones for general use. The adult Jacuzzis are empty while the kids can’t get room. I noticed some well behaved kids in the adult Jacuzzi which should have been no problem (unless they acted up), but this becomes an accommodation problem when you want to use a Jacuzzi with your kids, but can’t get use of one.
4) I did not see any of the Puerto Rican dynamic I hear about in other reviews. I know the Puerto Rican culture well. While people are not rude, they are not known to be considerate in general. It is just not the way the culture is built. They are, however, very warm and friendly. Interaction is not to be avoided through rules. Americans on the other hand are considerate, but can be rude. Rules are important and less value is placed on personal interaction. (People don’t need to talk to each other if everyone already knows what they are supposed to do). I did witness adequate consideration for others and thought everyone got along just fine. I think the intolerant complainers who expect everything to be like home are the ones with the big problem on this issue. The cultures are different. Just embrace it as an interesting difference.
5) The drinks are a little interesting on the ship. If you are trying to order something that is included (lemonade, iced tea, etc.), it is available in a few areas of the ship, but not in any of the bar areas across the ship. They don’t make it easy. You feel like the staff wants nothing to do with you if you do not want to buy a drink from them in the way that they send you away. That treatment was consistent enough for me to determine it was deliberate. Having said that, it is not that hard to get what you want once you know where to go. I did not attempt to bring any water, soda, etc. onboard and I really did not see reason for it. I did see a person getting hassled by Security for having Kirkland water bottles on the deck while they are trying to sell water. I just didn’t think it would be worth the effort of lugging all of that onboard and I’m glad I did not. You can easily buy $1 water bottles on the islands and get water downstairs. Alcohol may be a different matter, but it is not my objective to drink a lot in front of my kids.
6) It was a challenge to tackle an island on a 8 am to 5 pm schedule. Aruba’s 1 am sailing was a noticeably nice exception. I’m guessing some of the concern is pulling in and out of some of the ports without visual light (for safety reasons). I don’t know, but it would be a big selling point if they could leave the ports later in the evening.
7) I was not able to comment much on the Adventure Ocean program because my kids did not want to do it. We signed them up and it looked interesting, but we couldn’t get the kids to do it.
We had a good experience on the cruise. The kids loved it. I did not like the captive audience aspect of cruising or the incessant marketing that goes on, but it is a good way to sample a bunch of islands. I don’t think I will be a habitual cruiser like some die-hards, but I do think I’d take another to see a new set of islands before I leave the Caribbean. I like to savor my destinations and that is something that is hard to do on a cruise.