This cruise was a Southern Caribbean itinerary out of San Juan, Puerto Rico-which means it is a port intensive cruise with only one sea day. Important to know, if you know what type of cruiser you are. We tend to be the "at sea" type of cruisers, but we had friends pick out this itinerary and since it was a New Year's Eve sailing- we wanted to join them. We have always wanted to do a New Years cruise, but of course New Year's celebrations are so much better with friends- we jumped at the chance to do this with friends.
Adventure of the Seas is the last Voyager Class ship awaiting the revitalization refurbishment, which she will be getting first quarter of 2014. With this process, she will have a complete overall of all the soft goods (linens etc.) but more importantly, she will get some of the very popular features of the newer Freedom/Oasis Class ships. She will be fitted with an outdoor movie screen, the will add Giovanni's Table, an Italian trattoria family style restaurant and the Cupcake Factory at the Cafe Promenade. She will also be upgraded with new technology. Wi-fi throughout the ship, touch-screen digital way-finders and flat screen TV's in the staterooms.
Due to some sad circumstances on the sailing prior to ours (man overboard)- the ship arrived into San Juan late, which delayed our embarkation process- it took a very long time to drop luggage and then to go through security, check-in, etc. As a result, I did not get to run around the ship and take lots of photos of all the public spaces. Having said that, viewing my album of the Mariner of the Seas in 2010, would really give you an accurate depiction of this ship, They are "sister ships" and really have all of the same features. What we did do differently on this cruise, was try one of the Promenade View cabins. We are balcony people and I can honestly say that I MISSED having a balcony tremendously on this cruise. You never realize how much you use your balcony until you are without one. There were several evenings that we missed sunsets because we needed to be in the cabin getting ready for dinner- if we had our balcony cabin, we would be able to do both. We also like having a cocktail in the evening out on our balcony while we get ready for the night and we missed that. Also, first thing in the morning we usually go out on the balcony and see what the weather is like, take a first glimpse at the sea or the port and we missed being able to do that.
On the other hand, we did have connecting cabins with our friends, so it was nice to have the connection and we would enjoy music together in the evening while getting ready for dinner. But we would have preferred to have had connecting balcony cabins! Oh well, you never know until you try and I can honestly say that I have no desire to have a Promenade View cabin again. We rarely opened up our drapes because the cabins on the other side of the Promenade can see into your stateroom, so they do lack privacy if you want to let some sort of outside light into your cabin. I think if the Promenade View staterooms were balconies (like the Central Park balconies on Oasis/Allure), then I would have been happier with it- having windows that don't open just did not do it for us.
The cabin itself was to be expected- decent size for a cruise ship. Our configuration was walk in to the bed first and then the sitting area was close to the window- but decent amount of sitting area with a bench couch under the window and then another little loveseat. We don't spend a ton of time in our cabins other than to sleep or get ready, so we never found that we didn't have enough space. Of course, with a balcony and the natural daylight coming in- you always feel as though the space is larger. I do love that Royal Caribbean has shower doors vs. a shower curtain. It always creeps me out with the curtains because the showers are so small and the curtains are always clinging to your body- the doors just seem cleaner to me. Our bed was comfortable and there was plenty of closet space; although we could have used more drawer space. Again, we managed and quite honestly had more clothes than needed. I suspect if we packed appropriately, there was enough space for everything.
(BELOW you can see our cabin and the view we had of the Royal Promenade)
Activities on board the ship were what you would expect; however, not as many things planned during the days since all but one day were port days and we were in port from 8am-430pm just about every day on this itinerary. They would start some pool games in the mid- afternoon and bingo and art auctions around the 4pm hour, otherwise it was relatively quiet during the days- which is fine for us. Evening entertainment included several production shows with the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers, we missed the comedian the first night, I'm guessing because of the chaos of getting on board and unpacking, life boat drill and early dinner we just missed it on the schedule altogether. We did catch the comedian on the last night and there was also a variety show guy with some fun tricks. We did enjoy that show, the production shows were hit and miss- we liked one, didn't like the other and missed two of them. Adventure Ocean seemed to be very busy with a ship load of kids and I really didn't see too many kids around and about, which to me says that the kids clubs were doing their job of entertaining and keeping the kids busy & happy. There were two bands that played at various locations throughout the ship. The Caribbean Band was fine when it was advertised as "Caribbean music", but whenever they had that band playing "dance music"- well it was a consistent reggae beat and was not really dance music. The other band, a 4 piece from the Philippines with a woman drummer were pretty good. Not the best band we've seen on a cruise ship, but they played decent music and we were able to dance a few nights. However, as is usually the case- the dance band gets tucked away into the little bar with the little dance floor most of the time. By the time they give them a good playing slot in the Lounge with the big dance floor, people don't come. It's crazy. My other pet peeve is when cruise lines will advertise a dance venue as "10pm - late" and then consistently they end at midnight or 1am. To me, "late" means when the last dancers are done, not when the DJ or band is "done". I have no problem with the party ending at a given time, but advertise it as such instead of this "late" end time. Imperial Lounge has the best dance floor. Jesters disco had a decent size dance floor, but the floor itself was sticky. The DJ on this ship was pretty good overall. He never seemed to have an attitude, which we've seen on other ships with other DJ's, but I never felt like we ever became friends with this guy. Usually, we are in a position to make friends with the different DJ's on cruises.
There were the traditional audience participation game shows, which never disappoint. The Quest which is a crowd pleaser was fun and funny, but they held it in Studio B- the Ice rink which was fine if you were a spectator, but it was hard to participate in the show. The New Years Eve celebration started in the Royal Promenade where they had the countdown, free champagne and the balloon drop at midnight and then the party continued in Studio B with DJ dancing, which was a fun venue- lots of balloons on the dance floor and good music to bring in the new year. Battle of the Sexes and a few other audience game shows were done in the Imperial Lounge. They offered the ice skating show two nights, but you had to secure tickets in advance to see the show and we never got around to securing the tickets. We might have been able to try stand-by, but we were OK to miss it also.
As is expected with Royal Caribbean, you have a wide array of sporting activities with the rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, basketball court, mini-golf, full fitness facility with more classes offered than I usually see on a cruise ship. Adventure also has a very expansive spa facility, I was almost tempted to book a service, but I'm so used to getting my great massages at home for a fraction of the cost, it pains me to pay so much more and take the risk of not having a good experience.
Food & Beverage staff were overall very good. We had a few favorite waiters around the pool and in the lounges. We did try the new Premium Beverage Package. This gave us unlimited drinks, wine, beer, soft drinks, bottled water throughout the cruise and I think for us it was a good value. We know that our bar bill (including bottled water) is usually around $800 on a 7 day cruise- this ended up being $770 including the gratuities. Only quirk with the program as far as I'm concerned is that I like to get a glass of wine and a bottle of water at the same time and they can only dispense one drink at a time on the program. You have to wait 10 minutes to get the next beverage on the package. However, there were some bars that would give you both. It is a new program, so I suspect they just need to work out the quirks. The best red wine by the glass was a Malbec, but they ran out of that choice about mid-cruise. Fortunately, the Clois du Bois Cabernet was a tasty second and we were able to have that throughout the rest of the cruise. Something to note, the Champagne Bar which usually has a more upscale menu of drinks did have their own Premium Package red wine to offer and it was a yummy Merlot that you could only get at that bar. Also, if you got the white wine at the Champagne Bar, they served it in a chilled wine glass. I would end up going out of my way to that bar to get my white wine.
We had Anytime dining, mainly as a compromise with our friends. We prefer early and they prefer late dining. We had a few evenings at 630pm and a few at 8pm and one evening at 7pm. It worked out, but we really do prefer the 630pm time so that we can fully enjoy the evening of activities. We made fast friends our first two nights with our wait staff in the dining room- Romeo and Raquel. They were AWESOME and worked very well together as a team. Our third night we dined in Portofino (on New Year's Eve) and service was good, but the waiter sort of gave us the creeps. He was just odd, a little eccentric and smiled with creepy eyes. Dinner was very good in Portofino: we ordered pastas, steak and lamb chops. You pay a surcharge to dine here, but it was well worth it. The next couple of nights we were back in the Anytime dining room, but because we had changed our dining time we could not be seated in Romeo/Raquel's section. We had three different sets of wait staff and they just were not as good. We did have one waiter who came close, but we made sure we picked a time we were all happy with that would afford us the chance to dine with Romeo and Raquel one more time.
Our cabin attendant- Grace, was a joy and always kept our cabin in tip top shape. We are easy guests because we tend to sleep in and half of the week we didn't vacate our cabin until she was on her afternoon break which means she only had to make up our cabin once per day. It works for us and it worked for her.
The itinerary for this cruise included the ports of Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St Maarten and St Croix. A few new ports for me, but quite honestly I feel that most Caribbean ports of call are all pretty similar and I am not a beach fan. Don't get me wrong, I love the warm weather, I love being by the ocean and by the beach- but I just don't prefer sand. We did get off the ship twice and took excursions. In Barbados we went on a 4X4 Safari & Shipwreck Snorkel Tour. The Jeep Safari Tour was not quite what we had expected - it was simply a rough way around the island to tour the island very quickly. We had one stop at a vista point where you could buy local crafty goods and take a picture of the unique rock. We also took a speed boat ride to a shipwreck snorkel site. I did not snorkel because I was getting over a cold and didn't want to mess with snorkel equipment with a sinus issue. The other three in our group did snorkel and said it was good but not great. From there we had a "beach break" to sit on the beach for about 30 minutes waiting for our Jeep Safari to pick us up- that was sort of a joke too- it was more like 20 minutes and no chairs provided...and you were forced to do this because you had to leave the speed boat and walk through the water to the beach to then get to the safari jeep vehicles. I wish the description of the excursion was a bit more detailed- I probably would have skipped the excursion altogether. In St John's Antigua, we took a kayaking excursion. This excursion started with a taxi ride to the kayak launch- about 35 minute drive, then you got on a speed boat for a 10 minute ride to the kayaks - which were ported in the middle of the mangroves. We kayaked for about 45 minutes with our guide and he was very informative- by far the most enjoyable part of this tour. it was fun to kayak and the waters were mostly calm- but at times we hit some challenging areas. Always kept safe though by our guide and the speed boat that was sweeping the group in case anyone had problems. Back to the kayak pier to get back into the speed boats and head to two islands- one of them just to view the Pelicans on Rabbit Island and then to stop at the beach on Bird Island. Once we were on Bird Island- we had an hour to take a guided mini-hike to the top (I passed on this because my shoes were slippery), you could purchase a snack at the BBQ or shop local crafty goods on this otherwise deserted island. Also, after the hike if you wanted to snorkel, they took you out on the speed boat to a spot. We passed on this, but our friends went and said it was a waste of time. I saw the pictures- yes it was a waste of time. Then another 20 minutes speed boat ride back to the base where we could freshen up, have some juice or rum punch and banana bread before getting back in the taxi for our 30 minute ride back to the ship. Fun day, but wish it was just the kayaking and didn't take so much effort to get there and back. We had very little time to shop at the pier before "all aboard"- but I did manage to get my token magnet that I get at every port we visit.
Our friends did get off the ship in each port because they were all new to them and this was his first cruise and their first vacation together as a couple (without kids). Some highlights of their visits. In St Maarten, they went to Airport Beach- wish I had known they were going there- that is one beach that I would love to visit given my career...you literally have airplanes coming into land right over the beach- it's pretty incredible. I've seen pictures on the internet of this, but you always wonder how true the pictures are- well now I have a trusted source and she took some great pictures herself as well as a great video too! They even have a chalk board on a surf board that lists the flight arrival times so you are ready to take the pictures. Something to note, that beach is always windy due to the flight arrivals. In St. Croix, they walked to the closest beach to the pier- about 10 minutes away and there was a big festival going on in the area- so they really enjoyed the festivities which included music and parades, food and drink trucks, etc. We could hear some of the music from the festival - on the ship but had no idea what was going on until they came back and told us all about it.
All in all, a great time cruising with friends. However, not sure we would do a holiday sailing again. It is something to experience at least once in a lifetime and I think that New Years is more my speed than being away for Christmas. I'm too much of a family celebration person to be away from my family at Christmas. New Years is about being with friends, so it was good for us to do this. But things to keep in mind- it is WINTER. We had 80 degree weather every day, but we also had the most rainfall that I've ever had on a Caribbean Cruise- not much and certainly nothing that put a damper on the cruise- but these flashes of showers would come in quickly and go out just as fast- but they would come down fiercely. You had to run for cover and we got very good at doing this quickly. The other part of this equation is that getting to the Caribbean in winter can be a challenge and out of San Juan makes it even more of a challenge. Our flights to San Juan were flawless and we arrived the day prior (staying at the Sheraton San Juan), but as I sit here writing this review on our return date in the San Juan airport- our 137pm departure is currently listed as departing 330pm. The cause- winter storm delays in the Northeast U.S. We are fortunate to be going through Dulles (I think) as flights through Chicago have been canceled for a few days and because of this the delays are huge. Just another good reason to make an informed choice and realize that weather does happen and insurance is always highly recommended.
Side note: The Sheraton San Juan was a good choice for a pre-cruise hotel stay. It's about 15 minutes from the airport and you can see the cruise ships from the hotel- all in all about a 10 minute taxi ride from hotel to ship. We arrived very late (130am) and basically slept, got up and headed to the ship. My Gold Status with Starwood gave us a late check out, so it was perfect for us. Given the cost of hotels at this time of year (peak season)- we decided to share the room with our friends- there simply was no reason for us both to spend $350/night for a few Zzzzzzzz's.
To see pictures from this cruise, click here to be taken to the Flickr Album,
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