First off let me say the ship is absolutely magnificent. My wife and I took this cruise w/o children from July 11 - July 18 out of San Juan to Aruba, Curacao, St Maarten, and St Thomas. It is unbelievable how they were able to put so many things on to this ship. The few areas where I feel they could make improvements (and there were not many) which I will mention in this review will certainly not deter me from sailing on this ship again. I am already planning on sailing on it next year to the other itinerary. A few areas that I would like to see improved: 1. faster check in - we arrived at the pier at 1:45 and got on a very long line. We did not get aboard the ship until 3:30. My wife was told that there was a drug bust with a passenger from the previous cruise coming off earlier and therefore everything came to a stop. I do not know if this was the case or not, and if so it was out of the control of RC. It actuallywas not so bad, afterall, you're on vacation and my company was great (my wife) so we passed the time by chatting and looking forward to our next 7 days on the cruise.
2. Captain's Night - thought they should have had some picky type foods while drinking the champaign, mimosas, and rum punch. We had the second seating dinner and were getting hungry so we thought it would have been nice to just "pick" a little. 3. My biggest area of concern is the need for supervision at the pools. Because the ship has so much to offer to children, you will find an enormous amount of families on this cruise ship. Although the ship does have the solarium which only allows adults and is beautiful and very nice, I particularly enjoy being at the main pools where the band is playing and is what I consider the heart and soul of the cruise ship during the day. The solarium is much more peaceful, but in my opinion away from the action. I have seven kids of my own so I know how kids can be kids, but there is a limit. Some of what was going on around the pool areas went beyond fun and was dangerous and very bothersome to other cruisers. There is not suppose to be any jumping or horseplay, but kids were jumping from the railings of the adjacent hot tubs, doing flips, diving and jumping into the hot tubs, throwing water at each other with their cups in the hot tub, etc. On a couple of occasions, we had to find someone to complain to, but they need to have someone supervising this because the parents certainly are not going to. More than it being a nuisance, I was concerned that someone was going to split their head open. Those are really the only "negatives" I have about the cruise. Positives: 1. All of the crew from maintenance to officers were extremely friendly and helpful. 2. Food throughout the ship was excellent. You may not always like something, but there are plenty of choices and if you choose something you do not care for, you can always order something different. 3. Our dinner waiters Richard and Filip were outstanding and we looked forward to seeing them every evening. Their efforts were second to none.
This was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean. In all, we had an excellent time, got a bunch of fun and relaxation in...we played bingo (ooooh ahhhh), karoke, napkin folding, went to the art auctions (bought some beautiful artwork), did great excursions, loved Portofino's. It was a great cruise.....a few things that we did not care for..I would say stay on the boat instead of going to Cuaraco. There is nothing there! That port was very disappointing.
There were a lot of kids on the cruise who were unruly and rude. The ship actually put forth a curfew mid-way through the cruise to make the kids go to bed early. Many of them did not speak English and were running up and down the halls and screaming, pushing into you etc. The other thing I found most annoying was the use of two-way radios. My husband and I would be watching a show and all of the sudden someone's two-way would go off. I guess it is the latest in communication, but annoying. Royal Caribbean is our cruiseline...we will continue to use them until they give us a reason not to!
Embarkation Embarkation was to begin at 4pm - we arrived at 3 pm and were on the ship and in our cabin in about 15 minutes - very efficient!
Ship In a word - AMAZING!
This is the seventh (and best) cruise ship I have been on. Not only the sheer size of the ship but the intelligent design and artistry make this vessel stand out.
Where to begin? The Royal Prominade is a brilliant "downtown" for this little floating city. The "Main Street USA" of the seas. Excellent for people watching. They even have a parade! At one end are the theatres - at the other end the 3 story main dining room. In between - shopping, a quaint English pub with appropriate live music (and Guinness!), a cafe with snacks, pastries, pizza and loads of coffee, the usual ship-board shopping, a sports bar and access to the large casino one flight down. Royal Carribean did something realy cool on this ship - inside cabins with a view (overlooking the Royal Prominade).
The Rock Climbing Wall - Tried it twice (made it more then half way up). The key is use yourlegs or your arms will get really sore (trust me - I looked like Popeye after my first attempt).
Miniture Golf - Very cool on a ship!
Basketball / Volleyball Court - When the court is empty it's fun to horse around and shoot some hoops. Also fun to watch when a game gets going.
Pools - There is a great (adults only) pool area that is very nice (the deck chairs are more comfortable). A little more shady and a bit more sheltered from the wind. Excellent spot for a snooze - my wife called it "nap row". The decor was a Venetian type of theme. The main pool area is great too - with plenty of live music.
Ice Show - Probably the best show I ever saw at sea. Great stuff! I believe the rink is open for skaters when not in use by the show staff. Not being a skater myself I don't know this firsthand.
Feature Acts - A really funny comic (forgot his name) performed as well as the old time act The Coasters ("Charlie Brown"). The production shows were good - similar to what I've seen on other cruise lines. G rated Vegas review stuff.
Shopping Didn't do to much shopping - YEAH! Bought souvineirs for everyone at work in one spot in Aruba - T shirts 7 for $20. Keychains 6 for $5. Thats it - I'm done! Oh - and we bought a 6 pack of rum cake on the ship - also a great gift!
Ports Aruba - Booked a snorkling excursion through the ship. Rode a cartamaran out to a cool reef for some snorkling then sailed to a ship wreck for some more snorkling before we sailed back to the ship (rum punch included). A great trip (did the same excursion last time we were in Aruba). Worth the money.
After lunch took a 2 1/2 hour island tour for $10. Went to the natural bridge and various points of interest.
If crazy partying is your thing then go to "Carlos and Charlies" in Aruba (a two minute walk / stumble) from the pier. We didn't stay long but in that short time we took part in the tequila shot conga line (imagine a line of grown men and women dancing past a guy pouring a tequila concoction in their open mouths as they dance by - reminded me of a bunch of drunk, dancing baby birds waiting to be fed) and were dancing some wacky dance on the bar. Enjoy!
Curacao - Took a cab ($14 for two) to a really cool aquarium ($15 admission). After we strolled over to a really nice beach by the aquarium ($3 for a chair). Took a cab back to town - had a local flavor of Amstel beer (just like Corona - with the lime). Dont miss the floating pontoon bridge that opens for boats on occasion. Jumped onto the bridge as it was opening - otherwise we would have had to take the (free) ferry across. Very colorful (friendly)town.
St Martin - Went to Orient Beach (and yes we went to the nude beach and, unlike most ship people, we went native. And loved it!) If you do as we did be warned - you may bump into your (fully clothed) dinner table mates. They were more embarrased then I was (hello - its a nude beach! didn't you see the sign? what did you expect to see?)
St Thomas / St Johns - Trunk Bay - AMAZING! This must be where beaches go when they die! Bumped into the same table mates here too.
Our driver to Trunk Bay told us to remember his name (Beva) for the return journey, so to make remembering it easier I tried to think of some thing to remind me of his name. So I started singing "Beva Las Vegas". A few hours later when it was time to find our driver I thought for a second and then said to my wife - "Ok - now lets go find Belvis" (Ok - maybe you had to be there - but boy did we laugh!!!).
Puerto Rico - El Morrow fort in San Juan still amazes me - and I've been there 4 times in the last 4 years. Try not to miss it! Matter of fact try not to miss old San Juan in general - I could wonder that place for hours - and at sunset - WOW!
Food Pretty average (meaning good) for a cruise. My wife says it was a bit better then Carnival but not quite as good as Norwegian. Didn't have a bad meal. And remember on lobster tail formal night - you can order as many as you can eat!
Packing Try to travel light and remember - you WILL return with more stuff then what you came with. Also - remember that your luggage may not get to your room for a few hours - so pack a few items (ie bathing suit) in your carry on that you may need immediately after getting on the ship.
Here's a tip that I use (I've been made fun of for it but that's ok, I'm gonna tell you anyway). I throw away my luggage. Let me explain. My drawers and closets are full of stuff that is on the verge of being thrown away. For the flight out - I wore a pair of torn jeans and a shirt with an ink stain that I can't wear to work. That night - in the trash. I have a drawer full of sweat socks that are on their last legs (no pun intended) when I've worn them once - out they go. No smelly socks stinking up my luggage. Old t-shirts - wear 'em and chuck 'em. Wore a pair of beat up old sneakers every beach trip - they got sandy, salty and dirty. Who cares! Last day of the trip - in the trash. For reading material - bring all those old magazines you haven't gotten around to reading that are lying around the house. Chuck them when you're done. Feel free to modify this technique as you feel appropriate. It will guarantee that your luggage will have room for all the worthless junk you didn't plan on coming back home with. It will help you in your spring cleaning. After your trip packing, unpacking and laundry are now that much easier. (I don't recommend this tip for clothes to be worn on formal nights).
Dis-Embarkation We had a 1 pm flight. Left our room before 8am. Had a relaxing breakfast. We were off the ship just after 9. At the airport by 10. Whent through check-in in 20 minutes (I think we were lucky - other folks had much longer waits). Security took another 20 minutes. Be warned - at San Juan airport they will occasionally change the gate of a flight without making an announcement. Half an hour before your flight ask at the counter if you are at the right gate (this happend to us two of the four times we sailed out of San Juan).
WOW!!!! We took the whole family...two cabins..one across the hall from the other..inside and a balcony....THIS SHIP IS FANTASTIC!!! You can't feel the motion and we never felt crowded even with 3000 + passengers (except embarking). Good food and many choices...great selection of islands...our kids loved St. Martin and St. Thomas..mostly for the beaches...We we seated with a couple from BRAZIL who spoke little english...and we spoke no Portugesse...but when they said "we speak little english" they were being modest...the five of us and the two Brazilians ended up having a great time with many laughs....you never know what to expect but it usually turns out good.
The shows were very good...the things to do even better...After being on 11 other cruises...this may have been my FAVORITE!!! at least in the top three...!!YOU CAN'T MISS ON THIS SHIP!!
ABOUT ME In my 20s, first cruise was a small Greek island cruise in high school, so I consider this my first big cruise since it was a totally different experience. Traveled with my mother.
Caught 7am flight to Puerto Rico to arrive by noon. Spent 3 nights before cruise at Wyndham Old El San Juan. If I had to do it again, I would fly in the evening, sleep and recover, then the next day do rainforest excursion which ends early afternoon and then just walk around old town (free green trolley shuttle) and board ship the following day. That would be the most efficient use of time necessary to see everything, also considering how expensive the restaurants and hotels are in San Juan.
After arriving I was exhausted but did the afternoon tour to San Cristobal Fort & Bacardi Rum factory. Although you don't actually see the factory, just a large museum, video, rum presentation, and tasting. The next day we went to the rainforest where it was a little slippery to walk and you should definitely bring your poncho as it rained on and off. The last dayI took a tour to Ponce on the other side of the island, but there wasn't much to see except the firehouse.
HOTEL We stayed at Wyndham Old El San Juan because I thought it was across the street from port, WRONG, only Carnival docks there (maybe they change depending on the time of year). Had to take a ten minute $12 taxi ride to port. But I left my luggage outside my door as the cruise line picks it up and transports it themselves if you booked the hotel through them. But I skipped the free transfer at 1pm. Become a Wyndham member before you leave, it's free, you get American Airline miles, free continental breakfast, and a welcome basket of fruit or Gouda cheese & water crackers with your choice of beverage. I don't know if it was because I was a member, but unlike other people's complaints of this hotel staff, they were all very nice to me. But the reception of one or two people gets very crowded. Our room faced a parking lot. Hotel was close to everything in town.
RESTAURANTS Right behind the hotel is Senor Frogs restaurant, to the left of that and up the stairs are plenty of restaurants. Then you turn right and hit a Starbucks, keep on right as the road curves up and there is the popular restaurant Dragonfly (Calle La Fortaleza) that everyone raves about. You will also see a square up ahead which is where Sylvester Stallone shot the movie Assassins, remember the bank scene? Expect to pay $12-25 for an entrée. Vegetarians try Café Berlin (Calle San Francisco) but skip tofu dishes & Tantra (Indian food next to Dragonfly).
PRACTICAL ADVICE I realized later that you really don't need to book a city tour because of the free green trolley that stops near the hotel and at all the sights in the old town. It's pointless to rent a car since the old town is so small. The only thing to see in the new town/Condado area is the beach. Traffic is horrible during rush hour because they have only a 4 lane highway. The weather forecast was thunderstorms everyday. And yes it did rain everyday for literally two minutes, and I'm not exaggerating. But, when it rained it poured like you're never seen. So ALWAYS carry your umbrella. Even though it was always warm, even at night, carry a sweater because every restaurant, hotel, shop has their a/c blasting to 55 degrees, so it was freezing!
BOARDING Got to the dock at 11am and stood in line for 10 minutes behind 40 people. Then they brought us into a large un-airconditioned room with 300 chairs. Free lemonade and water was offered and bathrooms were available. There was a liquor store inside directly across from the tickets booths, although what they don't tell you is RCL confiscates any crates/boxes of liquor you buy. Although they aren't consistent on how much is not acceptable. But you get a free Puerto Rico t-shirt if you sign a petition by the governor of Puerto Rico that RCL's liquor policy is unfair. At 12:45 they let wedding guests check in. (Personally I don't see what's so great about getting married on a ship, an island I understand you get the beautiful scenery and everything.) Finally at 1pm, row by row we got in line. There's one line just for physically challenged people, and suites and Anchor Society members do not get to jump the line, only go in front of their row. By the way, if you're from Toronto, you will be quarantined and inspected by a doctor to make sure you don't have SARS (sorry this must really suck). All room upgrades have to be done when you check in before you get on the ship. At this time all the balconies were taken.
On board the ship we went to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. Then headed to the shipshape center where I noticed that they keep video surveillance of people on the fitness machines, as if you'd steal a treadmill. Next played some golf which was hard with the wind. Later just walked around the ship which made me think I was in a resort hotel. But once the ship set sail, I immediately knew it as I heard the engine and felt the boat moving. Every night I felt the boat moving and took a Bonine (supposed to be better than Dramamine) and got a prescription from my doctor for a small patch to wear behind my ear and noticed lots of other people wearing them too. At 5pm you could purchase shore excursions or it can also be done from your TV in your cabin.
CABIN We stayed on deck 9 inside room middle of ship, and as I walked down the hallway everyone looked like a drunk swaying from side to side, which seems to be a problem on the upper decks of a ship. My cabin attendant was from Costa Rica, very friendly and gave us towel animals every night. He asked us to put a make up room sign on our door when we go to breakfast and dinner so that he would know when we're gone. I figured he knew our dining time anyway since he was usually done when we came back. Your room gets cleaned twice a day. Room had lots of storage space, under bed, in closet, drawers everywhere, and behind mirror in bathroom. I dreaded the shower but once you stepped in it didn't feel so small.
Our waiter told us that our drinking water was different from our bathroom tap water. The ship desalts water onboard and all the food is from Miami. The TV had more channels than expected. It has a shopping channel where one woman explained what's in each store at the next port, mostly promoting jewelry. One channel showed clips of all the shore excursions while promoting scuba diving. There were 2 movie channels with recent movies, an old movie channel, CNN, ESPN, cartoons, music videos that suck, live web cam of the promenade and front of ship. Between the 2 dining times was the life vest drill on Sunday. Each room has a particular boat it belongs to and at that station someone checks all the vests which have your stateroom number on it. After standing there, hot, for quite some time, they went and got all the missing people, so please come. The staff have to practice emergency drills everyday including landing the life boats.
ENTERTAINMENT Went to the welcome show which showed clips of all the other shows, and I was not impressed and neither was my mother. One night was impressionist night which I would label young and hip as they did 2 minutes versions of recent songs like Men in Black, Destiny's Child, Prince & Madonna. Another night was a boring comedian. Then the guest celebrity was the Nelson Brothers, remember those blond country twins that sang "After the Rain." The Ice Show was spectacular! The skaters fly up in the air with ropes, but you're not allowed to take pictures. We got there 15 minutes early yet 95% of the seats were taken. One couple had the nerve to save an entire row for their kids and friends kids who came late, but fell asleep by the end. A bunch of people had to either stand or sit in the aisles. At 11pm was a parade in the promenade, they have several during the week, and later I learned I could watch it on the TV in my room. Our ship director Omar was excellent.
ACTIVITIES We had the early/main dinner seating at 6:30pm. But what I didn't like was that the shows for main dining were at 9:30pm. The fitness classes has Spinning or Pilates ($10) at 8:30am, Aerobics at 4pm, Yoga ($10) at 6pm, so if you're doing shore excursions and doing main dining you really can't participate in fitness classes. Spa treatments included Oxygen facial of 50min. for $109, Stone therapy of 75min. for $175, massage of 50min. for $109, manicure of 45min. $44, pedicure of 45min. for $61, discounts during port days. Free seminars on losing weight and pilates. Went rollerblading in a small contained track. Went rock-climbing, pretty hard, though not for little kids. Went ice-skating with blue skates, chose your time wisely to have space. Helmets are always available plus you have to sign lengthy waivers to participate.
FOOD I thought people were pretty picky to complain about food to say it was mediocre, I thought food is food how can it be poor? Well now I agree because as a vegetarian they expected me to eat rice/pasta/mashed potatoes and vegetables only. No protein options were available, in fact the one time they served chickpeas it was in a meat sauce. They even had an Indian chef who strangely only made Indian meat dishes and bread. In the dining room, every other night the vegetarian entrée's main feature was eggplant, which was problematic for me since the only vegetables I don't like are eggplant and lettuce. Luckily the head waiter was very friendly and concerned about my situation and allowed me to order special meals a day ahead of time. I didn't go to Portofino's as I thought why pay for food when you already get it free? The food comes from the same kitchen. A friend of ours went there because she wanted lobster, which was later served in the dining room. My mother always got the ship shape menu which is the low-fat meal.
My mom always got a sandwich at the Café Promenade at night, put it in the fridge, and ate it for lunch off the ship. The pizza there was thin and looked unappetizing. The frozen yogurt machines were popular. The midnight buffet was open for picture taking from 11:45pm-12:15, then 12:30 for eating. Not much food but the most popular item was the chocolate covered strawberries. They had special plate covers for people that wanted to take their plate to go. The ice carvings were amazing. You CAN'T sit where you want, like breakfast in the dining room, even though there are plenty of empty tables guests are required to sit with strangers to make it easier on the waiter. Breakfast in the Windjammer was always the same, only had fat-free cream cheese which is tasteless to me. The desserts in my opinion for the most part weren't sweet enough, but what do you expect when you mass produce something.
DRINKS Johnny Rockets, aka grease spoon, never seemed full when I went, but maybe I went at off hours. Tip: you can get any flavor milk shake on any day, even though they only advertise one flavor each day. My favorite was the orange, remember those orange popsicles with crème inside, that's what it tastes like. You can buy a wine package for $109 and get a bottle of wine every night with dinner. I ordered a frozen non-alcoholic strawberry drink by the pool which was so delicious! Unfortunately I'm a newbie at this and didn't realize that you get charged $6 because they automatically bring you a souvenir glass unless you specifically say you don't want it. I ended up leaving it since I didn't want to pack glass and already had a lot of hand luggage.
PEOPLE Half of the people on the ship were from Puerto Rico traveling with their extended family. Some came to celebrate their 15th birthday. They walked around with beauty pageant sashes on and one night all wore white wedding dresses and crowns. There were lots of middle school kids running around freely with walkie talkies. The 3-5 year olds were mostly contained in the Adventure Center. Luckily I only saw a couple of babies. Lots of young couples and grandparents treating their grandkids to a vacation.
STAFF The waiters in the Windjammer were very nice and wanted to serve you even though they're not working for tips at lunchtime. Many people think tips are an incentive to be nice, well not the case here. My personal opinion is that if a ship has good management and hires spirited people their service will be good. I asked a couple waiters how much they make and they both told me $50 a month, yes that's correct. Their salary is only tips. Our dining waiter only had 4 people at main dining since the other people never showed or only came once. RCL gives you the option of added gratuities to your bill for $70 per person. I'll be the first person to tell you that I wish this was added to the ticket price of the cruise, but I felt obligated to give more since I know not everyone gives. I found that many employees said they didn't go out in the ports since they don't have very much free time. I asked out waiter if he every goes to the deck at night and he laughed at me and said he would get fired if he went for a stroll on deck. Only employees in uniform who are performing a function are allowed to be in public areas. They work on 6 months contracts and get a free flight home at the end of the contract. They also said it costs them a lot of money to send money home to their families. But most of the crew looked young.
SHIP They sell a 19 minute video of your cruise for $20 with no commentary done quick and cheaply. It has clips of all the events by the pool, so participate if you want to be seen. The gift shop does not have everything that's pictured in your guest vacation documents. They do sell roses on the promenade. The ship had great photographers and backgrounds. One night the captain takes pictures with the passengers for 15 minutes. Find the helicopter dock at the front of the ship, it's windy, but the lounge chairs are usually empty, sunset pictures, not to mention your titanic picture with you standing on the rails with your hands extended. Outside the fitness center is the peek-a-boo bridge where you can look down on the captain's bridge. The Jacuzzi has less people in them at night, although half are closed for cleaning. The ships windows and stairway hand rails are cleaned every day. We never saw a sunset because even if the sky looked clear there was always a cloud on the horizon that the sun would disappear behind. Our waiter said that the weather is always good on this route, no hurricane disruptions, and that it only rains occasionally. In the ports I was constantly asked to have my hair braided by aggressive women.
Monday - St. Thomas Excursion St. John Island Tour. Shared ferry with St. John Beach tour. The boat was one bumpy ride, so don't sit inside. Outside in the bottom front gets soaked. We had an open air bus that had many stops, including an impromptu stop at a beach because someone wanted to get their feet wet. Afterwards walked around St. Thomas and went to the pretty red fort.
Tuesday - St. Maarten On my own, went horseback riding with Bayside stables next to butterfly farm(tent). It was fantastic! For $60 you have a 2-hour ride on a beach then you take turns riding bareback as the horse swims in the water. There were about 9 riders, a few fussy horses, and free drinks at the end. Afterwards walked around Philipsburg and went to the famous Guavaberry liquor store which is only made on this island.
Wednesday - Antigua Excursion- Stingray city. Not much to see here suggest booking 2 excursions. Even the port area/city was uninteresting. We had a 30minute bus ride, then got in 4 small motor boats sitting 15 people, to a netted area with stingrays, starfish and clawless black lobster. The tour operators picked up the stingrays for you (you're not supposed to lift them out of water) and there was a professional photographer for individual pictures. Not scary at all, it's not crowded, but the water was muggy. You could leave your cameras on the boat so they wouldn't get wet, there's a platform and ladder to enter the stingray area, you're not jumping over boat into the water. They given you rum punch afterwards, but be careful it may taste like juice but some people got drunk from 2 cups. Thursday - St. Lucia Excursion - Catamaran ride to Fond Doux estates. The catamarans are all huge seating about 75 people and you can wear your shoes. Ours had a cover so 90% of the seats were in the shade. Another catamaran was 50% under shade so it depends which boat you end up on. It was a smooth ride with beautiful views of the island. Stopped in Soufriere which wasn't interesting, to take a short bus ride up to Sulfur Springs which you can really smell. You may not want to walk to the viewing station of Sulfur Springs as it's steep. The plantation was a small cocoa farm but had a gorgeous tropical flower garden! You get snacks there and the best fruit juice. There are bathrooms on the boat and during our stops, there's no point in wearing a bathing suit unless you want to jump into the cold green water. The boat can't really go up to the gray sand beach so you have to swim there if you want. About half the boat went for a swim. The food served on board was good, they had rice, mac& cheese, a root vegetable, coleslaw, beans, and some meat. The time goes by really quickly.
Friday - Barbados Excursion - Natural Wonders. It's a big beautiful island suggest doing 2 tours here although you're be rushed from one to the next. Better yet just hire a taxi for the day you'll end up paying the same for 2 people. For this trip read the description carefully because you actually only have 2 stops the sheep farm and the small Andromeda Gardens (mostly palm trees, ferns & orchids). Our guide gave us drinks on the bus. Who wants to see sheep? I was very disappointed that this trip did not stop at the famous Bathsheba rock formations, instead we are told to take pictures out of a window from a distance on top of a hill. Same with the windmill, it's more of a drive by tour while snapping pictures out of the window. But the countryside was beautiful. At the port we bought some delicious rum cakes.
I filled out a complaint form about this tour and received a portion of the price back. I suggest you complain about anything that bothers you because yes I know you're on vacation and don't want to sweat the small stuff, but you only make it better for the next people. For instance my excursion in St. Lucia was different last year and so many people complained that they changed the itinerary to make it better. The first thing the manager said to me was well you're the only one that has complained.
Saturday - At Sea Contrary to popular belief, I got to the pool at 10:30am and there were still plenty of seats available together on the upper deck. The pool deck is half in the shade, but right above it looking down on the pool is the sun deck. Most people left by 3pm as we were all beet red. I got sunburned the first day even though I only spent a little time in the sun, tan easily, and wore 15 SPF on a cloudy day. The beach towels given are thin and short. The ship sells small bottled Evian water for $3.50. People were always running into the Windjammer for a free drink of lemonade. There were lines to pay your bill so your credit card isn't charged.
Sunday - San Juan Walking Tour - after cruise We had to leave our stateroom by 8am, so you can imagine that breakfast was packed. At 8:45 people with shore excursions had to meet in a lounge, everyone else was called off the ship by flight times. After you get off the ship you stand in line for 30minutes to go through customs, then you pick up your luggage which is separated by the color tag you put on them. Our tour started at 10am and ended at 12:30. The El Morro fort was beautiful but lots of steps. Then we continued on walking through the old town and visited a museum and a church. The driver took us to the airport and left us in a parking lot where our luggage was. We all had to wait for 2 of 6 working elevators to enter the airport. Wear socks as everyone has to take their shoes off while going through security. There are few restaurants, shops, and no post office inside the terminals. Also no air conditioning. All the planes were full.
My pictures are posted here:
This was our 4th cruise, 2nd with Royal Caribbean. Dot and I are both in our early fifties and feel like our early thirties. I am an environmental technician and Dot is a district manager for a large banking company.
Sunday, June 1st, 2003: We flew out of Newark on Continental at 8:50am and landed in San Juan at about 12:40pm. The flight was uneventful and rather relaxing. After finding our way to the baggage area we were told that if we had attached our RCI tags to our bags, they would be sent directly to the ship. We were thankful for that, because we had been led to believe that you had to pick up your own bags and take them to the shuttle yourself. We waited approx. 20 minutes to board the shuttle and we were on our way. We arrived at the cruise terminal at approx. 1:50pm and there was a line all the way into the parking lot! After about 30 min. in the hot sun we arrived at the white chairs. Another 30 to 40 min. and we were aboard ship. (Don?t think that suitepassengers or Crown & Anchor members get much special treatment. We were both and you have to wait till your line in the white chairs is called to get priority boarding. A savings of about 10 minutes.)
Well, the ship is magnificent! Spotless! We arrived in our stateroom and it was unbelievable, storage galore and even a walk in closet! After the mandatory ?pit stop? we set out to explore the ship. It is everything you could hope it to be. Had a quick lunch in the windjammer (The windjammer was wonderful the whole trip, had breakfast and lunch there almost every day. The quality and diversity of their menu was top notch.). We went to the spa to set up appointments. Dot had her hair done for the first formal night and we signed up for the Rasul couples massage.
We had the main seating for dining and were glad that we did. 6:30 as opposed to 9:00 was just fine with us. After dining the muster drill was held. I believe the time was 8:30 pm. We went to the sail away party on deck and it was fun. The parade on the promenade started at 11pm and we watched with some amazement as several of the crew walked up and down the promenade on stilts. The parade was fun and we headed for the casino for a bit. Then off to our stateroom to crash!
Monday: This was our first at sea day and we took advantage of it. After getting up about 7am we headed for breakfast and a morning of sunning! No problem getting deck chairs by the pool. I went and picked up our tickets for the ice show. Lounged around for several hours had lunch and then Dot went for her hair appointment at the spa. I went and used the computers to email our children. (50 cents a minute can add up quickly so be careful. (Internet connection was pretty fast).
Dressed early, Tux and Long gown, because the cruise critic party was at 5pm. Only five people out of 26 showed up. What a disappointment! The cruise director and the hotel manager were there to greet us and we were rather embarrassed to only have five people there. They were very gracious and spoke to us about 30 min. We went to dinner (I have to apologize right now, I can?t remember what we ate every day so dinner is stated as dinner). We went to the show and there was a really lame Charo-like singer comedian. I was bored to death but Dot seemed to like her a bit. Stopped in the casino, made a donation and then headed up to bed.
Tuesday: ARUBA. We had rented an air conditioned jeep from Hertz several months ago and it was waiting at the dock. About $90 dollars including insurance. It was a brand new jeep and we were very comfortable. We headed along the coast past all the resort hotels and eventually came to the lighthouse. Nice area for pictures. Then the adventure began. The roads stopped!! Dirt roads and sand the rest of the way. Unbelievable landscapes. Rocks and more rocks! Many small monuments, really rock piles, some very unique. This side of the island is pretty desolate. (We were told that they feed the sharks on this side to keep them away from the swimming beaches) Before we came to the Natural Bridge there was a small one that was perfect for picture taking. The Natural Bridge itself was really commercialized, busloads of people.
Then we headed to the famous ?Baby Beach?. What a total disappointment! The beach was small bordered by a refinery. The water never was deeper than waist deep! Not what we call a beach. Headed back to the ship to get showered and changed. We then went shopping and had dinner at Carlos and Charlie?s. It was great fun.
Wednesday: CURACAO: We went on the beach break excursion. A rather rough boat ride to a marvelous beach. A Caribbean paradise! Great amenities and wonderful weather for the morning (became a little cloudy and rainy later in the day). The only drawback was the sand itself. It was covered with rocks. On the beach and in the water. It made getting in and out of the water an adventure. (A note for you moms: there were some topless sunbathers there). Headed back to the ship, showered, ate lunch at Johnnie Rockets. (Great burgers and milkshakes). Then headed out to do some shopping. Big disappointment! Shopping area in general, dirty, old, and the same old tourist stuff. The pontoon bridge was really interesting. Headed back to the ship empty handed. ( Note: the ship leaves all ports, except for Aruba at 5:30 not 6pm) Smart Casual dinner. Went to the ?Velvet Rope? show. We thought, besides the ice show, this was the best show of the trip.
Thursday: AT SEA: We slept in a little and after breakfast headed for our Rasul couples massage. WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!!!!!! They lock you in a private room. You first brush each other to exfoliate you skin. Then shower together. Go into steam room with benches. Apply mud all over each others bodies. Lie down and let the mud harden. After @20 min. 4 rain shower heads come on and rinse the mud away. Then you go back into the shower room and wash each other off even more. After applying crèmes and moisturizers to each other you leave relaxed and happy.
Pretty much a rainy day, so we did some shopping along the promenade ( Note: if you are interested in buying logo wear, wait until a day or two before the end of the cruise, most item marked down 50%), had some ice cream (always available). A quick note here: They only have cones available, but go next door to the café and get paper coffee cups and fill those, less mess. It was the second formal night so we dressed and after dinner we went to the ice show. It is as wonderful as everyone says it is. Lighting, costumes, and spectacular skaters. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! Made our daily donation to the casino and went to bed.
Friday: ST MAARTEN: Our favorite island. Took a cab to Orient Beach($16), as far as we are concerned, the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. Crystal clear water and gentle waves. We spent most of the day sunning and swimming. Once again moms, Topless and Bottomless sunbathers and strollers. Did some shopping in the afternoon. We had lunch in a small café facing the bay and the ship. Some more shopping and then took the water taxi to the dock. Rested for a while and after dinner went to the show ?Can?t Stop the Rock?. I was disappointed with this show. I was all hyped up to rock and found myself listening to songs like ?Wind Beneath My Wings?. Yikes, ROCK!! YOU MUST BE KIDDING ME!
Saturday: ST THOMAS: Early this morning we had to get in line for an immigration check. The line was enourmous, but went very very quickly. The excursion I was waiting for Months and Months!!! The BOB (Breathing Observation Bubble). We took a boat off of the dock at St Thomas and then we got into these underwater motor scooters. It was a blast! Easy to operate and safe. Always under the watchful eye of a scuba diver. Loads and loads of fun.
Returned to the ship and ate at Johnnie Rockets again. Then shopping. We found some jewelry for our sons? girlfriends (2 sons 2 girlfriends). Also a great deal on 2 portable DVD players for our boys. After getting the obligatory T-shirts, back to the ship. After dinner and donation, went to our cabin.
Sunday: SAN JUAN: Disembarkment went smoothly. First to leave were the early flight people. We were off about 10:30 and on our way to the Caribe Hilton in San Juan for 2 days of relaxation.
Food: Dining room was hit or miss, sometimes wonderful, other times not so good
Windjammer was excellent every time Johnnie Rockets also excellent Entertainment: Inconsistent Ice Show Fantastic! Ship: Probably the best ship we have sailed on. Never seemed crowded, Never! Overall Vacation: Spectacular!!! Will sail Royal Caribbean again and again! Misc: We had a great time at the dance party ?50?s 60?s 70?s and 80?s. We danced for an hour straight. Check it out. (Can?t remember what night it was) Passengers were split about half Puerto Ricans and Half others. Never once did we find anyone disrespectful or rowdy. Wonderful people every one.
Thanks for your time, Dot and Ed
It's been over a week now since we returned and this is the first chance I've had to take a minute to write about our voyage.
My wife and I are in our early forties and this was our fourteenth cruise since 1990, eight of which have been with RCI. We will sail for the ninth time with RCI aboard the "Splendour of the Seas" this coming December 18th. We sailed alone on the "AOS" to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary but will have our two teenage sons with us and our in-laws in December. This was our second trip on a "Voyager" class ship having done a family vacation last year on the "Voyager of the Seas" (Western Caribbean).
We departed Las Vegas on the red-eye Saturday night May 1st flying into Ft. Lauderdale on America West, which ran into a storm over Alabama and arrived an hour late, causing us to miss our connection on American Airlines to San Juan. Fortunately America West was on the ball and phoned American Airlines while we were in the air, booking us the last couple seats on a slightly later flight. We finallydeparted Ft. Lauderdale at 9:30am and had a smooth flight down to San Juan arriving just before noon. We quickly gathered our bags from the carousel and took a taxi to the pier for $18.50.
There were two very long lines at the pier. First you have to stand in line for ever to hand over your luggage and then you go to the back of an even longer line to wait to enter the terminal. The terminal opened about 12:30 pm just after we dropped off our bags and fortunately the line into the terminal moved pretty fast. Once through security we were able to get into the Crown & Anchor line which was very short. We only had one couple in front of us and we were in or cabin in a matter of minutes.
After dumping our bags I went immediately to the dining room to check out our table and was pleasantly surprised to find we had been assigned the table for two we had requested. We then moved on to the Windjammer for some lunch where we witnessed a passenger being removed on a gurney by the ships medical crew. We never did learn what that was all about. With some food in our stomach and after a sleepless night we returned to the cabin for a three hour nap. We woke at five and prepared for dinner at the early seating which turned out to be at 6:30pm the first night and was at 6pm thereafter.
Let me stop for a minute and say that we always try to fly in the day before for a cruise but we just couldn't make it work with our schedules this trip. NEVER AGAIN will I arrive the day the ship departs. We had very little sleep on the flights and were absolutely exhausted the first two days of our vacation.
First let me give you a quick run down of the important things. We had an inside category N cabin. As much as we'd like to have a balcony, we can afford to take two cruises a year with an inside cabin vs. one cruise a year with a balcony. We got an especially good deal, paying $650.00 ea for the cruise including all port charges and fees and $350 each for airfare, so we were able to do the trip for $2,000, not including tips, excursions and miscellaneous expenses.
The ship was in excellent condition, the staff was incredible, and despite what anyone says the food was very good. We ate every dinner in the Dining Room except the last Monday at Sea when we dined at Portafinos. I went with my waiters recommendations every night and he only let me down once. Every meal was excellent except for the Veal Shank.
Portafinos was spectacular and I highly recommend it. One small complaint though, we ate at Portafinos the next to the last night and the ship was headed into dry dock following our cruise. Just like we had read on the "Cruise Critic" board, renovations were beginning towards the end of our cruise. The carpet in the lobby and on the stairs, just outside of Portafinos was being replaced while we ate, and the very strong smell of contact cement drifted in as we dined. Not the most pleasant smell while you're eating a spectacular meal.
I would say the only low point on the ship was the entertainment. RCI has a reputation for top notch entertainment both with the production shows and the guest headliners. Unfortunately, this time the entertainment was not the cream of the crop. The wardrobe for the production shows was ghastly. Let me say that I work for the Cirque du Soleil show "O" at the Bellagio, so I'm very involved in the entertainment field. Honestly, I'm not being overly critical. Most of the time I love the ship board entertainment and the theaters on the "Voyager" class ships are state of the art. I just feel that the entertainment was not up to par on this sailing. The Ice Show was definitely the strongest.
This was our second ten day cruise and is definitely the only was to go. One week just isn't enough time to unwind.
Now the ports:
Day 2- St. Thomas We docked at 7am, grabbed some breakfast at the Windjammer and were off the ship at 8am. We immediately caught a taxi to Red Hook ($7.00 ea) and took the Ferry across to Cruz Bay in St. John ($3.00 ea) once in Cruz Bay we rented a jeep ($50.00) and headed for Waterlemon Cay to snorkel. We drove until the paved road ends and then onto a dirt road for about a mile. We then parked and hiked about a mile and a half down the beach until we came to a tractor tire on the beach. From here we put on our gear and swam out to a small island. There is minimal snorkeling just off the beach, but the snorkeling around the island is world class. The swim out to the island isn't too bad but there's a strong current against you coming back to the mainland and you have to kick pretty hard. We had snorkeling vests and I wouldn't go out there without wearing one. We made it back to Cruz Bay by 2:00pm and caught the 2:15pm Ferry all the way back to Charlotte Amaile where the ship was docked ($7.00 ea). The Ferry doesn't actually go to the pier but drops you off in town, where we walked back to the ship, which is quite a long walk. There is a "Pueblo" supermarket by the dock where you can stock up on Soda, Beer and Wine.
Day 3- St Maarten The Ship docks on the Dutch side and we took a taxi ($5.00ea) to Orient Beach which is on the French side. Orient Beach is beautiful with pristine white sand. You will see some topless sunbathing on the main part of the beach and the very south end is totally nude. We loved this port and would consider returning here for a vacation.
Day 4- St. Lucia We had originally planned on visiting Sandal's until they doubled the price of a day pass. I went scuba diving by myself with an independent operator and my wife went shopping. The first dive was one of the best I've ever done and I've been to a lot of dive sites all over the world. The second dive was a drift dive called "Superman's Flight" and it really lived up to its name. The current was so strong it was like diving into a tornado. I have to admit that even as an experienced diver I was a little nervous on this dive. I was out from 9am-4:30pm so I never saw much of the island but my wife wasn't too impressed with it.
Day 5- Antigua We did very little here but look around town. The island was very poor and dirty and I wouldn't particularly want to return there again.
Day 6- Barbados This was the only ship excursion we took which was the 5 Star Catamaran trip. You used to be able to book this excursion independently but RCI has an exclusive arrangement with them now. It's only a couple dollars more thru the ship so it really doesn't matter. We heard great things about this excursion and they were all true. We snorkeled in two spots, saw big turtles, had a wonderful hot lunch, unlimited open bar, and spent some time at a private beach. This is a must do in Barbados. The trip lasts 5 hours so we didn't see much of Barbados but it looked like a very nice place.
Day 7- At Sea Ate at Johnny Rocket's for lunch and watched a lot of DVD on the laptop in our cabin. We took a mini surround sound system and this was just great! Spent some time at the pool. Just a good relaxing day at sea.
Day 8- Aruba (in port 7am until 1am the next morning) I booked a horseback riding trip online with a place called Rancho el Campo for $45.00 ea. The owner's wife picked us up at the pier at 8:30am and took us to the ranch. What a wonderful professional bunch at the ranch and what a great set-up. This is another must do excursion if you like to ride. The ranch hands are Columbians, and boy did we ride. This wasn't a boring old trail ride where one horse walks slowly behind the other. We trotted, we ran, we went up and down the mountains, stopped at the "Natural Pools", ran on the white sand beach and trotted all the way back to the ranch. I was sore for two days after, but what a great ride. We returned to ship just after noon, and showered and ate lunch. We walked around town in the early afternoon but it was Sunday and not too much was open. We finally took a city bus to Palm Beach ($1.00 ea) where we swam and hung out at a beach bar. This was the best stop on the cruise and definitely a place we want to return to for a long vacation.
Day 9- Curacao We booked a dive at the Curacao SeAquarium directly online for 11am. The ship offers this same excursion at 9am for $89.00 ea but we booked it directly for $54.00 ea. I am a certified diver and my wife is not, but since you're in only 12 foot of water you can do this dive without being certified. They give you a great briefing and this is a once in a lifetime experience. You get to feed sharks, and swim with the stingrays. The SeaAqaurium is very nice and the staff is wonderful. We caught a taxi back in to town ($5.00ea) and dropped off our gear and showered at the ship. We spent the rest of the day in town where we shopped and had a drink. Curacao is a cool place. It has some slightly scary places if you get too far off the beaten path, but we were never really frightened. I liked it but I'm not sure I'd want to visit there on a solo vacation? I would like to check out the third island of the A-B-C islands, Bonaire as it's supposed to be a diving paradise.
Day 10- At Sea Just a relaxing trip back to San Juan with a wonderful farewell dinner of Lobster.
Weather was great, seas were fairly calm and we couldn't have asked for a nicer vacation. Debarkation was quick and smooth and we were off the ship at 8:30am. Despite what everyone warned us about the San Juan airport we had no complaints. It was air-conditioned and the lines were short. Our flight didn't depart San Juan until 2:50pm so we had a long wait and didn't return to Vegas until 10:30pm. A very long day but well worth the trip.
I'll be happy to answer any questions?
this being my 9th cruise,but 1st with royal carribbean i had high expectations... stayed in san juan night before which is always recommended when cruising... hotel was howard johnsons in isla verde, decent value for $$ cost $110 for 2 and they upgraded us to lg room...embarkation with royal carribbean not too bad...first they shuttle you into a large room with folding chairs where they proceed to make announcments all in spanish with an occasional blurb in english..we immediately noticed that a majority of passengers were from puerto rico as we saw them pulling up in their cars with boxes and bags...we later found out that royal carribbean offers "resident discounts" to the locals to fill the ship....cant sail 1/2 full as many workers depend on passengers for their salaries...
once on board it was obvious that this ship caters to only the peurto ricans as they had a "latin parade" complete with peurto rican flag, "spanish only" shows at night as well as rice with every meal, food was horrible in dining room, very gressy and everything served with what tasted like rice a roni. one highlight was port o finos, thealternate dining where u pay $20 cover charge, but well worth it.the ship is beautiful, and the ports fabulous, also disembarkation was the smoothest i've seen on all my cruises, thank goodness because by that point i wanted off....just very frustrating as many passengers rude, word had it there was a bar fight, and also we had to dael with kids playing on elevators and knocking on doors, etc...i have no problem with a cruise line catering to one nationality, but they need to tell people this before they book... to sum it up i will never travel with royal carribbean again...im cruising on my favorite..celebrity in march and cant wait...
Let me start this review by saying that I just got home from my cruise vacation on Sunday and I am really sad that it is all over. I left on the Adventure of the Seas on May 25, 2003 and booked the cruise a couple of months before that. During my cruise selection, I was reading the reviews and they were very helpful for me in deciding what cruise line to take and what ship to sail. In knowing how happy I was with reading everyone's review, I knew that I would write one as soon as I got back in hope that I can help someone in their decision making process.
We left the house early on Sunday morning to catch a flight from New York's JFK to San Juan, Puerto Rico. We decided to leave on a 9:30am flight arriving at 1:25pm. We arrived with out any problems in San Juan and The Royal Caribbean staff was waiting for passengers like promised at the gate. Once we gathered our luggage, we were escorted to a bus and then driven to the pier. The bus driver was verynice, giving everyone a mini-tour of San Juan, but all we really cared about was getting to the ship. After a 15-20 minute drive, we were there and we were all awestruck. The shear size of this ship is breath taking. I have never seen anything like it on this planet. There were some other ships at the pier, but The Adventure of the Seas dwarfed them.
Once being dropped off at the pier (2:15pm), we encountered a huge line. Lucky for us, the line was for people who had luggage and did not use one of the transfer services. Everyone on my transfer bus just walked by everyone on the outside line and headed into the pier. Inside the pier we were directed to sit down in rows (chairs were provided) and wait for your row to be called up to the check-in area. This is the line where you get your Sea Pass Account/Room key, etc and start to board the ship. Once we finally got called up from our row, the line to check-in was huge. At least a 2-hour wait. However, if you are staying in a suite, R,A,B,C class stateroom, you are able to avoid the line all together and get served immediately. My girlfriend and I did not have a suite, but my parents did, and they let us check-in with them. My advice is, either get your self a suite, or go with someone who is staying in one.
We boarded the ship at 2:30pm and we were in awe of the elegance of the Adventure of the Seas. She is an absolutely beautiful vessel with many attributes to brag about. As soon as we boarded, I decided to follow other people's suggestions in their reviews and book everything I wanted on the ship. First, I went to the Portofino (Italian reservation restaurant) to make two reservations and next I went to the spa. I was informed at both places that you have a 24-hour window to cancel. So, I booked everything knowing that I could cancel my treatments and second dinner at the Portofino if I did not like the first treatment or dinner reservation. As you will read on, that never happened because everything was great.
As we walked through the ship for the first time, we noticed how everything was very clean and well taken care of. The staff on the ship was very helpful with helping us around and more than happy to serve you any beverage you liked, especially the mixed exotic drinks. When we boarded we were given a map, so we were just following it until we went through every lounge on the 12th and 14th decks. By the way, there are 6 lounges/bars between the two decks. It is a must see. While traveling from the 12th to the 13th deck, we encountered our first glimpse of the in-line skating track, basketball court, and rock-climbing wall. It is awesome. I still can not get over a ship having these attractions. Also, don't forget about the ice-skating rink on deck 2, just in case the other activities are not enough.
There is a lot I could write about this trip, but I think it is more important to read about the essentials. I am going to share my personal views on the food (dining room), Portofino, service, spa, cabins, ports, and excursions.
-One of the criticisms that I read before boarding the ship was that the food was not so good. I tend to agree with that. The ship is serving over 12,000 meals a day and a buffet, so I got what I expected with the food. I would recommend eating in the main dining room for the two formal nights. On those nights (Monday and Thursday), the food was rather good (for the ship) because they had prime rib on Monday and lobster tails on Thursday. These nights I ordered 2-3 servings.
-Another option for food is a reservation restaurant called Portofino. This is where the best food is on the ship. Naturally there is a fee of $20, but it is well worth it. The ambiance is romantic while live music is being played. The service and presentation compares with Manhattan dining. We ate here on Tuesday and Friday.
-For the people that like the great tasting burger, onion rings, and fries, try Johnny Rockets. This is a fun place that is open to 1:00am every night and is a lot of fun. Try their milk shakes or malts for an additional $3.50.
-The service on this ship was fantastic. I do not have one complaint about anything in this area. My head waiter, Okhan was awesome, while my room steward Kathleen was amazing as well. I wish they could see this review, because they deserve the very best. I am sure my gratuity was a great thank you. Also, all the bartenders, servers, assistant waiters, and crew were excellent.
-Like I stated earlier, the spa treatments were great. I am used to treating myself to spa treatments at home, but it is a different feeling doing it on a ship. The treatment that my girlfriend and I enjoyed was a massage. We both found it to be very relaxing. My father treated himself to two massages and a facial and loved it all. Too bad we all can't afford his lifestyle. I highly recommend the spa. Massages cost $109 and facials cost the same (not including tip). They are 55 minute treatments.
-The cabins on the ship were very nice and I would know this because every morning and evening the room stewards cleaned the rooms and left the doors open. Knowing I was going to write this review, I checked out all the cabins except the Royal suite (could not get in there). The inside cabins were a little cramped but still provided enough room for two people. Also, these ships have an inside cabin that has an atrium view. These cabins view the promenade. Very cool, but still a little cramped. The outside cabins were a little larger, but still looked a little tight. Then there were two different types of balcony staterooms. There is the deluxe and superior cabin. The deluxe is 15 square feet smaller than the superior and looked a little tight around the bed, but definitely suitable for two. The cabin I had was the superior, and I really enjoyed the cabin. It was big enough for two and the balcony was fantastic. Then, there are the suites. There are 4 categories of suites. They all looked as if there was plenty of room to walk around and relax in. And most importantly, bigger balconies. My favorite of the cabins was the A suite (owner's suite), but they cost a pretty penny. If money is not a concern, this is the way to go.
-As you have read, we hit five ports of call. At these ports, I went on three excursions. We went to St. Thomas, St. Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados.
+In St. Thomas, we shopped all morning at Charlotte Amalie and at around 12:00 we went to Magen's Bay. Magen's Bay was rated one of the top 10 beaches in the world and it is a must see. We hung out there for hours and had an unbelievable time. For the people that are interested in the bar seen and have seen the movie Cocktail, with Tom Cruise, that is the atmosphere. Bartenders are throwing drinks, bottles, fruits, and tips everywhere and never seem to miss the glass.
+St. Martin is where I made the big purchase for my girlfriend. We shopped until we found a great little store and picked up a diamond bracelet and earrings at a great price. Check out Ray's Jewelry. Great bargains. After that, we had lunch at this very good restaurant called La Escargot. Give it a try.
+Antigua is where we did our first excursion. We swam with the dolphins and it was fantastic. It is an experience that we will never forget. Unlike some reviews that I have read, we actually got to swim with the mammals for 30 minutes. After the dolphins, we saw very cool birds, turtles, and my favorite, the stingrays. In the stingray water, we were able to feed and play with them. This was a great excursion. However, Antigua as a whole is a very depressed area. This is one of the poorest islands I have seen.
+St. Lucia is where I went deep-sea fishing with my father. To our surprise, the boats that they used were excellent. The captain of the boat took us out for four hours and sort of gave us a tour of the island from the water. The boat had six passengers on it, a fighting chair and two crewmembers. We had good room because we were on a 32 footer. The overall experience was something I will always remember. Too bad we did not catch anything.
+Barbados was my favorite. My girlfriend and I went on the Five Star Catamaran and Sea Turtle Encounter and had a blast. This excursion was awesome. You start off by walking on the catamaran and getting handed champagne, mimosas, or juice. They take you out to a beautiful area to snorkel with the huge sea turtles and upon your return to the catamaran, they have a great lunch prepared for you. They made us chicken, fried fish, cole-slaw, potato salad, and salad. And of course, the open bar. At this point they took us to a beach area and we had a blast. We rented a jet ski and laid out for a bit. This excursion was for five hours and was amazing. This is a must do!
Sadly, all trips must end and it seems like vacations always go by very quickly. So, the good news is that the debarkation was done very smoothly and we all got off the ship by 9:30am. It happened to work out great because our return flight was at 2:45pm and it gave us ample time to get to the airport and have lunch. We boarded the plane at 2:15pm and made our way home to New York a little before 6:00pm.
In many of the reviews that I read people were complaining about the natives of San Juan overwhelming the ship. There happens to be a lot of Spanish people on the ship, but it did not seem to bother me at all. However, it is strange having a lot of people speaking a different language around you all the time.
I am going to conclude my review by saying that this is quite a ship to sail on. We had an unbelievable time and if you are thinking about cruising, this ship is a must. Enjoy, and safe sailing!
If you are a food person, you definitely do not want to miss the midnight buffet. It was fantastic.
And if this was not enough, you could always play a little golf!BON VOYAGE, AND SAFE SAILING!
Since I enjoy readings everyone else's reviews I felt I had to give you mine.
Embarkation We sailed on the Sunday, May 25th, sailing of the Adventure of the Seas out of San Juan. We booked our own airfare from New York to San Juan. The price we would have paid for one person through the cruise line we paid for two people on a direct nonstop flight. Getting into San Juan at 11 am we collected our bags and took a $16 cab ride to the Pan American pier. Embarkation wasn't too bad. (If you want liquor to take home, the pier was the place to buy it.) After giving our bags to the porters we were directed to sit in an air conditioned room. At about noon they started checking people in by row. Since we had filled out all of our paperwork via the internet we were directed to a speedier check in line. By 1 pm we had checked out our room and were roaming the ship. Unfortunately since the ship is at the Pan American pier, and not the pier by Old San Juan, wewould have had to taken a taxi to visit any of San Juan. But we were content to just check out the ship. A pleasant surprise when we checked in was that we were upgraded from a Cat. DB to D9, up three decks. Unfortunately our luggage had the old room number on it so it took some phone calls to get our bags.
5 Ports in 5 Days Our first day (Monday) we docked at St. Thomas, a shopping paradise. Through the cruise line we booked a tour of Coral World and the Island. Coral World is an OK aquarium, you could keep yourself busy for the hour and a half you stopped there. Overall the tour was approx. 3 hrs and then they dropped you off in town if you wanted. We shopped for several hours and then headed back to the ship.
The next day (Tuesday) was St. Maarten. Again we took a cruise line tour of the Island. We stopped in Marigot for 45 minutes, waste of time. Again the bus drops you off in town if you want. We shopped Front St. for several hours and then headed back to the ship via the water taxi.
Wednesday was Antigua. We didn't book any tour and just went into town for a while to shop.
Thursday was St. Lucia. We booked an Island tour through mytravel.com (Best of the Caribbean). It ended up to be the same tour as passengers of the ship booked but $8 less per person. The tour guide Samantha was the best. She talked the whole time telling us about the Island, the schools, holidays, and history. She even taught us some Creole words. The Island and beaches are beautiful.
Friday was Barbados. (Which I thought was the most beautiful Island.) Again we booked a tour through mytravel.com. This one wasn't as good as the one on St. Lucia. 10 of us were cramped into a 10 passenger van. The driver barely spoke and if you wanted to learn anything you had to ask a question. One stop was Harrison's Caves for a 30 minute electric vehicle tour. If you've been to any of the caverns in the US like Howe Caverns in NY or Luray Caverns in VA don't waste your time on this tour. Another stop was a plantation. It must have been the first day for the tour guide because we constantly had to ask her to speak up and then she would start speaking before everyone got into the room. I don't recommend this tour. And again we ended our day doing a little shopping before heading to the ship.
The Ship The ship is beautiful and big. We particularly liked the promenade. It felt just like a street with shops and restaurants. The only shopping we did was for some souvenirs with the Royal Caribbean logo. Our room was nice. We booked a balcony, because once you do you never go without. I particularly liked the layout of the bathroom, nice shower. Every night I would sit out on the balcony and read, now that's relaxing. We lost our money in the casino. I found the slot machines very tight and would gamble on the islands to win some money to make up for my losses on ship. Also the casino was very cramped, narrow aisles between the slot machines and between the tables.
Art Auction My husband got hooked on the art auction. We collect animation art (cartoons) and they had a nice selection. Unlike other art auctions on ships that we've been on the prices were reasonable and hardly anything went more than the asking price. Where else can you get free champagne every night.
The Food Food was OK (you'll never go hungry), but I expected better. I liked Carnival's food better. Lunch choices in the Windjammer (buffet) were pretty much the same every day. The pizza was horrible. And the frozen yogurt tasted like ice milk. Dinner was OK but there was a night that nothing appealed to us (usually when we cruise there's several items I want to try). There was only one midnight buffet, which I didn't see, because the lines were too long. So in other words, the food didn't impress me. The time to drink was during 5 pm through 8:30 pm when in certain bars particular drinks were reduced. My favorite was daiquiris in the Lobby Bar.
The Service Service was good throughout the ship. Everyone said hello and had a smile on their face. Our dining room waiter was very accommodating if we wanted to try something else. (One thing about seconds in the dining room. If you wanted to try something else they brought out a whole dinner for the one item. So when I wanted an extra lobster tail they brought out another whole dinner. What a waste. It's hard to imagine that they wouldn't have extras of the items people would ask for.)
The Shows The staff shows were OK. I've seen better on Carnival cruise lines and Las Vegas. Sometimes when they rearranged the music of some songs for their show they ruined the song. The shows that were very good were Beatlemania and the ice show. One afternoon we took in the matinee movie in the conference center. Nice room, comfy chairs, big screen, but really poor quality movie tape. You would think they would use DVDs.
Disembarkation You had to be out of your room by 8 am and into one of the public areas. Since our flight was at noon we were off the ship by 9 am, picked up our bags, through customs, and in a cab back to the airport by 9:15.
Overall We had a good time and had plenty to do. But the food and entertainment didn't knock our socks off. Another thing I would not recommend buying is the passport to savings book for $20 (hawked by the shopping experts on the cruise line). It's touted to save you lots of money. Other than the free canvas bag we got it wasn't worth the money. Either the stores didn't have the free gemstones with the coupon or they looked to be worthless. So unless you could use $50 coupon off a $500 purchase save your $20. At this point we're experiencing different cruise lines to find one we really like. So we'll keep looking.