This was our 3rd cruise with RCCL. Checking in in Malaga was a dream. We left the hotel around 10:15 thinking that there would be a line up of cars and taxis a mile long at the port like it was always the case in the past. Our taxi did not even have to slow down. We were promptly taken care of and we were having a soup (how good after 5 days of tapas)in the Windjammer by 11:00.
It was our first transatlantic cruise and we enjoyed the trip even if so much blue seas gets to you after a while. In 6 days, we saw nothing but water. No other ships, not a light at night. I must admit that I was thinking of the 70 days crossing of Columbus and had a better understanding of how his men must have felt.
What attracted us on this trip was primarily the exotic destinations. Madeira. Wow ! Here is a beautiful piece of rock with houses going up to the clouds. Then Lanzarote and it's lunar landscape, and I mean literally lunar. No wonder Hollywood comes here to film the moon. Then the Canteras beach at Las Palmas of Grand Canaria. We were lucky enough to see a magnificent sculpture in the sand. Some people have real talents. And finishing the grand tour, Santa Cruz of Tenerife, with it's small but charming public market.
Captain Holmes then took us out to sea for 6 days. The first 3 days, we were going at a fair pace of 18-20 knots. Once the captain felt secure about his arrival time in Antigua, our speed slowed down considerably and we had the impression of crawling rather than moving. Thank god there was plenty to do on the ship. We lost a bit at the casino, played mini golf, did our daily walking around, went to shows. The same films for 15 days on tv becomes awfully repetitive but it is a good way to practice Spanish, french or German. The reception of the news is very spotty and so is the Internet.
Drew Devine was our crew director. I'm not a rah rah rah kind of guy so he got on my nerves right away and I hated him but everybody else liked him so he must have been pretty good. They had some fairly good performers and they seemed to get even better after looking at the blue sea for 6 days in a row.
The staff was the usual quasi-perfection. The room attendant was efficient and nice and tried not to be in the way. The waiters of the dining room were their usual charming selves but I went there only one night. I had a miserably small portion of minestrone, 4 open face grilled shrimps that had lost all moisture and a decent if not excellent tiramisu. It took one hour and 15 minutes to get served which is by far the fastest dining room service I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Decorum is not my thing as I would rather eat than go there. There are a lot more food options in the Windjammer with a better choice of desserts, and if you show up early, the quality is definitely better.
Last year, I cruised on the twin ship Explorer out of New York. For the same ship, the Adventure was a lot better. The seating in the Windjammer for one is comfortable. The armchairs can fit and average person. There is space in between the tables. All this because the Adventure has 2 less food islands in the Island Grill.
The waiters appeared calmer, more relaxed, less tense. I guess the crowd from Malaga was also very different than the one on our New York cruise and that may have helped. They also appeared to have less waiters roaming asking people for drinks. Sometimes, we had to get up and go to the bars ourselves but I like this alternative better than being constantly asked if I want another one.
The Adventure was in a good and safe shape, certainly in better shape than the Explorer but I must admit they were more small things not to par, like elevator buttons not working, mini bars not cooling and burned lights in rooms than any other ship I have been on. The interactive tv was not working at all for the first few days and only sporadically afterwards. Maybe I had simply more time to notice after 6 days at sea.
After the crossing was Antigua, my second visit. There seemed to have less dogs dying of hunger in town and I finally found the VC Bird monument, unlike anything I have ever seen. We then spent a day in St Marteen, Marigot this time as we had visited Philipsburg last year. Marigot is nice and we finally found a jewelry that is not totally cheap or outrageously expensive. The name is Mayas, right in the main square.
Finally, St Thomas where we had to go through the infernal US immigration process. From what we had read, we expected a nightmare. It took a while but was less painful than expected. We were out of the ship by 10:15 and were almost the last ones in line. Then a quick trip to Charlotte Amalie and my cherished Amalia Cafe to finally end the trip in San Juan. RCCL did a great job emptying the ship and US customs were about at par. We were out of there around 10:30, not bad given the crowd.
What an experience for the price. If you want bang for your buck, go for a transat.
That was really a nice one all around.