Boarding- we made our own arrangements to fly to San Juan and stayed overnight in the Embassy Suites and Casino. Cheap and cheerful is how I would describe it. However by making our own arrangements we saved £400 per person against RCIs price. We took a taxi to the port and arrived about 11.15. We checked in and at 11.30 they started boarding. Boy was this slow. The process of taking a photo as you get onboard for your seapass was soooo slow. Why cant they do this at check in?
Room- we had a Superior Balcony Cabin on deck 9 Aft. A good location for the Centrum lifts, Main Dining Roon, Windjammer etc. The cabin was spotless. OK the decor was a little dated but it was well cared for. Our cabin steward was lovely and inobtrusive. The TV channel choice was good although the pay per view movies are very expensive. We had no noise or vibration issues in 9646.
We ate in the Main Dining Roon on 12 nights out of 14 using Mytime dining. This worked reasonably well. Initially our party of 4 were put on a table for six which we had to ourselves. The next two nights on a table for 8 for ourselves. We didnt like that set up so the next day when calling to reserve a table I asked specifically for a table for 4. The lady said they were all booked up and we needed to eat at different times to get one with our allocated waiter. I then asked does he have tables for 4 and she said no, not on his section, so we asked to move. This was a shame. We liked our waiters but why put a party of four on his section when he doesnt physically have tables for four?
After that things worked fine. We got a table for four on another section and had good service. However on the last night despite booking for 7.30 we were not seated till 8.20. This was very poor and as a result we missed the late show. Clearly they had not planned their reservations properly that evening.
As for the food, this ranged from terrible to good. There were some truly awful dishes. One chocolate tarte became a wet, bland concoction. A coq au vin was a grisly flavorless mess and the always available steak is like a cut from a joint of roast beef and even when prepared medium rare was dry and had the texture of sawdust. Fish choices were generally overcooked however one of us had salmon for a few nights which was great however on one night arrived raw in the centre. It was rejected and the same piece came back, microwaved. This was wet and smelled awful and was again rejected. The Head Waiter came, took a sniff and also agreed it was awful. Anything on the Entrees consisting of beef or lamb were very good. One of our party was vegetarian and the options were ok, but always so small. Why should a vegetarian be short changed? The vegetarian sweet and sour chicken had just two small pieces of faux chicken.
The vegetables served with the Entrees were repetitive and bland. Always mash potato , carrot and brocolli. For the first week the carrots and brocolli were rock hard and inedible however after a week each room had a feedback form in it and we, and presumably others, mentioned the veg. After that it came nicely cooked apart from wet and soggy asparagus. It would be nice if veg accompliments had some flair, and taste. One night potato dauphinoise appeared but this was also raw and inedible. What about some roast potatoes or boiled potatoes or some flavour to the veg? Service was great though.
Windjammer breakfast was spot on. Huge choice, sometimes a little cold, and great service. Lunch was good but in the heat of the caribbean we felt there were a few too many hot, heavy dishes. The burgers though are excellent.
We went to lunch in the main dining room twice and loved the salads they make to order. We had breakfast once in the MDR and were unimpressed as they got the order wrong and our eggs benedict was stone cold on arrival.
We went to Portofinos one night. Food and service were excellent. The setting was bland and boring and less desirable than the main dining room and felt like a canteen.
The cruise director was Clo O'Connor or HelloClo as she is known. Cannot fault her. Superb. Totally natural, funny and pleasant. The theatre shows were very variable. Best were the East Coast Boys with their Jersey Boys set. The Headliner shows were poor. The Dance show was 90% latin and to us unprofessional. The ice show was superb as was the quest, hosted by HelloClo.
AJs band on deck 4 each evening were excellent but the piano player in the Schooner Bar was terrible and ruined everything he touched, strangled even. The daily program of events was full and varied.
We had the free Premium Drinks package which was excellent. A great choice of beer, spirits and cocktails. House wines are included but only one of each red, white, blush and sparkling. The white, a chardonney, was truly awful. As we drink white wine only with dinner this proved far too heavy to accompany any food. We complained, as many apparently did, but as they have bought the wine in bulk they are not going to change this anytime soon. We cant understand that you can have any beer, spirit or cocktail but just one choice of white wine. If you are a white wine drinker and dont like heavy chardonneys then the drinks package might not be for you.
The ship was excellent. Its 11 years old and heading for a refurb next year but it was spotless and well maintained. The staff were lovely and all very friendly. We've previously been on Independance, and Adventure is pretty similar but a bit smaller in all respects. All cabins were full but with only a few kids onboard, light of the maximum capacity so never felt overcrowded.
We did 4 caribbean islands plus the azores. We had a great crossing, calm with great weather.
Disembarkation at Southampton was smooth but very early! Self disembarkation was 6.15 to 7.00 and all had to be off by 9.30. This seems really early and doesnt make for a relaxing end to the cruise.
Overall, we enjoyed it. The cruise experience was smooth and polished, the food could be better and had worsened since our experience on RCI a few years back, the entertainment was not great, the ship is lovely so are the staff, and finally the house white wine is TERRIBLE! RCI, listen to this, sort out your wine!
We would sail again on Adventure, but skip the shows and eat more dinners in windjammer rather than the MDR..