I was on board the first of Adventures two back-to-back Mini Cruises - this one over the May Bank Holiday.
Having cruised with the likes of P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen, Cruise & Maritime, Cunard and Carnival, I had come to realise that it was the big, fun and all happening adventure style cruise lines that floated my boat and so I had been eager for a while to get on board one of Royal Caribbeans ships.
This is my first review, I enjoyed myself so much on board, I wanted to share my experience...
Having only 2 days on board, I was keen to get on board as early as possible and make the most of the time, so a 6am start from Liverpool was in order. There was a lack of pre-travel information, so after research I found an 11am check-in time, but the car parking opened a half hour earlier. Arriving bang on 10:30am, it was clear a lot of other people had the same idea and there was a lengthy queue to drop off bags, but I was thankful that check-in was obviously opened earlier than expected. After around 20 minutes queuing to drop off the bags, parking up, it was check-in time... queues here even bigger but due to maximum check in staff working, it took less than 10 minutes and check-in was complete.
Thankfully it was straight on board ship, rather than waiting in a holding area and although there was no over excited and grand welcome you get on board other lines (something I'm never overly keen on anyway), the WOW moment of a first time on board Royal Caribbean soon greets you as you walk through to the Royal Promenade, something I'd been really excited at experiencing. Although it's ever so slightly lack-luster during the day, you get a good feeling of what is to come there come evening time.
Access to staterooms wasn't available until 2pm when first boarded, although a later announcement declared them ready a half hour early which was welcomed. It was certainly not the largest stateroom / cabin I had been in, probably the smallest but it was more than adequate with 2 sofas. Bed preference hadn't adhered to but this was quickly resolved with the cabin steward who to be honest I didn't see a great deal of during the 3 days on board, but as usual, the cabin was always in immaculate condition. I was in an Inside Promenade Stateroom and prior to sailing, now usually I'm a balcony kind of guy but an inside was booked on this occasion as the cruise was originally not calling at any ports so I wasn't too fussed about being able to look at water, plus the money saved more than covered prepaying gratuities, purchasing a soda package and buying the first round in! When stateroom details were confirmed, I was slightly baffled by what a Promenade Stateroom was but was more than delighted when I discovered that it gives you a great view of the Royal Promenade. I then read much mixed feeling about these, for me, all the bars had stopped serving by the time I was heading for sleep, so we had no problem with noise or privacy. I would certainly consider one again, although depending on destination I would most likely choose a balcony but if an Inside is what your budget stretches too, I would recommend it as it does make you feel a bit more part of the action and not so closed in. What I would say, if your going to go for one, don't sit in the window and watch the entertainment on the Royal Promenade... get yourself down and be part of it!
PORT OF CALL
As I mentioned earlier, this was originally a cruise that went no where, setting sail from Southampton and returning after a day at sea, but around a week before setting sail Cherbourg was added to the itinerary without explanation. At check-in a memo explained that this was due to EU regulations and without calling at a port during the cruise, the ship would not have been able to open the spa or casino. It was a welcome addition in my opinion, the weather was glorious and although none of the shore excursions were to my taste, a short walk from the port led straight into the centre where there were lots of shops, eateries and even an Irish pub. Many passengers appeared oblivious to the fact we were calling in at Cherbough, even the Cruise Director joked later that evening that some people thought we had just dropped anchor off the coast of Portsmouth for a day at sea.
First stop after emergency drill was the Rock Climbing Wall - a tick box item that I'd been looking forward to trying - I hadn't imagined it to be freighting at all, but as you raise higher above the sea, you certainly feel the fear, more so as the wall bolsters outwards rather than being a straight run up. I have to say I was extremely surprised at how little this 'top feature' of the ship was open to use - just for a couple of hours on day 1 and not at all on day 2, obviously that varies on longer cruises but if you want to try it, I'd do so at your first opportunity. Elsewhere on the ship, the entertainment team hosted numerous quizzes, game shows and karaoke - slightly disappointed that children were allowed to participate in what was advertised as 'adult karaoke' especially as one child threw a tantrum after missing his queue to start singing! The game shows were great fun, probably more so down to the people taking part and the whispers about them. Adventure also has a small intimate cinema room which sits around 50 people, as a non-sun loving kinda guy and one who doesn't like to suffer the sight of half naked over weight people, it was a nice retreat on day 2 of the cruise when much of the deck was full of sun bathers - it would be nice to see it converted to widescreen as opposed to a 4:3 projector.
Ok... not a lot I can say here! By no means in a negative sense, but I probably didn't even sample a quarter of the dining options available. Windjammer is the buffet style restaurant, not being an early eater, I had breakfast here on day 2 at around 10:30am, there was no queues that maybe you'll experience earlier in the morning and no issues finding a table. A really nice selection on offer, easily the tastiest breakfast I've had on any cruise ship. Cafe Promenade is open 24/7 with the most delicious fresh pizza available when I was needing dinner and when peckish on that wobbly walk back to the stateroom late at night. For evening meals, the first night I tried Johnny Rockets, again yet another element of this ship I had been looking forward to and I wasn't disappointed, so much so it was the dining venue for night 2! It wasn't what I expected at all... it was much more, a real 50's American dinner style design with all the detail. You can either sit in a booth or at the kitchen bar - it's not a very large dining venue but I think that adds to the charm and atmosphere. I had heard of queues during lunchtime on the second day, but at evening time, it was never over subscribed. There is a $4.99 cover charge but bear in mind that it is all you can eat so you can literally order more sides or main dishes if you so desire. Reality is, the burgers are so meaty and delicious, one is a struggle let alone more - defiantly a dinning venue on par with Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival ships.
Probably the only area that for me was lacking was the theatre productions... on night 1 the show team opened with a number before the stage was handed over to 'Beastro' - a magician turned nightmarish restaurant waiter character. I'd had the displeasure of watching him perform at a cruise agent showcase last year, so I could almost predict every next move, it just wasn't suited for a headline spot in the ships theatre, it was too low key and not enough substance - I wasn't surprised to see people walking out half way through. On night 2 the show team performed one of their full production shows which was a mix of singing and dancing, for me it was a little too wishy washy and I think Royal Caribbean could have done better to showcase their entertainment offering - was amazed to see that Bobby Davro was lined up to perform on the following 2 night mini cruise, a far cry from 'Beastro'! What really changed the game was Cruise Director Clo O'Connor whose 10 minute closing of each show was more entertaining than the show itself, would loved to had seen more of here stand up comedy... on both nights she directed the audience out onto the Royal Promenade and WOW the party really started as Clo and her team appeared on the walkway half way down and above the Royal Promenade where they sang and danced to classic hits that everyone could get involved by singing and throwing a few shapes too... granted, it sounds like nothing special, but the atmosphere and vibe on the Royal Promenade is just immense and has to be sampled.
I think the fact I don't have a lot to say about service, would make me believe that I was more than satisfied, I'm never one of those passengers that spends half the cruise queuing either at the pursers desk or waiting for the maÃ®tre d'. The only slight negative comment I could make is in terms of bar service - bars for instance on the Royal Promenade have no table service and people who have cruised with other lines may not realise this at first. Also, some bars seemed quite under staffed, for instance the Sports Bar with only one bar man at times so wait time for a drink could be a little longer than desired.
I was surprised, and relieved that Royal Caribbean don't ask you to vacate your stateroom by a said early time, instead they just wanted everyone disembarked by 9am. Carry off my own bags as usual, it was one of the quickest stateroom to port side experiences ever, no queues and barely the sight of any other passengers at around 7:30am.
In closing, this was a 2 night sampler cruise over a Bank Holiday weekend, as another review has stated, the ship was carrying a fair few stag and hen parties, but in their defense I witnessed no trouble or rowdy behavior. I'd agree that it probably wouldn't have shown first time cruisers to Royal Caribbean, a totally true picture of the ship or line but those who say they wouldn't cruise again with Royal Caribbean based on this cruise probably we're never suited to the line in the first place - to me it never felt over crammed or as full as the ship really was.
I've certainly been captured by Royal Caribbean - in a dream world I'd love to fuse elements of both Royal Caribbean and Carnival together, the lack of a water park and adult only deck space was what I'd love to see Royal Caribbean incorporate. I'd add outdoor movies to that list, but Adventure is set to receive this in it's refit next year. I'd love to now take a full cruise on either Adventure (I would disagree with anyone who says she is looking her age) or even better, on a Freedom or Oasis class ship.