Having spent hours scouring Cruise Critic for tips & hints prior to our first cruise, heres our post cruise contribution no apologies for the length as Ive tried to cover everything Id want to know as a cruise newbie!
The whole process was quick, painless & well-rehearsed. Arrived at ABP at 1030 hrs and were directed where to park. Our suitcases were loaded into a van right by the car and we then walked the short distance to the terminal. Here we checked in and were given our sea passes, through passport control, hand luggage x-rayed and then onto the ship all very slick and so much easier than flying! (We took too much hand luggage you really dont need to!) By 11.30 hrs we were in the Windjammer on Deck 11 having lunch, first drink in hand! We then took the opportunity to look round the ship and get our bearings before the announcement at 13.45 hrs that all rooms were ready 15 mins ahead of schedule. Our suitcases arrived at 16.25 hrs which we were really impressed with.
Mandatory muster drill was at 15.45 hrs the bar staff on deck were encouraging people to proceed to designated stations well ahead of the alarm, so it didnt feel very realistic to us. I guess the main point was ensuring people knew where they had to go just in case. Once there, our names were checked off and the crew demonstrated how to put on a life jacket. All quite painless, but of course there were some stragglers we had to wait for before being dismissed. Sail away was at 16.45 hrs amidst a sounding of horns with P&Os Arcadia!
Adventure of the Seas
What a fabulous ship! We can quite understand why some people fall in love with her and come back time after time. She was the perfect size big enough to have plenty of amenities but compact enough to get round easily. She was spotlessly clean and kept in very good condition wear`n tear was certainly not an issue to us. When she goes into dry dock next year for 10 days theyre spending $50million on refurb! (Captains Corner talk was very interesting!)
We had 2 inside cabins (children 18 & 15) on Deck 9 which were surprisingly spacious. Loads of cupboard space and no need for over-the-door pocket toiletry holders! Magnets were a good idea we wrote out meal & excursions times and stuck them to the wall for the kids so they always knew when to be ready.
Downside was not having any indication of daylight yes a TV channel had a camera of the front of the ship, but it alternated with a map of the cruise, so not really an option to have that on all night.
Turn down service was good each evening and it was great to have a fresh ice bucket twice daily. There were 2 days where they offered a bag of laundry for $25 we didnt use this, but would consider in future and take less clothes! The attendants were great especially Philip who waited until 12.30 pm each day to clean our childrens room giving our son to recover from the long nights! Towel animals are done every other night.
We signed them out on Day 1, then swapped them at the end of each day easier than swiping in and out all the time and turned them in on the last day.
Breakfast We tried the MDR once for a la carte and once for express buffet (on sea days) but we preferred the Windjammer and always headed to the back of the ship where it was less busy and had a good view. If youre on the drinks package, start the day with a Mimosa or Bellini! Look out for the Chocolate Breakfast check the MDR menus before going to bed!
Lunch Windjammer had excellent choice and we never failed to get a table. Taking food out (eg to pool decks or rooms) was never an issue. On sea days there were sometimes BBQs by the main pool, or food on the Promenade deck although not well advertised in advance.
Dinner - We booked My Time Dining on the advice of our Travel Agent. On hindsight, fixed late dining would have suited us better. We booked the Main Dining Room for the whole holiday on the first day and they tried to put us with the same wait staff each night. Timings were generally geared to the two main seatings the latest we could get was 18.15 or 20.15 but they would hold the table for 45 mins from the earliest slot eg 17.45 until 18.30 hrs. Our waiters Rayland & Stacian were superb as was our drinks waiter Rony we ll never forget them! Rony brought us a different Shooter of the day each night and also made the Oreo Cookie Milkshake for our daughter both things we d seen on this forum but were not advertised on board. Ask and they will oblige!
Tip - pre book a MTD time for the first night it was exceptionally busy and all the late slots in the MDR had gone so enjoying sail away was cut short.
24 hrs- Caf Promenade is the place for tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and pizza, sandwiches, cakes & cookies. Ham & cheese croissants became a late night staple! We visited here prior to each trip to fill our water bottles (use glasses to fill as not allowed to fill straight from machine).
Loved the different ambiance of them all Duck & Dog British Pub, Sophistication of Champagne Bar, Jesters Nightclub (best place to get served promptly at 22.00 hrs!), Sports Bar, Blue Moon lounge, Crows Nest, Imperial Lounge, Pool Bars, Schooner bars nautical theme, casino bar truly something for everyone!
After much deliberation we took the plunge and booked the Ultimate Package. Did we get our monies worth? Yes! Did it encourage us to drink more than we might have done? Yes! Did it encourage us to try new things? Yes! Would we do it again? Maybe! We have a philosophy of work hard, play hard but this isnt good for our health!!
Average day for me was as follows: Bellini with breakfast, mid morning Cocktail of day, wine at lunch, mid afternoon drink, pre-dinner drink, 2 x wine with dinner, shooter , couple of nightcaps. With drinks averaging $8 (advertised prices included gratuities), its easy to get your moneys worth at this level and with steady drinking we were never drunk or hungover! Hubby got additional use out of his package too
We never experienced poor service due to having the package we get the impression it was very common on this trip. Without the package, there are opportunities for free drinks eg Captains cocktail party & Art Auctions!
This was only really worth the money it if you havent booked the drinks package as the wine & champagne was flowing! We expected more Agatha Christie but this was quite slap stick. Good night but wouldnt do it again.
Meet n Mingle
Unfortunately there was a mix up and not everyone got invitations for Day 2. They put on another one on Day 5 but as a result we didnt get to meet everyone sadly. Non alcoholic drink on arrival, canaps and a raffle nice touch by RCI.
The biggest asset! They were all so friendly, happy and eager to please! We gave additional cash gratuities to some and they looked genuinely shocked! There was no hint of expectation at all. It was really nice that they called us by name too!
We were disappointed with the production shows wed expected west end type shows, not ships own offerings. Abba tribute band was good, as were the comedians, but its a shame there were only 2 of these, and both in the first few days. Love and Marriage and the Quest were both entertaining. (Billed as recommended for adults but too many youngsters in there).
Ice show was good but not quite as good as our expectations!
We were concerned about activities (or lack of) for our 18 year old son. The first couple of nights they did organised Meet `n Mingle sessions for this age group in Jesters nightclub. After that they met up and did their own thing we hardly saw him all holiday!
Our daughter went to Optrix teen club on the first night and made some good friends again we hardly saw her! We liked the 1am curfew, but they found ways round it by going to each others rooms! We never had any concerns about where she was or who she was with they all seemed sensible teens and it was a safe and secure environment - the security staff were prominent and really nice. We took cheap PAYG phones for them to text us to keep in touch signal was a bit hit and miss though. Leaving post it notes for each other worked the best.
We didnt bother whilst on board as it was very expensive. 1.99 per day with O2 when ashore was plenty for us to check emails, use the internet etc.
We opted for RCIs own trips for the most part which were very well organised turn up at Lyric Theatre, collect a sticker and take a seat until your tour is called.
Gibraltar Walking Tour good trip with prebooked cable car tickets, top of the rock, apes, St Michaels cave & siege tunnels. We opted to stay in Gib for shopping and make our own way back to the ship which was very easy.
Cannes booking a tour for this stop was worthwhile due to the tendering process we were off the ship at 08.15 whereas others we spoke to without prebooked trips had to wait until the afternoon. Tour itself was a bit of a route march in the heat and not as good as Gib.
Rome on your own Train 45 min air conditioned ride to Rome was a good choice. We got the metro to the Colosseum but opted not to go in (long queues even by the Forum, too hot and time pressured), did the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Castle St Angelo and then had prebooked Vatican tickets for 13.00 hrs. Exit the Vatican at the right hand door from the Sistine Chapel (group exit!) and you can get straight into St Peters without queuing separately.
Pisa great trip with tower tickets included. Would have liked to have spent longer there though!
Genoa did our own thing. Easy to walk off ship and there is a city bus tour.
Malaga tapas tour the best trip we did but probably due to the food and wine!!
Lisbon city tour a lot of `on the bus, off the bus but we did see quite a bit. With hindsight the city bus would probably have been just as good and cheaper.
The 3 formal nights were great especially the first one with free champagne at the Captains cocktail party on the promenade! Also a chance for a photo with the Captain. It was great to see so many people dressed up and really didnt matter that half the ship was in shorts and t-shirts! It really is a case of each to their own and you fit in no matter what you wear! Disappointment for us was only one smart casual night and even then the Cruise Compass published it incorrectly as casual! Smart jeans and a top is fine in the MDR on casual nights.
We pre-purchased on line and it was worth every penny as we came away with 120 photos and a CD individual photos were $20 to buy! Photographers were friendly and never pushy. View your photos every day or two and they store them for you behind the counter ready for collection on the last night. We never had to prove we had the package again, all well organised.
Spending Limit for Kids
We asked Guest Relations to place a limit on our childrens Sea Passes i.e. we authorised a set limit for the first week, then increased it for the second week. This worked really well and we could also view all their transactions on our TV screen! No problem with our 18 year old drinking alcohol as sailing out of the UK.
On sea days these were at a premium and generally were taken by 09.30. We did see staff put stickers on chairs to monitor the 30 minute rule. The sides of Deck 4 and the Helipad were favourites for some quiet space! Peek-a-Boo bridge on Deck 4 is also worth a look.
Behind Scenes Tour
This was available for 15 people only on the final sea day at a cost of $150!! Would have loved to have done this but how can RCI justify this cost?!! Weve done similar tours for free on previous holidays. Overheard someone talking about it and it did sound really good.
We opted not to put our cases out at 23.00 hrs the night before. Carrying them off ourselves was no hassle and meant we could have a leisurely breakfast and leave when we wanted instead of meeting at a set location at a set time. Im sure that would have worked equally well given RCIs general organisation. One side effect following disembarkation for the first 24 hrs we suffered from a swaying motion very weird and difficult to concentrate on anything!
Hopefully this review will help some other cruise newbies! More than happy to answer any questions or clarify any points.
Would we cruise again with RCI? Yes! Picked up next years brocheurs today!!