We sailed on Adventure of the Seas over Christmas week (Dec 22-29). This was our second cruise on the Adventure, as we had done the other itinerary (San Juan-St. Marteen-Antigua-St. Lucia-Barbados) in February. This itinerary was St. Thomas-St. Kitts-Aruba-Curacao. Embarkation was simple. From San Juan, we didn’t set sail until 8:30 pm, but were able to check in and board around 1 pm, which gave us a full afternoon to explore the ship, set up My Time dining, schedule spa treatments, etc.
An important note on checking in: There was a duty free store at the terminal, and we were allowed to purchase 2 bottles of wine or champagne to take on board with us and keep in our cabin – a first on Royal Caribbean for us! They also sold airplane-sized liquors, and although we didn’t purchase any, we saw other passengers who did and were able to take them on board as well. (The store was inside the terminal, so your bags will have already gone through the security checkpoint.)
We were in cabin 9510, a D2 Superior Oceanview Balcony cabin on the starboard (right) side, about mid-ship. Being mid-ship, we felt very little of the ship’s movement, even on the one night that we had bigger seas and lots of wind. You can feel some vibration from the engines, but not enough to be a bother. This would be more noticeable on lower decks, I’m sure.
We have sailed with RCCL numerous times, and as always, the crew was outstanding. Our stateroom attendant took great care of us. We used My Time dining, but requested the same table every night, so we had the same waiter/assistant waiter and were able to establish a friendship with them even though we ate at different times. We chose to eat in the Windjammer 3 nights, just so we could go at our leisure and not have to change clothes for dinner. The food was average in both the dining room and Windjammer – not the top quality we have learned to expect on a cruise. But we don’t cruise for the food, so we were not too disappointed. We were a bit disappointed in the sushi in the Windjammer – on previous cruises there was a variety to choose from. On this cruise, there were the same 3 each time, and they were more like California rolls than real sushi with fresh fish….not sure why they made this change.
As for the ports – We explored on our own (no excursions). In St. Thomas we shopped at Trident Jewelers – a family owned business we’ve known about for years. Ask for Mac – he’s the manager and will treat you well. Going through a small business rather than Diamonds International (which RCCL will recommend), we’ve found that you get better service and less pressure to buy. They are also very willing to help if you have a challenge with jewelry you buy.
St. Kitts – I’m not sure why RCCL stops on this island. The town itself was depressing. We walked through town and went past the small tourist area into the local shopping area…love to do this to get a better idea of what it’s like living on the island. We stayed on the island for only a couple of hours and then headed back to the ship. Maybe an excursion would have been better.
Aruba – Aruba was as beautiful as we expected. At the recommendation of a local business owner, we caught the public bus and headed to Arashi beach, near the lighthouse. It was a beautiful beach to sunbathe and swim, but there are no restroom facilities or restaurants (although there was a snack truck). You can rent beach chairs for $10. The bus runs every 30 minutes or so. Palm and Eagle Beach were beautiful but much more crowded…and closer to shops & restaurants and more options such as sailing/windsurfing lessons. However, we were in Aruba the day after Christmas, so a lot of the shops were closed. There is a nice shopping area at the pier, so we were able to pick some things up there. Try Iguana Joe’s for some local beer. Note: If you want to see the lighthouse, take the bus or a taxi. The excursions are expensive, and the buses we saw drive to the lighthouse only stayed for a few minutes.
Curacao is a much larger island than Aruba and beautiful. The colorful houses make it an idyllic setting and the Dutch influence is very prominent. We didn’t book any excursions, but found a local tour company called Casper Tours (we met Casper himself). This was a two-hour tour of the island for $15 each and included stops at the Curacao distillery, a beautiful overlook of Table mountain, and a very small & crowded beach (where you could choose to stay and return later in the afternoon). It doesn’t sound like much, but the information about the island’s history and sights to see were worth the time & money. You can find Casper tours just on the far side of the swinging bridge going into town to shop. Also, check out the floating markets to see how the locals get their produce and fruits – it’s all brought in daily on boats because Curacao doesn’t grow any of its own!
On our last night onboard, a young man jumped overboard. It was impressive to see how the Captain and crew responded. The reaction time was immediate…buoys were immediately deployed to mark the spot and track the current’s drift line. We had turned the ship around and got back to the buoys in less than an hour. Two skiffs were sent out to search as well as search lights from the ship. They continued to search for hours even after the Coast Guard had sent a cutter and helicopter. Although the ship had to continue to San Juan after searching most of the night, the Coast Guard continued throughout the next day. The man was never found, but our thanks go to the crew and the Coast Guard for their diligence in searching. And our prayers continue to go out for the young man’s family.