BACKGROUND: 2 Cruises NCL/Alaska & 2 Cruises RCCL/Caribbean so this was our 5th
AGES: 39, 42 & 4 years
Pre-cruise: We decided to stay at the Marriott Stellaris for 2 nights, which we did not regret. The rooms we very clean and spacious and COMFORTABLE BEDS! Everyroom had a balcony and we loved the view from the 20th floor! We had a city view and loved it. The food was good and we took advantage of the all you can eat buffets for breakfast and lunch (in La Vista) because our 4 year old's meal and drink were included with our buffet purchase for free. The buffets were $16.95 p/person. FYI, there is a Walgreens across the street from the Marriott and we visited there prior to heading to the ship and bought a case of bottled water and a 12 pack of sodas with some strapping tape. We super-reinforced the cases with tape and slapped one of our luggage tags on them and they were at our cabin with our luggage. The staff at this resort were very friendly and accommodating.
One night we went to KAKAOS...a restaurant WEST of the hotel on Ashford St....it is about a 2-3 block walk...and while pricey, the TAPAS there are VERY GOOD! We enjoyed it for our "nice meal out" in San Juan. There were no tourists and plenty of locals to ad to the authentic feel of this place.
On Friday and Saturday night, the hotel lobby became a salsa dancing frenzy with locals coming to dance...it was a sight to see with 300-400 people crowded into the lobby area to enjoy the music. The long Island Rum Tea at the hotel was fantastic!
SAN JUAN: The city has it's own buzz...we chose the visit the San Cristobla & San Felipe del Morro Forts. The charge was only $5 per adult to see both. They were simply amazing! The are very large and there is some very steep climbing that should be considered...but I am a "BIG GIRL" (over 200 pounds) and had no problem. We actually toured the San Cristobal first and then walked to the San Felipe...it was about a 20 minute walk and took us through the heart of Old Town San Juan and by many wonderful shops.The famous bakery, La Bonbombera, was on the path we took. If you go to the forts, look for the numerous large green Iguanas on the grassy area. Great photo opts.
EMBARKATION: We embarked AOS on 8/12....we hit the Pan American terminal at 11:00am and had to wait in line briefly while they readied the group to board. We were on by noon and were in our rooms by 2pm. There was plenty to do and see on the ship in the meanwhile.
Shortly after touring the ship I started feeling weird and having problems with my vision.....I got to take a first class trip to the ship's medical facility. They had a wonderful staff and after one look at me realized that I was having an adverse reaction to "THE PATCH" (Scoplomine). I have worn it on all of my other cruises...but had never had a problem....NOT THIS TIME. The reason I am including this in the review, is I want you to be aware in the case that you have the same symptoms. Not knowing what was causing the very dilated eyes and dizziness, I visited the ship medical facility. I have a heart murmur, which the doctor heard (I had forgotten to tell him) and was experiencing slight arithmia with it....all things compounded...I wound up staying in the facility for four hours with an IV and benadryl flushing the patch meds out of my system and an EKG to check my heart. The first ship board account charge was to the medical facility for ALOT of money (they do not accept insurance) and my first dinner/night aboard ruined. With that said...be careful of the patch...I always sang it's praises, until this...if you eyes dilate or you feel dizzy..TAKE IT OFF and start drinking WATER!
2nd DAY: SEA DAY: Our son LOVES Adventure Ocean. He could not wait to go. He was not disappointed. The staff was very good. They were not as pumped as the team we had experienced on the Splendour of the Seas, but they were good all the same.
We found this cruise to be very international...we met tons of Spaniards, English, Irish...it was great. There were many Puerto Ricans on board, but we were told there were no Quncieneros. There was a different feel due to the internationality...and a general lack of consideration by other passengers of others, unlike other destinations, but it did not ruin our trip by any means.
THE SHIP: Awesome facility!! One thing that really shocked us, was there were NO hand sanitizers in the Windjammer and other public areas as we had experienced before on our other RCCI cruises...I missed them...It gives me a sense of security, even if it is false! On the Splendour they MADE us use them or we could not enter the dinning facility. No worries, I had my PUREL. The Ice show was GREAT...do not miss it. The Promenade entertainment was really nice. The Promenade and Picture Gallery got really crowded just before and just after the dining times so maybe think about that...we got tired of wading through the masses to see our pictures or shop. JOHNNY ROCKETS was great! The service there was awesome and the burgers are awesome to boot...it is well worth the cover charge! The dining room food was good....appetizers were the highlight and I would order two every night. We did not think our wait staff was very good.I am not picky, but our waiter seemed indifferent....we did not even have salt & pepper on the table until the 4th night. But we just rolled with the flow. We had to ask for the wine menu each night. That seemed odd. Never had that happen before. They we very nice...just did not seem very competent.
STATEROOM: We had an OV on the starboard side and it was fine...the bedding was great. We did notice however that our mini fridge was not cold at all when we got there. We asked our cabin steward if would check it and he argued with us saying that was how it was suppose to be. That irked me! He did agree finally to have maintenance look at it and they changed it out and VIOLA...we had nice cool water! Our attendant was not a very happy guy...he actually seemed to HATE being there, however he did an INCREDIBLE job! The room was refreshed no less than 3 times daily and we had a towel creation EVERY DAY! We tried cheering him up, and by the final day, he was starting to come around. Another tip, we put a 5 liter box of wine in our luggage, wrapped in 2 heavy duty trash sacks and it made it on board just fine and allowed us wine to sip in our room precruise & during the cruise. I like the box because it does not break. We finished it while gone, thus freeing up souvenir packing space on the way back.
SHIP CLEANLINESS: This ship was not as well maintained as the Splendour. PERIOD. There were cleaning details that were not taken care of. Splatters on our head boards, things spilled and not cleaned up in the elevators. Dirty walls in the stateroom. Did not ruin the cruise, but was not as clean as I would have liked it. The tables in the windjammer were not cleaned well enough...the were smeared around and left for the next person to eat on BUT, the Windjammer was PACKED OUT in the mornings especially on port days. The food was good enough, and the SERVICE was EXCELLENT!However, on numerous occasions we had to wait for or search out a table, or join others at a table. People would cut in line infront of you constantly. Just a different experience than I am used to but you certainly cannot control other passengers and is no way the fault of the cruise line.
We loved the peekaboo bridge where you can see the bridge and the captains doing their thing. be sure to be there when you sail out of port!
OK...THE BEST PART:
Barbados: This was the only ship arranged tour we did...we loved it! THE JOLLY RODGER PIRATE SHIP. The narrator was exceptional and funny...people were made to walk to plank and the beer and rum punch flowed freely. They served a nice lunch of local flavors. As an added bonus, we were able to swim with the Sea Turtles for only $5 extra...LOVED IT!
St. Lucia: COSOL TOURS. We had read so much about this tour that I was ready to go! We were not disappointed in the least...it was the best tour I have ever been on! Again, there was rum punch, beer, water, soft drinks. We saw the Volcano, snorkeled between the Pitons, ate local food, visited the banana plantation and visited many local vendors and a local farmer to sample fruits and food. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS TOUR! Be mindful if you do get motion sickness to take something to help it and ride in the front of the van. There is alot of driving seeing GORGEOUS scenery, but there is not a straight area of road for 100 yards. Everyone we found on this tour was a CC frequenter. Glad we were able to see it since DEAN visited it only 30 hours after we left.
ANTIGUA: We took the Gordon's Antigua Beach Runner Tour and really enjoyed it. He was such a nice guys and we saw Devils bridge, Jolly Beach, Nelson's Dockyard. It was very laid back and we got to meet some fellow CC board members.
St. Maarten: The weather was starting to get ifie while we were there but we took a nice private tour with SXM tours. Lloyd was our driver and he took us to the most amazing SOUVENIR place. It was called RIMI. It was very clear the moment we walked into Rimi's that this is were the shop owners SHOP for their items to sell. It was a wholesaler. Not only that, you could purchase souvenirs from any of the islands we visited there. For example, we picked up 3 embroidered St. Maarten bags for 3.99 EACH. These are large and heavy duty and we were very happy with our finds! He took us to a restaurant for lunch called KAKOAS...I know, the same as the other place San Juan. It was on the French side and WOW the food was incredible. Freshest seafood and on the beach. My favorite part was the butterfly farm. You must go....sounds sissy, I know...but it is amazing and they have a wonderful tour. The photo OPTS there are wonderful too!
St. Thomas: We just did the SKYRIDE. It offered a gorgeous view of the bay. While the shopping here was good, I think St. Maarten was better, thanks to Lloyd.
Overall this cruise was wonderful! We had such a nice time and made good friends with other families from Barcelona and the UK. The ports were awesome and we truly had a marvelous time. The ship was a little disappointing. I am not sure if I would travel on AOS again, however, we talked to MANY people that had wonderful service and such....we probably should give it one more shot. The ports and things you get to see will more than make up for any of the little things. WARNING: if you are not crazy about large crowds, lines,and rude people, you might want to rethink this ship. If you are a clean freak, you certainly want to rethink it. Overall it was a very good trip!