Thankfully we were amazed by the ship and had a brilliant time at each port. We only booked our cruise about seven weeks before travelling, after not being able to decide exactly where we wanted to go on holiday. My parents cruised with Princess for the first time in 2008 and they rave about it. Although we'd heard good things about Royal Caribbean, we weren't specifically looking at their cruises - they seemed to have the most attractive itineraries though. We were leaving from Malaga, with a day at sea, Sardinia, Rome, Corsica, Palma de Mallorca, another day at sea and then back to Malaga. We'd never been to any of the ports listed on our trip so it was all to be a great adventure for us. We were a little apprehensive about the procedures and expectations of passengers before we travelled, but we needn't have worried.
The time it took from getting off of the plane and on to the boat was probably our only issue with the cruise - but even that was quickly forgotten. The queue was about two hours long and it just seemed to take forever to get everyone their sea passes and moved onto the ship. Next time we'll probably book our flights separately and stay over night at our departure point so we can arrive at the ship before the hoards of other passengers do! Once we safely had our sea passes though, our holiday began immediately and we couldn't wait to board the ship and look around.
The Adventure of the Seas is impressive from the outside and amazing on the inside. It was exactly how I'd hoped it would be - lots of chandeliers and soft lighting, glass lifts and comfy cabins. People always claim that cruises are for the elderly generation and that the boats are dated and old fashioned. The beauty of modern day cruising is that companies like Royal Caribbean somehow manage to retain the allure of the old-style cruising but successfully team it with activities galore. You can hardly call a James Bond-themed casino, an ice rink, rock climbing wall, mini golf course, gym, outdoor pool & Jacuzzis, spa and indoor solarium, games arcade or a beautiful west-end style theatre old fashioned now can you!! There was also a variety of bars, including an English pub, a champagne bar,a sports bar and a coffee shop on the promenade. The promenade runs through the centre of the ship and houses some of the bars and all of the shops. We don't have anything to make a comparison with but everyone says that the promenades on Royal Caribbean ships are what set them apart from other companies. You could also find bars dotted about the place on most decks - you could relax under the stars on the top deck whilst listening to live jazz, soul or Motown music. You could listen to live drums and singing by the cocktail bar by the casino or catch music up on the promenade - whatever took your fancy of an evening.
We booked an inside stateroom but were given a complimentary upgrade before travelling. We loved our cabin and were thankful of the window that looked down on to the promenade. We never heard any noise from below - the windows were fully soundproof. Our cabin was small but cozy and although it was a little dated in it's decor, it was clean and comfortable. To be honest we didn't spend much time in there any way. My parents had pushed for us to book an outside cabin, and whilst I'm sure it's lovely to sit out and watch as you come in to port or go out again, it wasn't worth the extra money for us on this occasion. It was coming in at a few hundred pounds more so I'm glad we stuck with the inside room. In addition to the upgrade, we were also given $100 dollars to spend on board which was very nice considering we hadn't travelled before.
We are both vegetarian and so we always wonder what food we'll be served when going on holiday. We needn't have feared though because there was more than enough selection for us. You can either eat in the main dining room for breakfast, lunch or dinner - this is the more formal dinner option. We had 'my time' dining so we didn't have set times we could enter the dining room and I much preferred this. If you had set times, you had to eat at either 18:15 or 21:15 and neither times appealed to us. There was also the Windjammer cafe which was buffet style food but always with plenty of selection. It was clean and kept tidy all of the time and we didn't get an upset stomach once - which is unusual for us both. You could eat in the Windjammer any time and didn't need to worry about what sort of dining you'd chosen. There was also Johnny Rockets burger place which was fab and we went twice to that. You do have to pay a $4 service charge each and your drinks are extra but you can eat as much as you like and it's real delicious comfort food. The coffee shop on the promenade also did pizza and cakes for snacks, so there was never a worry that you'd go hungry. We chose to eat at the Windjammer for breakfast every day - there was more selection than the dining room. It did sometimes get busy but only on the morning we left did we have trouble finding a seat. The staff are always happy to get you somewhere to sit - being in a couple we often just parked ourselves with other people at a table of eight as it was no issue to us. For breakfast you could help yourself to cereals (everything you'd find in the UK), toasts, fresh breads, cheeses, cold meats, fruit and yoghurt's. There were danish pastries, croissants, donuts, waffles and jams, marmalade's and spreads. You could have hash browns, eggs, beans, sausages (meat), bacon, black pudding, omelettes - the choice was endless. We also ate at Windjammer most lunchtimes if we weren't off of the ship. Again, there was a massive variety from pizza, burgers, chips, fresh salads, pasta, chili (meat), stir fry, shepherd's pie, curry, as well as lots of yummy desserts like cakes, cookies and lots of fresh fruit. We had to limit what we ate at breakfast and lunch because otherwise we'd have just been stuffed for the entire day! Tea, coffee, iced tea, lemonade and ice water were available at all times and were free of charge. Any other soft drinks or alcoholic drinks were charged. Aside from Johnny Rockets one evening, we ate in the main dining room for the rest of the cruise. We didn't actually think we would as we thought it might we a bit 'snooty' in there but we couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, you do need to be dressed smartly but not in a tux every night.
There were two formal nights on our trip and everyone took part which was lovely. On those nights, we really went to town and glammed up with my cocktail dress and my husband's tuxedo suit. It was a really lovely atmosphere and although hubby isn't one for loving formal attire, he didn't feel out of place at all and really enjoyed seeing everyone dressed up. On other nights, we played it by ear - as we got more at ease with being on board we continued to dress smartly. This didn't mean to say we were dressed up to the nines, just made ourselves look nice as one tends to on holiday anyway. On one night though, we both just wore smart shorts and nice tops and no one batted an eyelid. I was led to believe that we would be turned away from the dining room should we not be wearing long trousers/ skirts and shirted collars etc. I'm sure that had we looked scruffy someone may have pointed this out discretely but as it was, we were accepted every night. The dining room was like something from Titanic, spanning across three floors with massive chandeliers hanging from the middle. We sat at a table for two on three nights and then for the last three nights we were invited to join some people we'd met earlier on the cruise. We became a group of 10 and we enjoyed the company each night. Dinner was always lovely - I'm not particularly fussy but my husband is. Although a vegetarian, he isn't a great fan of his greens. There was a set menu each night that was available to see first thing each morning. There would be 4-5 options for each course which included veggie options and healthy options. We tried something new each evening which was nice for us and 9 times out of 10 we were very pleasantly surprised. I have a sweet tooth and the desserts were amazing. I particularly enjoyed the banana creme brulee with caramel topping and the fruit cobbler with cinnamon ice cream. We had wine with dinner most nights. The bottles were fairly costly but we shared a bottle over two nights each time as they would cork and chill it for you is you didn't want to finish it that evening. My husband had a couple of beers throughout the week and I mainly drank cocktails. They had a cocktail of the day each day and I tried them - all of which were delectable. We didn't feel that the drinks were over-priced at all - no more so than your average European hotel bars anyway. Beware of buying bottled water on board though as this was pricey and not needed at all. You can get free ice water or buy it when you get off at the ports.
We visited the casino a couple of times and were very impressed with how big it was. You could really spend some money in there if you wanted to but we opted for sharing $20 each time. The first dollar I put in a slot machine won me $80 so I was very pleased - and I even resisted the opportunity to put it back in again! We also got complementary tickets for the ice show on board. This was on four times across two days and you had to go and pick up tickets from outside the ice rink at scheduled times. This was well worth it as it was an amazing show and everyone raved about it. The tickets all went but we didn't have to queue for them or anything so it didn't take any time out of our day. They had nightly entertainment shows in the beautiful theatre - we went four times and saw a Motown group that were excellent and a drumming and comedy duo that were also really good. We went to 'Jackpot' which was a Broadway style show which was okay but nothing too special and an Elton John tribute which we thought was good but everyone else had other ideas and just kept getting up and leaving throughout. The shows were on twice a night so that people could either go before or after dinner, which I thought was a nice touch.
Every night there would be professional photographers on each deck taking photos either on backdrops or on the pretty stair wells. You could have as many photos taken as you'd like and there was no obligation to buy any. You would simply hand your sea pass over so that your pictures could be put in your own pouch for you to view the next day. Every room number had their own photo pouch and they'd actually print them off so you could see them clearly. It seemed a little wasteful but at the end, you post all the ones you don't want to buy in a box to recycle. It was actually a really nice touch and we had lots taken. You weren't pressured into it and there was absolutely no sales pitch to get you to buy them but they were really nice. There was also a makeshift studio on the ship where you could have some informal shots taken. We bought two of these and two of our formal shots, as well as the leather folder that you could buy and it came to $100 which we thought was really reasonable considering the quality of the images. The photos were 8x10" so a decent size for framing. There were photographers each time you got off the ship as well and they'd generally be comical characters to pose with. For example, in Rome we had an Italian chef - these were also added to your pouch each day but we didn't purchase any of those.
In terms of when we were on the ship, we always sat on the top deck because it was quieter than around the pool and you got more of a breeze. There were plenty of sunbeds but it did get busy on the days that everyone was on the ship. People did put towels down and then not go to their sunbeds but the staff would keep a check on this and take towels off when people hadn't been at their beds for a long time. The pool areas were clean and nice - although very busy you could always get in. The hot tubs were lovely and warm and you could use the pool area 24 hours a day. They would have poolside entertainment like live music, belly flop competitions and dancing lessons - it was nice to watch and listen to and you weren't enticed to join in if you didn't want to. The bar staff worked extremely hard and there was waiter service wherever you were on the ship at no extra charge. We chose to prepay our gratuities which cost us about £80 for the week. It is more than we'd usually tip but it was a set price and Thomas Cook said we had to pay them in order to secure our 'My Time' dining. Having now travelled, we realise we didn't have to do this and could've still sorted out our My Time dining on board - next time we will tip what we want to rather than prepay-pay. They leave you envelopes in your cabin on your last night and advise you what is best to tip. You can tip what you like though - being British I don't like being told to tip but I understand that it's an American thing and Royal Caribbean are an American company.
In terms of payment, as with most ships I think, we used our sea pass card for everything. Each passenger gets one and you use it to get on and off the ship as well. They take your photo when you first get on and then each time you swipe your card it is used to identify you. It's a quick and efficient process. Your sea pass card is also linked to your credit card if you use one to pay your bill. Each time you purchase anything - drinks, photos, items from the shops, you just hand over your sea pass and sign for it. The lead passenger decides who can sign to the account when making the booking. Some people allowed their children to sign for soft drinks etc but I felt that was a bit lethal! We chose to pay for our balance in cash and were given a bill on the last night - we only queued for about 10 minutes to pay it and weren't charged any conversion or bank fees to do so. It was paid in US dollars.
Each port was interesting and lovely in it's own way - being a Med cruise and stopping in cities made it slightly more hectic than I imagine a Caribbean cruise is for example, but this is what we wanted from this trip. We docked at different times in each port and the time we had spare varied.
There were lots of different nationalities on board with the majority being Spanish. We did think that they were quite rude at times and so did the staff but by and large it was fine. There were lots of English and some American, Italian, Portuguese, German - the mix was nice. Being predominantly Spanish, lots of things were explained in both Spanish and English.
We really, really enjoyed the cruise and will certainly go again. The only issue we had were with British Airways which was who we flew with but that is another story. One thing we would suggest is that you get an early flight home - we had a 20:50 flight back, when we had to disembark the ship by 09:15. We had issues with this as we weren't even offered the earlier 11:35am flight by Thomas Cook. Therefore we were stuck with our luggage all day as we couldn't even check that in until 18:50. There was no space to lock it up so we had t lug it to the train station and lock it up. It was a miserable day weather-wise and Malaga isn't that nice an area so it wasn't a very nice end to our wonderful holiday.
All in all though, a brilliant trip. We've joined the Crown & Anchor society so we can use the discount vouchers on board our next voyage and we're already looking at where that might be!