Where do I start!? Let me first say that I read hundreds of reviews here before our trip and always found them to be very helpful, so I hope this will give you some insight into our experiences and maybe others can learn from our them.
We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Saturday and arrived at approx. 7:30pm. The airport was virtually empty, so it was very easy to get our bags and to a taxi. We stayed at the Coral Princess hotel. It was much more reasonably priced than the hotels right on the ocean but was only one block away and we were able to easily walk to all the attractions and the beach. We enjoyed their indoor/outdoor continental breakfast area and the bed was comfortable. Everything was clean and we felt it was a good value for the money. It was nothing fancy, just very nice and very adequate for a short, one night stay. We spent the evening walking around outside and at the beach anyway.
Day the ship sailed:
We decided to get the pier early as I had read there would likely be a long line and we hoped to beat the crowd somewhat. The taxi driver picked us up at the hotel and gave us a tour of Old San Juan before dropping us off at the ship - it was a wonderful tour! Thanks to our driver Charlie!! We arrived at the pier around 1pm, even though the boarding process was not to start until 2pm. The line was already incredibly massive (literally probably 1,000 people lined up before us). We found two huge lines and no one from Royal Caribbean to explain the process or what we were supposed to do. Chaos and the lines barely moved. We found out from other passengers that one huge line was merely to drop off our baggage, and the other line (which was twice as long and moving about 5 times SLOWER) was to go through security and onto the ship. We were standing in the baggage line for an hour and in the security line for 2 hours. I don't know how some passengers were able to stand for so long. We are young (in our 20's) and our legs/backs were killing us. Everyone in line was furious and frustrated. Not a great start to a vacation that you've spent thousands of dollars to enjoy! However, we decided that maybe it wasn't the fault of Royal Caribbean and that it was an issue at the port. However, as the week progressed we spoke with numerous passengers at ports from both Carnival and Princess ships that ALSO sailed out of San Juan the same day and they experienced NO DELAYS with boarding or exiting the ship. We then began to believe Royal Caribbean is the one with the issues.
By the time we got on-board we were absolutely starving and needed to sit down. We headed to the Windjammer for lunch and found the food to be mediocre at very best. No variety and very bland. We hoped it was because they were so crowded from everyone boarding, but found throughout the entire week we should avoid the Windjammer if at all possible because the food was lousy. On Carnival, the Windjammer seemed to be open at all hours and I don't remember the food being so bad.
Please see my ports review for St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curacao. I hope to provide lots of insight on things we experienced/learned about cruising to those ports. The greatest thing about the Adventure of the Seas is the ports of call, which is why we picked this cruise in particular. We enjoyed our time very much at all of the stops!!
A Word on Entertainment and Dining:
We were placed at a nice table in the dining room that was in a terrible location. It was directly in front of the main entrance to the dining room so everyone that went in or out had to walk around us. We considered asking to be moved, but loved our tablemates so decided to stay. At least Royal Caribbean placed us with people our age that were very fun. Our wait staff was very polite, but very boring. When we sailed with Carnival, our waiters were so fun and energetic, constantly playing games with us and making us laugh. It was great fun to go to supper. On Royal it was more of a straight-forward "here is your menu, what do you want to order" feel. We felt there was a decent selection in the Main Dining room but the desserts (in general)were awful in our opinion. We usually just got sherbert or ice cream instead. The food on Carnival was better, as was the dining experience. Our waiter during this cruise talked on more than one occasion about how all the ship staff is far over-worked and gets no sleep. He probably shouldn't be sharing that info with us!
We had heard that the Ice Show was wonderful, but of course you had to stand in ANOTHER line to get tickets. We stood in line for an hour to be sure we got tickets for the showtime we wanted. They were supposed to hand the tickets out at 10:30 and finally at 10:40 announced that the tickets we wanted were not done printing and we would have to continue to wait. We could NOT believe that they would make everyone wait in a line at a certain time without even being prepared to dispense tickets! However, finally they took our room number and delivered the tickets to us later. The show was wonderful and brought tears to our eyes - don't miss it! It was worth waiting in line. We also enjoyed the comedians and the special entertainment. We felt that the Adventure Singers and Dancers were "just ok." We ate at the early dining (6pm) so that we didn't miss any shows. The Quest game show was hilarious - we laughed and laughed. NOT appropriate for kids!
We couldn't believe how much Royal Caribbean charges for the little things on the ship. You could only get free ice-cream from noon to 6pm, so of course the line was constantly 20 people long. Outside of those hours, you paid for Ice Cream in the Promenade (unless you got it while eating in the main dining room). I know we could get free ice cream 24 hours a day on Carnival, soft-serve. We did spend one evening meal eating at the specialty restaurant "Portofinos." We thought it was maybe alittle better than the main dining room food, but since we had to pay $20 per person to eat there we thought it should have been a lot better. They charged us $7 for our water without even asking if we wanted specialty water! All in all, Royal Caribbean seems to nickel and dime you at every opportunity they can, even though you've already paid alot for your vacation. We got formal pictures taken on several occasions, and at the end of the week had several pictures to choose from. We couldn't believe they actually were charging $20 per picture. Unbelievable pricing, again. We wanted to see a few of the pictures in black/white since we were sunburned, but were told this was not possible. Fairly amateur photographers - for example, there were scuff marks on the canvases they had us sit on to take the pictures, and they were very obvious on the final pictures they showed us. Pretty silly we thought. Again, much better photography experiences on Carnival. The pictures were more professional, cheaper, and we were able to get black/white.
We did enjoy the main pools and the Solarium (adults only) pool. The staff was great about making sure there were no kids in that pool area. We never struggled to find a chair, but we are early risers and usually beat the big crowd. They did have one midnight buffet (poolside) and the fruit carvings and ice sculptures were really cool. Again a 15 minute wait in line to get to the food, and then they didn't provide any drinks. Probably wanting you to obviously purchase drinks - surprise, surprise.
A Word on Diversity
I want to start by saying that I respect all people and nationalities and knew that there would be a spanish-speaking crowd - especially since we sailed from Puerto Rico. However, we Engligh speaking folks were by far in the minority. The elevators were packed full of people screaming over us in spanish, and many of them were down-right rude. Karaoke was half in Spanish, half in English. Royal Caribbean really catered to this crowd and had numerous Latin themed music night and events. We tolertaed it well at first, but by the end of the trip, this was VERY annoying. All of the main entertainers had to do at least one number in Spanish, at every single show. The rudeness that always seemed to come from that population was over-whelming. I realize this is not Royal Caribbean's fault; I simply want to make you aware of what the experience was like for us.
Departing the Ship
They informed us the day prior to departure what time our group was scheduled to leave. We went to our gathering place (the main theatre) about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to depart, and found that they were 1 hr and 20 minutes behind schedule. Of course many guests were freaking out about missing flights. Finally, we left the theatre and just got in line to leave the ship. We saw that the computer system to check people out and off the ship had crashed and they were trying to fix it. We were pleasantly surpised when they were able to get it running within about 10 minutes. Another long line to get off the ship and to customs, but fairly painless. Our MAJOR issue occured when we got to the main building to pickup our baggage and then go through customs. They had taken our bags from us the night before and gave us numbers to place on the bags. Once we arrived to the main building to find our bags, only one of them was in the marked area for our number. We started to panic, but calmly asked the Royal Caribbean staff for assistance and politely asked for their help. We were informed that we would have to go through each bag in the building to try to locate it. Seriously!? 4,000 passengers on the ship, many of them having more than one bag, and you want us to go through them all?? It's all on the honor system, so we worried someone else had either intentionally or accidentally taken our missing bag. After searching for well over an hour, it was finally located. I couldn't wait to get as far away from the port as possible by that point.
We only go on one big trip every 5 years and want to make the most out of it. Cruising is the ultimate way to vacation because you get to see so many places at once! To be honest, we had a great trip because we had fun together as a couple, not because Royal Caribbean did such a great job. Even though it was a nice trip, I felt we enjoyed it because we chose to do so. Many others were very upset throughout the week.
Next time we cruise, it will not be with Royal Caribbean, and it certainly won't be out of San Juan.