Adventure of the Seas - March 08-15 2009
This was a second cruise on the Adventure of the Seas for my wife and I and the first for the couple that sailed with us. The four of us are all around 30, have no children, and cruised ... Read More
Adventure of the Seas - March 08-15 2009
This was a second cruise on the Adventure of the Seas for my wife and I and the first for the couple that sailed with us. The four of us are all around 30, have no children, and cruised together for the first time last year.
We'd booked directly through Royal Caribbean and opted to book our air travel from Milwaukee to San Juan through them as well. I'm not sure if this was our wisest decision; going out, our first flight left at 6 AM the day of the cruise. We probably would have been happier flying out the day before or two days before and staying overnight in San Juan. It would be nice to see more options of this kind offered by the cruise line. Still, with only one short layover, we got to San Juan without any problems. The cruise line representatives at the airport seemed a little confused as to what was going on, but before long they had us on our transfer bus to the port. The bus driver told us a little bit about Puerto Rico and the things we passed on the way.
Here's one thing to be aware of: there's a duty-free liquor store in the port of San Juan, and it has a giant sign proclaiming that, yes, you can buy alcohol and take it on your ship. They neglect to point out that Royal Caribbean's policy is to take it and return it to you at the end of the cruise. Despite knowing this had been the case, our friends were suckered by the sign and bought a bottle of rum to take aboard. I'm sure this makes sales for the port shop, but I have to think the deception of it has to generate bad feelings. I also have to think that Royal could manage to do something about this even though it's something the duty free shop is doing, I'm sure it makes some of their customers angry at the cruise line.
The Adventure of the Seas was every bit as big and beautiful as I remembered. More than any other cruise line I've experienced or docked beside, Royal is extremely vigorous about cleaning, painting, and maintaining their ships. No matter what hour of the day, if you're paying attention, you'll notice maintenance staff hard at work. They do a fantastic job, and it really shows.
Both couples booked promenade staterooms next to each other. These are interior rooms with a sort of bay window that overlooks the promenade that runs through the interior of the ship. The rooms were small, as most cruise staterooms are, but clean and well-maintained. We knew from past experience that we'd spend very little time in our cabins, so the size wasn't a concern to us.
Our stateroom attendant, George, was very friendly. He took care of anything we needed or asked for very quickly, and did a great job maintaining the room. I've taken eight or so cruises over the years, and George is the best at this job I've seen so far. He did a lot to make us comfortable on board.
My Time Dining was offered as an option on this cruise, but we decided to do traditional dining anyway we like to meet new people and hear about their adventures on board and in each port. There's always so much more to do than we have time for, and it's fun to hear a little bit about some of the other choices we could have made. The four of us were paired for dinner with another two couples from Seattle that were traveling together. They were nice people and we had fun eating dinner with them.
I've heard much ado about cutbacks and was a little afraid to find out what dinner would be like. I needn't have worried the food was great, and there were always multiple enticing choices. Our waiters were nice and clearly trying very hard, but unfortunately paled a bit by comparison to our waiter from last year's cruise, who had probably been the best waiter I'd had yet. That's really not entirely fair to this year's waiters, though the couple traveling with us joked that they would contact RC customer service, find out where that waiter was, and book whichever cruise would let them request him. Our service was a bit slow at times we were rarely in any rush and certainly never asked to be served faster, but dinner usually took over two hours. The only problem with this is that the scheduling of evening shows and other activities seems to assume you'll be done earlier, such as the 7:45 one-seating-only show on Day 7. You're not going to make it to a show where the best seats are gone by 7:30 when dinner finishes at 8:15. Despite any of these minor complaints, service overall was good.
We had dinner on Day 2 in Portofino for the Murder Mystery Dinner. The cast for the dinner is pulled from the production show dancers, and their performances for the dinner were fantastic they had a lot of energy and seemed to really have their characters down, as is necessary for the partially improvisational nature of the show. I was a little disappointed that we didn't have more opportunity to interrogate the various characters you get enough background on each of them to build a plausible case for them as the murderer, and are instructed that they'll each lie. A couple questions or less for each isn't enough to really reason truth out of that. This was the first time we've done the MMD, but we know people who have done them on Royal in the past and were expecting a different setup. Overall, the cast was great but I didn't love the format. I also wondered how I'd book this in the future; that is, how would one know if a previous mystery is re-running? As far as I can tell this information isn't available before boarding the ship, and the MMD in this case sold out over a month before the sail date.
The Portofino dinner itself was good. I'm not sure if I can say I've really had the Portofino experience yet, as the menu for the MMD was different and presented fewer choices than the standard Portofino menu. The food was good, though, and the service was uniquely synchronized/choreographed. It was something to see.
We also ate at Johnny Rockets one night. The food and service were both solid; no complaints here.
Our breakfasts and lunches were sometimes in port, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes at the Promenade Cafe, and sometimes in the Windjammer. The food and service on the ship was good all around, and I felt like we had a lot of good choices in terms of cuisine and venue. I hadn't tried the Promenade Cafe before this cruise, and I'd definitely been missing out it's open longer than any of the other options, had good pizza and sandwiches, and had desert options that changed each day and were different from the main dining room and Windjammer. The PC staff was very friendly and helpful.
We probably stopped at most of the bars on the ship at one point or another, sometimes for a drink but more often to get our unlimited soda package tumblers refilled. Service for all of this was great across the board.
I went to see most of the headline shows on board and generally enjoyed them. Day 1 had a comedian who was decent; he returned at midnight on Day 2 for a more "adult" show. Day 2 had a singer; I wish the Cruise Compass had given me a little more information about his act or material. He was a great entertainer, but sang material from before my time that I didn't have much interest in. I'm sure the cruisers a generation older than me loved it, but it just wasn't for me. On the other hand, most of the Nelson brothers' material was also from before my time, but they put on such an engaging show that they easily kept my attention through the whole thing. I would pay to see that show again. The RC singers and dancers were as great on their nights as I've come to expect, and I was also thrilled that there was a second night of late night comedy with an even funnier comedian. The ice show was also worth seeing, although I would say not quite as strong as the ice show we saw last year on the Voyager of the Seas. Overall, the worst thing I could say about a full week of shows is that one of the shows was clearly very good but just wasn't for me content-wise. I feel like the quality of the entertainment is one area where Royal Caribbean really pulls ahead of the pack.
The pool and sundeck areas were largely as I've come to expect; everything was clean and well-maintained. A small section of chairs (in the 'stairs' between the main pool and the sky bar) was reserved for suite guests. Overall this made little to no impact on overall chair availability relative to the usual cruise ship chair hogs.
As always, there was a great variety of other activities and entertainment going on around the clock. I wish I'd brought a highlighter to better mark the things that seemed fun in my daily Cruise Compass a couple times I saw something I'd wanted to do, then forgot about it until it was too late. I have to give special mention to the night the Solarium pool area was transformed into a South-Beach-style nightclub that was a very cool production and a very creative use of cruise ship real estate.
Photos on board were much as I've come to expect, with one key difference: photos were now sorted in the photo area on deck three according to a number on my Seapass, rather than according to the event. In other words, all of our pictures were in the same place. This is one of those ideas that, having seen it in action, I can't understand how it was ever done any other way. We've cruised enough now that we've largely lost our appetite for going to the photo area each night and diligently searching out any new photos of our group. We definitely picked up some photos this time around that I'm sure we would have never seen at all if they had been organized the old way.
Disembarkation from the ship and port perspective was fine; one disappointment was that, unlike the last time we had cruised out of San Juan two years prior, we weren't able to do our airline check-in at the port. Other people still seemed able to, and the people there we asked for answers didn't seem able to coherently explain what had changed or why we couldn't now.
The San Juan airport for the trip home was a travel nightmare unlike anything I'd ever seen. A new USDA agricultural inspection added the need to wait in extra lines, and the airport staff somehow didn't seem to have made the adjustment to handle it in the months since its introduction. The US Airways counter that we and seemingly thousands (the line was twice as long as the entire terminal was wide) of other departing cruisers needed to check in at was grossly understaffed, and most of the staff that was present were lazy, surly, or both. We'd gotten to the airport three full hours before our flight, and it wasn't nearly enough I do give some credit to the US Airways employee who walked the check-in line and jumped us ahead in time to make our flight, but she loses it plus interest for telling the curmudgeonly gentleman who was upset about our being jumped ahead that he should swear at me instead of her because it was my fault that I hadn't gotten there earlier.
If you need to fly out of San Juan, my advice is to check the number of cruise ships also docking the same day. If there are others, I'd strongly advise staying in town an extra day and flying when it's less crazy. We'd flown out of San Juan before and had no problems, although that had been before the extra USDA inspection. This time around, with a total of 3 ships in port, it was beyond belief. The security lines were the longest I've seen in a decade of business travel, and even the lines at the airport restaurants were huge. I can't even imagine what this airport will look like when there are 4 or more ships in port, and there are such days. There was no time to buy lunch in the airport before boarding, and all food on the plane sold out long before making it to our part of the plane. It was a very hungry day.
Again, it would be nice if the cruise line could offer some flight options here that would involve flying a day later. I wouldn't really want to take another day of vacation, but it would be worth it to be going home focused on the great parts of my vacation rather than the many airport frustrations.
Overall we all had a really great time. I wish the cruise lines would offer some more flexible travel options for folks who need to fly to their departure port, but still they provided a fun vacation with great food, great service, and more fun things to do than we had time to do them for a reasonable price. I'd sail on the Adventure again. Read Less