This was our 11th cruise, 1st as Platinum members in Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society. We were last on Legend of the Seas, and have previously gone on Explorer of the Seas (2x) and Majesty of the Seas in addition to 3 Norwegian cruises (Dawn twice and Gem), 2 Holland America cruises (both on MS Noordam), 1 cruise on the Carnival Pride, and 1 on the MSC Orchestra. We were originally booked to go on Independence of the Seas this year, but we ended up switching for the more exotic itinerary on Adventure. As of now, we are booked to go on Oasis of the Seas the same week (President's Week in New York) next year, our first trip to the Western Caribbean.
Embarkation / First Day
As I've said constantly over my past reviews, check-in at the terminal is always very spotty. Some embarkation ports have very smooth check-in, such as Royal Caribbean's Cape Liberty pier, which now docks the brand new Quantum of the Seas, or also Royal's Terminal 18, which docks the Oasis, Allure, and Legend. There have been some average check-ins, such as in Boston or Baltimore. Then there were the bad ones, such as in Manhattan, or whatever terminal we docked at on the MSC Orchestra.
Check-in on Adventure at the Pan American pier was sort of reminiscent of the check-in process in Boston. You drop off your luggage outdoors and then wait in a long line outdoors before entering the small terminal for security and check-in. Only difference is that it was a hot and humid Caribbean climate that we had to wait outside in, on a line of approximately 300 people, with another line right next to us (we were on the priority line for being Platinum members, yet it was longer than the general line.) After about 40 minutes of waiting outside, we finally made it inside to the terminal, where about 25 minutes was all we needed to get through security and check-in. After that, we made what was quite a long walk to the gangway (after getting off the escalator in the terminal, which leads you outdoors, you have to walk on a system of outdoor ramps that lead to the other side of the ship, where you take your embarkation photo, before walking a bit more and then over the gangway). Overall, check-in wasn't awful, just not the easiest either.
Once we got on the ship, we went straight up to the Windjammer, where it was still very empty (we were amongst the first on the ship.) Of course, as the MDR is only open for lunch on sea days, we didn't really have much of a choice for lunch, just Windjammer or snacks in the Café Promenade. This was our first time sailing out of San Juan as an embarkation port, so it was rather different having such a late muster drill (5:45) and just departing at dinnertime (8:30). Speaking of the muster drill, we were about ready to jump overboard when they translated everything into Spanish too. Yes, this cruise left from Puerto Rico. But almost all Puerto Ricans speak English as well. And on cruises out of, let's say France, they don't translate anything into English. And from what I've heard from other people/read from other reviews, they don't do that on the other ships that sail from Puerto Rico (including Royal's own Jewel of the Seas and sister company Celebrity's Summit). So take that into consideration. Basically all PA announcements (which there weren't many as cruise directors are no longer allowed to make announcements concerning activities) were translated into Spanish, which made things annoying.
The first night was overall fine, beginning with the traditional parade down the Royal Promenade. Not much else to say about the first night other than that there was no sailaway party on the pool deck like there traditionally is, likely because of the late sailaway time.
We were in D2 cabin 7628, which was a nice balcony room. Our stateroom was in a very convenient location, just 4 cabins away from the mid-ship elevators. It was also one of those one-off cabins that are made with that extra few sq feet of space on the balcony, as it is on the "bend" of the ship. It is also in it's own corner, with a corridor entrance right next to it.
Overall, the cabin was just a standard balcony cabin. Nothing too special. Our cabin steward, Freddie, was very kind and, while he may not have been the greatest cabin steward we've had, he was very friendly and was at least able to fulfill all the special requests that we needed (which were pretty standard - extra towels, ice at night, and to have the beds separated.) We had three beds (two twins and a pulldown), but they were arranged in a rather unusual way (instead of vertically facing the door, the short side was horizontal to the door), which was rather odd when one bed ended up against the balcony door, literally.
Again, it was a nice location and nice to have a little quirk like the oddly-shaped balcony, but there was nothing too special about our stateroom.
Our cabin steward Freddie was very nice (and of course we gave him an additional $10 at the beginning of the cruise to get that extra good service. This year, our cabin steward came through, and was very attentive at almost all times. He gave us everything we asked for (extra towels/pillows, ice, etc.) and was always friendly.
Our waiter Rajesh, on the other hand, was not as friendly or good. He was probably the worst waiter we've had on a ship. We had two teenagers with us, who we always ask for them to be served first, so that they don't miss all the activities in the teen club, etc. Rajesh sounded as if he did not know what to do when we first asked him for that, and eventually the maître'd had to handle their orders. Other people in the dining room were easily served on that matter, including other families we met over the course of the cruise.
Not much else to say about the staff; not the worst staff, but certainly not the best staff overall that we've had on a ship.
Overall, not much to say about activities. On such a port-heavy itinerary such as this one (4 ports, 2 sea days), there aren't that many on-board activities for the better part of the cruise. Yes we did have two sea days, but there were still not as many activities as you would expect on a ship that has so much to do. Let's reference the Explorer of the Seas, which we have been on twice, for example. The Explorer is obviously a sister ship to the Adventure, as it is from the same Voyager class of ships and is just over one year older than Adventure. The Explorer had more sea days (4 on one cruise, 5 on the other), and there were many more activities. But still, ice skating was only open to the public twice. Once, on the 2nd formal night from 7 pm-7:50 and the other on the final sea day at noon. So one of the public skates was in between the two dinnertimes on FORMAL night, so the other was obviously packed. Also, inline skating was hardly ever an option. Of those activities that all require waivers, only rock climbing was open a lot. And I can't climb one of those things for my life. Poolside activities, like the always fun-to-watch-but-not-compete-in Bellyflop Competition was hilariously fun to watch, especially since it was raining at the time too (the winner was a 350-lb guy from Norway). There weren't that many other activities worth mentioning either. I missed the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle; they're always too early in the morning on sea days, nonetheless.
Entertainment was probably the low-light of the trip. It was, for the most part, mediocre at best. The headline shows started off with a bang, with comedian Carl Banks (no, not former NY Giant and now radio broadcaster Carl Banks). He was very funny, and he has appeared on shows such as Seinfeld. He also had a midnight snow on night 2, and that was pretty funny as well.
On the second night, the headline show was Invitation to Dance, which is that same as it is on every ship. We didn't bother to stay for the whole show. The third night featured the self-proclaimed Two Funny Guys, who are these two Mexican guys named Mario and Daniel. They were on Legend of the Seas last year and were awful. This year, they were just as awful. It was the exact same show. Aren't stand up comedians normally different from show to show?
The fourth night featured some show that we didn't even bother to see. But we did see the ice show that day that was pretty fun. It was called Cool Art, Hot Ice and was on par with other Royal Caribbean ice shows I've seen. The 5th night's show was the ice show again as the headliner show, followed by the Love and Marriage Game Show in the theatre. Those get boring after awhile, but our cruise director Tino made it funny in his own way. But it's still the same as it is on every ship; same questions, etc.
The 6th night featured the second and final stage production show, entitled Can't Stop The Rock. The show started off rather slowly, but got much better throughout. It was a good show, from about 10 minutes in till the end. And lastly, the final night featured the Farewell Variety show, beginning with the cruise director's 10 most frequently asked questions. These are also the exact same as they always are, but the only difference is that they were all translated into Spanish as well (sigh.) Following that was a very good contortion-esque act. They were a duo from Russia and they were frightfully good. I wouldn't exactly call it contortion, but more a combination of that and dance and weight-lifting, etc. Following that was the always saddening goodbye from the singers, dancers, and crew. That final performance is always upsetting, as the reality of being home begins to creep in.
Overall, entertainment was mediocre at best, as I said earlier. Normally, I would at least remember the names of all the acts and shows, which just shows how disappointing the entertainment really was. I just don't think there can be a better guest act than the Elton John impersonator we had on Explorer three years ago..
The ship, despite its large size, lacks the number of specialty restaurants that even some smaller ships such as Jewel of the Seas and that Jewel class of ships has. The Adventure of the Seas only has one specialty restaurant, Giovanni's Table, Royal Caribbean's trek into upscale-Italian dining. No, we did not eat there over the course of the week, but they did have a very nice Embarkation Day special where kids eat free and all adults were half-off (or something like that).
The food was probably the most disappointing that its been ever on a ship, in my opinion. Royal Caribbean as really cut down on food quality over the past few years, and us loyal cruisers who have sailed with the line for many years have come to notice that. That being said, Windjammer (the Lido buffet) was very disappointing for breakfast and lunch. Dinner, on the other hand, is better in the Windjammer than in the MDR, so we noticed. There is a greater variety in the Windjammer nightly than there is downstairs in the MDR, which shows that Royal knows that less people eat there, so they'll put better quality food up there.
We still ended up eating in the MDR every night, despite some nights having really lackluster menus on some nights (2, 4, 6, 7). There were some very good menus too (nights 1, 3, 5). In my opinion, there was no average menu; it was either a great menu or a pretty bad one.
Two more notes: They ran out of food in the Windjammer on the last morning, up to the point that by 8:15 or so (with the Windjammer closing at 9:30), there were only a few fruits, cold raspberry pancakes, and assorted breads left. Also, the soft-serve ice cream closed at 6 pm, after which you would have to BUY Ben & Jerry's for ice cream. This was not the case on Explorer, where the frozen yogurt stand was open 24 hours, or even on Legend where it was open until 9 pm.
Overall, we were very disappointed with the food overall on the ship.. But that and entertainment were the two biggest downsides.
Adventure Ocean / OPTIX Teen Program
We traveled with two 15-year olds and a 10-year old. The 10-year old didn't even bother stepping foot into Adventure Ocean, as all of the age groups were combined for this sailing. This does happen to be unfair, as a 10-year old does not need to be forced to stay with the 3-year olds, etc.
The teens, however, enjoyed OPTIX, just as they had on Explorer, but not on Legend. If you read my review on Legend, you will see that they heavily disliked OPTIX last year. This was definitely not the case this year, as they both found friends and went their own ways. There were also plenty of people from New York, which was rather surprising on a sailing from San Juan. They still keep in touch with some of these people and keep trying to make plans. Oh, you never know who they will meet on these cruises.
San Juan: It was the first time that we had more than a half-day in San Juan, and we really didn't do all that much. We went through Old San Juan, but there were no ships in port at the time, so the lack of tourists made it rather creepy. We also realized how much poverty there is in the area, giving Old San Juan a New York City Subway-esque feel. It also rained for nearly all of the 3 days we were in San Juan. Overall, San Juan gets a bit boring after awhile, but it is still a very nice island with a lot to see.
St. Thomas: In St. Thomas, it also rained for the better part of the day. We ended up skipping our normal plan of going to the beach, and we ended up going to the Coral World Marine Park, which was just your run-of-the-mill aquarium for the most part. After we left there, we walked next door to what I think is Dawn Beach (I could be wrong), where it started to pour about 20 minutes after we arrived. We ended up just taking a taxi back towards the ship where we would then shop for awhile before returning to the ship. Just like San Juan, St. Thomas gets boring after that many visits as well, whereas islands like St. Maarten never cease to amaze me, and we have also been there 6 times.
St. Kitts: In St. Kitts, we went to Frigate Bay Beach, which was just your normal beach. Nothing too special except for a display of caged monkeys and birds near the restaurant. We were docked in St. Kitts on a public holiday on the island, so there were not many shops open except for the shops immediately in the vicinity of the ship. St. Kitts is a very nice island, however. This was just or second time there, with the first being last year on the Legend. Overall, St. Kitts is one of the more boring islands in the Eastern Caribbean however, as the only things to really do on the island are go to the beach or go to the botanical gardens (which you only need to see once.)
Aruba: This was our first time in Aruba, and all we can say is WOW. This is already up there on our list of favorite islands (with St. Maarten and Bermuda being the other two islands). We got on a cab and went to the Radisson Ocean resort. We sat at the pool and we were sunburnt within an hour (it was 89 degrees and hot that day.) The beach at a this resort was amongst the nicest beaches we had ever seen. It was beautiful; no other words to describe it. After that, we walked about a mile to Starbucks to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi. We stayed there for about an hour before we called our taxi driver to take us back. (Side note: Our taxi driver, named Mel, was by far one of the nicest people we have ever met on the islands. He was a class act..) After that, we shopped for awhile through downtown Oranjestad, where we went through all of the upscale shops in the "mall", as well as the standard Island shops, such as Del-Sol and Cariloha.
Curaçao: Curaçao was a very nice island, in its own way. But after visiting Aruba the day before, it just could not meet the set of standards that Aruba sets. Once again, for the fourth tim eon our 10-day vacation, the day started off with a downpour. It rained until about 1 pm, after which the sun came out and we enjoyed our day. We went to the island's famous Hato caves, which were rather unique. The one bad thing about the cave was the high number of low-flying bats. Those were not fun to walk under.. After the caves, we had our taxi driver bring us to Willemstad, where we were dropped off in front of the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, which was very interesting to us. We toured the facility and adjoining museum, and afterwards we went shopping for on last time. We also walked across the famous "moving-bridge", and through the fort (including the mall inside), and took advantage of our last duty-free shopping opportunity.
I must say, upon leaving Curaçao, I said something that I never thought I would hear myself say: "I don't want to go back to San Juan.."
Tino Carillo-Lopez was the cruise director for this sailing. He was a fill-in for Mercedes LaFuente, who was off with most of the other cruise directors at some conference. But you wouldn't be able to tell that he was just a fill-in. He was great, especially compared to some other recent cruise directors we've had, such as Paul Rutter last year, who was not very friendly. Tino is a young, energetic guy who was a rather good dancer when it came time for the parties and whatnot. He was a very good cruise director, up there on the best we've had.
Disembarkation was very smooth, from when we walked off the ship. While we were on the ship, it was almost as if the crew no longer cared about us, like as I mentioned before. They ran out of food, and it was an overall choppy process getting off the ship. As Royal Caribbean now prohibits announcements over the PA system, we HAD to be in our assigned waiting lounge in order to know when to depart the ship. That being said, our waiting lounge (the priority 4th floor dining room) was overcrowded for the amount of space provided (about 1/4 of the room). We ended up having to stand for the better part of a half hour because there were no seats left and the workers would not let us pass a certain point.
Once we were finally called (and nobody knew until a worker came and told everybody personally), getting off the ship was very easy. We got straight downstairs into the terminal, where we found our luggage very quickly (they don't have the luggage valet in San Juan, like they did in Ft. Lauderdale, which kinda sucked). We found a porter immediately, and waited in a 25-minute line to get to customs. There were two customs officers to serve all the passengers disembarking, which caused a very big line to form very quickly. Once we were through customs, we found a cab easily and we were on to the airport.
In the airport, we got through USDA and TSA security quite quickly (I still am not quite sure why there are two different security screenings), and we were by our gate by 10:30-10:45. Our flight, an American Airlines flight supposed to depart at 2:30, was delayed until 7:30 because of bad weather in NYC. So we sat in the airport for around 9 hours. There were other planes on other lines that got out well before ours, and there were still a few flights that were delayed, but none as long as ours. Only difference was, the other flights from the other lines that were delayed (Delta, JetBlue, etc.) treated their passengers to snacks and drinks, etc. American, being the cheapest airline, gave us absolutely NOTHING. Not even on the plane would they give us a bag of pretzels or anything. Which now gives us a good reason to boycott American Airlines indefinitely. But that’s another story for another website...
Overall / Summary / Final Thoughts
Overall, it was a fun cruise. Better than last year for sure, but still not the best cruise we've been on. Still, we all had a great time until the airport.
A few more takeaways: The ship does need a bit of a touch-up. It looks rather old in places, which isn't something you want to see from a ship that was renovated less than two years ago. Also, the Café Promenade had the same limited food selection every day. The pizza in the Café Promenade was rather awful, which was very disappointing. Also, the movie selection on the ship was awful. The same 3 movies played over and over and over and over and over again. Those three movies were Big Hero 6, Jersey Boys, and The Edge of Tomorrow.
Lastly, I want to recognize an incident that happened on the final day. One of the 5 of us on the trip (she is 84 years old) slipped and fell on a very wet pool deck on her way to get lunch. She broke her shoulder and also cut her head open right above her eyebrow, requiring several stitches. The nerve of the pool staff, who went out of their way to make up excuses. For example, one person had the nerve to say that there was a wine cooler that somebody knocked over and she tripped on that, and other stupid things like that. Everyone that witnessed the incident saw what happened, and they all knew she slipped on a very wet floor that did not have proper signage saying "wet floor" or anything at all. Thumbs down for that!
But, to end on a positive note, it was still a very fun cruise for all and we all enjoyed the trip, for the most part. But everything that you have read in these reviews on this particular ship are true. Some have had very good experiences, while there are also quite a few neutral and negative reviews as well. Take that into consideration when booking your trip on Adventure of the Seas. Read Less