Adventure of the Seas 05/28/2006 Southern Caribbean, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Puerto Rico itinerary.
Cast of Characters: 1 me, 51 y/o single male. Eighth cruise, third RCI cruise.
Excellent cruise! This will be a long report.
*Service: Outstanding! Room Hostess: Jackie, Dining Room Server: Christina, Assistant Server: Gilberto.
*Food: Windjammer (breakfast and a couple of lunches), Strauss dining room (dinner a couple of time), Portofino (dinner twice), Johnny Rockets (lunch and snack time) - The food in Windjammer was about the same as I had experienced on Mariner and Sovereign good, but not fantastic. Thats pretty much the way I felt about the food throughout the cruise, nothing to shout about (except Portofino, which was excellent and Johnny Rockets which was very good!). In the dining rooms and Windjammer its good food, not 5-star dining, and thats been my experience on all the cruises Ive been on. Needless to say, Ive NEVER gone hungry for want of good food on a cruise!
*Entertainment: Only attended a couple of the evening productions; the first one I attended was Movie Themes from the '60s to Today good dancers, vocalists werent much to talk about, though one really wailed on Whitney Houstons version of I Will Always Love You, the second show I attended was El Goucho very good comedian, musician, and performing artist with bolos. The bolo performance was interactive and the gentleman selected from the audience to assist with the act had good reason to wet his pants during the performance (though he didnt)! Didnt gamble in the casino I only end up donating to the coffers, might as well just hand them my money when I walk in the door and save everyone the time and trouble of dealing the cards, pulling the levers, spinning the wheel or rolling the dice. Didnt climb the wall, roller blade, play miniature golf, ice skate or attend the ice show.
Didnt swim or hot tub (I can get the effects of both from the warm Caribbean waters onshore, including the saltwater in the pools). Didnt do Quest or the game shows, horse racing, belly flop contest or mens sexiest legs contest. Just relaxed, ate, sunned, went on excursions and had a blast!
Pre-Cruise: Saturday, 27 May.
Flew in from San Antonio, TX, on American Airlines. No problems, glitches or gripes. Luggage was there when I got off the plane, so I was a happy cruiser. One thing about luggage claim in San Juan they check luggage claim tickets for each item you try to take out of the claim area. There were 4 people checking luggage through two exits and it got kinda bottlenecked at that point, but it does give you the warm, fuzzy feeling that no one is going to abscond with your bags! Walked out of the terminal and right up to the taxi counter where I was quoted $11 for a trip to the Intercontinental Hotel for one person and two bags w/ 1 carry-on. Good price and its a well-organized operation. Another warm, fuzzy feeling that I wasnt going to get ripped off by an unscrupulous cabbie! The ride from airport to hotel was about 10 minutes.
Stayed over night in the Intercontinental Hotel (I booked it independently through their website no real bargain). This is a truly beautiful property! The room (deluxe ocean view on the 8th floor) was in excellent shape. There was some wear-n-tear visible if you looked real hard, but you had to really be looking for it. The pool area is fantastic with a couple of hot-tub areas, a grotto and a swim-up bar. Right past the pool is a fantastic beach. The hotel has two restaurants inside and as part of the facility there is a Ruths Chris Steak House and a Japanese restaurant, Momoyama. Also, there is a restaurant/bar separating the pool area from the beach with an outdoor seating area that gives a great view of the both the beach and pool area. A bit pricey unless you can find a discounted rate, but what a great way to start the cruise vacation! Booked a dinner reservation for Ruths Chris through the concierge desk, then had a delicious steak dinner. Lounged by the pool for a couple of hours before hitting a very comfortable bed for a good nights sleep.
Embarkation: Sunday, 28 May.
Woke up Sunday morning to find it raining hard, but looking like just a passing storm (which it turned out to be!). Cleared the room by 10:00 am and headed for a taxi. The bellman grabbed my bags and started to place them with the Royal Caribbean guests bags for transfer to the ship. I told him I wasnt part of the Royal Caribbean pre-cruise group, but he said it didnt matter, I could leave my bags with them and they would be taken to the ship with no problem. I opted to keep my bags with me (thinking I might get them checked in earlier than the group and therefore get them delivered to the stateroom earlier but I dont think it really mattered in the end). The bellman also suggested that I not go to the port that early (10:30 am) because there was nothing in the area to do and the port would not be open to allow me to board the ship. Since it was still raining at that time I mistakenly took his advice. An hour later the rain had stopped and I asked to bellman to get me a cab. Cost from hotel to port was $22. I thought that was a little high, but not exorbitant. The ride to port was about 15-minutes.
When I got to the port the place was a madhouse of activity with taxis and busses leaving with previous weeks cruisers and taxis and busses arriving to drop off this weeks cruisers. There were two parallel lines of people outside the terminal one to drop off luggage (not very clearly identified) and the other line for boarding passengers. Though the line for boarding was long when I got there, it moved fairly quick. Just inside the terminal is the security screening and past that is the waiting area and check-in lines. To the left is a duty-free store for liquor and cigarettes not much else. The check-in was quick and painless as I had done the on-line check-in and had my Set-Sail Pass in hand. I had just taken a seat in the waiting area when they opened the doors for boarding. The ship was beautiful and well-maintained. I stopped by my stateroom to drop off my carry-on, even though the doors to the stateroom halls were still closed. I ran into a couple of stewards and explained what I planned to do and they said, No problem. I had carried-on a twelve pack of soft drinks (Im not a Coke-product fan) and wanted to get them into the cooler.
Next stop was Windjammer for some lunch. Most of the day I explored the ship, grabbed a pool-side chaise and just relaxed. The muster drill went smoothly and I headed for the Strauss dining room for second-seating dinner. Meal times were shifted 30 minutes later on the first night, only. My first pair of tablemates were a couple from the Dallas area traveling without their kids. Great people, but unfortunately they were traveling with friends at a different table and were trying to get dinner seating with them. They were successful in that after the first night and I was glad for them, but very sorry to see them go. We connected often throughout the cruise and I enjoyed our conversations. The table was an 8-top and the next set of mates to join the table were a couple in my age range and the husbands mother, all from up-state New York. Fun and friendly folks and we always had entertaining dinner conversation (so much so that I seemed to talk/listen more than eat, so the meals lasted a while!).
The ship lift port while we were at dinner, but luckily we were seated at beside a porthole and could see the dock sliding by as we ate. After dinner I went back to the room and lounged on the verandah (deck 8, forward, starboard) before crashing for the night. Next stop: St. Thomas!
St. Thomas: Monday, 29 May.
Had my ritual breakfast at Windjammer. Then it was off to the St. Thomas Mini Boat Adventure excursion. I had booked the excursion on-line through RCI and it was described as arrive at a beautiful, hidden beach for a visit to a beach. Here you can bask in the warm Caribbean sun, swim in the gorgeous sea, or experience snorkeling at one of the best areas off St. Thomas. The tale begins: we piled into an open-sided safari truck only to discover that the truck wouldnt start! After a short wait, another safari truck offered to take us all to the excursion boat dock, so we unloaded and loaded onto the good Samaritan truck. Now, the excursion involves breaking up into groups of two and piling into some two-person, Kodiak-style inflatable boats with small outboard motors. The guide boat then leads the way out across the open water to an area between two islands, just off the coast of St. Thomas. I was paired-up with a guy from the northern East Coast, I think he was from the Boston area. I was really looking forward to this little boating adventure! We were about the third or fourth boat in the flotilla and the boat ahead of us was dogging it pretty slow, so the group was strung out quite a ways behind the guide boat. Eventually, we got to the destination, an area between two small islands with a water depth of about 15. Here the guides tied all the boats together and said, Go snorkeling. Heres you snorkel gear. Foolish me, I said, The description said wed go to a beach. Wheres the beach? To which one of the guides explained, Theres a beach, and pointed to a small island with a rock beach about 50 yards away, you can swim over to it if you want, but watch out for the sea urchins and coral. Great! So, I dove in and floated around the boats for awhile, then climbed back in and sunned on the boat while chatting with the guides. Im just not that into snorkeling.
When it was time to head back to the ship we all fired up our outboards and headed out behind the guide boat. Come to find out, what I thought was dogging along on the way out turned out to be full throttle for the little boat me and my new buddy were in. I slammed the throttle wide open (my boat companion didnt care to drive) and proceeded to get left behind by the rest of the group (this was a glimpse of things to come!). We eventually made it back to the dock where the guides offered us rum and our choice of mixer, coke or punch. Everyone drank up. It was a fun excursion, but not exactly what Id expected. And being on the slow boat from China, er&St. Thomas, in this case, wasnt as thrilling as Id hoped for!!
I had been to St. Thomas (and St. Maarten) on a previous cruise and wasnt looking to buy jewelry, liquor or tobacco, so I skipped shopping in Charlotte Amalie and just wandered around the Havensight Mall right there at the dock.
Back aboard ship for our Meet-n-Mingle. Had about 30 folks show up, RCI had a nice spread of appetizers with tea, lemonade or water. The host did a quick game of cruise ship trivia for some giveaway trinkets. Then it was time to relax on deck for a while before dinner. This was Captains Dinner formal night so I tuxed up and headed for the Captains Reception on the Royal Promenade before dinner. The world was well represented on the cruise and there were over 600 returning cruisers (this point would be material later in the trip report). Off to dinner: this evening another couple joined the table. They were from the Dallas area, retired and well-traveled. They added to the mix of interesting conversation so that meals in the dining room were always fun! I skipped the parade on the Royal Promenade and relaxed on deck and on the verandah before turning in for the night.
St. Maarten: Tuesday, 30 May.
Breakfast at Windjammer, then off the ship for the St. Maarten Sensation Beach Break w/ Lunch excursion. This tour headed from where we were docked at Philipsburg on the Dutch side of the island to Marigot on the French side. Along the way we were given a 15 minute scenic photo op overlooking the bay and then dropped off in the shopping district of Marigot for an hour. From there we went to Orient Beach for a couple of hours. Here I have a bone to pick with RCI. Orient Beach is a beautiful beach (though the water can be pretty active there). But, the section of Orient Beach they used for this excursion was called Boo Boo Jam and in my opinion it truly was a boo boo. Although the restaurant provided bathrooms and an outdoor, enclosed shower stall/changing area, the facility was pretty pathetic. On the left side of the beach sign you could lay out on bare plastic lounges in the sun for free, or add a tiny beach umbrella for 3 bucks pp. On the right side of the beach sign you could lay out in the sun on cushioned plastic lounges with a tiny beach umbrella for 5 bucks pp. If you looked off to the right down the beach about a quarter of a mile you could see the other, up-scale beach restaurant/bar establishments strung out along the prime beach front. But just so everyone knew we were at a European beach, there was the obligatory naked older man walking the beach at our location, posing for pictures when requested, even though he was about a mile away from the Club Orient nudist beach at the very far end of Orient Beach. It was hilarious and he got some rather disrespectful catcalls from some of the un-enlightened of our group. Others were more encouraging and from what I hear, he was fairly photogenic. Sadly, for us guys, there werent any unclad ladies on the beach that may be a good thing based on what Ive seen there previously!
My previous visit to Orient Beach had been on a Disney Cruise excursion which used the up-scale area of the beach that I referred to and I expected as much from Royal Caribbean, so my disappointment with RCI was in their choice of location/contractor for the Orient Beach excursions. Still it was an enjoyable day. One thing about Orient Beach that other reports have correctly stated is that the waves come right in from the ocean, no breakfront or reef, so youll be standing in waist-deep water and get hammered by a 3-foot swell that will nearly knock you down. The water is warm and beautiful, but be prepared to hang onto hats, sunglasses and anything else that sits on, but not attached to, your person!
From the beach we took the bus back to Philipsburg with the option to get off the bus in town for some quick shopping. I wanted to hit the Belgian Chocolate Shop (which had offered a chocolate tasting aboard the ship on Monday night), so I hopped off the bus to walk the shops in Philipsburg. To get back to the ship is a simple matter of catching a water taxi ($3 one way, or $5 for an all-day pass) back to the pier. All told, another beautiful day on an island paradise.
Back on the ship I had an early dinner at Johnny Rockets and just lounged around the rest of the evening. Next stop: St. Lucia.
St. Lucia: Wednesday, 31 May.
Slept in and had the usual breakfast at Windjammer, then headed off to do some shopping. I was disappointed that there was no Del Sol store on St. Lucia as I like to pick up one of their color-changing t-shirts from each island I visit. There is a nice shopping area/mall right at the pier with the ever-present Diamonds International and Columbian Emeralds stores as well as some other souvenir shops and liquor outlets. Feeling adventurous, I decided to walk the 15-minute walk into town from the pier. After being hounded by taxi drivers and panhandlers for the first 100 yards after leaving the pier, the walk to town wasnt worth the effort, to me. Id recommend doing your shopping at the mall at the pier, as downtown didnt impress me much. When I got back to the ship I had a quick snack at Windjammer and then it was off to the Aerial Trek excursion. This is a zip-line tour of the rainforest in the mountains above Castries. The bus ride to the excursion site was longer than the actual excursion, itself, but afforded some beautiful views of the island, the villages, a glimpse at the Pitons and lots of rainforest up and down narrow roads through the rainforest. The excursion involves getting fitted into a harness that provides your connection to the zip-lines (cables strung from tree to tree through the rain forest) and acts as your support, or seat (in the form of nylon web straps under your thighs), while zipping along the zip-lines from one platform in the treetops to the next. Its a fun experience and, in my opinion, well worth the cost of the excursion. I will take the zip-line excursions every chance I get! One of the couples I met during this tour thought they were going on a hiking tour and were a bit hesitant when they learned what the excursion was about, but they had a blast and were ready to do it again when the excursion was over! Excellent excursion! It does require quite a bit of walking up and down earthen steps and isnt handicap-accessible for those that might be interested.
Got back to the ship in time for the Crown & Anchor Returning Guest reception. Heres the rub: The invitations placed in the staterooms for Crown & Anchor members gave two separate times (5:30 and 7:45) for the reception one for first dinner seating guests and one for second seating guests. About a hundred of us (out of the 600+ returning guests the Captain spoke of during his Gala reception) showed up for the early Crown & Anchor reception at Imperial Lounge. When do you get upset when someone invites you to a party? When the hosts dont show up! I thought it was rather strange that there was no ice carving, no table of food, no greeters at the door, but I thought maybe they just do it differently on AOS. No. We sat in the lounge for about 25 minutes before one of the guests went to Guest Services to find out what was going on. They returned to tell us that the Loyalty Ambassador had put out the WRONG invitations. There would only be one reception and it was at 7:45 pm. Seems, based on the number of returning guests and the percentage that RCI figures will attend the reception, they have either one or two receptions. For 600+ returning guests they only provide one reception. This left many of us with a bad taste in our mouths, simply because we had planned our activities for the day around being somewhere at a particular time for a particular event. The apologies came after much prodding and gnashing of teeth, but I felt that RCI could have made some kind of token effort to those who had followed the invitations a coffee mug, a shot glass, or free drink at the bar nothing over the top but just something to reflect their remorse for messing with our schedules. It wasnt a deal-breaker for me and certainly didnt RUIN my vacation, nevertheless, I didnt attend the later reception (it was tantrum time, boycott the whole shebang actually, I wasnt that upset, I have seen ice carvings before, I had plenty to eat and really didnt have any questions for the staff it would just have been something to do with the in crowd for an hour or so!).
Dinner was at Portofino and it was excellent, as always. My server was Grace from the Philippines and the assistant server was a very friendly gentleman with some unpronounceable name from Bulgaria. They were both attentive and fun to talk with. Then it was time to lounge on the deck for awhile before heading back to the stateroom, verandah and bed.
Antigua: Thursday, 1 Jun.
Repeat: sleep in, breakfast at Windjammer, off the ship to look around in the shopping area, then the excursion. The town of St. Johns is right outside the dock with most of the big name shops right there as you come off the ship. A couple of blocks over to the right is a straw/souvenir market with tons of t-shirts, beach wraps, bags, hats, etc. Again, no Del Sol on the island there appears to be a trend here! Back to the ship to head off on my excursion, Mini Boats and Hidden Beaches. I should have learned something from the last mini boat adventure, but Id booked these on-line in advance of the cruise and was really looking forward to sprinting around the ocean in these little 2-person boats! Okay, this one REALLY WAS as it was described, pilot your own two-person Kodiak-type boat with outboard motor across the open water to different islands and beaches (well, you got to see several beaches, but only stopped to swim at one of them still, this is what I was looking for!). The bus ride took us to a small dock quite a ways away from (and I think it was on the other side of the island) the pier. At this dock, basically in the middle of nowhere, were a row of the inflatable boats. I think someone asked about going to the restroom and I believe the answer was something like, Pick a spot. As one guide briefed us on safety and how to operate the boats (and I DO mean brief - fortunately, some of us had experience with boating), the other guide was filling plastic fuel tanks with gas, sitting them in the boats and connecting the fuel lines. They assigned us to our boats (I was alone in one this time), started the motors and started pushing us out from the dock. Remembering my last experience, I shoved the throttle full on&and the engine died. I restarted it, moved out into the bay and started doing circles until everyone was away from the dock. They all took off like bats out of hell (this was going to be FUN!) and I slammed the throttle forward to join the line.
The engine roared, the propeller churned&and the boat went putt-putt-putt, roared and then back to putt-putt-putt. It wouldnt move beyond a little more than an idle speed. If I had an oar, I could have paddled faster than the motor was moving me. As the group disappeared into the horizon I putt-putted along where I THOUGHT they had gone. Once in awhile I would catch a glimpse of them swinging off toward an island and then theyd swing back across my path in the other direction to another island I just cut across the open water to try and catch up! Several times I tried bringing the motor back to idle and advancing the throttle, to no avail. Putt-putt-putt. Then the group of them disappeared around one of the islands and I was alone&at sea&barely moving. I finally came around the island where the group has disappeared and there they were, boats beached and people frolicking in the water. I s-l-o-w-l-y puttered up to the beach and YELLED at the guide, This thing SUCKS! They had seen about 7 beaches and had been at this last one for about 15 minutes by the time I got there. The guide came over and said, Got a problem with the boat? Naw, I turned off the motor and paddled by hand to get some exercise heres your sign! He tinkered with it a few minutes then called to me, Theres water in the fuel! Im thinking, Well, hell, I didnt put it in there, so dont look at ME! When it was time to pack up and head back the guide tells me, Your boat is fine now, you shouldnt have anymore problems. Yeah, right. I climb in, start it up, crank the throttle wide open, it jumps about 15 feet, then, putt-putt-putt! NO WAY am I taking this thing back I wouldnt get there in time before the ship leaves port! I yelled something to that effect at the other guide and he came over and traded boats with me. He fiddled with it a minute, then took off, waving for the rest of us to follow. Now, THIS boat MOVES! So, Im right behind him, making waves when his boat (my previous snail) starts going putt-putt-putt. He waves me on ahead so I take off with the rest of the group trailing along behind me. Im smokin along and turn to look for the others and they are W-A-A-A-Y back there, eatin my dust (or in this case, my sea spray). This is fun! The rest of the way back Im having a blast, jumping waves and screaming across the ocean. THIS is what I was expecting from both of the mini boat excursions. That I managed to get it for half of one excursion was enough for now!
Excursion over, we made it back to the ship. This was the second formal night, so I lounged around the open decks for awhile before heading to the stateroom to get suited up for dinner. I use the same tux, but put on a different cummerbund and tie with a flat-collared shirt, just so I dont look like a carbon copy of the first formal night. Works for me. Over dinner all the tablemates discuss their excursions and activities of the past couple of days since I last was at the table. Then we call it a night and go our separate ways for me it was the El Goucho production show very good. Off to the stateroom, verandah and after watching the ocean slide by for awhile, to bed.
Barbados: Friday, 2 Jun.
The usual: sleep late, Windjammer breakfast and off the ship to explore the port. Another port with some nice shopping right at the dockside terminal. Coming off the ship you are put in a shuttle bus that takes you around the pier to the port terminal. From there I waited for a shuttle bus into Bridgetown, and waited, and waited along with a group of about 10 others. One driver tells us to follow him and we head out across the drive way when a Port Authority Officer tells him he cant take off with us (never did know why what the rules are for the taxi/shuttle drivers might be is a mystery to me). Anyway, the PA Officer takes us back to where we were waiting, grabs another driver and tells us to get into HIS shuttle/taxi. Its a short ride into town for $2 pp and Im off the bus and looking for the Del Sol store. Got my T-shirt and decide that it was such a short ride into town that Ill walk back. The downtown shopping area here is pretty nicely laid out, reminded me a little of Nassau. Its hot, but breezy, and the walk leads along the coastline through a beautiful garden/park with benches to sit and rest on. Nice walk.
Back at the ship its time to do my Malibu Beach Break excursion. This excursion goes to the Malibu distillery and includes a free drink and tour of the distillery, as well as open use of the beach adjacent to the distillery. Lots of vendors and private watercraft operators on the beach jet skis were running $45 per half hour, I believe. The beach is nice and well appointed. I ran into two couples from the ship who had been on the Orient Beach excursion with me at St. Maarten, so they set up their lounge chairs beside mine and we chatted and took turns watching over each others stuff. That led to confusion on the part of the beach umbrella patrol. It was yelled out that there was one umbrella to share between each two lounge chairs. And here we had five lounge chairs under 3 umbrellas apparently it was very unnerving to the umbrella patrol, who just shook their heads and mumbled to each other half an umbrella was being wasted!
Having soaked up enough sun for the day, we caught the bus back to the ship. This was another night for dinner at Portofino and my mouth was watering for the filet mignon and the veal. I was not disappointed! After dinner it was more relaxing on the open decks, walking and shopping on the Royal Promenade and then heading to the stateroom to catch some TV while I ate Belgian Chocolate and prepared for another night of being gently rocked to sleep.
At Sea Day: Saturday, 3 June.
The normal routine: sleep in, have breakfast at Windjammer and then what? no port to visit? Just a fun, lazy day at sea. Lay by the pool, grab snacks at Windjammer, lay by the pool some more. Its a rough life. Early dinner at Johnny Rockets, packed the suitcases and carry-on, filled out the customs form, distributed the gratuity vouchers, walked the decks and then soaked up the ocean air from the verandah. Put the luggage in the hallway and crashed. The cruise was coming to a close and it was MUCH too soon.
Debarkation: Sunday, 4 Jun.
Rising EARLY, today. After a quick breakfast at Windjammer I headed to Imperial Lounge to meet the group for the Old San Juan New San Juan tour. This tour provides express debarkation from the ship, then you collect your bags at the luggage claim area, clear customs, take your bags out the door of the terminal to a truck and drop them off. The truck will take the luggage to the airport and the tour bus will take you straight to it when the tour is over. The bus tour through Old San Juan was nice, although our driver, the tour guide, was speaking a foreign language that only vaguely resembled English! The tour goes to Fort San Cristobal, huge and beautiful old fort of stone wall with many levels and some fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, downtown Old San Juan and New San Juan. We spent about an hour there and then headed for El Morro Castle. Beautiful grounds, but the tour didnt stop to explore. From there is was downtown Old San Juan for some shopping oh, by the way, most of the shops in Old San Juan are closed on Sunday. So, it was a photo op and a chance to buy a T-shirt at one of the few souvenir shops that WERE open. There was a Del Sol store, but like most of the other stores, it was closed.
From there we drove through New San Juan, past most of the hotels and resorts and out to the airport. We were there by 11:15, collected the luggage and headed for the ticket counter to check in, check the luggage and kill time till my 4:30 flight to Orlando. I probably could have changed to an earlier flight, but figured it was best not to mess with things that were already in motion. So, I ate, read and wandered the airport for a few hours better early than late! I flew into Orlando because to fly back to San Antonio was outrageous. RT from SAT to SJU was $1300. One way from SAT to SJU was $300 go figure. So, to keep from paying $900 to get back to SAT, I flew to Orlando for $230, spend the night at the Shades of Green Resort on-property at Disney World (annual pass holder) and used the extended-hours benefit of on-property guests to go to Magic Kingdom which was open for extended hours until 3:00 am. Then flew to San Antonio on Southwest Airlines for $98 on Monday morning, 5 June.
It was a fantastic cruise and now that its over, I want to go back!!!! Cant wait for the next cruise! Read Less