We've been on maybe 15 cruises on several different lines. Honestly, they're all pretty decent with some minor quibbles. This was our 2nd on this ship, Adventure of the Seas. Heard it is due for a major overhaul this fall (2016) ... Read More
We've been on maybe 15 cruises on several different lines. Honestly, they're all pretty decent with some minor quibbles. This was our 2nd on this ship, Adventure of the Seas. Heard it is due for a major overhaul this fall (2016) but, to us, there was no sign of wear; everything looked shiny and shipshape. Our mattress was much too hard and lumpy for our taste but we like a soft bed. Wish that they'd offer a hard or soft mattress choice in cabins as we didn't sleep well all week.
The trend on many newer ships, especially Norwegian, is to offer a number of extra restaurants, such as a French restaurant, steakhouse, Asian place, etc. AOTS only has one specialty restaurant plus a hamburger joint, neither of which we patronized. Heard that RC may add a few to this ship when they refurbish it. It's nice to have a bit of variety and, on a special occasion, to go to one of these.
Now for the food. Honestly, it was just okay. First night, you'd think they'd try to impress you, right? Steak Diane! Worst piece of steak ever! Nice sauce but lots of gristle and fat around the perimeter of a very thin - maybe half inch - piece of meat. Very disappointing. Others we asked said they same thing about that dish.
In the restaurant biz, there's a term they use, especially in chain restaurants: "Portion Controlled". In plain English, that means small. Over the years, we have noticed shrinking portions on a number of ships but on Royal Caribbean, they've got it down to a science.
Prime example: the micro-omelette they served to us on our sea day in the main dining room. See my photo: http://capecodphotoalbum.com/omelette.html
In the photo I have posted, you can see how huge the fork is and how dinky their omelette is. That's bad enough, but the "omelette" was nothing more than a small egg "pancake" topped with 3 small slices of potato and a couple bits of onion. Really?? That's all RC can afford to serve their guests? You've gotta be kidding! Compare that to the huge omelette we get every time we go out to breakfast at home on Cape Cod; it's not even close. AND that one comes with a big portion of home fries and 4 pieces of toast.
You want to go on a diet? Go on a "Royal" Caribbean cruise, folks!
PS- Remember the midnight chocolate buffets they used to have ? Those are history, too; the victim of budget cuts.
Shows: Nightly shows were average. Wasn't thrilled with the scheduling of them; many too late. Liked the Platters show; well done. At least RC don't charge admission like NCL has begun to do on their newer ships such as the Breakaway. That really stinks. Hope that's not an industry trend. Also, on NCL Breakaway, they require reservations to get into a show. Maybe that's because they shrunk the size of their auditorium on that boat to half that of most other ships... to make room for more moneymaking bars.
Wine and Drinks: Prices have been jacked up on these noticeably in the past year or two. Guess they're trying to force you to buy a drink package. Most mixed drinks were priced at $10-12 each. We bought 2 drinks each the entire week! And out by the pool, where you'd want most to buy one, we had to wait forever for the ONE server they had on duty to come by! And that was at the main pool. Back at the Adult Pool, there was nobody serving drinks at all; you had to go over to the bar and wait in line. Stinks big time! RC is cutting back on staffing to save money, it seems. Well, they won't be getting ours again.
WINE: Holy cow, have they raised wine prices to the stratosphere on this ship! Most bottles were well into the $40 range ...and up and up. We like German wine and the only bottle of that on their list cost $53. No way Jose! Usually, the wife and I buy a bottle every other night. The steward corks it and saves it for us to finish the following night. Not this trip; we had zero wine.
SUGGESTION for RC: Lower your prices and sell more wine and drinks; make your profit on volume and happier customers.
PRIEST: We are Catholics. We go to Mass every Sunday. There was no priest on this ship, unlike on Holland America, where every ship has a priest. Very disappointing, RC!
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We dragged our feet booking these on their website until a week before our departure, so it was our own fault that we had to compromise on 3 of the 5 trips we wanted. (We booked this cruise last summer, but procrastinated on these bookings.) Fortunately, we believed the website's notice on our "wish list" trips which advised us to "Check with us onboard". First thing we did on board was to run to the Customer Service Desk where Victoria was able to get us all 3 of our "wish list" excursions and refund our money for the others booked at home on the website! Very nice! We were so happy with Victoria, we gave her a nice big cash tip!
FAVORITE SHORE EXCURSION: "Christmas Cove & Honeymoon Bay". We did this same trip 2 years ago and loved it; couldn't wait to repeat it! This "pirate ship", The Bones, sails right from the dock adjacent to where AOTS is tied up in St. Thomas. It's a long hike down the long pier to board it but well worth it. This is a real sailboat, not one of those hulking catamarans you see all over the place, so it's much more fun! (But not handicapped accessible at all, FYI). The crew, mostly in their 20s, were fun, too! First stop was for some snorkeling out at Buck Island. Saw several sea turtles and some nice tropical fish. NOTE: We had nice, smooth seas on this particular day, but other times we've headed out that way (halfway to St. John), the seas were much rougher. If you can't handle that, think twice, because you don't know what you're going to get into until you are out there.
Next, after our snorkel stop, we sailed over to Honeymoon Bay at Water Island for a BBQ and 3 hours of beach time. Along the way, the rum punch flowed free and freely! Upon arrival, you choose between climbing down into their little inflatable boat to get ferried ashore.. or.. if you're up for it, just jumping overboard and swimming to the beach. Last year, I tried racing my 30 year old daughter to shore and learned quickly what a good swim teacher she had back in school! The guys from the ship brought our towels and other gear ashore for us to use on the beach.
On the shore, a generous all you could eat buffet meal awaited us as part of our tour. BBQ Chicken, BBQ Pork strips, alongside a nice macaroni salad, baked beans and a tossed salad. Cans of Coke, Sprite, etc. were free with the meal. If you preferred, you could purchase beer and mixed drinks from the nearby beach bar. We sat at nice picnic tables under shady palm trees.
After our beach time was up - 3 hours was enough for me - we rode back out to the Bones; some swam back to it. Spent the next half hour or so drinking more rum punch as we made our way back to the dock. Great day was had by all and we would do it again, a 3rd time! Slogged back to the ship and slept off the rum the rest of the afternoon :)
OTHER SHORE EXCURSIONS.. briefly.
Antigua: Did a long 4x4 jeep tour of the island. Saw a lot of the countryside. Enjoyed an hour at the beach, chatting with a couple from Britain. Tour was partly on a bumpy dirt road but way out in nowhere away from the tourist areas so that was interesting.
St.Lucia: Took the Aerial Tram ride through the rain forest canopy. I was a bit apprehensive about trying this (I'm a big baby on "rides") but wife persuaded me and she was right. A smooth, slow glide through the rain forest. Total peace. Ahhhh! Very relaxing and educational with an excellent guide who rode with us in an open gondola seating 8 people. It's kind of like riding on a big ski lift. NO BUGS! With all the hoopla about that Zika virus, we were concerned but saw not one bug the whole time. Guide told us that rainfall has been below normal the past year or two. At the end of the ride, we walked around a small garden area and got spectacular photos of hummingbirds!
Grenada: Did a classic snorkel/ beach day on the Caribe Cats catamaran. Saw the underwater statues put there to encourage the growth of new coral. Kind of small and not all that impressive but what the heck, it was interesting enough. Back on the boat to go over to the beach. Rum punch city all the way! AND while on the beach and in the water, trays of rum punch were served to us! First time we've ever had such service on any trip and we've taken plenty. Needless to say, we got pretty well "snorkeled" on all that rum and spent a few hours in bed when we got home, sleeping it off :)
So would we go on AOTS again? Umm, maybeeee. Maybe not. We liked the itinerary on this trip which is why we chose it. We like that it starts out of San Juan, so you're far enough South so that you're not wasting boring days at sea waiting to get somewhere and paying exorbitant drink prices while you're waiting. Heard that NCL is planning many more departures from San Juan in the future; they're catching on! Previous 2 years, we sailed out of SJ on Celebrity and honestly felt that their food was much much better along with better staffing and service. Probably will go back to Celebrity again, given the chance.
PS - San Juan is ok but slightly seedy looking. Enjoyed a few hours walking around Old San Juan the night before our cruise to see the old fort and have a drink. Lots of colorful buildings to photograph. Wouldn't be in a hurry to go back there. Read Less