RCCL -- Adventure of the Sea Passengers on board: 3,400; 2,900 from U.S. (incl. 500 from PR). October 10-17, 2004
Day 1: Oct. 10 -- San Juan: scheduled departure - 10 p.m. We had the good fortune to stay in Orlando for a week prior to the cruise to work on our tans a little. The weather was great: sunny and hot (upper 80's) - almost no rain. Had a noon flight on Spirit to arrive into PR on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Flight was only about 10 minutes late to the gate. We could see that it had been raining, and as soon as we walked onto the jetway, the low 90's heat and humidity could be felt. Our bags must have been among the last out, and we were getting a little anxious that none of the 6 bags (from the 4 of us) were seen. But they finally showed up. The San Juan baggage area has none of the luggage carts that are usually available, either free or for rent. And only a small handful of porters were working. So we ended up wheeling our own stuff out. The area seemed under construction as we had to snake around a few barriers and hallways to finally get out to the curb.
We had reserved a Limo, and our driver was near the front of the line. So we were very shortly off to the cruise dock. I must admit that the area, as we pulled up, seemed to have quite a bit of construction activity. Several areas of construction fencing made it seem that a more expansive dock area will be there in the future. Arrived about 3:45 p.m. There did not appear to be the huge throng of people there that I anticipated from being familiar with the Miami terminal. Our driver pulled up, went and got an RCCL baggage handler to get a luggage cart and put our tagged bags in. We later found out that there was a fairly long line of passengers that had taken cabs or buses waiting to check their bags onto the ship. But thanks to our Limo driver, our bags went right on. We were then able to bypass the baggage check-in lines and proceed directly into the terminal (3:55 p.m.). We found out that they had not opened the terminal until about 3. A few of our friends that spent the night in San Juan had arrived early (12:30) to board, only to stand in the 90+ F heat for over 2 hours. They were drenched with sweat by the time they boarded.
The organization seemed better than I remembered at the Miami terminal in that the check-in was by deck level with only 1 or 2 decks per section. It seemed like there were only a few waiting in each line. We had a balcony cabin on deck 10 and waited less than 3 minutes. None of the lines that I had experienced on two other Voyager-class cruise ships to get on board. We literally walked right on by a few minutes past 4.
Had a small snack in the Windjammer, mainly just because it was there, since we had the early seating and would have the proper dinner in less than 2 hours. Luggage still had not been delivered, so it was informal night in the dining room (shorts). Dinner was very good, I had prime rib. We were at a table of ten, so we would always order two or three other dishes for the center of the table to taste everything. Almost like family style, and I think most of the menu selections were on the table every night. We felt the main dining room food in general was very good, not many complaints
Muster drill held in between the first and second dinner seating, which seemed weird. The Sail-away party was fun, but I enjoy the afternoon departures more so I can watch the ship leave while still light. Our luggage finally showed up about 8 p.m. A comedian at the evening show was pretty good, but we couldn't seem to stay awake for the midnight parade.
Others ships leaving San Juan today: Carnival Destiny, Golden Princess
Day 2: Oct. 11 - St. Thomas: arrival - 7:30 a.m.; departure - 5:30 p.m. A few of us had booked the Castaway Girl Catamaran Sailing and Snorkeling Tour of Buck Island on the RCCL web site as we wanted the sailing excursion. We then talked to the excursion desk about transferring our excursion to the same destination, but on a 40' private sailboat. We were very glad we did. RCCL contracts out with 4 or 5 sailboats that hold 4-6 each. It was a much more intimate excursion as there were 6 of us and only 2 crew members. We really got personalized attention as one of the crew snorkeled with us showing us quite a bit of the local sea creatures. Several large sea turtles were also feeding in the area which added to the trip. Some others in our group did the St. John's Island Tour on Land Cruisers. They said they had a blast.
We got back to the ship by 1 and met some old friends that live in St. Thomas for lunch. We ate at Glady's Cafe, a great, local style restaurant. Had a couple hours left to stroll around the shops before we had to get back to the ship. We began to see the onset of the "Plague of the Caribbean Taxi Driver." We could not walk more than 10 steps before we were hailed by a cab driver asking if we were headed back to the ship. Normally, it was only 5 steps before the next cab, right behind the one who had just asked us, pulled up with the question. They finally wore us down, and we allowed ourselves to be taken back.
Monday night was the first formal night. Our waiter, Woodrow, was great. He was from Jamaica and knew the Jamaican waiter, Horace, we had had on the Explorer last January. Interestingly, the head waiter did not come by and introduce himself for about the first three nights. After that he warmed up a little more, but seemed to spend most of his time at the other tables. (I was watching for him after hearing about other cruisers mentioning seldom seeing him at all.) The main show of the evening was quite good, a guy who impersonated 30 or 40 singers from Sinatra to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Carnival Destiny and Golden Princess were also in St. Thomas today. We wondered at the time if they would follow similar routes. We never saw them again until we returned to SJ.
Day 3: Oct. 12 - St. Maarten: arrival - 8:00 a.m.; departure - 5:30 p.m. I went scuba diving in the morning while my dear wife spent her time in the spa (hot rocks and a facial). The first dive was a reef dive that had quite a few fish and some decent coral. The second dive was an 1802 clipper ship wreck, The Proselyte. All the wood was gone, of course, but we still saw quite a few cannons, chains, and anchors strewn about the area.
My dear wife and I had been to the island before and had done the tour and Orient Beach thing, so the afternoon we just stayed by the pool. It's great there during port days as you feel that you almost have the facilities to yourself.
A few in our group did the ship's Island Tour excursion (from hell). Their bus broke down and they were put on jump seats in a second van which hurt their backs by the end. The driver/tour guide would point out such local sites such as: here's a Kentucky Fried Chicken, which you guys probably like; here's a Radio Shack, where you guys can get electrical parts; and here's a B-P station, where you guys can get gas, its xx.x/liter; and here's......where you guys.....and, and, and. They did say the shopping stop and beach part was quite nice. I told them to turn in a complaint form straight away, and they ended getting a 30% refund in the excursion.
Tuesday night was the Ice Show. It was excellent; some very talented performers for such a limited show schedule. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers also put on their first show of the cruise. They have some very talented people, but we felt that the show (and the songs selected) was not that terrific.
Day 4: Oct. 13 - Antigua: arrival - 8:00 a.m.; departure - 5:30 p.m. Had our first main dining room breakfast. Enjoyed it so much that it was our morning ritual for the rest of the cruise. None of us had picked out any excursions to do, so we thought we'd venture out and see the little shopping district by the dock. Here we saw that the 'Plague of the Caribbean Taxi Driver' had made its way south in epidemic proportions. Now we couldn't walk more than 3 steps before being hit upon for a taxi somewhere. And I'm not talking about just by the pier, anywhere / everywhere in town, the plague was rampant! After a little shopping, went back for lunch at Johnny Rockets. Then got our swimming suits and went out to do battle with the Plague. We asked where to nicest beach in the area was, and for $15, five of us were off to a nice beach about 15 minutes away. We spent a lovely afternoon just lying in the sun, doing some swimming and just relaxing. The rule of thumb among taxi drivers in the Caribbean (perhaps a side effect from the Plague) is that they will pick you up at what ever time you tell them. So that at the predetermined time, there was our cab driver, Arthur, waiting for us. Of course if he hadn't have been there, 6 others were ready to take us - the Plague was everywhere.
Wednesday night was smart casual night, so I donned a sport jacket. It was also the Crown and Anchor cocktail party at which I usually look forward to hearing from the Captain. But he was a no show. The evening performance was by the Royal Caribbean Production cast, another high talent, but low interest show. I've been on 3 other RCCL cruise ships and have always thought their shows were excellent. Well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad. As I mentioned, the performers themselves were terrific, but the shows lacked ....something - IMHO.
Day 5: Oct. 14 - St. Lucia: arrival - 7:15 a.m.; departure - 5:30 p.m. Another beautiful day in Paradise and great weather again. Rather than excursions, we set out on a somewhat more personal trip. There is a 5-star timeshare not too far from the dock, The Windjammer Beach Resort. We had looked through our catalog and were considering spending a week there sometime. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take a tour before we committed to a whole week. As you disembark from the ship, you must go through a mini-mall with several jewelry, clothes, and other such souvenir shops, and of course... taxi drivers. The Plague had made it to St. Lucia. It must be the warmer weather, as it seemed that the farther south we went, the worse the Plague got. And they all had the perfect tour in mind for whatever you wanted to do.
After perusing the shops a little, we inquired at the Info Desk in the 'terminal building' about getting to the Windjammer Resort for a short visit, and then continuing on to a nearby National Park and beach area. The lady at the desk said that the beach at the Windjammer was very nice. And all we would have to do was to buy a couple drinks at their beach bar, and we could have complete use of all of the resort's facilities. Sold.....we were easy marks! We couldn't have asked for a better beach area. Free sun recliners, areas of sun or shade under Palm trees, the use of a freshwater pool a few steps away, and the best part, they gave each group a small pennant on a stick that one would just set upright, and the bar waiter appeared shortly after for our pina colada orders. At the appointed time, our taxi driver appeared, and we were taken back to the ship, a few shades darker.
The second formal night, so out came the suits again. Tonight was lobster night. My only complaint was that there were so many other excellent choices on the menu that I also wanted; the decision took a few milliseconds more than usual. I opted for prime rib (med. rare, please) with a lobster dinner on the side. When the lobster came, I just slide it off onto my plate for a kind of surf and turf dinner. My dear wife had two tails. One function that the head waiter served was he would go around and remove the shells from everyone's lobsters (he also did this on shrimp nights as well.) Well worth the $5 recommended tip he got from each of us at the end of the cruise.
A treat for the evening's show, The Platters performed. Only Herb Reed remains as one of the originals, and he doesn't solo that much, only signs and emcees. But it was a great performance and walk down memory lane for everyone in our group (over 40). Was tempted to go back for the second show, but went to the Karaoke contest for a while and then got "trapped" in the casino and lost track of time (as well as a few dollars.)
Day 6: Oct. 15 - Barbados: arrival - 8:00 a.m.; departure - 5:30 p.m. Today was a cloudy and overcast type of day. I had originally wanted to scuba dive, but that was booked up before I could make up my mind. And after 5 islands in 5 days, we were starting to feel stretched. We always like to check out the town area. The cruise dock is about 1-2 miles from town, and RCCL arranges a shuttle/van service to take you there for $1 (until noon; then I think it goes to $2). You must walk through another mini-mall to get to the outside. Then there was a rather long line waiting for the shuttle service, which is just 10 passenger taxi vans. While we were debating whether to get into the line, a cab driver came up to us and said to follow him, he would take us for a $1 (sounds like the Plague has arrived). He said that the cruise line uses cabs anyway, so he might as well make the dollar per person.
When we got into town, the 'Plague of the Caribbean Taxi Driver' was again rampant. We could not even get out of our van because the way was blocked by other taxi drivers wanting to take us, wherever. We escaped and walked through the town area. But it was drizzling on and off, and we decided just to head back and spend the rest of the day by the pool. On these days, the spa often announces specials to fill in openings. My dear wife took advantage and had a manicure and pedicure. I saved her chair by the pool. Some others in our group took the 4x4 Green Monkey Encounter and said it was terrific, monkeys jumping out all over. I had seen the movie "Outbreak" too often to try that one, but apparently no casualties, as everyone showed up for dinner, 50's/60's night.
By the way, they have done away with their "Baked Alaska Show" by the waiters. Apparently, some ship had a fire incident, and it was dropped for insurance reasons. They still served it, but no dance through the dining rooms. The evening show by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers was better than the others earlier in the week. It featured theme songs from movies over the years.
Day 7: Oct. 16 - Sea Day Sea days are always some of my favorite days as it allows you to relax, if you want, by the pool. The primary goal is to capture a deck chair before the prime locations are gone. My sister and I were up every morning at 6:30 a.m. to watch our arrival into each port, so it was no biggie to get up soon after that and grab a couple of chairs for our little group. One of us, at least, would hang out while the others breakfasted and arrived. (A pet peeve of mine is the ones who come down and put towels out to reserve chairs and then leave for hours until they finally show up again.) We had a good time in and out of the pool. My dear wife and I tried our hand at the slot machine tournament; I was close to the top ten, but alas...A noteworthy item, we made it through the whole cruise without one session at Bingo!
Day 8: Oct. 17 - San Juan: arrival - 4:30 a.m. The disembarking was not as smooth as getting on, unfortunately. They have done away with using the luggage tag colors as departure time slots. You still get colored tags, but they are only used to determine the area of the baggage claim area to look for your bags. Everyone must leave their staterooms by 08:00. You are asked to stay either in Studio B (the ice skating theatre) or in the large Lyric Theatre (where the main shows are seen). Many hung out in the Promenade. If you had flights before 10:30 or 11:00, you were the first to be called (about 8:15), but they announced that you had to have your airline ticket or proof of the early flight. Eventually they announced (at about 09:00) flights earlier than 12:30 p.m., again with proof of your airline ticket. At 09:30 they announced flights earlier than 2:45 p.m. Well, that was a big majority (including us), and the line to get out became quite long. The procedure seemed to be that about 50-75 would be let off at a time to go to the next staging area. There were about 3 staging areas before you got to the actual customs area.
The problem was that you would be in line standing still for 15-20 minutes, and then everyone would move up several feet; but in the back, we had no way of knowing why the line wasn't moving. By the time you got to the terminal gangway, several lines had merged which also kept things seemingly moving at a snail's pace. We finally got through customs at about 11:00, so about 1-1/2 hours of standing in line for that. The trip to the airport was pretty quick. But the Spirit Airline counter was backed up. Another hour to get through there. Only a ½ hour for security, so we were at the gate by about 1:00 p.m. for a 2:45 flight.
Other tidbits Seeing how widespread the Plague of the Caribbean Taxi Driver is, I would discount any worries about venturing out on your own to do things on the Islands (at least the ones on this cruise). As long as you allow a reasonable amount of time to return, even a complete breakdown could be covered by the next taxi coming down the street, probably 100 feet away.
Another point asked about a few times, the pool in the Solarium definitely does not have a roof over it. There are some "barber pole" type appendages that could possibly support a canvas cover of some sort, but I could not find any side anchors that would allow it to be stretched over the entire pool area. And the pools were salt water.
The Adventure was in very good shape, save for some well worn carpet and upholstery. Not shabby, but definitely used. Some of the veneer on the desk was wearing down. The screws were coming out of the bathroom door closer. When I called maintenance on the first day, they came right away to fix it, but they were loose again and almost coming out by the end of the cruise.
Our cabin attendant never stopped by to introduce herself. We would see a couple of RCCL people in the hallway, but never were sure which one was our attendant. That being said, the cabin was always in top condition, with fresh towels always there, ice in the ice bucket, towel animals every night, etc. How she did that anonymously was a wonder. We finally called her up on the last morning to give her the gratuity envelope and actually introduced us for the first time. I mentioned that most of the passengers were friendly, and she shouldn't be shy about talking to them. On other cruises we have had, the attendants have introduced themselves to us within the first couple of hours on the cruise.
We heard at the airport that the Carnival Destiny lost its air conditioning half way through their cruise. I haven't seen any other reference to that, so I don't know if it was lost throughout the ship or just parts of it. However, seeing that most days were in the upper 80's, that would have made for an uncomfortable situation. Read Less