We picked this cruise since it was 8 nights, a great price, and went to one of our favorite ports (St. Maarten). It had been 3 years since we last sailed on Royal Caribbean due to them having limited sailings (seasonal only) on the West ... Read More
We picked this cruise since it was 8 nights, a great price, and went to one of our favorite ports (St. Maarten). It had been 3 years since we last sailed on Royal Caribbean due to them having limited sailings (seasonal only) on the West Coast. In that time, we have sailed on Holland America, Princess, and several Carnival West Coast cruises. Overall, Royal Caribbean is still our favorite cruise line.
Flying from the West Coast, we arrived the night before the cruise. We picked our hotel based upon free airport, and cruise port, shuttle transfers. The Quality Inn Cruise Port South met both these requirements. The airport shuttle runs until 12:30 AM which matches the flights arriving at Ft. Lauderdale Airport. However, due to a Southwest flight delay passing through Denver, our adult daughter arrived at 12:40 so a taxi ($25) was needed for her. The hotel is located next to McDonalds and Taco Bell. Within walking distance are several other restaurants and a K-Mart. Guests can make last minute purchases (wine?) or grab a bite to eat after a long flight. The hotel itself is old, but is fine for one night. The morning breakfast was better than expected and the shuttle to the cruise port was the most organized we have ever seen in our many Florida cruises. With the free shuttles, it was worth the price.
We had a scheduled boarding time of 1:00-1:30 PM. Due to the 11:00 hotel check out time, and shuttle schedule, we arrived at port at 11:30. To our surprise, we were allowed to go straight on the ship. Royal Caribbean allows guest to pre-load their security photo from home which really speeds-up embarkation. By 11:45 we were in the Windjammer eating lunch. The Windjammer, instead of having the usual alcohol based hand sanitizer dispensers, has built-in sinks. The 8 wash basins each have a faucet which not only dispenses warm water, and soap, but also contains a hand blower. It was actually fun to “washy washy” before each meal. The selection of food in the Windjammer was good. However, seating was an issue. The staff cleaned tables as fast as they came available, but you had to watch for people leaving and then make a dash for the table. We always found a table, but it took a little work.
The ship is in great shape. The Flow Rider, rock climbing wall, water slides, splash area, ice skating rink, pools, shuffleboard, and Ping-Pong, kept us busy during the 4 at days at sea. The mini-golf course is situated on two decks with one of the holes taking the ball to the lower deck. Unlike other brands we have been on where the mini-golf course was just AstroTurf with a hole in it, the Adventure of the Seas has structures (a boat, lighthouse, giant clam shell, etc) like a real mini-golf course. Also, our last Carnival ship had hollow plastic balls which do not act like real balls. Royal Caribbean still uses real golf balls. For ice skating, you have to sign-up in the morning before the first session for ANY session during that day. We did not know this and arrived at the 2nd session to find it full (35 skaters per session). On the next sea day, we arrived before the first session and got our desired session stickers. The sessions last 30 minutes and skaters are required to wear long pants (make-sure to pack one pair of long pants for this and not only shorts) and socks.
At 1:30 the rooms opened. Your room key is located at your room. Our luggage was also at the room waiting for us. The room was good size with a fold down bed (located above the head area of the main bed). The fold down bed remained down then entire cruise, but was out of the way. The shower had a glass door and the balcony had two chairs, which folded down flat, and a table. Unlike other ships which have glass walls separating the balconies, the Adventure of the Seas balconies have one glass wall, and one full metal wall. This limits possible disturbances to only one neighbor instead of two. It resulted in a more private feeling. The AC worked great and kept the room cool. There was an empty refrigerator in the room which came in great for storing cold water. You use a magnet on the door to indicate to the stateroom attendant when you are out of the room. Unlike Carnival, which has gone to one time per day service, Royal Caribbean still does twice daily room maintenance. Our cabin attendance was great and the room was always serviced while we were either away at breakfast or at dinner.
Since it was a Caribbean cruise, we bought the non-alcoholic drink package (pre-cruise sale price $23.50 per day which included 18% tips). This allowed you to get ANY drink at the Coffee Café (which served Starbucks and great iced mocha frappes), fresh juice, bottled water, and mock cocktails at the bars. You also got a micro-chipped plastic cup which allowed you to use the self-service machines throughout the ship for soda. Unlike Carnival, which gives you a receipt (that has a space for an additional tip (above the 18% already paid) making you feel bad if you do not tip again) to sign, Royal Caribbean just swipes your card and you are on your way. No pressure for additional tips. With the hot weather, the package (which does not have to be bought for all guests staying in the same room) was a good deal. Highly recommend the non-alcoholic Mango Daiquiri. The package even works on Labadee.
For dinner we had early seating. You order your entire meal (appetizer(s), main course, and dessert) at once. This allowed the waiters to seamlessly deliver your meal without long waits. Each night we would order two appetizers which would be delivered at the same time. Once you finished a course, the next course would magically appear. On the second Formal Night, lobster was on the menu. Although some cruise lines charge extra for lobster, on the 7 night, or longer, Royal Caribbean cruises it is still complimentary and you can order as many as you like. The lobster was the best we have had in our many cruises and shamelessly we each had 3 (while on vacation…..). For the other 7 nights, the menu kept our taste buds entertained and the food was delivered hot.
One area where Royal Caribbean fell short was celebrating Special Occasions. During prior cruises, we received a free photo coupon on Carnival during a birthday, a balloon and card on Princess during a special event, and other such items. On this cruise, we were celebrating our 25th anniversary (as noted in the reservation). The DAY AFTER the anniversary, we received a 10% off jewelry coupon. No other recognition (a card would have been nice) from Royal Caribbean. It was kind of a letdown after seeing what other bands did and made us wonder why they even ask when booking.
The first port of call was Royal Caribbean’s private beach Labadee. Although there is a zip line, roller coaster, and other fun activities (extra cost) on the beach, we decided to just lie on the beach and enjoy the sun since during prior visits we had done the activities. Chairs are provided for free and there are shade trees. The drink package works at Labadee and we kept hydrated with sodas and non-alcoholic Labaduzies (tropical fruit daiquiris). They also serve a free BBQ lunch. The lunch was great and we made several snack runs to the serving area for additional cookies and desserts. One great thing about the beach, there are no venders. The venders are limited to certain areas near the restrooms (where you will get the usual aggressive selling). So you can just lay back, sip Labaduzies, and enjoy the beach.
The second port of call was Porto Rico. We had a van tour excursion booked through Royal Caribbean, but upon receiving our tickets on the ship, we noticed the tour time had changed. The new time interfered with our dinner time. We cancelled the tour (full refund) and instead walked to the two forts. Both are near the ship and are run by the U.S. Park Service. One admission price is good for both forts. The forts were interesting and the walk was easy.
The third port of call was St. Maarten. St. Maarten (Dutch side, St. Martin French side). Here we went to Maho Beach. This is the famous beach by Princess Julianna Airport where planes fly over right above your head. Excursions to the beach ran about $40 per person. A taxi is about $30. We took the public transportation (vans which run on a scheduled route every 10 minutes) for $2 per person each way. It was a short walk to the main street where we caught a van with a “Maho Beach” sign in the window (the other route is Marigot). If you see lots on vans with Marigot, and none with Maho Beach, you are on the wrong direction street since the locations are in opposite directions. The trip to Maho Beach took 25 minutes and cost only $6. A majority of the large planes (Airbus 320s and 737s) land between 11:45-2:00 so this is the best time for viewing. Unfortunately, about half way during our visit, it started to rain. We went to the near-by Sun Set Bar and Grill ($9 daiquiris, $4 beers) for a drink and shelter. If you have to use the restroom, use it before ordering. They charge $1 to use the restroom, but give you a $1 drink coupon. After watching the planes, it was another $6 van ride back to Philipsburg (cruise dock) which took about 40 minutes. We happen to be in Philipsburg on Labor Day and were treated to an interesting Labor Day parade. It was like a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade with free t-shirts, and beer, being handed from the floats to the spectators. Once word of warning, the parade participants were very scantly clothed and also seemed to have enjoyed the free beverages. We would probably not take any young children to watch the parade.
The last port of call was St. Kitts. Here we took a Royal Caribbean booked van tour of the island for $24 a person. After several days in the sun, and never having been to St. Kitts before, we picked the relaxing Panoramic Drive in the air conditioned van. The tour was nice with the only complaint being it was shorter than the advertised 2 hours. The tour made two stops as it wound around the tiny island. The driver used a PA system and the van was in good shape.
For this cruise, we bought the unlimited photo package ($199 pre-sale). It was fun taking numerous photos (354) which will keep the memories alive for many years to come. The photos are downloadable to your phone, or any device, while on board the ship. You can also load the photos from a link emailed to your after the cruise. Instead of agonizing over which photos to buy, and ending-up with a $100 photo bill for a few favorites, this package gave us all photos for every person in your stateroom with you buying only 1 package per room. If somebody from your room is in the photo, you get it.
Debarkation went fast. After leaving our stateroom at 8:00, we got breakfast in the Windjammer (stops serving at 8:30). By the time we finished breakfast, numbers 1-24 had been called. Being group 10, we walked right off the ship. Customs took about 15 minutes. Having a 4:50 flight, we reserved a car with Hertz for the day. The Hertz shuttle makes loops between the several ships and their office. Due to port rules, you cannot take a car rental shuttle to an airport rental location. Thus, all the car rental shuttles go to off airport locations. Although we had pre-paid for the rental car, and somehow managed to arrive exactly at the rental time (great guessing), Hertz had no car for us. An employee had to go the airport and bring a car over which took about 30 minutes. The car only had 3/8 a tank of gas and we were told to return it at the same level. When we returned the car later at the airport, we were told we owed for the missing gas. Luckily between a photo of the odometer/gas gauge upon pick-up, a gas receipt for the estimates used gas, and only driving 58 miles, we were able to convince the attendant there was no way we could use 5/8 a tank of gas. The gas charge was removed, but it did cost us about 15 minutes of our time. If you do rent from Hertz, be warned.
While waiting for our flight, we drove about 25 minutes (no tolls along the way) to Sawgrass Recreation Park for an air boat ride. Using a coupon online, we were able to pre-buy the tickets for a great price. The ride was about 30 minutes and we saw 3 adult alligators. Sawgrass Mills was picked based upon location, price, type of boat used, and recommendations online. After the ride, we visited their animal area and got to hold a baby alligator. They also have several animals to view. It made for a nice 2 hour visit. It was then off to a late lunch and the airport for our flight home.
Overall, the cruise was fantastic. It greatly exceeded our expectations (except for the Special Occasion). Adventure of the Seas is a wonderful ship with an outstanding crew. Read Less