Adventure of the Seas Cruise Review by Rum Runner '05
- Sail Date: July 2005
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
Port of San Juan/Old Town (embarkation port): Speaking of deals, you probably won't find many here. Go to Old Town San Juan for the history and sightseeing, but wait to make your purchases in the coming ports of call. While there's no tax on your purchases in San Juan, nearly everything I priced from liquor, clothing and jewelry can be had much cheaper in the mainland U.S. Wear a good pair of shoes too, as it's easy to trip over the old cobblestone streets. Oh yeah, sunscreen too!
Embarkation: A normally chaotic process, our party lucked out big time here. When we got to port approx. 2 p.m. local time, we were horrified to see approx. a quarter of the capacity 3,500+ passengers waiting to board in the "mother of all lines." Finding the end of this snaking line, a fellow passenger informed us that there was a much smaller line where we could check our luggage on only. We proceeded to the entrance when a porter told us that we could board immediately as we had already affixed the necessary baggage tags. Cool! The porter disappeared into the crowd before we could tip him, but this token gesture probably wouldn't hurt your chances of bypassing the masses. Total embarkation time < 30 minutes. Yippee! Incidentally, once you complete your pre-boarding, you may want to wander to the small duty-free liquor stall which has excellent prices and unlimited free tasting samples. All in our party picked up a bottle of our favorite spirit for the cruise. The duty-free prices here are nearly as good as any on ship or in port. Caveat: you must place the liquor in your carry on when boarding the ship. Free cookies and refreshments also await you in the embarkation area.
A word about Passports: I strongly encourage getting one to take along on for this itinerary. It helped tremendously during the embarkation & disembarkation process (customs) and in the San Juan airport.
Giddy with excitement, we proceeded to our staterooms. There were three of us in one non-adjoining stateroom and my parents in the other. Both were balcony staterooms--but not suites--on the 6th deck. We were pleased with the size of the staterooms, but three people to this stateroom category is a little tight. There wasn't any unusual delay with our luggage. Cons: RCI doesn't provide much in the way of toiletries beyond a small bar of soap and a liquid soap dispenser in the shower. Bring your own travel-sized shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, lotion, etc. for a more enjoyable cruise experience. Also, the small in-room refrigerators never seemed to keep anything cold and the climate control (A/C) was inconsistent and inefficient in both staterooms. This was a significant inconvenience as most days at sea and in port were hot and humid. The staterooms regrettably do not have door peepholes (surprising, considering the design class and age of this ship). There is no coin-op laundry facility on board (however, they do provide valet laundry service for a fee--$4 for 1 pair of jeans). We next did the Day Spa treatment orientation. Staff did a remarkable job of selling the services. Unfortunately, the services didn't live up to the sales pitches. Their prices aren't cheap $49--$300 a session. All of the mediocre services rendered were followed by more strong sales pitches for useless and pricey vitamins and detoxification products.
Next, we proceeded to purchase our fountain (soda pop) cards. $48 for the week for adults, and around $42 for kids. Heard many grumbles about this, but they do give you a collectible drink container with this. Water, ice tea and lemonade are free. We then went to eat at the Windjammer Cafe (deck 11), which serves as the ship's primary casual dining place. It does a satisfactory, if not spectacular job in providing meals and service. Much better than Carnival. It is not open 24 hrs. though. Between 3:00 and 7:00 AM each morning, if you're hungry, you may be out of luck (unless you still have that stale beef jerky that you purchased several days earlier in your suitcase). Most days at sea were calm, but you could still feel the ship rocking slightly. Saw several fellow passengers with those funny patches behind their ears. Captain kept us informed about approaching hurricanes Dennis & Emily. Speaking of the Capt., he's a great approachable guy. Captain Nyseter likes to mingle and meet the passengers and will let you take your picture with him.
Room stewards Rawlson and Alston were great. They know how to make all the towel animals, even one that I hadn’t seen before—blindfolded monkey hanging from the ceiling WOW!
We had the 2nd seating for dinner (8:30). Food most nights was just OK—much better than Carnival—but still leaving much to be desired. Service in all areas of the dining room was sub-par. We saw other tables getting exceptional service, but it seemed like we drew the inexperienced serving team. We did not feel obliged to tip the full suggested amount to this team. Dinner mates were great! Vernice, you are your family were the best table mates we could ever have asked for. Live long and prosper!
On-board fitness center is great—like a mini 24 Hr. Fitness—and was never too crowded. I saw three swimming pools on deck 11. Taken together, they are probably too small to accommodate the ship, but one pool and Jacuzzi are open 24 hrs for the adults.
One person in our party won $600 on a quarter machine in the casino. Rest of us weren’t so lucky. Heard many grumbles about the price of the bingo cards. I believe that the cheapest price during the cruise was $20 for 1 card. Ouch! I decided not to play. My favorite lounges to escape to were the Imperial, Cigar and Library—three places to enjoy a brief, quiet meditation.
We did not patronize Johnny Rockets Burger Joint (deck 12) or the special Portofino fine Italian restaurant (deck 11). They both charge a cover fee. There is an internet café onboard, but they charge .50 cents a minute or $25 an hour and their computers are real slow. Calls from ship are $7.95 a minute. May be best to dock to call home or email. Several of the ports have internet cafes just off ship.
Aruba: Two of us took excursions at this port and had a blast. Great snorkeling. There didn’t appear to be a beach within walking distance of the port, so most people taxied to the recommended sites. Prices here were much better than San Juan. Here I found good deals on Cuban cigars at the Cigar Emporium in one of the main shopping areas. Many shopkeepers and vendors openly peddling drug paraphernalia and adult-themed bric-a-brac. Consensus of our traveling party was that Aruba may not be a completely safe place after dark. Almost palpable tension in the air over the continued unsolved case of missing U.S. teen Natalie Holloway, who disappeared recently on the island.
Curacao: Nice, charming port, even though it looks to be strictly third world living for the locals. Moderate to major construction is going on presently at the ship terminal. Looks like they’re expanding the walkways and putting in lighting. Was curious to learn the island is only 30 mi. off Venezuela. Island has a unique mix of nationalities and trades equally using Dutch currency. Amazing, azure blue waters. To get to town to shop, you must cross this run-down pontoon bridge. If there’s a boat coming, the bridge crew will ring these handheld school bells, and then everyone goes running to cross the bridge—a funny thing to witness for the first time. Sidewalk vendors just off ship holding firm to quoted prices. Take a walk through town and witness the beautifully painted pastel storefronts. Best deals in this port include the popular Curacao liqueur—buy one for yourself and for a gift. Doesn’t do any good to shop prices for this product as nearly all the stores (including the vendors just of the ship) sell it for the same price. I got lost walking around and ended up at the open-air market near the post office where the butchering of animals was taking place. Not for the faint-of-heart.
St. Maarten: Probably the best of the ports our party visited. Prices here (Dutch side) are excellent. Most vendors selling bottled beers for a buck and great deals await you on jewelry, tobaccos (cigars) and liquor. You’ll need to drink a lot of that beer, or water as this was also the hottest port—temperature-wise. Whew! Got a bit of heat exhaustion walking around. Island specialty liquor is Guavaberry liquor—a strong delicious liqueur. They have the Guavaberry liquor store on the main street and they offer free samples.
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. Visually stunning port-of-call. Probably the most picturesque of all the ports. Prices here are just OK and the merchants, vendors and taxi drivers are all very pushy in selling you. A good rule of thumb in this and all the ports is to ask how much it will cost you before getting into any taxi. Many thanks to the folks (namely, Deja & Julius) at the Happy Buzzard (formerly Fat Tuesdays), a hole-in-the-wall bar along the waterfront walk serving up great drinks and hospitality (right next to Blackbeard’s Brewing Co.). You guys made our trip special.
Disembarkation: Also normally a chaotic process, this went fairly smooth. You will likely find the café and dining stations at maximum capacity with everyone trying to get their last meal before leaving ship. The elevators were (naturally) jam-packed and ship maintenance crew picked a lousy time to start replacing carpet in the stairways. We were in one of the first groups to be called and we were off the ship around 9 AM. Pay attention to taxi prices in San Juan at the pier. May be in your best interest to haggle and shop around. They have these people writing receipts for the taxi costs and they charge per piece of luggage too. They even charged my mother for her purse! Incredible. By this time, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably be “tipped out” for several weeks and months to come. This was one of the negative things about the cruise. Everyone wants a tip. When you order a drink or any other service on the ship, you get a receipt with an automatic 15% gratuity included and then another line asking you to include another tip (amounting to a tip on top of a tip). Nonsense. Memo to RCI Corporate: Pay your employees a decent wage!
All in all, it was a nice cruise, and one that my family enjoyed. Just be prepared to pay for it with your wallet and credit. Email me with any questions. I’ll be happy to respond. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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