We recently returned from a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. As experienced cruisers who have cruised with this line many times before, some things met and sometimes exceeded our expectations.
We spent two nights pre-cruise at the San Juan Marriott Stellaris Resort and Casino. The hotel underwent an extensive refurbishment since we last stayed there. Our room on the ninth floor was bright and clean and had an ocean view. We were starved after our early morning flight from Atlanta, so we headed down to the pool bar for a quick burger and my first Mojito. We then headed down the street to Walgreens to pick up some last minute toiletries which we could not bring on the plane. That evening we opted to dine at the buffet in the hotel.
The following day, after a quick breakfast at Starbucks which was across the street from the hotel, we took a taxi into Old San Juan for a day of sightseeing and an early dinner at the Parrott Club (I was not impressed, and whatever I ate did not sit well on my stomach).
Sunday, December 21, 2008 - Boarding Day As Crown & Anchor Diamond members, boarding was a fast, easy and painless process. Upon entering the cruise terminal at the Pan American pier, we were immediately ushered to the Diamond counter where they checked our boarding passes scanned our credit card, and issued our Seapass cards. This is the card which you use to get into your cabin, re-boarding the ship after going ashore, and charging all purchases while on board. The only time cash changes hands is in the casino, and if you choose to tip in cash rather than by voucher. We were then allowed to board the ship. It was then on to lunch in the Windjammer where we enjoyed the standard Royal Caribbean buffet and our favorite Honey Stung Chicken which is only served on the first day. The buffet selection was as varied as we remembered, (salad bar, hot entrees, soups, sandwiches, hand carved meats, deserts, soft serve ice cream & soft drinks). After overstuffing ourselves, it was time to check out our dinner seating arrangements. We were assigned to a table for four directly in the entrance to the Strauss Dining room on Deck 4. We were not at all satisfied with the seating assignment, so we waited in line for the Maitre D' to request a table change. We specifically requested to be seated at a large table with English speaking people and no children. Later that evening we discovered that we were now seated at a large table, but with only one other couple who spoke no English at all. Needless to say, the following morning, we were back at the Maitre D' desk requesting another table change...again. We were assigned to a table for six in the Mozart Dining Room on Deck 5. Only one other couple showed up. They weren't the friendliest or most conversational, but at least they spoke English. This is the first time in all of our cruises that we have encountered such problems. We usually look forward to dining each evening with our tablemates. It is one of the highlights of our cruise. Our next stop was our Jr. Suite on Deck 9 which was ready at 2:00 PM. After unpacking our carry-ons and decorating the cabin, the balcony railing and the outside of the cabin door (it was Christmas), we headed out for a brief tour of the ship.
I've sailed on this ship before, however, it was over 3 years since I last sailed her, and I wanted to reacquaint myself. We started with the pools area on Deck 11. The pools and whirlpools were nice, spacious, and not overcrowded. My favorite is the Solarium, a semi-enclosed area which is reserved for those over the age of 16....nice lounge chairs, 2 whirlpools and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere. Next stop was the Royal Promenade on deck 5. This is the heart of the ship. and a constant hub of activity. The Royal Promenade runs almost the entire length of the ship, and is about 4 stories high. It gives the impression of being on a street in Italy. A huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree dominated almost the entire space in front of the Cafe' Promenade. There are shops and cafe's and places to just sit and watch the people walk by. It was then back to our cabin to wait for our luggage to arrive. By 4:00 we were unpacked and ready to continue our tour of the ship. We checked out the Lyric Theater. Compared to all of the other ships we have cruised on, these seats as well as the seating arrangements are among the best...comfortable and almost like stadium seating. We checked out some of the bars and lounges before the muster drill at 4:30 which was followed by our informal Cruise Critic Meet & Greet at 5:30 in the Schooner Bar.
The ship set sail at 8:00 PM and we viewed sailaway from the Promenade Deck. We always enjoy watching the lights of San Juan fade into the distance during evening departures.
Ports of call Aruba - We did the island tour and sail back to the ship Curacao - another island tour St. Maarten - shopping. This is my favorite port for shopping. St Thomas - St John island tour
Rather than detail every minute of the cruise, I will offer some of my overall observations.
Try not to miss the parades, the 70's Dance party, and entertainment on the Royal Promenade...jugglers, dancers, singers, stilt walkers. Stop at the cafe' for croissant sandwiches, pizza, coffee, cookies and other sweets.
The food in the dining rooms is not as good as it used to be. It is good/average...not great. We missed some of the more elegant selections which used to be on the menu. Our waiter, Sylvester, and our Head Waiter indulged my love for Indian food with a side dish of something special every evening.
Portofino, the upscale restaurant was just so-so. The food was not nearly as good as it once was (the Seafood Skewer was far too dry and tasteless), however, the service was impeccable. There is a $20.00 per person fee to dine there.
Our Jr. Suite on Deck 9, starboard was comfortable and spacious. Our cabin attendant, Carrilee, was terrific and a joy to speak with every day. She always greeted us with a smile and something nice to say.
Robert (from France) our Concierge, was quite charming and was always eager and able to help us with our few requests.
RCCL spends quite a bit of money on entertainment. The ice show is not to be missed. On this cruise, they had a second ice show for the holidays which had both Christmas and Hanukkah entertainment. The Nelson brothers were the headliners in the theater with a show dedicated to their late dad, Ricky Nelson. There was also a Gaucho act, a comedian, a juggler and the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Mike Szwajowski was our Cruise Director, and did a fabulous job. He always started the show in the theater with some sort of magic trick.
One big disappointment was the lack of Christmas decorations throughout the ship. This was our fifth year cruising during the holidays, and we missed the usual garlands along the railings in the dining room and interior balconies, and the various decorated trees throughout the ship. The only tree we saw was the one on the Royal Promenade. The lack of decorations was noted and mentioned by many of the other passengers and made the sailing less festive than in previous years.
Another disappointment, although minor, was the inability to get a Bloody Mary in the Concierge Lounge since tomato juice is now considered a premium beverage. Nice ship, good ports of call, great entertainment, friendly, informative staff...
great location, great balcony, nice, ample sized bathroom