We have sailed on RC before, but not with two kids and not on this itinerary. It turned out to be the perfect week-long getaway, we added a couple days each end in San Juan as well. The ports were awesome--each beach was more beautiful than the next. As for the ship, I too was pleasantly surprised after reading some negative reviews, and when I mentioned these to fellow passengers they were shocked that people complained. But, if you are a foodie/used to a luxury/looking for top-of-the line amenities and service, Adventure may not be for you.
The rooms are showing their age--ours could definitely use some renovations but the overall ship looked to be in good shape. But why would we stay in the room... Given the port-heavy itinerary we did not spend too much time on the ship except the first and last days. My kids loved the Adventure Ocean program as well as the kids' area and mini golf course. There were a lot of families/kids on this ship, probably more because it was Spring Break season. We had a great oceanview cabin location right around the corner from the main dining room and each morning we just wandered down the hall for a good hearty breakfast. We took every dinner at the MDR which overall was very good, with a few notable misses (lobster tail, prime rib), and our waiter/assistant were very attentive, especially to the kiddos. We took advantage of RC's policy allowing two bottles of wine--which we learned too late that you we could have just bought duty free right at the San Juan port upon embarkation--and brought those to dinner. If we were in a hurry we grabbed sandwiches from the 24-hour Promenade Cafe. We didn't try Giovanni's Table or Johnny Rockets (didn't see many people there, ever). We tried the Windjammer twice for lunch and the food was simply AWFUL, service there ranged from enthusiastic to outright bored.
Promenade area was nice, lots of bars to choose from. Hubby went to casino and got ripped off on a Royal Poker tournament (prize is possibly a free cruise, maybe, if you advance to the next level, but that wasn't clear until after buy-in). Ice skating show was AWESOME and by all means get there as early as possible to get a seat. We also saw a dance show and the balancing act show with Luis Dalton--that was truly amazing, as he managed to stand on his head on a champagne bottle on one of the rockiest nights at sea. Everyone raved about that show, unfortunately we also missed a Las Vegas show that I heard was really good. Hope to make more shows on the next cruise.
We had one seasickness incident, my daughter threw up in Adventure Ocean one night. By the time we got back to the room, I had two messages from the ship's nurse and she had to file a report, so I think they do keep a close eye out for norovirus and other illness. The clinic closes at 7 p.m. but have motion sickness pills available in the waiting room. I did have some concerns about Adventure Ocean, while I thought the staff was fine, they did not give me any feedback at than sign in/out and they did not give pagers should there be an emergency (we happened to be at dinner the night my daughter got sick and the steward knew where we were, but otherwise I don't know how they would have found us) There seemed to be 20-25 kids and two staff at night for the 3-5 and 6-8 groups, if I had a younger child (below age 4) who could not communicate their needs, I might not have been as comfortable with this option.
Shopping was the usual t-shirts and jewelry, of course they pushed Diamonds International and all the shore shopping as well. No fabulous deals but fun to look. We bought some duty-free liquor. We did not take any RC excursions, there was nothing that piqued my interest on this trip and we got much better prices by arranging our own. Did almost all our drinking off the boat. We stopped by a "welcome back" party--essentially a sales pitch--for repeat cruisers that offered free champagne, and people were grabbing as many glasses as they could carry. Nice. Oh, and the cruise director was Mercedes, have to agree she was rather annoying.
Overall, I was again pleased with Royal Caribbean, and we even booked our next cruise on ship (I felt like a sucker, but it wasn't a bad deal at all--we had researched another cruise and knew what we wanted, they give immediate credits for your current trip, and they allowed us to transfer the reservation to Costco Travel, so we will still get the credits there.)
St Thomas: Magen's Bay beach, absolutely beautiful but try to get there early. Food bar was expensive and not good. We rented a kayak to look for sea turtles.
St. Croix: Loved Rainbow Beach, again, get there early. Food at Rhythms bar was delicious, also loved their frozen lime in coconut drink. Tried to do Cruzan tour but didn't have time, got some drinks and picked up a couple bottles instead.
Antigua: Valley Church Beach, another beauty. Easily accessible via cab for $8 a person, each way.
St. Lucia: Full day tour with COSOL tours, this was the highlight of the whole trip.
Grenada: Half-day Spicy Scenes tour with A and E tours, highly recommend. We then took the water taxi over to Grand Anse beach.
San Juan: Stayed at Old San Juan Sheraton, GREAT location to get to everything in the area. Happy to see the other boats leave so the area was less crowded :)
We were happy to have a lower floor stateroom, I found this location to be very convenient.