Adventure of the Seas, Malaga 16-23 July
The largest vessels we have previously been on had some 30 passengers, so it would be an experience as to what sailing with some 3,598 others would be like on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. We live in Malaga and it seemed a convenient way of visiting Rome, Florence and Ajaccio in Corsica. No flights to organise, no hanging about in airports and less than an hour's drive to the port. On the Saturday boarding was very quick and efficient and our owner's suite on the 10th deck was more than ample for our needs. There were eight elevators forward and eight aft giving access to all of the decks and a Royal Promenade on deck 5, lined with shops and cafes, creating all of the hustle and bustle of a city street. We were in time for lunch and the only restaurant that was open was the Windjammer. The jostling and difficulty in finding a table in what is a very, very large self service restaurant was an experience not to be forgotten. Spaniards are considered to be the second noisiest people in the world and our shipmates were no exception. Lesson one learnt. An invitation to the Concierge Club lounge to enjoy the complimentary champagne and hors d'oeuvres from 6.30pm onwards saved the day after the awful lunch experience and this became an evening event for the duration of the cruise. We enjoyed the special attention from our Concierge, Reshma, who explained that there were five dining rooms which were available for dinner. Our travel agent had not advised us about My Time Dining and having read a review we had chosen the second sitting at the Mozart at 9.30pm as an alternative to the rather early 6.30pm. Our lunchtime experience was almost equalled in the evening by the line of jostling Spaniards who practically stampeded when the Mozart dining room was opened. As our choice of cabin entitled us to gold sea-pass cards, we were immediately escorted to a rather nice table for two in an otherwise very packed restaurant. The three main dinner restaurants are on different decks and the Mozart looked down on the other two. Dinner was fine and the service was very good, but even though it was now nearly eleven in the evening there were a lot of children. Spaniards like to dine late and we left them to it.
We had departed Malaga on Saturday evening and arrived at Valencia at noon the next day. The dock is 15 minutes from the town and a fleet of coaches had been laid on. As with everything else on this cruise, apart from your meals, this is an extra expense. I had wondered why the ship stopped at Valencia as, although it is a very nice city almost everything is closed on Sunday and it lacks the character, interesting architecture and culture of Barcelona or Palma de Mallorca. The answer was simple; some passengers disembarked and some joined the cruise in Valencia but it was a waste of a port of call for the passengers who boarded in Malaga. That evening we spoke to our concierge in the peace and tranquillity of the Concierge lounge whilst sipping more champagne and attended to by our excellent Portuguese and Indian waiters. Reshma explained that My Time Dining could have been booked at the time of our reservation and, although she would try, in all probability it would now be fully booked. I am not sure if the description of MTD is correct. For example booking a table at 8.30 might be possible, but it needs further research. To cut a long story short she suggested that we arrive at the dining room at 9.10 pm, to avoid the crowd, show our gold card and the waiter would escort us to our reserved table early. Frankly we were not up to a repeat of the previous evening and decided to opt for the Italian restaurant, Portofino, which is a small quiet restaurant completely separated from the main dining rooms with its own kitchen and staff and it is well worth the extra charge of twenty dollars. Once seated, we saw the Captain and the first Officer having dinner and we knew that we had come to the right place. The meal was excellent and way beyond our expectations, as was the service. Now we had found somewhere to dine and relax and enjoy dinner for the rest of the cruise,
Om Monday we were at sea en route for Civitavecchia in Italy. We headed for the Windjammer for breakfast but it seemed as though every single passenger onboard had descended on this restaurant at the same time so we beat a hasty retreat deciding that we would rather fast until lunchtime than try to compete with starving Spaniards all foraging for food and a table. It was a madhouse. We later found out that for Royal Suite, Owners Suite, Grand Suite and the Royal family Suite we were treated as VIPs and that we could breakfast a la carte in the tranquillity of La Notte, an annexe of the Vivaldi restaurant, on deck three. For the rest of the cruise we breakfasted there and it was a very pleasant experience. Our baptism by fire now over we were getting to grips with maintaining a degree of civilised dining amongst the better part of three and a half thousand people. For lunch we made sure that we were at the Vivaldi restaurant no later than 1.30 and it was also an enjoyable a la carte or buffet meal, although twice we had to insist on a table for two otherwise we would have been seated at a large table with eight or ten people. As the restaurant was empty at the time, I can only presume that grouping like that was to save the waiters changing more tablecloths! At sea, the pool deck was a mass of humanity. It amazed us that, even on a ship of over 1,000 feet, public areas could become so crowded. There is a small pool towards the bows reserved for adults and that is a little more civilised in relation the amount of human flesh you can compress into a given area. There is a reserved play and adventure area at the stern of the ship for children between the ages of 12 to 17. We were now becoming accustomed to the complimentary champagne and the pampering of the quiet Concierge lounge before dining. All but two nights were informal wear but choosing not to wear a dinner suit/fancy dress I donned a jacket and tie for the formal evenings.
By Tuesday we had breakfast figured. Our gold cards allowed us into the quiet La Notte restaurant on deck three where we could choose from a la Carte or buffet for breakfast. Alternatively we could have chosen a Continental breakfast in the Concierge lounge. From the trips offered we chose th bus tour of Rome which allowed us to see the most important historical sites with no walking. We had an hour of free time in the Vatican City to admire the magnificent St.Peter's square and Basilica. It was a most enjoyable day in the Eternal City.
On Wednesday we chose the Taste of Florence tour. We walked through the streets with a guide leading the way. Florence is like an open-air museum with Palaces, Piazzas and churches at every turn. Our guide described the works of Michelangelo, Michelozzo and Bunelleschi and others as we strolled through the narrow streets.
We arrived in Ajaccio early on Thursday morning and took a trip into the mountainous interior of the island. As the coach climbed high into the mountains on a road that, at times, was little wider than the bus, the views were stunning.
The fragrance of the dense forest, wild flowers, herbs and lavender gives the air of Corsica a unique magical perfume of its own.
When we reached Cricheto pass at 875m high, we continued our journey by a small wheeled train, with the driver's dog running in front leading the way. The train took us even higher to a breathtaking view of the gorges and lake. The drive back to Ajaccio, by coach, was not for the faint-hearted as we wound our way down the amazing Prunelli Gorges where deep granite cliffs plunged down to the river far below.
Thursday was a night at sea with a murder mystery dinner show.
Friday at sea. We docked in Malaga at 6 am Saturday morning and we had time for breakfast before leaving the ship at 9 am. Our bags were waiting on the docks.
Only a ship the size of Adventure of the Seas can offer passengers such a vast variety of facilities and entertainment. The downside is that this requires a very large amount of passengers to offset the cost of running such a vessel. RCI tries to accommodate everyone on board, and I think that the compromise works reasonably well and, with a little fine tuning, we enjoyed ourselves.
It was obvious that Royal Caribbean treat their staff well as everyone I spoke to, from a deckhand to the Captain, came across as being very genuinely happy in their job. No lip service here.
Take your jacket, etc, aboard with you in a hanging wardrobe as it takes several hours for your bags to be delivered to your cabin and there are no ironing facilities. Same for disembarking as your bags are collected at 7pm the evening before and you will require something in your hand to carry your clothes from the previous evening and toiletries.
We had an owners cabin and it was more than ample for our needs.