My husband and I are both 50-something and experienced cruisers. We love the southern Caribbean because we prefer the port-intensive itineraries and variety of culture and topography represented. We tend to prefer the Radiance Class ships, ... Read More
My husband and I are both 50-something and experienced cruisers. We love the southern Caribbean because we prefer the port-intensive itineraries and variety of culture and topography represented. We tend to prefer the Radiance Class ships, so this was a bit of a departure for us.
Our sailing was the first 7-day cruise following the January dry dock. The maiden voyage post-dry dock was a five day repositioning cruise. Our itinerary included St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Sea Day, Curacao, Aruba, Sea Day. We booked the cruise nearly two years in advance and watched the hurricane recovery efforts closely in order to determine whether or not we needed to change our vacation, but ultimately decided to proceed as planned. This was my second cruise on Adventure of the Seas, the first being in 2008. Although we prefer the Radiance Class ships for the outdoor dining at the Windjammer, the abundance of glass and the more intimate event venues, we really enjoyed the Royal Promenade, particularly the Duck and Dog. We took advantage of the water slides and enjoyed being spectators at the FlowRider. (Neither of those features existed on the Adventure in 2008.)
Service on the ship was excellent. We had trouble with our A/C upon boarding, but it was fixed immediately. The new carpets were nice and we liked the new furniture in the MDR. The washing stations at the Windjammer were a GREAT idea. Oh...and the Vidalia Onion Tart is back on the menu in the MDR! Casey Pelter was a great cruise director, who was also the CD on a Voyager cruise I took five or six years ago. Casey left the ship after our cruise to pursue another opportunity. The captain of the ship, Captain Thomas from Puerto Rico, was unusually young for a captain. He was high energy and really connected with the passengers.
We arrived in San Juan around 5PM the day before embarkation. The bed and breakfast we'd booked, Tres Palmas Inn, was operational shortly after the storms. It was a great location near Condado, located in a residential area just across the street from the sea wall. A wide, usable beach was about a quarter mile up the street, across from a lovely park. The facility is older, with rambling buildings offering a wide variety of accommodations. The best part is the outdoor space, with numerous courtyards offering places to enjoy the outdoors on couches, hammocks, etc. Accommodations are pretty basic and the breakfast was a little disappointing, but it was a good value for the area and we’d absolutely stay there again.
We boarded the ship on Saturday at around noon. We checked our luggage and carry-on roller bag so we’d have only our backpacks to carry while waiting for the cabins to open. Unfortunately, I neglected to move a bathing suit from my carry-on bag to my backpack. I highly recommend insuring access to a suit on embarkation day. The FlowRider and the Perfect Storm were open and had NO LINES on that day. My husband, who had a bathing suit in his backpack, took several trips down the water slides. Folks using the FlowRider that day got lots of personal instruction.
We did MyTime Dining with reservations. Our waiter the first night recommended that we ask to be seated at the same table each night. Since we liked the location near a window, we did just that. It was nice not to have to stop at the host station each night. We just walked right to OUR table.
Our first port of call was St. Thomas. We'd been excited to read reviews of Royal Caribbean's "St. John on Your Own" excursion, which provided transportation between St. John and St. Thomas, allowing guests to spend four hours exploring St. John on their own. It eliminated some of the stress and uncertainty of doing the same thing using the Red Hook ferry. Alas, I learned from the immensely helpful folks on these boards that RCL had altered the excursion so it allowed guests only TWO hours on the island of St. John. That's not enough time to do anything!! We cancelled the excursion. We found another couple (Hi there, Diana and Bob!) via the message boards who felt the same about the shortened excursion and we took a cab together to the ferry. It all went as planned, no issues, and we had four hours on St. John to explore.
Damage was clearly evident on St. John. We bypassed Trunk Bay and took a taxi to see the Annaberg ruins. Much of the ruins had been roped off as unsafe following the storm damage, which was a little disappointing. But the views from the former sugar mill were as amazing as ever. After Annaberg, we walked just down the road to the entrance to the Leinster Bay Trail. The sign was missing due to the storms, but we located it and made our way down the trail. It was an easy hike, with a few side-steps to avoid beached ships along the way. We did some snorkeling at Waterlemon Cay. Not the best snorkeling of the trip, but worth the easy hike. On St. John, you can find yourself on a beach with few other people, which we really like. No crowds. No noise. Just nature.
Our second day was in St. Kitts. We toured with Javin's My Island Tours. I HIGHLY recommend this tour! He does a somewhat traditional island tour (no visit to the fort or the batik factory), but with a twist. He brings along a pet monkey for the tour, which is an adorable added feature. Peaches took the day off on our tour day and we toured with the younger (just three months old) Cream! The tour includes a visit to Spooner's Cotton Ginnery, a historic site currently under renovation, which was the stomping grounds of our tour guide in his youth. We hiked the rain forest, also an area frequented by Javin since childhood. He referred to the area as his "back yard." It was gorgeous! An easy hike regardless of your age/physical condition. We then visited the Black Rocks, where Javin tossed down a knotted rope for us to climb down to the sea level. Not mandatory and some folks didn't partake, but remarkably simple, even at our age. You really should try it. Amazing! We enjoyed a great lunch (Javin refers to this as a "snack" on his website, but it's LUNCH!) Then, we were on to our snorkeling location, including a sunken ship. The snorkeling was better than expected on an island not really known for its diving sites. Again, some guests chose to sit out, but it's worthwhile to participate. We drove over Timothy Hill (OMG...the view!!) to Cockleshell Beach. My husband and I agreed that, while we LOVED aspects of all the islands we visited, St. Kitts was our favorite port.
Our next day was at sea. We attended one of the two ice show performances scheduled for that day. It's amazing how the skaters can perform such complex moves on such a small rink. We also enjoyed the Belly Flop contest at the pool. Zumba was offered by the pool on both sea days. That was to recorded popular music, however there was typically live music by the pool, which was awesome! We played mini-golf and tried our hand at ping pong on a windy day. Quite the challenge!
A few random notes about life on Adventure:
- The staff on board was not diligent about enforcing the rules prohibiting the saving of chairs. It was extremely difficult to find loungers, particularly in the solarium pool area.
- This is the first time I’ve cruised on a ship with a big screen on the pool deck. t was less intrusive than I imagined. During the day, they showed something akin to funny home videos, broadcast without any sound. It was distracting only because it was THERE, but not as invasive as I'd thought it might be.
- If you like dark chocolate, you HAVE to try the Royal Chocolate Cake. I'm not a huge cake eater, but WOW...it's amazing!
- If you like curry, enjoy the Indian Scrambled Eggs in the Windjammer. Delicious!
- Contrary to reports on this site, Johnny Rockets was still $6.95 per person before gratuity.
- There were two formal nights on our cruise, the first full day (not counting embarkation) and the fourth day. Lobster was offered at the second formal dinner.
Our next port of call was Curacao. We had booked the West End Tour with Irie Tours, in order to explore the more remote and natural side of the island. About a week prior, I received an email indicating that we were the only ones registered for that tour and it was therefore being cancelled. Disappointing, but at least they let us know far enough in advance to make other plans. We opted for what had originally been our second choice, the Tugboat and Reef Snorkel tour with Curacao Actief. The excursion included two snorkel stops, one at Tugboat Beach and one at another beach nearby. Both sites were an easy swim from shore and offered amazing coral and an abundance of aquatic creatures. My research had indicated that Curacao was likely the best snorkeling port on our itinerary, but we were still amazed at just how good it was. Our guide, Berenice, indicated Tugboat Beach was the most crowded she'd EVER seen it. Fins in the face can be a little frustrating, but it was still a GREAT experience. The second stop was perhaps even more incredible than the tugboat! After the second snorkeling stop, we were supposed to go to Fort Beekenberg, which is located between the two beaches. We had some people with mobility issues on our tour, and the fort involves a lot of steps. The itinerary was changed on the fly and we visited the liquor factory where we could participate in a free tasting and/or tour. We did stop at another fort, but it had been converted to a mall or restaurant or some such, so we didn't go inside. Not sure that stop was really worthwhile.
The following day, we were in Aruba. We had booked with ABC tours and were supposed to meet our tour right at 8:00AM. We didn't as the ship was delayed in being cleared. However, they were well aware that our ship was late and, of course, they waited. Lucky for us because, of the six people on our tour, ALL the others were visitors staying on the island, making US the reason for the slight delay. We chose this tour because it visited the most natural and remote parts of the island. Our guide, Ludwig, was terrific. I didn't have a high opinion of Aruba after my last visit, thinking it was just like any other island featuring beach resorts. Having seen the natural side of the island, I have an entirely new appreciation.
We had more rain on Aruba than on any other island and we were touring in an open air vehicle. Yes, we got wet! But luckily, the rain mostly came while driving and stopped when we reached our various destinations. It was a great day and I would recommend this excursion to anyone who wants to see the sort of natural beauty you can only visit in a jeep or ATV. The seas were too rough for us to swim in the Natural Pool, so we had to admire it from afar. The scenery and terrain on Aruba is incredible. And for those who feel like no day on a Caribbean island is complete without a visit to a fabulous beach resort, we ended our day on Baby Beach. We drank pina coladas at "Big Mama's Bar," a Flintstone theme beach bar where the decor mimicked the iconic Flintstone cartoon and the staff dressed in animal print to further the theme. We were in Aruba until 11PM. The MDR was nearly empty that night.
For our final sea day, we ice skated and enjoyed the water slides. It was very windy, so we found space (it wasn’t easy!) in the solarium pool, which was more guarded from the wind. We also, regretfully, packed our suitcases.
Our flight didn’t depart San Juan until 3:15, so we were in no hurry to disembark. Passengers were required to vacate their cabins by 8AM. Breakfast waw served in the Windjammer until 9AM. Our waiting area was in the MDR, where there was coffee, pastries and fruit available. Customs was extremely quick. We grabbed a taxi for Old San Juan, leaving our luggage in the secure room at the Barrachina Restaurant. (They hold your luggage for a tip of your choosing.) We enjoyed our day in Old San Juan, had lunch at Barrachina (very good, a bit pricey) and headed to the airport around 1:30.
A final bit of advice – be at the airport two hours ahead of your flight. You will need that much time. SJU is disorganized and slow! Avoid the stress and give yourself MORE time than you think you will need. Read Less