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81 San Juan to Transatlantic Cruise Reviews

I chose this cruise because a) I am hooked on Windstar cruises and b) I wanted to see what an ocean crossing is like. Wow, wow and wow! I loved this adventure....14 days on the open sea, whale and dolphin sightings, fun and games and ... Read More
I chose this cruise because a) I am hooked on Windstar cruises and b) I wanted to see what an ocean crossing is like. Wow, wow and wow! I loved this adventure....14 days on the open sea, whale and dolphin sightings, fun and games and the BEST customer service you can imagine. I traveled on the Windsurf last fall and was sold on Windstar cruises already. An ocean crossing is different from a cruise with ports-of-call. The Star Legend is a beauty of a ship with a crew to love. 139 pax. (22 solo) and 150 crew left San Juan on April 9 and arrived in Lisbon on April 23. The cruise exceeded my expectations in almost every way. ( weather could have been just a little better). I was a solo traveler, but quickly found dining partners by asking to be seated at a large table. Merrick, dining Officer, was extremely accomodating and genuinely cared about guests' happiness. There were so many activities to keep me busy that I often had a hard time deciding between that or a few relaxing hours on deck or in my luxurious cabin. This cruise is not for the following: late-night partiers, kids, those who need shows at night or those who like to dress to the nines. Captain Reville was very gregarious and accessible. In fact, by the end of the crew I felt like I knew most of the officers. I loved the captain's high noon time check, followed by our voyage data (i.e. Miles traveled) and his marine "trivia"....interesting facts about the cruise, the ocean, marine life, etc. And visiting the bridge, chatting with the officers and cadets, and learning about the ship was a special treat......Windstar has an open bridge policy when at sea. The dining servers and bar, wine stewards are THE BEST!!! They always adress you by name with a warm smile and after 14 days, friendships are formed. Our newly formed group of diners always chose the same table and were thrilled to have Cayah as our server and Sammy as our wine steward, who both knew what we liked and took very, very good care of us! EVERY ONE of the dining and bar staff were incredible. But I most fondly remember, of course, Cayah and Sammy, but also Gusti, Kristi, Gino, Deva and Dyan. Too many to list here. The food (cooked to order) is top-notch, gourmet. In-room dining is also excellent. Every officer and crew member on this ship made me feel appreciated. I miss everyone's smiles and laughter. Happiness!! That's the overwhelming feeling from them and what they made feel. The ship is a beauty with a large Yacht Club at the bow....beautiful view with a coffee and sandwich bar and a place to relax and read or play cards. The Compass Rose is a beautiful lounge where a lot of daytime activities took place and at night became a lounge with bar and entertaining duo. The Star Bar is an outdoor bar that is enjoyable when weather is good....also with a great duo to entertain. As I said, this type of cruise is not for everyone. But if you are looking for some down time and want to arrive in Europe with no jet-lag, this is awesome. I would definitely do an ocean crossing again, but only with Windstar!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Transatlantic cruise and visit Spain. Visited ports and paid for extra excursions to experience more of the countries we visited. This is our first ocean cruise and it will probably be our last. The ship, staff and amenities were great, ... Read More
Transatlantic cruise and visit Spain. Visited ports and paid for extra excursions to experience more of the countries we visited. This is our first ocean cruise and it will probably be our last. The ship, staff and amenities were great, but prefer river cruises and land trips. The enrichment activities were pretty good, but would have preferred more. We had a hard time finding something to do. The wifii did niot work when we were at sea and we were depending on it for personal business. Many people enjoy the pool facilities, but we don't lay out in he sun. We are from Florida and not.a normal activity. I had looked forward to the advertised yoga classes. When the classes were noted in the daily paper, I found out that you had to pay to attend. The fact that payment was required should have been noted in the brochures. I did not attend. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
To be honest we took this cruise because there were not as many port visits, and so we could relax more on the ship, having cruise with Viking before, we know that the service on the ship is always excellent. Attend the lectures, ... Read More
To be honest we took this cruise because there were not as many port visits, and so we could relax more on the ship, having cruise with Viking before, we know that the service on the ship is always excellent. Attend the lectures, although not all were to our taste, but the ones that where, we really enjoyed. Plus the activities were really good and kept us very interested. especially the shows and the use of the Gym. The dining was very good, even though we mainly ate in the World Cafe, it gave us chance to meet other passengers. The only complain that we have, is the flight down with United, having to fly via Huston in Texas, and being stuck there for three hours waiting for a night flight to San Juan, was bad enough. but Huston to San Juan was terrible. Due to the weather problems in Canada, we had decided to leave a day earlier, which was probably the reason for the flight, however I feel that as Viking have the booking so far in advance a better set up could be made. The flight from Toronto to Texas was very good, but the flight from Huston to San Juan was terrible, so cramped I could not get my legs under the seat in front, which did not make for a very good night flight. Overall the Cruise it's self was excellent. and we have already booked for the same cruise next March, Hope we get a better flight down. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
I wanted to be able to say that I crossed the Atlantic by boat. We took the Grand European River Cruise with Viking in 2014 and we knew this cruise would also be very good. All cabins had a veranda, the cabin design and service was ... Read More
I wanted to be able to say that I crossed the Atlantic by boat. We took the Grand European River Cruise with Viking in 2014 and we knew this cruise would also be very good. All cabins had a veranda, the cabin design and service was excellent. Entertainment during the cruise was very good, the daily lectures and evening shows were interesting and enjoyable. Dining was very good and the menu selection was varied every day. The ports and shore excursions were very good, although I think the one day stop at St. Marten in the Caribbean could be eliminated. We booked our cruise late and we added an extra day in Puerto Rico and Barcelona, but the hotel was already booked up in Barcelona. So Viking put us and about 10 other couples on the high speed train to Madrid, Viking did an excellent job of coordinating our transportation and the handling of our luggage so we could enjoy the day. It was disappointing that we traveled through the Strait of Gibraltar in the middle of the night, a daytime passage would have been better. All in all the cruise was very good, but one 6 day crossing of the Atlantic is enough in my lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We chose the Atlantic crossing to have ample time at sea to relax, and a few nice ports. I will focus mostly on some things I hope will be helpful for future cruisers. We agree with most other reviewers that the ship is beautiful, ... Read More
We chose the Atlantic crossing to have ample time at sea to relax, and a few nice ports. I will focus mostly on some things I hope will be helpful for future cruisers. We agree with most other reviewers that the ship is beautiful, and the crew is exceptional (however, we found fantastic crew on almost any other cruise line/ship). In preparation, here's my experience: -Viking charges more deposit and has stricter cancelation rules than any other cruise line -don't expect an email response by Viking (tried that twice) to answer any questions, rather go through your travel agent -Viking Air will decide on your flights, and gets you the itineraries that maximize their profit, not your convenience. It is different from X Choice Air. Having worked for the airlines, I do NOT recommend using them. We witnessed multiple couples missing their connections, and did not get adequate help from them, so you might as well do your own booking, since you'd have to arrange your own flight changes with the airline. Viking Air changed our itinerary 4 (that's four) times. I told them that 55 minutes for an international connection at Frankfurt was not enough (and they do NOT understand the EU zone regulations), they refused to change the flights, and of course, even running on to the gate, and people letting us skip the line at passport control, we missed our next flight, and then embarked on 30 hours of standing in line at each airport we were re-routed through, for boarding passes, security, passport control, before collapsing at home. Before leaving the ship, ensure you settle the NIGHT BEFORE. The accounting auditor called us at 5am to tell us the credit card didn't go through [while we had used it ashore the day prior]. This was because she ran the "bill from" as "Viking, our home address"!!, instead of "Viking, California" etc., so of course Visa saw this as a fraud attempt and blocked that charge. As I went down at 5am, and called my bank, they explained that particular billing problem to me. The auditor did not want to hear my explanation, as she was calling her list of people whose credit cards were denied. ... I would expect someone to want to correct and learn from their errors. Also note they add gratuities for the whole cruise on the very last day, unlike the other cruise lines, where they are added day by day. Otherwise, Mamsen's and their waffles were the highlight of our cruise, as was the lovely crew and nice public spaces. Pools are very nice, unfortunately over-chlorinated (use goggles for sure), steam room out of service the entire time, dry saunas are in gender-specific changing rooms, so you can't sit in there with your spouse. We couldn't use the Aquavit Terrace/Infinity pool, since smoke drifted down from the deck 8 smoking area (we both have smoke allergies). What you pay for is not 5-star food (go to Remy's on Disney for that), but to not have crowds or lines, to have personalized service, and to not get nickel-and-dimed for cappuccino, sodas etc. Note: sodas, wine+beer are charged for when not consumed during meals. We found the cruise price for 2 weeks okay, however, we would probably not pay the 2.5x cost for a cruise to Europe of the same length - part of the price for sure are the port and excursion costs. Not much to get in their shops as far as toiletries/necessities, so go through your list again before you leave, or make sure the ship stops once before crossing the ocean (such as St. Maarten - you can get pretty much anything at the Admiral store). Passengers: average 60s-70s retired crowd. You will find -sadly- a lot of bitter, entitled, over-educated people on board who find always something wrong with the ship and crew and don't know how to relax. Someone actually sat in the atrium and cussed over the wifi connection. At sea, the free wifi works well enough to get WhatsApp messages and an email, but definitely no downloading or web browsing, except maybe Wikipedia. If you must have something downloaded, make friends with a crew member and ask them to do it. Their wifi is much better - of course that's how they stay in touch with their families abroad. There were others who felt "trapped at sea" (did you not read the itinerary mentioning 6 straight "at sea" days??). So the crossing is not for those who need constant entertainment and off/on the ship movement. We managed to meet some very nice, down to earth couples and will stay in touch with them. The Atlantic crossing was great for us - the sea days were lovely. There is definitely some ship movement (roll and pitch), didn't affect us, but recommend scopolamine patches or meclizine for sensitive folks. Otherwise, Viking focuses on port-heavy itineraries, which we find overwhelming, and those cruises are very pricey. So we may not cruise with them again, although we enjoyed this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We had never crossed the ocean by sea, so we were anxious to see if we liked several days at sea in a row. Verdict: The time flew by! The activities (not to mention the wonderful meals) made us forget about time and just enjoy ... Read More
We had never crossed the ocean by sea, so we were anxious to see if we liked several days at sea in a row. Verdict: The time flew by! The activities (not to mention the wonderful meals) made us forget about time and just enjoy ourselves. Well done, Captain Lokling and crew!! About the food--what can we say?! The quality, variety and choices were outstanding. When we felt casual--The World Cafe. When dressing up--Manfredi's or The Chef's Table. When feeling social--The Restaurant. And finally, when feeling lazy--room service!! Our Veranda cabin was quite comfortable and much larger than either of us anticipated. Adrian, our cabin steward, was efficient,very accommodating of the random nature of our on board schedule, and genuinely friendly. The spa/sauna/fitness center facilities were outstanding as well. Equipment was state-of-the-art. In conclusion, both my wife and I commented that we enjoyed the size of the ship and the limited number of passengers, as compared to other, much larger ships on which we have sailed. One example why: when when large gatherings, such as Suzanne's wonderful one-woman show, broke up, the Restaurant still managed to have the incoming crowd taken care of and seated quickly and efficiently. We joked that the only long line on the ship was the "gelato line" in the World Cafe! All in all, well done, Viking! We will be back! Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Overall this ship was amazing ---- so well designed and maintained. There is always someone cleaning, polishing, etc. Being the size it is it is easy to get about from fore to aft. We had only 700+ passengers so it was especially nice. The ... Read More
Overall this ship was amazing ---- so well designed and maintained. There is always someone cleaning, polishing, etc. Being the size it is it is easy to get about from fore to aft. We had only 700+ passengers so it was especially nice. The public rooms are just beautiful and since we were at see for 6 days there was plenty of time to enjoy them all. The dining [food quality] was great, the best we have had on any cruise line. The only comparable one would be Viking River cruises. We had a problem with service in The Restaurant twice so we just chose to eat in The World Cafe which features most of the same selections, and probably a few more. It never felt overly crowded and the service was very attentive. Gelato, a favorite, in many flavors was available each lunch and dinner. The two specialty restaurants were fabulous, especially The Chef's Table. The other is Manfredi's, an Italian restaurant. We ate in both 2 or 3 times. Again you do not have to pay additional for this kind of exquisite dining as you do on other cruise lines. Entertainment --- good classical trio, guitarist and pianist. Band, singers and dancers were okay at best. Best singer by far was the Cruise Director Suzanne Gayle. Service through out the ship was wonderful ..... we never have see a friendlier crew. Being trans-Atlantic there were guest lecturers which I thought were excellent. We thought the weakest part of the trip were the shore excursions especially comparing them to Viking River cruise tours. They were often too long in that more could be covered in the same time and see more of the area. Some of the guides walked along like we were a herd of turtles and then stood talking endlessly. If they want to compete in this area, they really need to get their act together. From our perspective, Casablanca could have been left off the itinerary and the time added elsewhere. Not nickel and dimeing you ... Viking is expensive but there is so much you don't realize that is included ----- WiFi, mini-bar, specialty coffees and teas [cappuccino, latte, etc] any time the restaurant or bars are open, bottled water when you leave the ship, launderette [washers & dryers are free including the soap], irons & ironing boards etc. Other things we liked ..... no children, no photographers, no constantly soliciting you to buy something, and no shopping mall. Embarkation and disembarking was a breeze .... especially disembarking. So organized and fast. We were off the ship, had our luggage and on the bus headed to the hotel in about 15+ minutes. Overall, would we go again on this or another Viking ocean cruise. The size of their ships is great as we do not like the all so common mega-cruisers with thousands. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
It was a new wonderful experience crossing the Atlantic. However, the pre-trip to Puerto Rico was greatly overpriced by Viking. The room amenities were very sparse and there were no excursions included. Our Viking representative was ... Read More
It was a new wonderful experience crossing the Atlantic. However, the pre-trip to Puerto Rico was greatly overpriced by Viking. The room amenities were very sparse and there were no excursions included. Our Viking representative was not that good. For example, I needed a dentist and the representative from Viking was nowhere to be found. We had a medical issue on board. My husband's issue was treated by doctor, Aleksandar Avdalovic. He and his staff were very proficient and professional. Doctor Alex even telephone the room to check-up on my husband. Of course the food on board was excellent. The service providers were so friendly and helpful everywhere on the voyage. For example, my husband needed a piece of tap to mend something. He happened to be passing an electrician on board and asked if he had electrical tape. The electrician asked for our room number and soon I was able to get the tape to make the repair. I would have liked to see exercise classes provided. The only thing available were Yoga classes at a cost. It is your fault that I gained 4 pounds (ha,ha). Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
It came along at a time we could go for a very good discount. My husband and I loved the smallness of the ship and the amount of people. The entertainment and cabin service were the best we have encountered. The food was very, very good ... Read More
It came along at a time we could go for a very good discount. My husband and I loved the smallness of the ship and the amount of people. The entertainment and cabin service were the best we have encountered. The food was very, very good especially in the Restaurant. Liked that wine and beer came with dinner. Our stateroom came with a mostly free mini-bar. But didn't always get restocked when it was supposed to be. The World Café was very good, but would have liked to see more variety. I loved most everything about the ship, except for the fitness area. Even we seniors like to stay fit these days. No room for the yoga classes, and not enough room to do yoga when others were working out. Was not conducive to doing yoga where music is blaring, people talking loudly, and weights clanging. I would have gotten a manicure and other services, but these were beyond my budget. We mostly went on the tours that Viking provided free, and were very happy with all of them except Casablanca. The tour guide for that trip was very good, but we did not feel safe there and there wasn't anything to see or do except the Mosque. The bus just rode around for hours, with nothing to see except roads and non-significant buildings. At one point they let us off the bus in the middle of an intersection. not good. The other tours in Madeira, and Spain were wonderful!!! We loved all the cities in Spain and stayed in Barcelona an extra few days. The majority of the "service" people were very accommodating and beyond nice. People were very friendly, and we met a lot of nice people from other parts of the U.S. and the world. We would definitely do another trip with Viking if we got a price as good as we did for this one. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We have taken several Viking River Cruises and were delighted with our experiences on those cruises. We have also taken more than 15 ocean cruises including two transatlantic trips. We have enjoyed our ocean cruises and were intrigued ... Read More
We have taken several Viking River Cruises and were delighted with our experiences on those cruises. We have also taken more than 15 ocean cruises including two transatlantic trips. We have enjoyed our ocean cruises and were intrigued when we saw the opportunity to travel with Viking on one of its new cruise ships. Our other ocean cruises were aboard larger ships than the Viking Star and we were wondering how traveling on a smaller vessel would compare with the larger ships. We were trilled with our trip on the Viking Star and don't think there will be more trips on the bigger ships in our future. Te ship is magnificent. It is sleek and modern but comfortable and homey The cabin, the common areas, the theater, the specialty dining facilities the World cake and the restaurant were all terrific. The spa and the fitness center were not crowded and offered a chance to relax or work out in an almost private setting. The food offered something for everyone. There was wonderful variety and even in the World cafe the staff was there to prepare items for for our personal taste. We can't say enough positive about the staff and crew. They were attentive, knowledgeable and always there to make our experience more enjoyable. The guest lecturers were all interesting and informative and kept us looking for more sessions throughout the cruise. Entertainment was excellent .and eve included a passenger guest choir that worked with the professional entertainers to put on a wonderful show at the end of the cruise. We met wonderful people and were sad to have to leave the ship when we reached Barcelona. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Wanted to try a transatlantic cruise as an alternative to flying. And wanted to cruise on a smaller boat to avoid the long line-ups at embarkation and disembarkation. Although we were concerned that a smaller ship might experience a lot ... Read More
Wanted to try a transatlantic cruise as an alternative to flying. And wanted to cruise on a smaller boat to avoid the long line-ups at embarkation and disembarkation. Although we were concerned that a smaller ship might experience a lot of movement in the open ocean in poor weather, the weather was relatively good so we don't really know if rough seas would have been a problem. There was a good mix of enrichment lectures (politics, maritime history and commerce, nature, inspiration, science). No complaints about the food. We particularly liked the Restaurant and its emphasis on quality and not quantity. Mamsen's deli was a great place for oatmeal or waffles and open-faced sandwiches. This was our second ocean cruise with Viking and as all their ships are the same it was nice to immediately know where everything would be. We're not spa or salon people so that was a bit of wasted space for us. Better to enlarge the fitness centre - there were times when people had to wait for machines. Generally we were pleased with the sea days and their peace and quiet, and the chance to socialize with congenial fellow travellers. We found the entertainment enjoyable and better than we were expecting for a small ship. The stops at Casablanca, Cadiz and Valencia were very good because of their cultural attractions, St. Maarten did not have much to offer, and Funchal was also a bit limited, but we were in both on a Sunday and many places were closed. The guides on the optional excursions we took were superb (those on the included excursions less so). The ship staff were also first rate - uniformly helpful, courteous and willing to go the extra mile. We'll definitely be back on Viking and may even do this cruise again as an end-of-winter getaway. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Attractive pricing, wanted to try Viking and wanted to do an Atlantic Crossing. Viking ship size is ideal at around 930. Ship common areas are clean, very inviting and attractive. Some of the best in the industry. B Over ship ... Read More
Attractive pricing, wanted to try Viking and wanted to do an Atlantic Crossing. Viking ship size is ideal at around 930. Ship common areas are clean, very inviting and attractive. Some of the best in the industry. B Over ship accommodations are great and would highly recommend. Beer and wine offering at lunch and dinner are very nice and an added attractions over non all inclusive cruises. Pricing on this cruise was my main reason for booking. I did find the included air option to be a problem and as one might expect too restrictive. During the booking process it was recommended I wait and see what itinerary was offered before paying the additional fee for the airline selection option. I was told this should occur 60+ days before departure. This did not happen and once we received the itinerary it was totally unacceptable, taking well over a normal Atlantic crossing 16+ hours) with excessive layovers. When contacting the flight department we are now told all the other options were sold out. Now after several calls We were final put in touch with an air departure supervisor and I'm happy to report she corrected the problem. It did cost extra but it was a reasonable increase. From this experience, I would suggest making sure you're happy with the air options before finalizing your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Boarding- we made our own arrangements to fly to San Juan and stayed overnight in the Embassy Suites and Casino. Cheap and cheerful is how I would describe it. However by making our own arrangements we saved £400 per person against RCIs ... Read More
Boarding- we made our own arrangements to fly to San Juan and stayed overnight in the Embassy Suites and Casino. Cheap and cheerful is how I would describe it. However by making our own arrangements we saved £400 per person against RCIs price. We took a taxi to the port and arrived about 11.15. We checked in and at 11.30 they started boarding. Boy was this slow. The process of taking a photo as you get onboard for your seapass was soooo slow. Why cant they do this at check in? Room- we had a Superior Balcony Cabin on deck 9 Aft. A good location for the Centrum lifts, Main Dining Roon, Windjammer etc. The cabin was spotless. OK the decor was a little dated but it was well cared for. Our cabin steward was lovely and inobtrusive. The TV channel choice was good although the pay per view movies are very expensive. We had no noise or vibration issues in 9646. We ate in the Main Dining Roon on 12 nights out of 14 using Mytime dining. This worked reasonably well. Initially our party of 4 were put on a table for six which we had to ourselves. The next two nights on a table for 8 for ourselves. We didnt like that set up so the next day when calling to reserve a table I asked specifically for a table for 4. The lady said they were all booked up and we needed to eat at different times to get one with our allocated waiter. I then asked does he have tables for 4 and she said no, not on his section, so we asked to move. This was a shame. We liked our waiters but why put a party of four on his section when he doesnt physically have tables for four? After that things worked fine. We got a table for four on another section and had good service. However on the last night despite booking for 7.30 we were not seated till 8.20. This was very poor and as a result we missed the late show. Clearly they had not planned their reservations properly that evening. As for the food, this ranged from terrible to good. There were some truly awful dishes. One chocolate tarte became a wet, bland concoction. A coq au vin was a grisly flavorless mess and the always available steak is like a cut from a joint of roast beef and even when prepared medium rare was dry and had the texture of sawdust. Fish choices were generally overcooked however one of us had salmon for a few nights which was great however on one night arrived raw in the centre. It was rejected and the same piece came back, microwaved. This was wet and smelled awful and was again rejected. The Head Waiter came, took a sniff and also agreed it was awful. Anything on the Entrees consisting of beef or lamb were very good. One of our party was vegetarian and the options were ok, but always so small. Why should a vegetarian be short changed? The vegetarian sweet and sour chicken had just two small pieces of faux chicken. The vegetables served with the Entrees were repetitive and bland. Always mash potato , carrot and brocolli. For the first week the carrots and brocolli were rock hard and inedible however after a week each room had a feedback form in it and we, and presumably others, mentioned the veg. After that it came nicely cooked apart from wet and soggy asparagus. It would be nice if veg accompliments had some flair, and taste. One night potato dauphinoise appeared but this was also raw and inedible. What about some roast potatoes or boiled potatoes or some flavour to the veg? Service was great though. Windjammer breakfast was spot on. Huge choice, sometimes a little cold, and great service. Lunch was good but in the heat of the caribbean we felt there were a few too many hot, heavy dishes. The burgers though are excellent. We went to lunch in the main dining room twice and loved the salads they make to order. We had breakfast once in the MDR and were unimpressed as they got the order wrong and our eggs benedict was stone cold on arrival. We went to Portofinos one night. Food and service were excellent. The setting was bland and boring and less desirable than the main dining room and felt like a canteen. The cruise director was Clo O'Connor or HelloClo as she is known. Cannot fault her. Superb. Totally natural, funny and pleasant. The theatre shows were very variable. Best were the East Coast Boys with their Jersey Boys set. The Headliner shows were poor. The Dance show was 90% latin and to us unprofessional. The ice show was superb as was the quest, hosted by HelloClo. AJs band on deck 4 each evening were excellent but the piano player in the Schooner Bar was terrible and ruined everything he touched, strangled even. The daily program of events was full and varied. We had the free Premium Drinks package which was excellent. A great choice of beer, spirits and cocktails. House wines are included but only one of each red, white, blush and sparkling. The white, a chardonney, was truly awful. As we drink white wine only with dinner this proved far too heavy to accompany any food. We complained, as many apparently did, but as they have bought the wine in bulk they are not going to change this anytime soon. We cant understand that you can have any beer, spirit or cocktail but just one choice of white wine. If you are a white wine drinker and dont like heavy chardonneys then the drinks package might not be for you. The ship was excellent. Its 11 years old and heading for a refurb next year but it was spotless and well maintained. The staff were lovely and all very friendly. We've previously been on Independance, and Adventure is pretty similar but a bit smaller in all respects. All cabins were full but with only a few kids onboard, light of the maximum capacity so never felt overcrowded. We did 4 caribbean islands plus the azores. We had a great crossing, calm with great weather. Disembarkation at Southampton was smooth but very early! Self disembarkation was 6.15 to 7.00 and all had to be off by 9.30. This seems really early and doesnt make for a relaxing end to the cruise. Overall, we enjoyed it. The cruise experience was smooth and polished, the food could be better and had worsened since our experience on RCI a few years back, the entertainment was not great, the ship is lovely so are the staff, and finally the house white wine is TERRIBLE! RCI, listen to this, sort out your wine! We would sail again on Adventure, but skip the shows and eat more dinners in windjammer rather than the MDR.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Before I start on the long list of the bad stuff that happened to us, let me first list the good stuff. 1) Almost every employee on the ship is helpful, friendly and hardworking. 2) Although I had read that the Brilliance is showing its ... Read More
Before I start on the long list of the bad stuff that happened to us, let me first list the good stuff. 1) Almost every employee on the ship is helpful, friendly and hardworking. 2) Although I had read that the Brilliance is showing its age, we saw no wrinkles in the public areas.(note that I said "public areas" not cabins...because that's a totally different story) 3) Lots of activities for every taste. 4) Lots of food everywhere, although one particular area is not easily accessible to one and all (more about that in the list below) 5) Captain Henrick has a great sense of humor. I laughed at all his announcements that I managed to hear. 6) Entertainment was good. The shows, we took in 4 during the 10 night cruise, and thought they were pretty good. According to my daughter, Marcello at the guitar was excellent and she sat through his renditions on several occasions. Both of us also thought the Latin band from the Dominican Republic was great. All in all, the entertainment on the Brilliance is pretty brilliant if you are into music and the arts. Now, here comes the nasty part which has put both of us off the RCCL for now and maybe forever. It's a shame because we were seriously looking at cruising with RCCL on an Australia/NZ cruise late this year or early next. The Cabin from Hell: Our seaview cabin on deck 3 was the smallest cabin we have ever had the misfortune to be in. This was our 7th cruise but our first with RCCL. The closet was so dark I kept wishing we had packed a searchlight to find our things. Not one light in the cabin found its way into the dark dungeon of that closet. Not one !! The arrangement of the closet and other furniture in the cabin is so haphazardly placed that one feels one is in a storeroom full of junk furniture. Moreover, the air in the cabin felt stagnant but the first couple of days it didn't affect us. From day one of our cruise, April 13, the toilet flush would either not work or when it did the water refused to drain and any subsequent press of the flush threatened to overflow over the bowl. One had to wait for several minutes to try again (after saying a prayer) and if the guy up there heard our prayers, it worked or if God was busy and didn't, it didn't and so we had to wait yet several more minutes to try again. The next day, we told our lovely and helpful stewardess Merle about the temperamental flush. According to her we should have been keeping the flush button pressed for a longer time. Rest of the day and way into the 3rd day, lo and behold, Merle's strategy worked. The 3rd night I woke up with a choking coughing fit that brought on an asthma attack. I am mildly asthmatic and the attacks only come if I am at high altitudes or when I don't get clean air. I grabbed my inhaler and set up in bed trying to breathe normally for the rest of the night. I knew then that the air in the cabin, or the lack of it, had made me ill. In the meantime, the toilet flush went back to its tricks. We rang up Customer Relations who told us to call Maintenance and a plumber came and did something somewhere outside the cabin and the suction worked and drained the accumulated water in the bowl. The 4th morning the toilet acted up again and instead of waiting for several minutes to try again we let the undrained water sit in the bowl so Merle could see how her trick didn't work for long and escaped the air-less, toilet-less cabin for the public areas. On our return we met Merle and had a conversation with her about not only the toilet but also the air quality in the room. She saw how ill and tired I looked. I got a feeling she thought I might have come down with the dreaded noro-virus or something lethal or maybe she relayed the trouble we were having with the toilet to those who needed to be informed because someone from Customer Relations called us and wanted to know if everything was alright. Fool that I am, always looking to not look like a whiner, I said everything was okay. Maybe, if I had mentioned the flush, we might have been allocated another room but would have had to go to the trouble of repacking everything to make the move. Meanwhile, my asthma attacks kept coming. It was a good thing I had packed two aerosols thinking I might need the medication during the planned high altitude tour in Tenerife. The next couple of days we both used the public restrooms more than the toilet in the cabin for obvious reasons. Again, towards the tail end of the cruise the plumber had to be called again. Not only was the flush not working there was no water in it. This time the man also entered the cabin and said something about bunched up toilet paper or facial tissues maybe causing the problem !!!! Yup right! Believe it folks. Bunched up toilet paper and maybe a facial tissue can clog up a toilet on the RCCL's Brilliance of the Seas. To add insult to the injury we suffered from day one of this cruise, after the encounter with the plumber, (this was on the 9th day) we find a notification at our cabin door which stated : "The toilet system is very sensitive; please do not dispose of anything other than toilet paper into the toilet. This includes items such as feminine hygiene products, babies' diapers and other non-biodegradable products. This will avoid clogging of the toilet systems affecting several staterooms and public restrooms. We thank you for your cooperation." At reading this, my daughter who is normally a very easy-going person, lost her cool. She showed the note to Merle and said she wanted to speak to her Manager. Merle got her supervisor Aida to come to talk to us. Aida definitely needs a refresher course in Customer Relations ...enough said. After that, Merle's manager Benjamin Sulcer paid us a visit and tried to make amends but the harm was already done. Instead of going through the complaints on a case by case basis, Aida had thought it was right to send us the "form" letter about the "sensitive toilet system". Merle's manager tried to bribe us with an upgrade to a balcony or even a suite for that one last day or at least a dinner at Chops or a basket of something to make amends ... but we are not into that kind of thing and told him so. I told him I would write a nasty review and didn't want to have even an iota of a mellow feeling because we availed of his bribe/generous gesture. The Guest Services Manager, Julie Sherrington, bless her heart, rang up and had a long talk with my daughter and sent us a savings certificate of "40% based on the cruise fare paid for the current sailing" but I doubt we will ever make use of it. Our very first experience with RCCL has left a bad taste in our mouths in spite of all the good food we consumed on board. Before I forget, the other things wrong in the cabin besides the toilet and the air quality was the cooler. It didn't cool. Also, what kind of a designer would recommend that the beds are shaped at a rounded angle at the foot? We are both pretty short so it didn't really matter but I couldn't help thinking about how tall people managed on those beds. I am sure their feet dangled over the edge. Have you ever cruised in a cabin where you couldn't even find a notepad and pen like the kind kept for your use by other cruise lines. On RCCL ships ... the people in cabins way down on the lowest level on their ships don't get the writing pad or pen because, don't you know it ... apparently they don't know how to use toilets leave alone read or write. Okay, enough with the cabin. Let me move to other things. Yes, there is more. Hands up everybody who's been to the Seaview Cafe on Deck 12. Not a big show of hands, I bet. Know why? Know why many of you didn't get to snack on the yummy chicken wings, the tuna sandwiches, the burgers and fries and other stuff offered in this area? It's because it's hidden in an area which is not easily accessible, especially if you are in a wheelie or not an agile senior. Amazing that a cruise line that depends on 80% of their revenue coming from the older generation would place one of their eating places in a remote corner that makes it difficult for the older generation to get to it. If reviews were open to comments then I bet all the cheerleaders and groupies of RCCL would lash away at me with the sharpest tongues possible. You can still do it at the Roll Call for this cruise. It's still alive and I might find the time to go and read your hate. Before you do that try to recall the name of the website at which you are reading this review. Lesson from our experience to those who might face a similar situation? Don't unpack your stuff entirely for the first couple of days if you are on a long cruise. Check everything properly and if anything is amiss, complain about it within the first 48 hours and insist on being allocated to a properly functioning cabin. You have paid for it, even if it was at a bargain price. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Adventure of the Seas Review: Transatlantic San Juan, Puerto Rico (21 April 2013) to Southampton (5 May 2013) We live in New Orleans. We drove to Houston to visit our daughter and family and to leave our dog while we went on the ... Read More
Adventure of the Seas Review: Transatlantic San Juan, Puerto Rico (21 April 2013) to Southampton (5 May 2013) We live in New Orleans. We drove to Houston to visit our daughter and family and to leave our dog while we went on the cruise. We flew from Houston Hobby to Orlando. The Air Trans flight was about 80% empty and was quite enjoyable. I was surprised to have a luggage charge since Southwest has taken over Air Trans. The flight to San Juan, Southwest, was absolutely full. Fortunately we found a taxi quickly and went to the ship in about twenty minutes. We were fortunate to travel with a good friend of over 58 years. Embarkation was very efficient. San Juan, Puerto Rico (21 April 2013) to Southampton (5 May 2013) Adventure of the Seas debuted in 2001 as the third in the series of Royal Caribbean's game-changing Voyager-class vessels. Though Adventure has been bypassed in size and amenities by the Freedom-class trio and the massive Oasis-class twins, it's still among the world's larger ships, with a range of the most uncruise-like venues at sea, such as a rollerblading track, ice-skating rink and rock-climbing wall -- not to mention the bustling hub that is Royal Promenade, a shopping mall-esque boulevard of retail stores, bars and cafes. But, the ship is large. There are only two banks of elevators toward the center. Anywhere you want to go is always on the other end of the ship. Our room was one room from the very back of the ship. The theatre was in the forward part of the ship. Ambience: variety is key. The Lyric Theater has a nifty Art Nouveau interior; the solarium pool evokes the glories of Venice; and the Casino Royal centers on a Hollywood theme. The Duck and Dog Pub is perfect for Anglophiles, Champagne Bar is elegant and Jester's Nightclub resonates with a Gothic vibe. This ship is well designed -- with lots of very distinctly themed rooms and with even the larger venues like the Lyric Theater and Imperial Lounge feeling unexpectedly cozy -- that Adventure of the Seas has the potential to spoil first-timers and even seduce some of us crusty ol' cruise traditionalists. Adventure of the Seas Fellow Passengers Passengers range in age from 25 - 85-plus with a number of families onboard. Adventure of the Seas is a great option for couples and families -- particularly multi-generational groups. Our transatlantic cruise had 1591 passengers with United Kingdom passports and a little over 500 from the U. S. Speaking of a mix of people, one of the more interesting facets of passenger demographics on this ship is international diversity (the daily Compass is printed in six languages) and public announcements are made in three languages. Adventure of the Seas Dress Code Dress is quite casual as befits the Caribbean (temperatue~80F); but continued into the North Atlantic (temperature about 60F). There were three formal nights where most men wore tuxedoes or suits and women wore dressy (but not long) cocktail gowns. Otherwise, people dressed in "smart casual" which varied from country club wear to dressy. Adventure of the Seas Gratuity Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs. Our wait staff was marvelous and we gave both additional money. Likewise our room steward was outstanding and we rewarded her with extra cash. Adventure of the Piano Bar We encountered new phenomena in the designated "Piano Bar." It is not unusual for the player to have a "tips" on top of the piano. On this cruise, the piano player had a price list for the performance of favorites. For example, Billy Joel's Piano Man was $15. We don't know if the take was shared with the RCI management. Adventure of the Seas Cabins Out of 1,557 staterooms, 939 of these have an ocean view (765 have balconies). A hallmark on this ship's class is the Royal Promenade-facing staterooms that overlook that engaging thoroughfare -- these are a step up from the usual inside cabin. A warning however: Privacy is at a premium with these cabins because they do not have privacy glass windows. Also, due to the late-night reveling that goes on, all but night owls may find them noisy. The Royal Promenade is a great addition to the cruise ship. However, when the shops put counters into the middle of the deck, there is instant congestion. A similar congestion results when there is entertainment on the deck or on the bridge, There are virtually no seats from which to watch the entertainment. Our inside cabin was about 150 square feet. All staterooms come with a twin-that-can-be-converted-to-queen bed, private bathroom, phone, closed-circuit television, mini bar and hair dryers. They're decorated in festive Caribbean-esque colors, from mist-green to buoyant oranges and yellows. We had to ask our room steward for ICE and toiletries. There were no stationary or postcards in the room. The Adventure of the Seas features an advanced interactive, closed Circuit TV system in cabins that allows for guests to order shore tours and check on the status of their onboard account. The Express Checkout worked very well. Movies (from old to new), FOX, CNN, TNT, TCM, ESPN, Discovery, and children's channels are available. Also available are in-house replays of enrichment lecture, excursion descriptions, and a Cruise Director's reporting channel. Activities of the day are also played on the "Cruise Channel." First run movies are available on TV at $12.95. There may not be a flat screen television in your stateroom. Channels that you might expect to receive by satellite may also vary in availability. Adventure of the Seas Dining / Cuisine Mouthwatering descriptions on the menus notwithstanding, you probably won't hear people raving about the food. Particularly annoying are misleading descriptions of food items, a notable one being a dessert called "chocolate fondue" which evokes a plate of fruit and marshmallows for dipping into a bowl of hot, molten cocoa-laden chocolate. What arrives is a refrigerated bowl of congealed white pudding with a few berries stuck to the bottom. The immediate response is, "Huh? What is this?" It turns out the description says "white chocolate" and as for the word "fondue," - well, it just isn't one. These ships have changed their dining room menus, limiting the number of courses. While most ships list appetizers, soups, salads and entrees separately, there are now but two categories, starters and entrees, with a single type of salad offered as a separate option. The result is people getting different items (soup, salad, appetizers) all at different times. Entrees will all arrive at once, however. Beef is the best bet - fish is unpredictable. In addition to entree selections that vary nightly, the menu always offers salmon, chicken breast, steak or pasta. These are often the best choices on the menu. Particularly problematic is the bar and wine service. Wine service was left to the assistant waiter. There are no dedicated sommeliers so don't be surprised if your white wine arrives at room temperature and no ice bucket if you order a bottle. Wine by the glass is three fingers in the smallest wine glass made, and costs over $7.00. Royal Caribbean does offer to keep unfinished bottles for their guests. We purchased a 7 bottle package for about $250 (about ten red or white wines at ~$36 each). The wine we liked most was a Lafitte-Rothschild Chardonnay on the menu for $46. Specialty coffees like espresso or cappuccino with dessert, with or without liquor, have to be ordered from bar service which can be tortuously slow. Try to order these well ahead of dessert or you will likely be served after your meal is finished. From the meals in the dining room to the buffet choices in the Windjammer Cafe to the options available at the 24-hour Cafe Promenade, the food is consistent and prepared with a view to cost at all times. There was a great deal of chiffon and custard in the deserts. There was no outstanding entrees or deserts on the menus. The Vivaldi, Strauss, and Mozart Main Dining Rooms: Respectively located on Decks 3, 4, and 5, The Vivaldi, Strauss, and Mozart main dining rooms on Adventure of the Seas are a spectacle with 3 levels of tables. Classically appointed decor brings together vintage golden columns and chandeliers in celebration of these master composers You may choose between My Time Dining, early dinner (6:00 PM), or late dinner (8:30 PM) seating when you make your cruise reservation. With My Time Dining, you are welcome to show-up at any time to be seated for dinner. However, it is advised that you inform the Maitre D' of your preferred dining time earlier in the day, or, set a consistent time with the Maitre D' on the first day of your cruise. If you show-up and you have not set a dining time previously, you may have a lengthy wait until a table becomes available. (Note: Those choosing My Time Dining must pre-pay gratuities -- Royal Caribbean does not automatically add gratuities to your final bill if you've elected set-seating.) Cuisine is generally well prepared, if not innovative; Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line. Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin). We were on the RCI Mariner last November and the choices on the Adventure seem a little bit less. Escargot was offered as an appetizer for the first ten days of the trip, but eventually ran out. The daily dinner menu featured a small box on the lower right side that offered three additional choices: 1. Lobster at about $30. 2. Surf and Turf at about $20. 3. Filet Mignon at about $25. We did not try any of the options. We were fortunate in our table mates: a couple from Southampton and a couple from Houston. Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. We always ask for a large table and found that a very efficient way to meet people. The Windjammer, Adventure of the Seas' buffet restaurant, is open for breakfast and lunch, and it features steam-table cuisine. Kudos must be given, however, to the egg station at breakfast (where you can request a variety of prepared-to-order dishes) and the carving station at lunch. Baked goods are consistently excellent. Vegetarians will do much better in the main dining room at lunch. The Windjammer is also open for dinner and is an option for those nights when flexibility is preferred. The buffet features the same items as are on the main dining room menu. Specialty eateries include Johnny Rockets, the 1950s-style burger diner; passengers can indulge in burgers, hot dogs, chili fries, apple pie and onion rings. Royal Caribbean has instituted a $4.95 per-person cover charge for both in-restaurant and take-out dining (and beverages are additionally charged, specifically malts at $4.95). On the Royal Promenade, the Cafe Promenade (FREE) features light fare at all times (pastries in the morning and always, sandwiches at night); try the pizza, it's excellent. The coffee is the best on the ship. The cookies were also excellent. Portofino is the Adventure of the Seas specialty restaurant. The Italian-themed restaurant, which charges a $20 per-person cover (specialty beverages, beer, wine and soda are charged separately), offers a leisurely multi-course meal. The menu did not change at all on our trip, but that didn't seem to matter to a number of folks who were back for repeat dinners. Note, however, that you need to make reservations as early as possible in your cruise or you may miss the restaurant. Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, Continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a two to five dollar tip is recommended); orders made between midnight and 5 a.m. incur a $3.95 fee. We had breakfast, primarily tea or coffee, every morning. Adventure of the Seas Entertainment It can be very hard to relax on Adventure of the Seas -- even on sea days -- because of the head-spinning array of activities that run from dawn to dusk and beyond! There is a ubiquitous loudness in almost every public area on the ship. The ship's entertainment staff offers an intriguing blend of options, and everyone, from the most traditional passenger to the completely contemporary traveler, will find something to do. DAY 1, Sunday, April 21, 2013. Rodney Johnson, Comedian. *** DAY 2, Monday, April 22, 2013. Tribute to the Temptatations, Group singing. *** DAY 3, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. RCI singers and Dancers, Invitation to Dance. **** DAY 4, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Martin Lewis, Magician. *** DAY 5, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Ollie Spencer, Comedian. DID NOT ATTEND. DAY 6, Friday, April 26, 2013. Jayne Curry, Singer. **** DAY 7, Saturday, April 27, 2013. Cool Art, Hot Ice, Ice Show. DID NOT ATTEND. DAY 8, Sunday, April 28, 2013. Ash & Mike, Pianist and Singer. **** DAY 9, Monday, April 29, 2013. Christopher Caress, Hypnotist. *** DAY 10, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Cool Art, Hot Ice, Ice Show. DID NOT ATTEND. DAY 11, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. . RCI singers and Dancers, Can't Stop the Rock. **** DAY 12, Thursday, May 2, 2013. East Coast Boys (Tribute to Franky Valli and the Four Seasons). **** DAY 13, Friday, May 3, 2013. RCI singers and Dancers, Las Vegas. **** DAY 14, Saturday, May 4, 2013. Beastro, Magician. ** NOTE: when the ice show was on, there was no major event in the Lyric Theatre. During the day, you'll find plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as trivia, bingo, dance lessons (line-dancing), rock-climbing wall competitions, horse racing, art auctions, lectures (on everything from healthy eating to gemstones), Mr. Sexy Legs contests, bridge playing, art and craft workshops and films in the tiny cinema. Poolside, throughout the day, a live band plays a blend of Caribbean and American songs. Throughout the day and night, there's often some type of performance along the Promenade, either a parade or jugglers and comics who wander through the giant mall-like space and perform with the crowd. There is often a parade at 5 PM with costumed performers. At night, there are two kinds of entertainment -- the traditional-style cruise productions -- singing and dancing shows in The Lyric, and goofy passenger-inspired episodes like "Love and Marriage" (a tired idea, perhaps, but still, on our cruise it was screamingly funny. This was the first time we saw a gay couple as contestants). Bar venues, of course, offer a variety of musical performances that are aimed to please just about everybody at any time -- classical guitar, country/western, jazz. Adventure of the Seas TRIVIA Trivia is treated as a separate subject because the Cruise Director and staff made a number of errors. First, the Cruise Director, Clodagh O'Connor or "Hello Clo", as she is known was outstanding. However, there were some problems with trivia. The first four days were Caribbean island stops. Trivia was held in the Schooner Lounge and the small room was adequate. However, once sea days started, the lounge was terribly overcrowded. The cruise director staff person said nothing could be done. It was almost impossible not to notice that JESTER"S, a night club, a few steps from the Schooner was empty. It could easily have held the crowd for trivia. A similar situation obtained when trivia was scheduled for the DUCK & DOG PUB. Too, too many people. Once it was moved into the Imperial Lounge which held the crowd easily. On another day an ART Preview was in the Imperial Lounge and trivia was moved to the DUCK & DOG PUB with loud, complaining overcrowding. It is hard to believe that the size of the crowd for trivia could not be estimated correctly and accommodated. A new kind of trivia was introduced on the ship. It was trivia player trivia. That is, trivia players submitted the questions and answers for the quiz. The fatal flaw is that the answers could not be objectively verified. For example -- WHAT ARE THE FOUR MOONS OF JUPITER? Unfortunately, Jupiter has over sixty moons; so the question is nonsense. The question could have been salvaged if the adjective Gallilean had been inserted into the question or if the question asked for the largest four moons. Again, the trivia leader was powerless to change the question or answer. Similarly, Buenos Aires was proclaimed as the most populous city south of the equator. In the real world Sao Paolo is the largest. Adventure of the Seas Excursion Desk & Guest Relations Adventure of the Seas Information (or lack therof) One would think that service from either area would be of benefit to the guests of the ship. However, it would appear that the staff has severe "tunnel vision" or is commanded to have "tunnel vision." Questions like: Where does the ship dock? How far is it from the terminal to town? Is there a ferry from St. Lucia to Martinique? How much is a taxi tour per hour? Such questions had no answers unless the answer was a ship service for charge. I. E., question about ship sponsored excursions could be answered; but, non-ship activities could not be discussed. Adventure of the Seas Public Rooms Feel like an Asian atmosphere? Head for the Imperial Lounge. In the mood for Gothic? Try Jester's nightclub. Feel the urge for a clubby, elegant salon? With or without the cigar smokers, the Connoisseur's Cigar Club is a peaceful hideaway. Most of the major indoor venues are located off or along the Royal Promenade, which tends to really come alive at night. There you'll find shops (the usual cruise-style boutiques that sell logo items, duty-free liquor, perfume and cruise wear) and bars like the Duck & Dog British style pub (though many of its draught beer choices are puzzlingly non-Brit), the Gravity Sports Bar (which seemed empty most of the time) and the somewhat-elegant-but-mostly-bland Champagne Bar. However, the highlight is the 24-hour Cafe at the Promenade, which is a great place to snack and people watch. Off the main promenade, in various directions, are the Imperial Lounge (the ship's secondary theater with entertainment ranging from line-dancing classes to cooking workshops) and the Connoisseur Club (a very elegant, cozy cigar bar). Connected to the Promenade, via various stairways, are additional entertainment arenas, including Casino Royale, the Schooner Bar, the Aquarium Bar (with its huge fish tanks), the Lyric Theatre and the Jester's nightclub. Tucked away on Deck 2 -- easy to miss -- are the ship's intimate cinema and conference facilities. Each of the performance venues -- Lyric Theatre and Imperial Lounge, for instance -- has its own bar as does Studio B, the phenomenal ice-skating rink/show lounge on deck three. Overlooking the Royal Promenade is the Library, with an small collection of books (about half English and half foreign) and comfortable leather chairs. . The ship has an Internet cafe and cabins are wired for Internet usage. The cost for Internet access, via Wi-Fi or at a work station, is 55 cents a minute, or you can buy packages of 60, 90 or 150 minutes for $28, $38 or $55, respectively. The Photo Gallery on Deck 3 is the place to giggle over silly photos of your shipmates and buy your own for outlandish prices ($19.95 for 8x10's, often a smaller photo of you surrounded by generic ship images). Blue Moon Jazz Club, the name on this ship for the traditionally styled Viking Crown Lounge, has the usual fabulous vistas. On the same deck you'll find Seven Hearts Card Room, 19th Hole Golf Bar and Cloud Nine. Adventure of the Seas has a nondenominational chapel called the Skylight Wedding Chapel. Adventure of the Seas Spa & Fitness Even on sea days, everyone has plenty of room around the two pools -- an admirable feat. One interesting feature about the hot tubs is some are double-sized, which again makes room for more folks. Tiered decks surround an outdoor theater, where everything from "men's sexiest legs" contests to live dance band performances take place. There are two bars by the main pool. The Solarium pool and whirlpools are situated in a quieter, more laid-back setting; the area is adults-only. All of the major (outdoor) athletic activities -- the nine-hole miniature golf course, rollerblading rink, full-size basketball/volleyball court, golf simulator and rock-climbing wall -- are tucked into a "sports center" that lies aft. The pocket-sized ice skating rink is tucked well below, into the bowels of the ship. Note that some of the more specialized activities -- rock climbing, rollerblading and ice skating -- are offered only at specified times so check your daily Compass for available hours. The ship's jogging/power walking track winds around the main pool area. One nice touch: Royal Caribbean does not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment "rental" -- there is no charge for using everything from ice skates (you can choose between hockey and figure models) to rollerblades. The 15,000-square-foot spa -- the usual Steiner, Ltd., production -- spans two levels. One houses the quite ample fitness facility (no overcrowding here) and a workout room where classes are offered. Upstairs in the spa and salon facility, a wide range of treatment programs are offered, such as facials, massages, manicures and hair-styling. A couple of caveats: The prices for treatments have risen to breathtaking levels, with a basic 50-minute massage now costing $119 or more. (The industry average is $99.) A manicure starts from $29, a pedicure from $45. The spa did offer "discounts" on port-of-call days (and as the cruise wound down), but that just brought the prices down to industry-normal levels. In addition, treatment employees will engage, way too aggressively, in the much-loathed "Steiner Product Pitch" at the end of your appointment. The products are also over-priced. Just say no. DESTINATIONS: DAY 2, Monday, April 22, 2013. ST. THOMAS, We talk a little walk around the dock.. We have been to St. Thomas quite a few times and did not need to take any tours. *** DAY 3, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. ST. MAARTEN & ST. MARTIN. We took a ship Excursion for the bargain price of $29 each and saw most of both Dutch and French parts of the island. It was indeed a true bargain for a ship's excursion at $29. It was very enjoyable. ***** DAY 4, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. ST. LUCIA. We engaged a knowledgeable cab driver and toured at least half the island for. $20 each.***** DAY 5, Thursday, April 25, 2013. ST. KITTS. Took a nice taxi tour for $20 per person ($5 for a ferry and $15 for a taxi). ****.. DAY 11, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. . PONTA DELGADO. AZORES, PORTUGAL. Again we had a very pleasant taxi tour for $20 each.. **** DAY 15, Sunday, May , 2013. SOUTHHAMPTON. Adventure offered interesting tours to STONEHENGE and/or WINDSOR on the way to the airport. We had a private sedan which took us from the ship to Heathrow. The American Airlines flight to DFW was the nicest we have had in a long time. Very smooth.***** The Adventure of the Seas has a variety of events and lively entertainment for you to participate throughout the ship. There is also Loud Music virtually everywhere. The Atrium allows broadcast of whatever is playing on Deck 4 to invade the entire ship center. Adventure was the noisiest ship we have been on since several Carnival trips. But, if you are looking somewhere to get away and enjoy some quiet time onboard the Adventure of the Seas, try the Champagne Bar, the Viking Crown Lounge, the Solarium, the Library, and the Skylight Chapel. Usually before 9:00 AM, most areas (save the pool areas) are not crowded. Also, the ship pretty much empties when it is in port. If you are looking for quiet onboard the ship, port days are a great time to be aboard the Adventure of the Seas. Quiet places onboard the Adventure of the Seas: - Champagne Bar (Deck 5) - Solarium (Deck 11) - Library (Deck 7) - Viking Crown Lounge (Deck 14) - Skylight Chapel (Deck 15) Adventure of the Seas VALUE There are a lot of hidden extras, for example, Starbuck's, Ben & Jerrys, Curry Demonstration, ships tours, mystery dinner, etc all with an extra cost. While expecting to pay extra for the Specialty apparent that RCI has adopted the airlines approach to pricing. You pay for the cruise but there are restaurants and Theme nights some of the extra costs are unacceptable. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My wife and I have floated with Royal before. This great deal caught our eye, mainly because of that. But when we realized we could piece this trip together comfortably, we and 2 other friends went for it and were we glad we did! ... Read More
My wife and I have floated with Royal before. This great deal caught our eye, mainly because of that. But when we realized we could piece this trip together comfortably, we and 2 other friends went for it and were we glad we did! Here's our thoughts and comments on the basic biggies most want to know about.1) Service: We had no problems whatsoever with any workers in any areas of the ship. No, we didn't 'close our eyes' to any potential problems. But our room was always clean, always fresh ice in the bucket, bed made. Moses was great. Our traveling partners (2 doors down) had the same worker, so we had a good time together. 2) Dining room staff, especially grateful, helpful and pleasant - even when we could see they were tired or overworked. Always willing to bring the extra appetizer, soup even entree's and desert. Went out of their way. And never acted like they were ONLY acting nice to get a tip. (We like to tip a few days BEFORE the cruise ends, that is with our extra, and let them know they'll get the 'standard' as well. Then, you can test their treatment. All were stable and perfect!) Claudia and Dimitri were just wonderful. 3) Bar staff. Well, we befriended Mark Villanueva from the Bar (serving the dining room). What a pleasure he was to us all. He always let us know what was special, and helped us purchase signature glasses right in the dining room. He made our time great. 4) Food: the food was delicious, very good. We enjoyed it for sure. Few observations. We had salmon a few nights in a row, always nested upon a standard , 'fancy mashed potatoes' bed. After a while, we noticed lots of dishes came with those same potatoes, and most of our group began to tire of them. Eventually, we had to even ask, "can I have this dish with something else, even sides of veggies?" Our staff always accommodated. I had prime rib the first night. Cooked perfectly, but a little cold inside (I can still deal with that). but...i was a little struck by the lack of flavor within the meat. It was really my only disappointing beef for the cruise, but it stood out, since prime rib is one of the things you can order every night. Desserts were good, but nothing knocked it out of the park. In the end, my wife said (to my surprise), "I think the food on Carnival, is MUCH better." I hadn't thought of it that way, by comparison. And always think of Royal as superior. In this case - I think she was right! 5) Activities: for us, was just right. Biggest activity some of us were into was sitting around talking, reading our books. My wife travels with her art supplies and we had little 'sessions' with friends, drawing water colors up in a quiet lounge. theater's always there when you want to go at night. We went to 1. That was enough for our taste. 6) Ship itself. I read lots of 'complaints' about "it's getting old. Worn out. Needs upgrading." Surprised at all that really. Even some complaints about carpet on the stairs looking worn out. (I looked and didn't find it!). I also thought: "Are you living on the stairs?" for us, traveling to and fro, we didn't see anything that stood out as showing the ship was old and in need of major refurbishing. Though we understand this took place ... now I wanna see it again! 7) Captain Hendrik Sorrensen. We thought he was great. Great sense of humor. Kept us updated with daily announcements just enough to be nice. Was involved on the TV entertainment, always nice to see. 8) Ports. We loved it. I want MORE days at sea. St.Maarten was great. Glad St. Thomas was dropped (sorry) and that Canary Islands put in - marvelous. Portugal, was awesome, and we spent most of a week there with friends we had arranged beforehand.Biggest complaint: wish we could have had about 5 more days at sea! Can you tell we like it? We hope that RCI has prices like that again for transatlantic. Will definitely take them again.Again, if you've never done a transatlantic, but you like cruising - don't be shy. One of the only hurdles is the 1-way ticket back home. We were very fortunate because we live in the Caribbean, and can fly 1-way from Europe cheaper than most cities in the States. Another tip: look at using your air-miles for a 1-way. Can come out much cheaper than purchasing a 1-way ticket. Thanks for reading this! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Being semi retired being flexiable, watching for cruise bargins between contracts has become a fun way to get away and pick away at our list of places we would like to visit list. We mix it up a bit, cruise, fly and stay, and lucky ... Read More
Being semi retired being flexiable, watching for cruise bargins between contracts has become a fun way to get away and pick away at our list of places we would like to visit list. We mix it up a bit, cruise, fly and stay, and lucky enough to go with a sense of adventure and can honestly say we have never been dissapointed. Maybe a bump in the road once in awhile, but it takes something pretty catastrophic to rock our boat. So while checking out some cruises and following the prices for a week or two I woke up one morning coffee in hand and saw this fantastic value for a transatlantic. Having never taken a transatlantic, we had questioned the longer periods of time at sea. We also knew the Brillance of the sea was headed for drydock for updating, so knew things might be a little worn. We have traveled on RCCL before so had confidence we still would have a good time. We left for San Juan a couple of nights prior to leaving port, mostly out of concern for spring weather, snow in the states, wise choice because we were lucky to be one day in front of the storms. Booked the Comfort Inn for two nights pre cruise. We were happy with our room and stay. Room was dated along with the hotel, but everything was clean, staff helpful, included breakfast. We would stay here again, it is not a resort destination, but it is a close walk to restaurants, beach and bus to San Juan. Since this was pre cruise we did not want to spend a lot of money at the hotel, esp since we were spending a additional week in Portugal after arrival. Would stay here again, hotels in San Juan during cruise season is higher then most cities, but that goes along with the travel. Emabarkation was quick, smooth and effiecient, this is our 8th cruise on several different lines, and we rank it up there with one of the easiest and most pleasent we have had. This cruise was great from the beginning to the end. Stops in Saint Maartin, Sea Days, overnight in Teneriffe. We had beautiful weather, great seas across, with a few larger seas a couple of nights but nothing uncomfortable. Our Captain Hendidk was absoulutely engaging, imformative, and along with the crew interactive with the people. His sense of humor was appreciated, and it was a change from other cruises to be able to understand him. Activities on board were plentiful and options were varied, so I cannot believe there would not be something to appeal to anyone of any age group or lifestyle. The ship was spotless, a little worn in places, but we were a little suprised to find everything acceptable and not one thing to complain about from the public areas to our stateroom, I am sure that after the updates when in dock schedules after this cruise the ship will be spectacular. Service was excellent, we were in a balcony 8642, again no complaints. We have stayed in spectacular hotels, and some not so spectacular and have a broad range of experiences. This is a beautiful ship and we enjoyed every day to the fullest. Dining in the main dining room was very good, wine steward perfect along with all service and treatment. Again, pleasently suprised. Yes there was rack of lamb, and lobster night.....again very good. We had room service every morning for breakfast, simple and keeps the temptations for too many calories away, it was always on time. Lunch was at the buffet, the varity and freshness was great. Entertainment was fine, we hit and missed several nights. Not Las Vegas or Broadway, but entertaining and we were fine with what was offered. Upon landing in Lisboa we took our own luggage off, it was a breeze. We needed a taxi to the train station to continue our trip to Porto. We had read all the warning about the unfair charges by the taxi drivers, it is true, we did not get harmed as much a some, but after out trip to Porto we returned to Lisbon for a couple of days and had the pleasure of reporting his cab number and name. The trip to Porto is a must see for everyone, the history, buildings, and city (and don't forget the Port) was worth it all. Lisbon is a great city, enjoyed the sights, and all it had to offer, but Porto is "it". What more can I say, this trip for the cost which including several great port days, easy transition to fight off jet lag one day, one hour at a time....This trip was a gift for Royal Carribean to us and we appreciate every bit of it. If nothing else we will pay extra to cruise with them next time because of the value this time. It is just the way are. The ship is beautiful, with or without updates, not too big, not too small. Again, we got everything and more for a great sailing and special memoreis. Remember when traveling, esp to different countries in the world, it is not up to the world to entertain you, but important to experience the people, the culture and all life has to offer, it is not a perfect world. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
THE SHIP: The Brilliance is the second of RCIs mid-size Radiance class ships. At about 90,000 tons and 2,100 passengers, it is large enough to offer a good variety of dining, entertainment, and activity options, and yet small enough to be ... Read More
THE SHIP: The Brilliance is the second of RCIs mid-size Radiance class ships. At about 90,000 tons and 2,100 passengers, it is large enough to offer a good variety of dining, entertainment, and activity options, and yet small enough to be easy to navigate and not feel overwhelmed.Although she is about 11 years old and was headed for a dry dock refurbishment in Portugal (the reason for our unusual itinerary ending in Lisbon), the Brilliance was in very good shape for our cruise.I assume she is even nicer now that the refurbishments (mainly new surcharged dining venues and some cabin upgrades) that I enjoyed on the Radiance in Alaska last summer have been added to the Brilliance.EMBARKATION: Our cruise began at the Pan American Pier across the bay from Old San Juan. A taxi from downtown costs about $15 plus tip (per cab, not per person), or from the airport about $20 plus tip. Alternately, one can take a bus (ask any driver which number) from the downtown bus terminal building to the Isla Grande stop just before the convention center, and then walk about 10 minutes (along the roadside) to the cruise terminal. You will see the RCI and Celebrity ships as you step off the bus.Embarkation at the Pan American pier is always quick and easy. I arrived at the terminal around noon, and was onboard in about 10-15 minutes. The cruise terminal staff there always does an excellent job at embarkation. I just wish they did the same at disembarkation, when one is dumped to fend for oneself against the sharks who drive San Juan taxis. The cruise terminal needs an independent taxi dispatcher who controls the fares, like the one at the SJU airport. Fortunately that was not an issue with this transatlantic itinerary, but it was a problem on my two previous cruises from and to San Juan this year.SHIPSHAPE: On embarking one immediately notices how attractive the Brilliance interiors are. They are more dignified and less Disney-fied than on some of her larger sister ships. The Radiance class does not have the split superstructure with central mall that the larger RCI ships have, but the Radiance class does have huge amounts of glass and fantastic views from most of her public areas. If I had to choose, I would take a mid-size ship with views any day.Cabins are a little bit smaller than the current industry average, but they are attractive, comfortable, and functional. To avoid incorrect charges (a problem on a previous RCI cruise), I had my cabin steward empty the mini-bar at the beginning of the cruise and inventory it again at the end, so there were no last minute surprises. The bathroom was snug (shower only), but that was no problem. There was only one day when the plumbing was moody, presumably due to a blockage down the line, which was fixed within a few hours.ACTIVITIES: On a transatlantic cruise with multiple days at sea, shipboard venues and activities are specially important. The Brilliance offers a wide variety of choices to pass the time, all well-designed and well-run.The gym is a bit small for the number of passengers, but there are lulls early and late in the day when it is nearly empty. The central exercise floor was too small to accommodate the number of guests who wanted to take advantage of the free yoga and stretch classes each morning. There was never a problem finding free exercise equipment.My favorite venue on transatlantic cruises is the promenade deck (under the lifeboats). On the Brilliance this is on deck 5 and connects forward by stairs to the helipad on deck 6. Walking a few miles every day and enjoying the glorious ocean views is the best part of any crossing. Standing in the wind on the helipad and surveying the vastness of the clear blue sky and deep blue ocean is the pleasure of a lifetime. The flying fish and dolphins I saw were a bonus.Our crossing was blessed with good weather. Some ships traveling at the same time on a more northerly crossing had bad weather and rough seas. That is one reason I prefer the southerly route. That, and the incredibly reasonable cruise fares one occasionally finds on this itinerary make it a great choice.The fun and funny activities staff did an exceptionally good job of keeping guests busy (or not) during days at sea. Enrichment lectures were a bit dumbed-down and relatively lightly attended, but there were many other choices to pass the time. Indoor games like trivial pursuits were popular. Outdoor games by the poolside varied, but were almost always way too loud -- a nuisance for those trying to relax and sunbathe.As usual, the pool had its share of pool-pigs who dumped personal items on lounge chairs first thing in the morning and then left them empty outside of the peak mid-day crush. The pools (indoor and out) are too small for anything more than a quick soak, but they are still refreshing.ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment was varied and enjoyable. Paul (aka Pablo), the cruise director, was wickedly funny and did an excellent job of organizing and overseeing the various options. Too bad he retired from his job at the end of our itinerary.The ships musicians were especially enjoyable, although usually over-amplified and sometimes painfully loud. They offered a large variety of musical choices -- a show orchestra, two small dance bands with vocalists, a classical string and piano trio, two guitarists -- all available at various times every day and evening. An embarrassment of riches that added greatly to our cruise..Those wanting a quiet venue could spend days in the Odyssey Lounge and evenings in the Viking Crown lounge, both on deck 13 (or, as I mentioned, on the promenade deck 5 at any time). The Diamond (frequent cruise) passengers used the Crown for their complimentary cocktail hour. The Diamond Plus and suite passengers used the Odyssey, which was a good deal more crowded. DINING: Dining was good in the Windjammer buffet. It was well organized, with many small areas offering a wide variety of cuisines and specialties.The lunchtime salad bar in the main dining room, called the Bistro 30 during days at sea, was spectacular. The Bistro offered a full menu, but the salads were so large and so good that I never tried anything else. The My Time dining in the main dining room in the evening was outstanding in quality and service -- far better than the late seating dining I experienced on several earlier cruises this year on RCIs sister cruise line. The menus were not exotic, but they were thoughtful and well-prepared. Main courses were fresh and not over-cooked, as good as the a la minute offerings in some fancier venues. Add the beautiful views from the walls of glass in the main dining room and you have a great way to cap your days at sea.BEST OF ALL: Last of all the best of all -- the officers and crew of the Brilliance. The officers made a special effort to be cordial and engaging, and the crew worked tirelessly to make sure that the ship was in excellent condition and that the guests were comfortable. The crew is a wonderful mix of many nationalities, all very polite and very well-trained, with the possible exception of a few of the guest relations staff. One fellow on the guest relations staff set a great example (he helped me on this and on a previous RCI cruise). Poor Julie Sherrington, their director and a lovely lady, will have a hard time trying to teach some of the others how to interact with guests in a cordial and helpful manner.Those few lemons in guest relations were the only sour note on our cruise, and I hope I have the chance to do another crossing with RCI. It is a wonderful experience.PORTS OF CALL: St. Thomas was dropped from our itinerary (no loss) so that Tenerife in the Canary Islands could be added on the other end (a delight).ST. MAARTEN: Famous for being split in half between the Dutch and the French, St. Maarten is easy to enjoy. I much prefer the southern (Dutch) half because it has better beaches and a more relaxed atmosphere. From the cruise port it is a pleasant 15 minute walk downtown. There is a nice man-made beach with a beautiful promenade right in town, but I like to hop on a minibus and ride out to Mullens Bay Beach. One finds minibuses two blocks inland, with destinations listed on a sign in the windshield. The 20 minute ride is only $2 US each way and the scenery is beautiful. Mullens is straight out of a travel poster -- white sand and crystalline blue water. Best of all, the northern half of the beach is almost always empty, since tourists congregate under umbrellas on the southern half. Trees provide shade, but there are no restrooms.From Mullens Beach it is an easy 10 minute walk back to Maho Beach at the end of the airport landing strip. Famous for the noise and jet blast of arriving and departing aircraft, Maho Beach is a thrilling way to spend an hour or two. The swimming is great and the bar next to the beach is full of congenial tourists and a few locals.To get back to the ship, simply walk back to the roundabout just above the beach and catch a minibus to town, leaving enough time for some shopping. On week-days the library, which is at the edge of town nearest the cruise port, usually offers free internet access. Your minibus driver can point it out to you.TENERIFE: The ship docks at Santa Cruz, which offers more than enough options to keep one busy for the day. If you want to see the mountains and parks (often clouded in), you will need a tour since public transportation does not serve them. For Puerto de la Cruz, a pleasant tourist town on the opposite (north) coast, walk through the cruise port to the main boulevard, take a local bus west to the bus terminal, then catch an express bus to Puerto de la Cruz (or any of several other options such a nearby La Laguna). Bus fares are about $2-3 US each wayFor La Laguna, the historic center of which is a UNESCO world heritage site, you also have the option of taking the modern light rail, which travels parallel to the waterfront a block or two inland (ask for directions to the nearest stop). The light rail is a little slower than the bus, but it goes all the way to the center of La Laguna, which is a bonus.In Santa Cruz (the port) itself there are several nice options. Near the bus terminal at the west end of town is the Calatrava-designed auditorium, which is an architectural delight. On the way there or back are a nice open air market, a fantastic Herzog and de Meuron-designed new library (with free internet access), a new modern art museum (in the same building as the library), a pleasant but not exciting anthropology and natural history museum, and an attractive plaza several minutes from the cruise dock. I believe the plaza offers hop-on hop-off tour buses, and I assume that they also stop close to the port on cruise days.LISBON: All of Portugal is a joy for travelers, and Lisbon is a gem. Yes, some parts are a diamond in the rough, but with a good guide book (I strongly recommend the Rick Steves series) you can enjoy several days here. Hotels are very reasonably priced in Portugal, including Lisbon (check the internet search engines, which can be much cheaper than the hotel websites).After our cruise I spent several weeks traveling through Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra, and Porto); northern Spain (Santiago de Compostela and Madrid); and Ireland (Dublin and surroundings) before returning home.In this case Choiceair, RCIs airfare option, did not offer very good prices, so I booked a one way return via Aer Lingus, with a free stopover in Dublin.IN SUMMARY: This is a delightful itinerary on a beautiful ship with an excellent crew. What more could one want? Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
This was only our second cruise and first trans Atlantic crossing. As it was our Anniversary and my wife's birthday decided for this 14 night cruise so we could spend some romantic time together. Prior to the cruise jumped into the ... Read More
This was only our second cruise and first trans Atlantic crossing. As it was our Anniversary and my wife's birthday decided for this 14 night cruise so we could spend some romantic time together. Prior to the cruise jumped into the Cruise Critic forum board and really glad we did meet some great people and shared some great times. Embarkation. Made our own way to the cruise port in San Juan about 12 noon had to man handle our own cases to the porters. Check in was better than expected arrived on board in 42 mins and 30 sec ( sad I know but set the stop watch on my phone ). Cabin: 7560 had balcony on the Port side. Room spotless but showing the signs of wear ie rust around balcony door, scuffs and scrapes, shower screen had six inch crack and sheets although clean had been repaired. Our cabin steward was superb and always smiling. Dinning: We had opted to dine early on a table of ten. First night arrived to find we were the only one's there the wait staff we pleasant BUT we pushing the BOTTLES of wine even though we were on a drinks package with free house wine by the glass. We were latter joined by a family with two small children one of which screamed for over 30 mins. We latter approached the Maitre De and asked for a move only to be told that the family weren't on his list for the table just another couple. Therefor a table of ten was for four. The following night we decided to try the Winjammer and so glad that we did. The assistant waiter Leonardo was a dream couldn't do enough for us never pushy but always around. The food was good ( not a good as on the Princess Cruise ) with plenty of choice. We ate at the Specialty restaurant Portafino's twice during the cruise and enjoyed the food on both occasions. The best meal of the cruise was at the Cruise Critic Luncheon on the next to the last day really top notch and great service. Have heard since some of those attended were not Cruise Critic members but snook in by the Matrede. Entertainment: On the whole was okay. The Ice Show superb but only one show in the 14 nights. The temptations tribute group great. The productions shows were good but just good. The Cruise directer Hello Clo was always around and entertaining. We attended the CSI enhancement lecture by Dr Hal which we found enthralling and very interesting. Bars: Amazed at the number of bars available and being on a free drinks package made visits to most during the trip. Special mention to Illian and Keven at the Schooner Bar this guys were superb and could be earning a fortune in a trendy mainland bar. Summary: It became apparent that RCI are adopting the Ryan Air approach ie you pay for the cruise but there are a lot of hidden extras ie Starbuck's, Ben & Jerrys, Curry Demonstration, ships tours, etc etc all with an extra cost. Whilst expecting to pay extra for the Specialty restaurants and Theme nights some of the extra costs were unacceptable. In conclusion: We enjoyed the cruise as a whole, the first four nights and island visits were great. The sea days dragged and the entertainment offered was of a holiday camp order. The all inclusive drinks package was a very welcome bonus and in our opinion not abused by those on it. We didn't see a single drunk. However we did notice a large number of people coughing and sneezing towards the end of the cruise and I came away with a severe chest infection! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Overall: We had never before had more than one sea day. Here we had six in a row. We (ourselves and six friends) were fully occupied. We had time to do things (clubs, dancing, shows) that is tough to do if you have to get up at 6 the ... Read More
Overall: We had never before had more than one sea day. Here we had six in a row. We (ourselves and six friends) were fully occupied. We had time to do things (clubs, dancing, shows) that is tough to do if you have to get up at 6 the next morning for a 7:30 a.m. tour, so the TA gave us a chance to enjoy the ship. Embarkation in San Juan: Took about 30 minutes at San Juan's Pan American Pier. A cab there is essential, although we arranged a van for the 8 of us and assorted luggage. Check in was fine. Most of the time is involved in walking. Room: We had Junior Suite 1570 on the tenth deck. A very spacious room with a walk-in closet. We could never fill all of the hangers and drawers, even though we brought three suitcases of stuff. The bathroom was very nice and had a tub. The balcony was a good size, with two chairs and a table. Our steward kept the room neat and clean, with towel art about half the nights. Did I mention the walk-in closet? The room is very quiet, and no matter what was doing in Centrum, no noise passed through the door. No noise from deck 11. Breakfast: We did room service a couple of times. We went to Windjammer a couple of times. It took us about 7 days to find the lox. Otherwise, standard buffet fare. The staff will bring coffee and tea. Plenty of seating, so asking someone to let you share was generally not necessary. Most of the time, we ate in the MDR. A good buffet as well as waiter service. Service was not as good as the MDR for dinner. The wait staff simply don't seem motivated at breakfast or lunch as they are at dinner. Lunch: Generally Windjammer or MDR. MDR had good choices. Generally had to share tables; some tablemates were friendly, some less so, and for some there were language barriers. A couple of times in the Sea View cafe, with mixed results. While service was quick, sometimes the place seemed to be missing ingredients. Dinner: In the MDR most nights. Good service; generally good menu choices. Only had one night where I was bored by the menu. For an extra price, you can have a Chops steak or lobster; I'm not the only one who resents this creeping nickel-and-diming. Do not order the sirloin steak. In any form. Wine: We pre-ordered 29 bottles at about $25 per bottle rather than $40 per bottle off the menu. Bars: Always a daily drink for $6.95+ and you keep the glass. Snacks: Frozen yogurt available most of the day. Portofino: Great service, good menu choices, and a fantastic sundown that night. Chops Grille: Great service, limited menu typical of a steak house. I had the New York steak, it was very good. Food choices: note that Windjammer closes at various times. At times it is closed, Sea View and the snack bars are open. Gym: most equipment worked, and despite it being a TA, most time there was no wait. Recreation: The pools are nice; we mainly used the Solarium Pool and hot tubs. On occasion, too many people tried to enter the hot tub. I don't know what motivates someone to get into a hot tub in which no seating is available and then expect to sit. Most people were friendly, but some were off in their own world, holding loud conversations among themselves across the tub. The pool tables are on gyros, fascinating to play. Basketball and miniature golf are interesting when the ship moves. The rock wall was lightly used, so access was easy. Laundry: no laundry facilities, BUT RCI does a $25 special for all you can stuff in a bag. Washed and folded, not ironed. We got about 40 pieces each time, since our principal dress was shorts and T-shirts. Ask your room steward for the schedule. Internet: Our Blackberries worked well (with a slight hiccup on Day One). You need an international package from your provider. No payment to RCI. I had continual billing issues with my laptop. RCI kept writing off 100% of the charges. Tough to complaint about that. Our friends with IPads had recurring connection problems. This is a satellite service. If you have to connect with a secure office server, like I do, to do work, it moves s-l-o-w-l-y. Very slowly. I would read work on the laptop, and type messages back on my Blackberry. This is not a problem that RCI has much control over. Entertainment: Typical cruise shows. The last night's show was a balancing act that was really not worth going to. The piano player was OK, and the sing along was good, but he tended to play with his foot on the pedal at all times. There was entertainment every night in Centrum. The dancing music varied from night to night. The best was the night they played 60s. Every balcony in Centrum was filled to the top. We danced for more than two hours. Why the cruise director did not repeat this event is a puzzlement. Special event: We got up in the middle of the night to watch the ship go through the Strait of Gibraltar at about 4:45 a.m. It's neat to see the lights in Europe and Africa at the same time. Of the 2100 passengers, there were 4 of us to see this event. Tours: Our first choice was cancelled in St. Maarten for lack of interest. It seems that most people on a TA don;t buy tours. Serious lack of interest. There were six ships in port, including 2 TA's by RCI, and RCI was running 6 out of about 50 listed tours. The tour in Cartagena was unnecessary and overpriced. Dis-embarking: Very quick and smooth until one of our bags, marked in group 6, was placed in group 9. It took 45 minutes to sort out. How to avoid weight gain: I never took an elevator; they looked nice. Learn not to clean your plate, despite what your Mother told you. Learn to exercise by pushing away from the table. I had frozen yogurt every day, and dessert at every dinner, and sometimes at lunch. I walked between 4 and 9 miles a day. Dancing every night. I lost a pound over 14 days. Bottom line: We booked another TA on RCI. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Serenade of the Seas is a well laid out vessel, well cared for, spotlessly clean and just the size I like. I was attracted by the itinerary which offered a variety of interesting ports, all full day stops and a six day at sea ocean ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas is a well laid out vessel, well cared for, spotlessly clean and just the size I like. I was attracted by the itinerary which offered a variety of interesting ports, all full day stops and a six day at sea ocean crossing which is maximum for me. I decry the recent trend to eight and even nine day at sea crossings which only seem only designed to save on port charges and force passengers to spend more money on board. No thanks. Boarding at San Juan seemed a little chaotic, a great shed of a building, with a crowd around the baggage handlers and some noisy confusion at the ticket counters. That said it somehow all proceeded efficiently and quickly and we were processed and on board in less than half an hour. Can't complain about that. My inside cabin was ready on boarding and contained enough room and storage for one or two persons. No stains, odors or visible damage. Good bed (but not as good as Holland America). Basic bathroom but everything worked and there was abundant hot water and good pressure. No toiletries. "Beam me up Scotty" wrap around shower stall was large enough for me (6'3", 225 lbs) but fellow passengers with ample hips found the shower stalls challenging. A/C and heat control worked. I like inside cabins because they are dark at night and quiet and because, traveling solo I have no intention of spending time sitting on the bed staring out of the window or by myself on a balcony so I save the money for other things. Not quite a walk around promenade deck nor a forward observation lounge but there are several excellent forward observation points on several decks including the ability to go right to the bow. Neat. Nice bars and lounges. We gravitated to the Champagne bar with nice views and hors d'oeuvres. Safari Club very nice but under utilized. Nifty balanced pool tables which were popular. Odd Sports Bar forward of the Casino was almost always deserted. Schooner bar has a nautical theme but was chosen by the large Puerto Rican contingent on board as their clubhouse and so was always packed with a good natured crowd singing and rollicking in Spanish. Royal Viking lounge had been renamed but was uninvitingly decorated and underused. Good place for a quiet read during the day. Good deck space never seemed crowded and deck chairs were abundant. Some effort made by staff to stop chair hogging in popular areas. Bravo. Covered conservatory pool popular and very pleasant. Table tennis, mini golf and shuffleboard all available and well used. Even the basketball court had its fans. Jogging track used by runners, joggers, walkers, even a guy in a motorized wheelchair and so worked for nobody really. Entertainment so so but nothing special. Usual cruise ship stuff. Spectacular central atrium well used for everything from the dreaded 'art' auction to dances but be aware that sound from these events travels and if you have a cabin near to the atrium you will hear it. Cruise staff average and did their jobs but nothing special. Bingo sparsely attended since the bigger prizes. (free cruises etc) were moved to a lottery in the Casino. Trivia popular. Food in the Windjammer Buffet went from good to excellent. An above average performance At night a carving station offered thing like prime rib and salmon in puff pasty to folks not wanting the dining room. Lunch had good variety and I always found something tasty. The head chef is from India and an excellent curry or two was always available. Alternatively the Seaview Cafe (to be replaced by a 'for fee' Mexican Cantina for some reason) offers good fish, lousy chips and OK Reuben sandwiches. Good table cleaning and drink refill service. Main restaurant offered fairly good choices with several hits including great duckling in cherry sauce, first rate rack of lamb, good prime rib and vegetables which were fresh and usually not overcooked. Food was hot. A few misses including a much touted "Signature Dish" - New Way Surf and Turf. Three flabby tasteless shrimp languishing on a tough old steak that seemed to be flank but was described as 'Shoulder Filet" (???) No Way Surf and Turf. This Signature needs a handwriting expert. Service prompt and efficient but the main waiter was silly and eventually annoying. Assistant waiter very professional and good so we reversed the tips at the end of the cruise. Portofino Restaurant, at $20 offered and excellent menu and food in a pretty room with excellent sea views. Good value. Chops Grill at $30 offered large portions of first rate beef, boring starters and sides, a ponderous room without interest, eager chatty service that lacked finesse and was, overall, a blah experience. Royal Caribbean is very good at getting people off and on the ship at port stops. There never seemed to be a long wait or a problems. The usual fracas of herding the tour groups onto their buses is never pretty but RCCI handles it as well as anybody. Service throughout the ship was pleasant and our few problems were handled efficiently and courteously by the front desk and the maitre d. There are refreshingly few announcements on this ship and the usual pesky ship photographers behaved admirably. More kudos. Do see Cadiz (a charmer), do enjoy Gibraltar (pray for a clear day). If walking is a problem, Gibraltar cabs will get you closer to the sights on top than the tour buses can. In Palma, RCCI organized an expensive shuttle into town that had restless lines waiting for it. The crew meanwhile walked across the street and took clean, frequent city buses into town for 1 euro. So did I. Shame RCCI. Tell people. Disembarkation was a breeze. Very well handled. All in all a very enjoyable cruise and well worth the money. I am a HAL boy but I would certainly consider RCCI and especially the Serenade again after this. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This was our 2nd Transatlantic as we enjoyed the 1st one so much. This time we booked Adventure it visited islands on both that we had not visited before. We booked a flight inclusive deal. The flight to San Juan via Atlanta was long ... Read More
This was our 2nd Transatlantic as we enjoyed the 1st one so much. This time we booked Adventure it visited islands on both that we had not visited before. We booked a flight inclusive deal. The flight to San Juan via Atlanta was long but went without a hitch. We were delayed getting to the hotel as the transfer bus was an hour late picking us up. We had one night in the Caribe Hilton which was very nice. Boarding went well. As RCI picked up our bags from the hotel and sent them directly to the ship we didn't see them again until they arrived in our cabin. From arrival at the Quay side we were on board in about 15 - 20 minutes. We had a balcony on Deck 7. Our balcony was little larger than average due to the location of the cabin on the "hump" of the ship. We were looked after by Grace who kept the room spotless and always wore a smile. The ship was full and had the most diverse range of nationalities aboard. Mainly American, Canadian, Puerto Rican , German and British. This bought with it a great atmosphere. You could go and do a pub quiz, listen to the Latin bands or a pianist etc etc. We had room service breakfast every day except two. This helped keep the pounds off as when we did go to the Windjammer I went a little overboard. The breakfast arrived on time every day and was always right. We decided to go for "My time" dining. On the 1st night we were advised to book a dining time for the rest of the cruise as we had requested a table for 2. Only very early or very late slots were left. Apparently you can now chose My Time and then request a table size and time slot before boarding. This kind of defeats the object in my opinion as it is then "Their Time" dining however it worked out well. We opted to eat at 6.15 and for the rest of the cruise arrived for dinner between 6.00 and 7.00. We always sat on the same table and kept our excellent waiting staff Osario and Merry, our drinks waiter Clyde was also very good. We ate in the MDR on every night except two. We ate once in Johnny Rockets which was good fun and once in Portofinos for the Murder Mystery dinner. The Fillet Mignon was absolutely amazing. Why can't I find steak that good back at home? Abel, the cruise director was the best we've had on any cruise. To be honest he is the only one we've ever remembered so he must have done something right. He was great in dealing with the very multi-national clientèle as he spoke four languages fluently. The stage productions were excellent and got standing ovations at each show we saw and as always the Ice show was outstanding. There was always plenty going on around the ship on the seas days and when the sea got a little choppy on the east side of the Atlantic they moved some of the music and party events due to happen around the pools on to the Royal Promenade. We didn't do any RCI excursions as they wereexpensive. We did a tour of St Marteen with a local company called Bernard Tours which was very good. In St Thomas we walked the 20 minutes or so into town, had a look around the markets and shopping streets before heading back to the ship. We hired cars in Tenerife and Lanzarote to do our own thing and walked in to Funchal and had a look around as we had been before we were back on the ship in time for lunch. This was the only way to get a sunbed in the Solarium as they were normally all gone bay 8.30 on the sea days. Transfers and flights back to the UK from Malaga went with a hitch. It is difficult to find any thing to be negative about on this cruise the staff and fellow passengers made this possibly the best cruise we have ever been on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We travelled Malaga/Madrid/Miami/San Juan to join Adventure of the Seas. The flight from Madrid on Iberia was delayed 1 hour so we missed our connection in Miami. On arrival we were met American Airlines staff who had rebooked us on a ... Read More
We travelled Malaga/Madrid/Miami/San Juan to join Adventure of the Seas. The flight from Madrid on Iberia was delayed 1 hour so we missed our connection in Miami. On arrival we were met American Airlines staff who had rebooked us on a later flight, however the transit at Miami was appalling, it took a full 2 hours to clear immigration, collect baggage, clear customs, hand the luggage on to American Airlines, go through security and get to the gate just in time to hear our name being called for the flight as it had already boarded. A totally stressful experience. Anyway enough of that After 2 nights in San Juan we boarded Adventure of the Seas, we arrived at the port at 1100 and waited in line 15 minutes to drop of baggage then another 15 minute to check in and followed by a 30 minute wait we boarded at 1200. This was our 4th time on AOS and she is in really good condition, we saw no signs of wear and tear and there were staff constantly cleaning. Our balcony cabin was ready promptly at 1330 and was clean and comfortable, and well cared for our throughout the 13 night Cruise by Cirrus our stateroom attendant. We were allocated a very nice table in the Dining Room next to the window and our table companions were good company. Our Waiters Salem and Jesus worked hard to ensure we enjoyed the Dining experience. With regard to the food, although we couldn't put our fingers on why, we felt that although it was good it was not as good as on previous cruises but this may just be compliancy as the menu remains virtually the same from cruise to cruise. For the first time ever we dined on 3 evenings in the Windjammer and were pleasantly surprised, the food was good, varied and hot. We had some great steaks in there. There were always plenty of waiters on hand for drinks etc. Which made a very pleasant dining experience; we shall certainly be doing this again on future cruises. Lunch on seas days we used the Main Dining Room, the Bistro Menu was excellent and there was an extensive Salad Buffet to compliment the meal. We felt that this was far better option than the Windjammer which was usually very crowded at Lunch time. We usually took breakfast the Main Dining Room where we were able to use the Diamond Area this was also good, however if you are in a hurry this was not the place to go for breakfast, we didn't once get out in under an hour. We did however enjoy our breakfasts and the company of other passengers who were seated with us and after all with 6 full days at sea did it really matter how long it took to have breakfast. With regard to on board entertainment we enjoyed the Daily Trivia but didn't participate in much else although there were plenty of organised activities if you wanted them. We are not really Show people so we didn't go to any of the Stage Shows on board so I am unable to comment on their content. The Cruise Critic Group was excellent and we joined in Slot Pull, a Progressive Poker hand and a Golf Tournament. A big thanks to those people who organised these events. This was our first transatlantic cruise and certainly won't be our last, the 6 sea days were just wonderful a chance to totally relax. We had been to all the ports of call before so didn't take up any excursions, however we have decided we would like to see more of Madeira and will be looking for an excursion there when we do the Westbound Transatlantic on AOS in November Disembarkation in Malaga was well organised and efficient we left the ship at 0810 and by 0830 had collected our luggage and on our way home. A really good cruise and we can't wait to do it westbound in November. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Transatlantic Cruise Review and Port Guide, RCI's ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS, San Juan to Malaga, April 15-28, 2012 This was my first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, and it exceeded my expectations in every respect: ship, crew, ... Read More
Transatlantic Cruise Review and Port Guide, RCI's ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS, San Juan to Malaga, April 15-28, 2012 This was my first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, and it exceeded my expectations in every respect: ship, crew, activities, dining, price, and ports of call. I will describe each of them in that order. SHIP: The Adventure of the Seas was built in 2001, which makes it almost middle-aged by current cruise industry standards (seems young to me). It is well-maintained, and other than a few fogged windows (in the aft buffet) age is not an issue. It is 137,000 tons (three times the volume of the Titanic but smaller than its newer sister ships), and carries 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew. It is the largest cruise ship that I have traveled on so far. I was afraid that the large size would create crowds and waiting lines, but that was never a problem. The ice skating rink (yes, ice rink) blocked through-traffic on decks two and three, and shoppers sometimes slowed traffic on the deck five mall, but the other decks never seemed crowded. The large size of the ship allows for a greater variety of sports and entertainment venues than on smaller ships. I was surprised that I never had to wait to participate in sports activities and always found a seat at entertainment (and enrichment) events. The decor of the ship is stylish with a few whimsical touches. The stairwell art works are especially enjoyable. If you have a chance, take the free art tour given by a crew member several times during the cruise. At about 153 sq. ft., my inside cabin was a bit smaller than I am used to, but it was well-designed and very functional. Only the CRT-type TV seemed dated. The climate control worked very well, and there always was enough fresh air at whatever temperature I wanted. The bathroom was snug, but the shower had great water pressure and the circular enclosure worked much better than the usual shower curtain. I was pleased with my inside cabin. I did not have an opportunity to view other cabin categories and cannot comment on them. For a look at the ship inside and out, a link to my photos is given at the end of this review. Photos of the ship are better than any description. CREW: All of the crew members were well-trained and thoroughly professional, from the cruise director (Abel, a charming polyglot from Switzerland) to the numerous people who worked behind the scenes keeping everything shipshape. I was impressed that the crew were very responsive to requests. When my shower backed up and later when my ceiling light flickered, the maintenance crew had each of them fixed within an hour. When I noted that the spa schedule was heavy on fee- and light on free-activities, the spa staff responded by adding a free stretch class every morning (try it, you will be amazed how enjoyable it is). The entertainment crew also did a great job. The singers and dancers were very talented, and the ice skaters were world class. The activities crew made certain that guests felt welcome to participate in (or simply watch) the numerous events they offered. They were always very polite and friendly, which is not easy when one loses an hour of sleep almost every night on an eastbound itinerary. My dining crew (I had open seating) were always first rate, and they always seemed to know my drink preferences even though I rotated tables and dined at various times. My cabin steward Joel also did a fine job. My cabin was always immaculate, and he greeted me by name and helped me practice my Spanish (for my trip through southern Spain that followed the cruise). PASSENGERS: Transatlantic cruises tend to attract an older and often better educated crowd with fewer children than shorter regional cruises, and that was the case on this cruise. Since the passengers on this itinerary were about a quarter North American, a quarter Hispanic, a quarter German, and the remaining quarter other European and Asian, one had a chance to experience a broad variety of backgrounds, world views, and languages (although most passengers also spoke English). Meeting them was one of the pleasures of open dining. Surprisingly few passengers smoked, and smoking was not an issue since it was limited to only a few areas. As on most ships, smoking was not allowed in the dining rooms and most other public areas. ACTIVITIES: The ice rink was a surprising pleasure. The ice shows were infrequent but impressive, with the cast of ten skating at a world class level. This will be your best chance to see (up close and personal) how athletic an ice show really is. Obtain your free tickets the day you board, and go early since it is open seating. The gym was adequate in size and equipment, but its open floor plan with a central whirlpool made it a bit noisy. Bring earplugs or headphones when you head for the gym. I carry earplugs to all cruise ship venues because of my personal bias against the muzak and over-amplified entertainment on almost all cruise lines, especially on the pool deck where one wants to relax. The sports deck offered a wide variety of activities. The rock climbing wall on the back of the smokestack was much more fun than I had expected. Make sure you give it a try. It is exhilarating, and easier than you think. On warm days the pool area was very busy, and as usual on cruise ships some people saved their deck chairs in advance, in spite of signs to the contrary. While it was warm in the Caribbean and western Atlantic, the eastern Atlantic was windy and very cool for April -- good for deck walks but not for sunning or swimming. The jogging/walking track on the top deck was often busy and sometimes very windy, but the deck 4 promenade area under the lifeboats was more protected and never crowded. By climbing stairs up to deck 5 in the bow and then back down to deck 4 one could encircle the entire ship. The balcony "bulge" midship gives beautiful sea views on these walks. The library had a relatively modest selection of books that often appeared to come from remaindered titles. You might want to bring some of your own reading material. The library had open shelves and was run on the honor system, which was convenient. Enrichment lectures were relatively lightly attended for a transatlantic crossing, but the three speakers were all entertaining and enthusiastic. Most lectures related to the next port of call or to our final destination (Spain), which was a plus. Some passengers were disappointed in the speed of the internet connection while mid-ocean (especially since it is billed per minute), but I did not have a problem since I only used it when we were in or near a port (public libraries in ports often have free internet, just ask locally). Wi-fi users seemed to like the outdoor tiled alcove near the solarium pool for a good connection. CROWN AND ANCHOR: A nice perk of my diamond Crown and Anchor status on RCI (based on reciprocity with my Captain's Club status on Celebrity) was 20 minutes of free internet usage. When you book a cruise with RCI and join their Crown and Anchor frequent-cruiser program, ask them to check your Celebrity account too, to see if you already qualify for RCI elite status. In addition to the internet credit, I received a free 8x10 photo of myself (the professional photographers were very good, and very polite), and I received coupons for reduced prices in several venues including laundry service. Perhaps the nicest perk was a daily pre-dinner cocktail hour in the Imperial Lounge with free wine and soda for diamond and higher Crown and Anchor categories. DINING: Dining preferences are subjective, but the following suggestions may be useful to you. The breakfast and lunch buffets (in the Windjammer) had both steam table and cold offerings. On every cruise line the former tend to be over-cooked, and so I tend to opt for the latter. The fresh fruit and crisp bacon at breakfast were excellent, and a wide variety of salads was available at lunch (although the main dining room salad bar was even better on sea days). Remember that the hand gels at the buffet entry are good for bacteria, but hand washing with soap and water is even better for viruses like the notorious Norovirus. It is just as important to wash your hands after using serving tongs as it is before entering the buffet. A nice bonus to hand washing is the beautiful view from the restrooms near the buffet entrance (they each have a glass wall overlooking the sea). All but one of the twenty meals I had in the main dining room, both lunches and dinners, exceeded my expectations (a great record, I think). The menu is not quite as inventive and the presentation is not quite as elegant as on premium or luxury cruise ships, but I did not expect it to be. However, the quality of the ingredients and their preparation were always first rate. At lunch on sea days, when the main dining room is open, you must try the chef's salad bar. It is the best I have had anywhere, on land or sea. Just make sure that your serving person is not too generous with the salad dressing. Main courses and desserts are offered in addition to the salad bar, but the salads are so large that you may not want anything more. At dinner the beef was always top quality prime rib or tenderloin (I did not try the off-menu sirloin and cannot evaluate it). Only once was the prime rib well done, rather than the rare that I ordered. At my request they even grilled the filet mignon extra rare, which few ship galleys are willing to do. The seafood (various white fish, shrimp, scallops) was always cooked to perfection, and except for the off-menu salmon, the seafood was never dry or overdone. The seafood was so good that I often ordered it. There was no rack of lamb, but the lamb shank was tender and flavorful. There was a variety of poultry and pork, which I did not sample since I have that often enough at home. I had a dinner salad (the Caesar) only once, and it had wilted under its dressing. At dinner it may be best to order salad with the dressing on the side. I did not try the soups, although my tablemates enjoyed them. Desserts at dinner and during the afternoon in the buffet were usually American style, with an emphasis on cakes, puddings, pies, and ice cream. Classic French desserts were less frequent, and chocolate desserts were not as flavorful as one would like. I opted for My Time (open) dining with pre-paid gratuities. I had multiple different servers and assistants, and all were excellent. Unfortunately there is currently no system to reward them with additional tips unless you hand each one a cash supplement at the end of the cruise. I hope some day RCI will be able to computerize this process from one's shipboard account, since it may involve a dozen different servers. I experienced three minor disappointments with My Time dining: First, some passengers reserved the same (usually small) table at the same time for almost every night of the cruise, essentially locking out others who might also want a table for two or six. The rest of us usually were seated at long tables for ten, which made both conversation and service difficult. To be fair to all passengers, My Time dining should not be My Table dining. Second, the servers were so generous that they often brought unordered cheese and fruit plates before presenting the menus. On one occasion a couple at my table (perhaps they had previously complained about something) even received two huge Greek salads, a platter of bruschetta, a cheese plate, and a plate of petits fours before they placed their orders. This generosity is done with the best of intentions, but extra food should be on a request only basis. Third, rather than seating guests in their order of arrival, my tables for ten were sometimes partly filled, service commenced, and then the remainder of the table was filled 15-20 minutes later. This staggered seating is difficult for both the servers and the earlier guests, who usually must delay their remaining courses until the later guests catch up. Open dining works better when a table is closed to new guests once the first course is served. PRICE: The good news is that this eastbound transatlantic cruise was the best value I have encountered in more than 20 years of cruising. The bad news is that cruise prices are capacity controlled, and you might not be able to obtain such a good price for your own transatlantic cruise. Several months before this cruise, I crossed the Atlantic westbound on a Celebrity ship. When I wanted to return eastbound on the same ship, the price was raised $400 for residents of my state (but not for residents of about 20 other states). Although I could afford the increase, the geographic discrimination turned me off. Instead I found this RCI cruise online. It was just as long as, but cost half as much as, my prior Celebrity cruise (excluding gratuities and port charges, which are fixed). Even better, I was able to obtain a solo cabin for only a small surcharge (most cruise lines charge solo travelers 200%, and sometimes even 300-400% of their standard rate for couples). My per diem as a solo passenger in an inside double cabin on this cruise was an astoundingly low 48 USD, before standard gratuities and port charges. Thank you RCI! However, when I considered extending my cruise on the same ship in the Mediterranean, a solo cabin for the extra one week would have cost more than four times the rate offered to couples, and more than twice what I paid for the prior two week transatlantic cruise. Also, when I considered taking the same transatlantic itinerary westbound on the same Adventure of the Seas next fall, a solo cabin would have cost three times the rate I paid for my cruise eastbound. Go figure. The lesson is that there is sometimes no apparent rhyme or reason to cruise fares. One must simply stay alert and watch for good values on the internet. I hope that RCI has another good value in the future, because I would happily cruise with them again when their solo cabin price is a good value. (N.B. Shortly after I wrote the above, I booked back to back Alaska cruises for June on the RCI Radiance of the Seas -- not the fantastic bargain that my transatlantic cruise had been, but a good value compared with all the other solo cabins on cruise lines in Alaska.) PORTS OF CALL: I rarely book a tour in any port of call. I much prefer to explore ports on my own, taking cheap public transportation and meeting locals along the way. The following information may help you to do the same on this itinerary. First, my photo links are given here and again at the end of this cruise review. You will be surprised how attractive these ports are. Click on this link (or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary): https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/TACruise412Album?authkey=Gv1sRgCNOnrerv9O-wUA# Thumbnail photos will then appear (if you get a "stack overload" alert due to the number of photos, just click on the alert till it closes). Then click on the "slideshow" option in the upper left. Wiggle your mouse to access the control panel to set speed, pause, or go back. SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Our cruise began in San Juan. San Juan hotels are overpriced, especially near cruise departure days, so I stayed in a basic and inexpensive (less than the cab fare from the airport) posada in old San Juan (Posada San Francisco, on Plaza Colon). There I met several others going on my cruise, and we shared a taxi to the RCI cruise terminal in the morning. Old San Juan is a pleasure for strolling. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy it, especially the two historic forts run by the National Park Service (El Morro and San Cristobal). For free entry to both, remember to bring your national park pass (Golden Eagle, etc.) from home. The RCI cruise terminal is across the bay from old San Juan. There is no bus service nearby and you will need to hire a taxi to get there. Taxis from the airport to old San Juan are regulated and cost about $24 (for the entire cab), but taxis from old San Juan to the cruise terminal may take some negotiating (always agree on the price in advance, since most taxis are not metered). Boarding begins around noon. Getting there earlier means you will simply have to wait in line (outside) longer. ST. THOMAS, USVI: I regret to say that this is my least favorite port in the Caribbean. It is usually overwhelmed with cruise ships, even though the locals try very hard to accommodate them. In years past we used to take the small ferry to Water Island to escape the cruise crowds (this is most convenient if your ship docks at the yacht harbor in Crown Bay). Unfortunately, local tour operators now bring party barges and catamarans into the Water Island beach every mid-day, so it is no longer quiet or pleasant. Magens Bay beach is probably the best alternative (pay for a taxi to the north shore, then pay for beach entry). We may simply stay onboard and enjoy the empty ship when our itineraries take us to St. Thomas in the future. ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN (DUTCH/FRENCH): I am a francophile and a francophone, but I must admit that the Dutch half of this island (where the cruise ships dock) is much nicer than the French side. The French beaches (including the famous but unpleasant Orient Beach) are on the windward side, with rough surf, no free shade, and seaweed and plastic debris in the water and on the beach. A much better alternative is to walk from the ship into Phillipsburg along the nice pedestrian walkway. A few blocks inland from the town waterfront you will find mini-vans heading west to Mullet Bay Beach (a scenic 20 minute ride for 2 USD). Look for the Mullet Bay sign in the mini-van window, and remember to greet the driver and other passengers when you enter. The driver will drop you a short walk from the beach. Along the way you will pass the infamous Maho Beach, where jets land and take off just overhead. This is an awesome event, especially the late morning arrival of the KLM 747 from Europe (check flight schedules if you are interested in being blasted by awesome jet noise). Mullet Bay Beach is far enough beyond Maho Beach that it is not bothered by the jets. It offers a long strip of pristine white sand and crystal clear water straight out of a travel poster. On week day mornings it is almost empty and absolutely glorious. There is shade, but no changing room, so wear your suit if you do not want to change under your towel. Vendors there rent chairs and umbrellas, and they sell snacks and drinks. SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS (SPANISH): The first of the two Canary Islands on our cruise, Tenerife Island is well-developed and tourist friendly. Most of its tourists arrive by air from Europe. Most of the beaches are on the south coast, but the best sightseeing is to the north and west of the Santa Cruz cruise port. There was a good deal of construction along the Santa Cruz waterfront (it is being upgraded), but signs will direct you along a 10 minute walk to the main waterfront boulevard, where you can catch a local bus (you will need a few euros for buses, drivers make change) westbound to the large main bus station ("Estacion" on the front of the bus, or ask the driver). From there, you can catch a bus (there are several per hour, I believe #15) to La Laguna, an inland town about 20 minutes northwest, with a UNESCO World Heritage preserved historic center. Old La Laguna is wonderful for strolling and is just a 10 minute walk from the local bus station (or take the modern tram those few blocks). The local tourism board in the center provides free guided walks on most days around noon. There is an old tower in the town center with nice views (it does not open till 10am), and there is a nice farmers and florists market a few blocks northeast of the old town. Remember that clean and free public restrooms are available in the La Laguna bus station and in the farmers market building. If you have time and interest, there are frequent buses from La Laguna to Puerto de la Cruz on the northwest coast, an additional 20 minute ride on the freeway. This is an attractive tourist enclave with a nice parks and a waterfront walk. The local tourism board has good maps for self-guided walking tours, and their historic office on the waterfront has a nice gift shop with local crafts, including handmade lace. There is no bus station building in Puerto de la Cruz. Instead the buses all line up along one street located a few blocks above the waterfront, with street signs giving the destinations and schedules. There are frequent buses back to Santa Cruz, about a 30 minute ride on the non-stop (I believe #103) bus. With your remaining time in Santa Cruz (the cruise port) I suggest you walk around the Calatrava-designed Auditorium of Tenerife, which is near the main bus station. It is similar to his famously winged Milwaukee art museum in the U.S.A. Make sure you look at the painted rocks along the waterfront near the auditorium. The portraits will surprise you. See how many you can recognize. From the auditorium it is a 15 minute walk back toward the center of town to the modern TEA public library and contemporary art museum. The former is the most beautiful library I have seen anywhere (and it has free internet). The latter has temporary exhibitions, some of which are very enjoyable if you are an art lover, and are relatively inexpensive. There is a coffee shop between the library and museum, with a separate entry. Next door to the TEA is the anthropology and natural history museum, which some recommended but I did not have time to see. From there it is a 20 minute walk back to the ship. There is usually a shuttle from the ship to the town center for a few USD, but it was not operating early enough for me, and the public bus stop is close to the ship anyway. You will be surprised how enjoyable Tenerife and La Laguna can be. ARRECIFE, LANZAROTE, CANARY ISLANDS (SPANISH): Lanzarote Island is famous for its barren volcanic landscape, which has been used in some science fiction movies as an alien planet. Incongruously, one of the most popular ship tours is a camel ride in the remote volcanic national park. There are also many things you can do on your own at a fraction of the cost. Cruise ships dock about 2 miles (3 km) east of Arrecife town. There is a small beach at the port (too cold to swim, but adequate for sunning on a warm day). Just follow the pedestrian walkway signs. One can continue on foot to Arrecife, but it is too far and uninteresting to be worthwhile. Instead of the walkway to Arrecife, walk 10 minutes straight out of the cruise port to the main highway (follow the trucks and buses, and use caution because there is no sidewalk toward the end). On the highway traffic circle is the Estrella restaurant. On the side of the highway next to the Estrella restaurant you can flag the local bus (I believe #3) eastbound to Costa Teguise. It departs every 20 minutes, takes about 15 minutes, and costs about 1.50 euros (drivers make change). At the end of the line, there is a condo area with shops and several pleasant beaches (walk through the mall to get to the beach promenade). Alternately, across the highway from the Estrella restaurant is the westbound bus (I believe #3) into Arrecife (10 minutes, about 1.50 euros) and beyond to Playa del Carmen on the south coast (about 30 minutes more, although I did not go there). Instead, I changed buses in Arrecife (at the main bus station inland or at the large outdoor Intercambiador bus stop near the waterfront) and took the #60 bus for a 60 minute long, 4 euro ride along the center of the island past the volcanic national park (no access by public bus) to Playa Blanca on the west coast. This route gives a scenic view of most of the island, and the beach walk at Playa Blanca is very pleasant. The #60 bus runs only once every hour (near the top of the hour) so plan your return to the ship accordingly. FUNCHAL, MADEIRA ISLAND (PORTUGUESE): Madeira Island has a local bus system, but most of it is thinly scheduled, for locals going to and from work. However, there is good bus service (#20 or #21, I believe) up the mountain behind Funchal to the beautiful vistas and street sled rides of El Monte. Funchal itself is a beautiful town with wonderful gardens. A ride up and down from El Monte followed by a walk through Funchal with visits to the farmers market and several churches and museums will easily fill your day. At the cruise port pick up a free map of Funchal. From the cruise ship it is a scenic 15 minute walk along the yacht harbor and waterfront to the Praca de Autonomia (Plaza of Autonomy). On the west side of the plaza, heading uphill along the (usually dry) riverbed is the bus stop for El Monte. It is a scenic 15 minute ride up (about 2 euros) to the church (igreja) of El Monte (ask the driver where to get off). From the church front you can look down over Funchal and the cruise port. Right below the church is the starting point for the famous street (basket) sled rides part way downhill. The bus ride back down was thrilling enough for me, but just watching the sleds take off is fun. Near the church is a large public garden, but the entry is 10 euros, and the gardens in town are free. On the east side of the Praca de Autonomia downtown is the indoor farmers, fishmen, and florists market. There you will find colorful photo ops, especially since the florists still wear the island's traditional red costumes and caps. Walking along the pedestrian zone west from the market and the Praca de Autonomia you will come to the historic town center along Avenida Arriaga. There you will find many cafes, free wi-fi, beautiful blue (in spring) jacaranda trees, and a wonderful public flower garden. If you head uphill from that flower garden, you will come to Santa Clara street, which leads up to two fine museums, a beautiful church (San Pedro) and a nice old convent (Santa Clara). Near the top of the street is the Museu Quinta das Cruzes, a fine old mansion where the last Austrian emperor was exiled after the war. It is now a museum of decorative arts. In the museum garden is a nice orchid display. A few blocks below this, also on Santa Clara street is the Museu Freitas. Half is a modern building with a good collection of the famous old tiles (azulejos) which one sees in churches and homes. The other half is the former mansion of Dr. Freitas. The mansion is particularly impressive because its valuable art objects are in situ, and not behind glass. To see the Santa Clara convent you will have to ring the bell next to the gate. If it is answered, a nun (or employee) will include you in one of their tours. San Pedro church is near the convent on your way back down to the town center. For those who are unable to walk well, I believe Funchal has a hop on/off bus tour that leaves from the waterfront, but I do not know the schedule or prices. MALAGA, SPAIN: Malaga was founded by Phoenicians, then settled by Romans. It is surprisingly attractive and enjoyable for a day visit (or preferably an overnight), and the local tourist offices are friendly and helpful. Torremolinos is a short bus ride west of Malaga, and Nerja (less crowded and more attractive than Torremolinos) is a 50 minute bus ride east. Buses to either leave from the bus stop on Avenida Herredia near the waterfront, which is closer to the town center than the main bus station. Cruise ships dock about a mile (1.5 km) from the historic center of Malaga and about two miles (3.0 km) from the back-to-back train and bus stations. The airport is several miles west of town, but there are good airport buses every 25 minutes (2 euros) leaving from Alameda Principal, the short boulevard with florist booths located between the waterfront and the old town center. On arrival in Malaga at the end of my cruise I walked off the ship at 0630 and took a taxi (they are all small, white, and metered) from the ship to the bus station (about 10 euros plus tip) for my bus ride to Ronda. I was at the bus station before 0700 and was glad to have taken the taxi since it started to rain a few minutes later. I stayed in Malaga for two nights (at the small, central, and very reasonable Hotel Trebol) after spending two weeks traveling on my own through Andalusia (Ronda, Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada). From Malaga I then took an inexpensive Veuling (Iberia code share) flight to Barcelona, where I stayed a few more days before flying back to the U.S.A. In addition to a side trip to Nerja, I enjoyed Malaga's Picasso Museum (Malaga was his birthplace) in a restored mansion with a pleasant garden cafe. While the Barcelona Picasso Museum has mainly early (adolescent) and late (Las Meninas cycle) works, the Malaga Picasso Museum has works from his middle years that he kept for himself and are now on loan from his family. Near the Picasso Museum is Malaga's large cathedral (with a small but free art museum in the adjacent historic Episcopal Palace), and also nearby is Malaga's open Roman amphitheater. The entire downtown area is a stylish pedestrian zone with nice shops and cafes, which are especially enjoyable for people watching during the evening paseo. West of the town center is a photogenic indoor farmers market (a block from my Hotel Trebol), and north of that is a small but enjoyable costume and decorative arts museum All of these sights are listed on the free tourist maps, which are available from tourist information booths near the waterfront, the cathedral, the Picasso Museum, and the amphitheater. Like Cartagena farther up Spain's Mediterranean coast, Malaga is much nicer than one expects. Malaga is a very enjoyable place to start or end a cruise. Again, for those interested, my photos of the ship and some of the ports are at the following link. Click on this link (or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary): https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/TACruise412Album?authkey=Gv1sRgCNOnrerv9O-wUA# Thumbnail photos will then appear (if you get a "stack overload" alert due to the number of photos, just click on the alert till it closes). Then click on the "slideshow" option in the upper left. Wiggle your mouse to access the control panel to set speed, pause, or go back. I hope you find the above information useful. Enjoy my photos and your next cruise. Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Overall, great trip from start to finish. Easy, easy check-in in San Juan, no standing in line. Great service from our stateroom attendant Imade, and from dining room staff who coped well with our group of 30+ rotating around our four ... Read More
Overall, great trip from start to finish. Easy, easy check-in in San Juan, no standing in line. Great service from our stateroom attendant Imade, and from dining room staff who coped well with our group of 30+ rotating around our four tables each evening. Food was great, and service exceptional- thanks to Georgean, Agnelo, Amrish and Kimber. Also, big thanks to Fernando at front desk for his help resolving intenet issues, the one big problem spot of the trip (costs a lot and doesn't always work as advertised, something I had checked on specificially before the trip. A more honest assessment of internet challenges prior to cruise would have been appreciated).Dance Band, Take 4, is great, just started too late most evenings. If you have early dinner, most of the entertainment other than nightly show, didn't start until 10:30 which was a shame. Tony B in Piano Bar is lots of fun, and Manuelo and his classical guitar skills were wonderful. As for shows, saw several, probably favorite was group from South Africa and their "Temptations" act. One night ship's band played Big Band music on the Promenade-great music but why not where there was a dance floor? Days at sea were smooth as glass, and didn't run out of things to do. Fitness Center was busy as you might expect at certain times of day, but we were always able to work out as planned.Anna and her staff were very helpful in working to accommodate some specific needs and requests of our group. A big plus. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011

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