If my review appears to run a little long, please keep in mind that this is the largest cruise ship in the world.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
We had just arrived in San Juan from a 7-day cruise on the Carnival Destiny, so you may see me make a lot of comparisons in my review. We had left the Carnival ship at about 10:30am. We would not be able to board Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas until 2pm, so we took a cab to Barrachino's restaurant, where we had been told by the cruise director on Carnival that they would store our luggage for a few hours (we tipped $5). That was very nice because it would have been really difficult to walk around Old San Juan with five pieces of luggage. The sidewalks were barely wide enough for two people to pass each other, let alone drag luggage without it falling off the curb into traffic.
Later, we called a cab from Barrachino's, and it took us to the new Royal Caribbean terminal, which we are told is the largest and newest cruise terminal in the world. He pulled right up to a porter and gave our bags directly to him. (On Carnival, we had to lug our bags with us for the two hours it took to get to the security point). So already we were thinking this was great, and happily we got into a line that wasn't too long and we were let inside the terminal (we didn't have to wait outside at all). Once inside, we followed the crowd to many rows of chairs and this is where the process got a little confusing. There wasn't any one directing traffic so no one really knew where to go, so we all just took some seats. It turned out that there were two lines, when there should really have been only one, and the chairs had nothing to do with anything. Eventually some people started loudly questioning just what was going on -- if someone would have directed us instead of just ignoring the mile-long line that had formed, maybe we all wouldn't have been so upset.
While we waited in line, a couple of people dressed in bright orange jump suits came through the line cooling people off with fans and misting people down with spray bottles and being extremely funny. We found out later that they were the Royal Caribbean "Krooz Komics" who were a big highlight of the cruise we were about to take.
At the check-in counter, we got our Super Charge cards, Brian asked what the cost and possibility of a room upgrade would be, and we were directed to a supervisor. When we got up to her, we asked and she looked at our super charge card and said, "But you are already in a category D7 balcony room." We said we were wondering about upgrading to a suite. She said it would be $1000 more each. Oh, ok -- never mind! It never hurts to try, right? So we proceeded along and boarded the wondrous Adventure of the Seas.
Afternoon aboard the Adventure of the Seas
The moment we set foot on the ship, we were awestruck. Only the word "WOW" would come out of either of our mouths. And this was just within walking a few feet onto Deck 4 and looking at an elevator area and over a bannister into a bar (it was the Schooner Bar, but I didn't know it then). We used the stairs to begin the journey to our room. The stairs are more spread out and not as steep as Carnival's and easier to take even up many flights. The entire ship right down to the carpeting was brand new, beautiful and cushy. Everywhere we turned, we saw a piece of artwork and this was just on the way to our room! We were surprised that artwork was even displayed in the very hallways to the cabins; there are many millions of dollars worth of art pieces and displays on this ship.
Our Cabin, Part 1
Our room was located on Deck 7 at the aft of the ship just down the hall from a beautiful library facility. The library was designed with dark woods and warm colors and extremely comfortable furniture. It was three stories, with the Internet café on the upper floor and a sort of cruise consultant office with models of the ships of the Royal Caribbean fleet on the deck below. This library was open 24 hours and was very large with the most incredible selection of books, written both in English and Spanish. By comparison, Carnival's libraries are open maybe an hour or two everyday and are quite small. I liked it in there a lot and always wished I could spend time in it every time I passed it to and from our room. But it seemed like we were always doing something and I didn't pick up a book during the entire cruise.
When we got to our room we found that the door was propped open. It looked ready so we went in but didn't want to get comfortable just in case. I found our cabin steward Teodore down the hall and he wasn't upset that we just let ourselves in but said he wasn't quite ready. We said that was okay, and that we were going to just drop off our carry on bag and begin exploring the ship. We had no idea then how long it would be before we were back.
Exploring Public Rooms
Our exploration took a great deal of time because this ship is 140,000 tons of nonstop beauty. Carnival's largest ship, the Carnival Destiny, that we had just got off of, was 101,000 tons by comparison. The attractive color scheme on this ship along the hallways to the cabins and in the cabins themselves was in mostly blues and peaches. It was SO different from any of the Carnival ships that we have been on that it is hard to describe because the differences are like night and day. At either end on the Adventure of the Seas on many of the decks, we could gaze down onto the Promenade Deck. The Promenade [left] is a wondrous interior street, with shops and bars and cafés running alongside, complete with lamp posts. There was a restored purple and beige 1939 Citroen Roadster with leather interior in front of the Gravity Sports Bar [below right] (a sports bar with TVs), and many little tables with chairs right outside the pubs and cafés so you could sit on the "street,"" and have your drink or whatever.
Many of the interior cabins have windows that looked down on the promenade -- so I'm sure it was like looking down on a street. I hope you can picture this from my description, because it is quite amazing. We stopped at the Duck and Dog Pub [below left], an English-type pub for a Guinness. We were happy to find Royal Caribbean had Guinness, but like Carnival, they didn't have any other beer I liked except Amstel.
There was a little stairway that led from the Promenade street down to the largest casino at sea. The Casino Royale Hollywood [below right] was really nice and had a classic early Hollywood theme to it. At the entrance, there was a hole in the floor enclosed with glass that you could walk on. In the hole was Hollywood memorabilia (ruby red slippers, etc), gambling tokens, film reels, old time newspapers and stuff like that. Many of the slot machines had TV- or movie-related themes, like "I Dream of Jeannie," "The Munsters," "Pink Panther," and those kind of things. The roulette wheels had pewter-like tops with Marilyn Monroe on one and King Kong on another.
We tried to see everything this first day, but it was just impossible. The many bars and lounges we walked through that first day were really nice. Another difference between the Adventure of the Seas and Carnival was that Carnival's lounges are all rooms off to the sides, while on this ship they were so open. The bars weren't in separate rooms, but were just there when you came down or up a flight of stairs or out of the elevators. It is very hard to explain, but it made it all seem so roomy and nice because there were not many walls and doors separating areas. The Schooner Bar was probably the nicest in my opinion. It was located just outside the casino and had a sailing motif with really dark wood and boat type decorations. It smelled so good -- you know, that nice wood smell. Most of the bars had no smoking sections, too, which was really nice. Brian's favorite, the Champagne Bar was completely non-smoking and was decorated with tubes that had bubbles in it to look like champagne. At this bar you could order a bottle of champagne or wine and if you didn't finish it, they would cork it and keep it for you until another day.
Then we came across Studio B, which was the ice rink. It is too cool to have an ice rink on a cruise ship! And it isn't just a rink -- it is a showroom with many seats. They have professional ice skaters on this cruise that put on a fantastic show. Then we found the Lyric Theater where they have all the other shows. There is a peacock curtain on the stage that is just beautiful. The seating is just like movie theater seating, which was for us a lot better than Carnival's, because there are very few things to obstruct your view. They also have drink holders on the chair's arms rather than tables, so there is room for a lot more seats than what Carnival has.
By this time several hours had passed and we hadn't even gone back to our room to see if our bags had arrived to unpack yet! On the Promenade Deck, there were guys dressed like fools stopping people to talk to them. No, really they were dressed in medieval jester garb. They were from the restaurant Portofino's, which is an alternative dining experience located on Deck 12 that costs $20 per person. It came highly recommended by most of the reviews we had read, so we decided to make a reservation. We asked him if he knew which night that the main dining room wasn't serving anything real interesting and he said that Tuesday night was Caribbean night. That sounded like a night we didn't mind missing, so we reserved to go to Portofino's then. Next we made a quick tour of the magnificent three-story dining room to check on our table assignment before heading off to explore the upper decks.
There are 15 decks on the Adventure of the Seas, compared to 12 on the Carnival Destiny. On Deck 11 we checked out the spa and gym where we would spend a lot of time throughout the week to come. Outside the spa is the Solarium Pool area which is an adults-only area. It has one pool and two large hot tubs. There is also a larger main pool area for everyone that has with two pools and four hot tubs (I think -- don't remember for sure).
Also on Deck 11 we found the Island Grill and Windjammer Café, which are the buffet-style dining options on the ship. There are floor-to-ceiling windows looking out, so it is really bright and cheery. There are more areas to get food at and though I never thought the food was quite as good as Carnival's, there was more of a selection. The tables did not have silverware settings like Carnival, so we always had to remember to get silverware. We only ate here a couple of times for lunch, and I will tell you why later. The ship has its buffet dining set up split into the two restaurants. They were right next to each other, and from what we could see they both served about the same buffet.
We continued up and up and found the Sky Chapel [right] on Deck 15. It is a very nice little chapel for anyone who would like to get married on the ship. There wasn't an elevator that went all the way to the top, but the stairs were set up to take people who were in wheelchairs or who couldn't walk up stairs to the top.
One deck down from the Sky Chapel (Deck 14) are a couple of more bars -- the Blue Moon piano & jazz bar has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the pool areas on Deck 11 and the jogging track on Deck 12. On the other side of the Blue Moon is the Hole in One Bar (golfing décor) that overlooks the Sports Deck. This bar has a contraption that is enclosed in glass, with a bunch of golf balls that go through a series of pulleys and chains -- depending on how the ball hits, it goes through loops and other maze-type things until it reaches the bottom, where it starts all over again. It is really hard to describe, but tons of fun to watch. Also on this deck is the High Note Piano Lounge and the Seven of Hearts card room. That piano lounge was pretty much just a room with a piano in it and we missed any activity that took place there. The card room had all sorts of board games and a couple of tables.
Then we went down to Deck 13, which is the most incredible deck you would ever expect to see on a cruise ship. The Sports Deck has a basketball/volleyball court, in-line skating rink, a 9-hole miniature golf course, a golf driving simulator AND a rock climbing wall!
We continued our tour by returning to Deck 12, where we found the arcade. It was very nice and much larger than any we had seen before on previous cruises. Just outside the arcade, we found our favorite place to eat and indulge in sinfully delicious milkshakes: Johnny Rockets is a 50s-style diner, complete with the nickel juke boxes on the tables. The terrific old 50s-70s rock music was blaring when we walked in, and the entire staff turned to us and hollered some very cheerful "hellos." All the food is free, but the shakes and drinks are not. But boy, are they GOOD! We knew we would definitely be coming back to this place -- and we did so every single day.
Our Cabin, Part 2
It was time to head back to the room and see if the luggage was there yet. It was, so we spent the next hour unpacking. The room was very roomy and only slightly smaller than the room we had had on the Carnival Destiny. It was a lot nicer; the bed was an actual queen-size bed, not two twins pushed together. The bedding was very pretty and the bed was decorated with throw pillows that Teodore, our cabin steward arranged in a different way each day. There was a very comfortable couch and a little glass coffee table. The bathroom was very small, but the shower was so cool! It was circular and had a shower door instead of a curtain! There was plenty of closet and drawer space, and the suitcases fit under the bed. The balcony was wider than the one on the Carnival Destiny and much more private. The door to the balcony was a sliding glass door instead of the regular one, which the wind always seemed to grab and slam, on the Carnival ship. It was just a nicer room in every aspect. Also we were happy to see that the Adventure of the Seas had laundry service, so we got together everything we wanted pressed and set it out.
A Parade, Dining and A Boat Drill
Before supper, we went to the Promenade street for the "World of Adventure Parade." People lined the outer edges of the street while the staff closed off the middle with a rope that they had guests hold up. Then the parade began. Our cruise director, Ken Rush, and two singers appeared on the bridge above the street. They entertained with music while Ken announced who was coming down the street in the parade. The Krooz Komics came through on stilts dancing and waving and having a grand old time. It is amazing how good they were on those stilts! The parade had some kind of "world" theme, with crew and entertainers dressed in outfits depicting different areas or sports from around the world. We had never seen anything like it before, and it was pretty cool. It was hard to see unless you had a view from right up front. But at least everyone got to see the Krooz Komics on their stilts, and I thought the best part anyway.
Then we headed to supper in the Mozart Dining Room. There were three dining rooms making up the three levels of this beautiful, gigantic and absolutely breathtaking room. Piano and cello music was played during dining from the second floor. I wish we had been on a lower level, because the gorgeous chandelier was not visible from the third. This time we got the table for two that we requested (we didn't on Carnival, which was fine because we completely enjoyed visiting with our table companions). Our waiter's name was Moses, and he was from Jamaica. Our assistant waiter, Mustafa, was from Turkey and our head waiter's name was Jasper, from Romania.
We dined at the late seating on this cruise, which was at 8:30. We had had the early seating on the Carnival Destiny at 5:45, so it was kind of difficult to get used to the new schedule; we wanted to try both to see which seating we liked better. They both have their pros and cons, but I personally like the earlier seating a little better because it takes so long to eat all the courses. At the earlier seating, you can be done eating by 7:15 or so and have the rest of the night ahead of you to digest. At the late seating, when we finally finished sometimes barely before 10:00, it was hard to conjure up the energy to do anything but go to bed and let the fat settle onto our bodies.
We finished eating with just enough time to head back to our rooms, grab our life jackets and head to our muster station for the boat drill. This is always the crummiest part of any cruise, but it usually only lasts a few minutes. This one, however, seemed to go on longer than usual. They finally let us go after 25 minutes by announcing that we were pulling away from San Juan. I know this is a very necessary thing to do, but who likes to think of emergencies when they are on vacation?
We then headed to the casino for complimentary gaming lessons. We wanted to learn how to play craps. The girl who taught us, bless her heart, was extremely patient with us and went over many things again and again. We finally grasped a very basic understanding and played for awhile. It was a bit more than we could concentrate on and when we finally got to a point where we broke even, we called it quits. We decided to stick to the less stressful games that we totally understand and feel more comfortable playing. I didn't note it, but Brian says we won $65 the first night. Then exhausted from this very long day we decided to return to our cabin and call it a night.
A Day at Sea, Formal Night
At 7:30am we were up and off to the Ship Shape Center. It was the best fitness facility I have ever been in (which isn't very many, sadly). I immediately fell in love with a machine that you step on and jog and work your arms at the same time. They had about twelve of them and I never had any problem getting one all week.
After a little bit of a work out, we headed outside to the Solarium Pool. This was one of our favorite places. The pool has a couple of lion head fountains spraying a stream of water into the pool and there is also a hidden fountain that sprays lines of water at different intervals; we had a good time trying to figure out when the water would start again to try to avoid it. We had the pool and the entire Solarium all to ourselves for awhile. We sat in one of the two large hot tubs and then relaxed on the comfortably padded deck loungers against the floor-to-ceiling window that the sun was shining brilliantly through. Ahhhhh, it was so nice. The hot tubs were actually heated, and hot tubs are supposed to be heated, but the Carnival Destiny's didn't seem to be. The deck is completely surrounded with windows (the area above the pool is exposed to the sun) so there are no wooden railings or anything to obstruct the view.
After a trip to Johnny Rockets for shakes, we spent the day doing numerous things, mostly exploring areas we had missed the day before. Up near the bow is a peek-a-boo window where we could look in on the captain's bridge, and there is also a helicopter pad at the very front of the ship. I would like to see a helicopter land there; I'm sure it couldn't be done too easily, but it would still be a cool thing to see, if we weren't moving, of course. In front of the pad is the bow where we did the "Titanic - King of the world" thing. That was extremely cool. It is hard to explain the feeling of the ocean spread out in front of you while this 140,000 ton ship is behind you propelling you forward.
Then we explored the outer areas of some decks and found shuffleboard! There were many other activities we could have joined in on throughout the day. Royal Caribbean has the belly flop competitions and other silly things just like Carnival, but of course they also have the entire Sports Deck and ice rink to play on. We didn't go out there this day because we thought it would be jammed packed with people since we were not at a port. I was very happy to just play shuffleboard.
Just about every time we were in the vicinity of the casino, we stopped in for a few hands. The blackjack shoes are different than any I have seen before. Carnival has six-deck shoes and they shuffle when they come to the card they insert about 3/4 of the way through the decks. On Royal Caribbean, the dealer would insert the discarded cards after a couple of hands right back into an automated shuffling machine, and I guess it shuffles randomly. This cuts down on time when the dealer would be shuffling instead of taking your money; I like seeing the dealer shuffle. Then I know all the cards are there and it is easy to set a time when to quit. Usually we would play one or two shoes. Now we had to set a definite time when to quit.
Ken, the Cruise Director, made an announcement that there was going to be a bingo game in the Imperial Lounge for a room upgrade to an Owner's Suite. We don't play bingo on cruises unless we are really bored, but this sounded better than a cash prize to us, so we decided to go. The Imperial Lounge has a Japanese motif that is really cool. It cost $30 to play bingo, which we thought was pretty ridiculous once we found out that the room upgrade game wasn't going to be played until later that day anyway, so we decided not to play. I wonder who won and what the room was like -- that would have been awesome, but we were very happy with our balcony room. And since I didn't see the room that was given away, I don't know what we missed out on.
We went to a wine tasting in the dining room. We have been to these before, but this one was a little different in that for the $6.00 fee, you get a very little cup thing on a chain to drink your wine out of. It was also supposed to be your souvenir. This was pretty silly, because it was so shallow that when the waiters came around to fill it, many times it overflowed onto the tablecloth. We ate a lot of cheese and tried to listen to the speaker, who was trying to educate us on the wines, but even though we really didn't get that much wine, by the time we were half way through, all the tables were talking amongst themselves and having a good time. So we didn't learn anything, but it was enjoyable.
We listened to the music of the Rosario Strings at the Aquarium Bar, where I also had an awesome banana daiquiri. The band consisted of a piano, cello and a violin player; they played the prettiest, most relaxing melodies I have ever heard. The Aquarium Bar is a bar that had a couple of large aquariums. There were not very many fish, though. But THAT was no big deal. It was still a really nice and quiet bar with comfortable furniture.
We had filet mignon at supper that night. I ordered my steak medium and it came well done. I can eat medium well, but I don't like well done too much. Moses had no problem taking it back for another one. I cut into it and it wasn't much better, but I wasn't going to complain again. But Moses appeared from behind me and whisked it away muttering that it was way too done! The third steak was perfect. Brian told me later that Moses was right behind me waiting for me to cut into it, looking to make sure it was right. That was really nice. Moses, Mustafa and Jasper showed up with a birthday cake for Brian even though it wasn't exactly his birthday. It had coconut in the frosting. Nummm.
After eating, we went to the "Can't Stop the Rock" show in the Lyric Theatre. It was incredible and by far the best show we have ever seen on a cruise. There were four vocalists and lots of dancers. One girl sang "I Will Always Love You" that gave Whitney a run for her money (of course, I have always liked Dolly's version better). They sang and danced to songs from classic movies like and modern ones. The crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Next we went to Jester's Night Club. This is a two-story disco with a fantastic medieval motif. They were playing 80s stuff when we got there, so we were like "hey cool - let's dance!" Almost immediately, the music changed to the modern dance stuff; darn it anyway. But we danced a little bit. It was fun and we felt young again for a little while. We decided to call it quits and went back to our room around midnight. We slept really well with the balcony door open, letting the sound of the ocean put us to sleep.
We were up at 7am again. We went to the Solarium for a swim, as I was determined to get a little bit of a workout, since we did not go to the gym. I am not a very good swimmer, so it didn't take very long to wear me out. We sat in a hot tub and relaxed. Again we had the Solarium area to ourselves. The early mornings are a great time to take advantage of the solitude. We didn't notice the day before that there were shower stalls right next to the hot tubs -- that was a nice thing to have.
We were docked in Aruba, but we did not get off the ship. We were just there the previous Friday on the Carnival Destiny and did a terrific excursion that covered the whole island. We also bought some edam and gouda cheeses at a local grocery store that was currently being kept chilled in the refrigerator in our room. That day, Brian and I did something that we have never done before: we decided to pamper ourselves and get massages.
We were both pretty shy about the whole thing, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. For $85, we were rubbed down and had all our stresses - which were not many - away. I didn't want the hour to end. Who would have thought that a person could be so relaxed. When it was over, the girl left me to get dressed and came back with products that she believed I needed to continue my "treatment". I didn't have a massage for continued treatments. I just wanted the treat part. It was difficult to decline the products because I was in such a relaxed state that just about everything she said to me I could only manage a nod through a euphoric daze.
Brian who is so much better at turning down sales solicitations that he doesn't need than I am, came out with $100 worth of lotions. I guess he was in a deeper daze than me. The pitch that nailed him was the girl telling him that after each shower, his "wife" should rub the lotion into his back. Yeah, in your dreams buddy. The next day when we eventually came down from our relaxed state, he decided he would have rather spent that money on yet another massage. Oh well, live and learn. The rest of the day we walked around on a cloud.
We had a reservation for the fine Italian restaurant, Portofino's, that night. There is a $20 cover charge per person to dine there. We ate a lot of food and drank a bottle of wine. We had shrimp appetizer, Caesar salads, scallops and a really good Tiramisu for dessert. It was good. We certainly wouldn't think twice about spending more than $20 off the ship in a fine restaurant, and we have, but we didn't necessarily find Portofino's to be as fine as we expected or that much better than the food and presentation in our dining room. The wait staff was good, but they were very busy. There was a lot of down time between courses. But since we were still in our "relaxed state of mind from the massages" -- it didn't bother us too much. It was a nice dining experience and we're glad we did it.
Then we went to the Love and Marriage Game Show in the Lyric Theatre. Ken, the cruise director, picked three couples from the audience. One were newlyweds, one had been married for awhile and the other married the longest: 51 years. They had the spouses leave while Ken asked silly questions that the spouses that stayed on stage had to figure out what their other halves would answer. It was really funny. We would not have done very well with the questions they asked, like "What is the sexiest piece of clothing that your wife owns?" or "Where is the weirdest place you have ever ... you know?" We played along with each other and always had completely different answers.
We watched our 1am departure from Aruba while sitting on our balcony and then went to bed.
On this day we slept in until 9am, grabbed a quick bite in the Island Grill and made our way back to the room to relax on the balcony with some coffee. From our balcony, we looked down upon the town of Willemstad, Curaçao at the brightly-colored Dutch colonial houses and shops. The Queen Juliana Bridge that connects the two sides of the town loomed largely in the background. Curaçao, which is the largest of the Netherlands Antilles, is located 39 miles off the coast of Venezuela between Aruba and Bonaire, and is a beautiful port with a landscape that appeared to be similar to Aruba's.
Since we had not been to Curaçao before, we decided to get off the Adventure of the Seas and walk around. This was the first time we had been off the ship since we boarded on Sunday so it was the first time we saw the expanse of it. It went on forever - just amazing. We tried taking pictures with the whole ship in view and had to keep going further and further away from it.
The shopping district was on the other side of the Queen Emma pontoon bridge. We started to cross it and realized that it was moving to allow a boat to pass by. When we reached the other end, we waited for the bridge to return to the land and we stepped off. We went shopping and found the stores and stands were very much the same as elsewhere, but all the touristy trinket type stuff was pretty cheap. So we bought a couple of items and I bought a hot pink short outfit for $10. If it shrinks or falls apart in the wash, I'm not out that much. Venezuelan vendors set up fish and produce along the floating market, which is along the waterside where they tie up their boats. I didn't recognize some of the produce and I definitely couldn't tell you what kind of fish we saw, but it was interesting to look at.
We were going to do a trolley town tour, but the guide didn't have change for a $50 bill. I guess it would have been wiser to schedule the excursion from the ship even though it would have cost more. But we had not planned on doing this tour until we saw the trolley. We read up on both Aruba and Curaçao prior to doing the cruises and came to the conclusion that they were similar. We did a fantastic excursion of Aruba on the Carnival Destiny the week before, so we don't feel like we missed out on anything in Curacao.
Back at the ship, we went for a swim in the solarium pool, relaxed for awhile and then headed to Johnny Rockets for lunch. You are going to just have to get a strawberry milkshake for yourself when you sail on this cruise ship! If the shakes aren't enough of an incentive to book this cruise, I don't know what could be. We then went to the Ship Shape Center and each did a steam. There was a steam room and a sauna in the changing rooms.
That evening we watched the "Cool Art, Hot Ice" Show in the Studio B ice arena. The Krooz Komics appeared prior to the show and did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd. We sat fairly close to the ice and at times the skaters came flying almost right in our faces; it is amazing that they don't go flying over the wall at times. They went through many cool costume changes and had the neatest props on the ice. It was just like any other dance type show on a cruise, but they were on skates and were so excellent. Once again, this was yet another incredible entertainment show and the crowd gave a very loud standing ovation.
After supper, we went to the celebrity show in the Lyric Theatre. We were in for a treat. A group called Rain did a wonderful tribute concert ( Beatlemania style) to the Beatles. They dressed, talked and sang like the Beatles and changed costumes as they went through the Beatles chronicle of music. We then went to the casino, of course, and played some blackjack and won $55. At the Promenade we saw the end of the Latin Street Party before going back to the room.
A Sea Day and Formal Night
In the morning we went to the Café Promenade, which is Royal Caribbean's version of the Café on the Way that I loved so much on the Carnival Destiny. We got a couple of cappuccinos and pastries and found seats just outside on the street where the Krooz Komics were demonstrating the art of being a clown. They gave a brief history while they put on makeup. It was really interesting and for a fleeting moment I thought it would be really cool to have a career as a clown. But I don't think I could be in such a good mood all the time.
We went to the casino and played a little of everything. We skipped lunch, and by mid-afternoon, we were getting hungry. There were afternoon snacks being served at the Windjammer Café, so we headed up there. And then it was to the Sports Deck to watch a volleyball game being played and people climbing the rock wall. It was way too windy for my new perm to be out there playing miniature golf, so we were content to sit outside the 19th Hole Bar with a couple of bloody mary's and watch every one else be physical. We then continued our bar hopping and moved on to the Blue Moon bar that overlooked the pool area.
At the Champagne Bar because I wanted to try one of the many champagne cocktail concoctions they make there. Paul and Ringo from the Beatles tribute band came in and we complemented them on their show, and they responded very nicely. They sat at the bar for awhile and appeared to be having a nice time. It was getting to be time to head back to the room to get ready for supper, but for the first time ever in the history of our cruising, we decided to skip supper! Gasp! I missed steak and lobster! But we were tiring of the two-hour meals. We went to the early seating in the Lyric Theatre for the entertainment show "Behind The Velvet Rope." It was incredible, and the singers and dancers were so talented that the audience gave them a standing ovation once again.
After the show, we went to Jesters Nightclub for awhile. It was still pretty early and it was not very exciting there yet. We drank a couple of beers, danced one dance and left because viewing of the Gala Buffet was about to begin. The buffet was definitely on a par with Carnival's, if not better. By midnight we were STARVING! (That's what we get for skipping supper!) We decided to only take pictures and not to wait in line to eat the buffet. So we went to Johnny Rockets and pigged out! The ship rocked all night, but we were so tired by the time we got back to our cabin that we went straight to bed and slept like babies rocking in a cradle.
We were at the port of Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. This is the island of two countries: St. Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French). We had been to St. Maarten on a previous cruise, but had not been to the French side of St. Martin. The last time we were here, a tender had to take us, but since then a huge pier was built for cruise ships to dock at. It is an incredibly nice pier, but it is a ways from Phillipsburg. We didn't realize how far it was and instead of paying a taxi to take us just around the corner, we decided to walk over to Phillipsburg and catch a bus to Marigot, on the French side. Well, Phillipsburg, wasn't just around the corner and we walked about a mile before we got into town. It wasn't too hot and it wasn't a bad walk, we just were not expecting it.
We read ahead of time that the most inexpensive way to go to Marigot was by bus for $1.50 per person. We could have gone on of the excursions, but we wanted to see Marigot on our own, so we found a bus stop and waited. We realized after about 15 vans went by that those were the buses and that we had to look in their windows for a card that read their destination and wave them down. It was not a very far distance (the whole island is only 37 square miles) but it took about 25 minutes to get to Marigot with traffic. The most congested of the traffic was right in Phillipsburg.
Marigot was not as crowded with tourists and it was enjoyable to walk around the quaint coastal French town. We stopped at a small café for a thirst quenching Orangina before setting off to explore. My favorite part was the marina with all the French style restaurants on the water front -- it was a picture out of a painting, until it started to rain. We ducked into the Le Galleon restaurant to get out of the rain. We had to move back from our original table when it started to rain harder and blow in on us. It was a really cool rain storm that I don't think they get very often. We had an enjoyable meal, and the rain had lessened a great deal when we were ready to go. We found another bus stop and went back to Phillipsburg.
That evening, Moses acted like he was hurt that we skipped the formal dinner the night before. We jokingly apologized over and over and said it would not happen again. He was a very funny guy who we enjoyed very much. He spent a lot of time with us talking and joking around. We had ordered a bottle of wine from our interactive television screen to have with dinner, but it was not there. The system was down, but Moses took care of it right away. I had shrimp that night and Jasper, the head waiter, came by and cut the tails and shells off my large butterflied shrimp. He made it a point to stop at our table every night to make sure everything was okay.
The show that night was a singer/impressionist from Canada named Martin Dube whom we would get to know a little better while playing blackjack in the casino the next night. He sang songs and sounded just like the original artists. I thought he was great. There were a couple we thought he shouldn't have tried, but most of his impressions were amazing -- even of female singers! He did everyone from Madonna to Shania Twain, from Elton John to Garth Brooks. This is the only time I got to hear country music, so I was happy, even if it was just a couple of phrases. Country music is one small thing I would request that cruise lines add, but we are probably too small of a group to accommodate. There was a really good assortment of music like piano, jazz, calypso, guitar, Top 40 dance, easy listening and especially Latino music on this cruise, but no country music. I definitely liked all that they had to offer, but it would have been nice to hear my favorite type of music, too.
After the show, we tried to catch the "Rockin' Through the Decades" parade in on the Promenade, but it was just too crowded to see anything. But we did see the Krooz Komics on stilts again, who were just as upbeat and spectacular as ever. Later there was a "Rockin' Thru the Decades" party in Studio B, where they had covered the ice with a dance floor.
It poured down rain all day long! I thought it never rained in the Caribbean like that! We think that St. Thomas got all of its average rainfall for the year that day. All the excursions were cancelled. That was a bummer, because this was our last day on the cruise and we had been looking forward to swimming, playing miniature golf and maybe roller rollerblading while most of the people were off the ship. Oh well, we had to make the best of it, so we had room service breakfast on our balcony and enjoyed the sound of the rain for awhile.
Later that afternoon, we went up to the Solarium pool area and dozed on the deck chairs. It was raining hard, but we were under a covered spot. Brian noticed the Solarium Bar was open so we got a Bloody Mary as we headed back to our room -- he decided the drink didn't have enough alcohol, so he called Room Service. I didn't think they would deliver drinks to your room, but they did. A girl came with a tray that held two very full vodka martinis. She came in the room, knelt down and placed the tray on the coffee table. We were extremely impressed that she did not spill a drop -- I would have had vodka all over the place. We got the cheese out of the refrigerator that we had bought in Aruba the previous Friday when we were on the Carnival Destiny, ate much of it and watched a movie.
The Adventure of the Seas left St. Thomas at 6pm and headed to San Juan. The overall mood of everyone on the ship was glum. Many had never been to St. Thomas and were very disappointed with the rainy day. We were feeling a little glum because our vacation was almost over. We went back to our cabin to get our gratuity envelopes ready for the staff that provided such wonderful service. Unlike Carnival, which now automatically puts the tips on your Sail and Sign card, Royal Caribbean gives you the option of putting the tips on your Super Charge card if you want. We like to personally give each crew member their tip with a very verbal "Thank You" for all the hard work they did for us.
We went to the Farewell Show before supper, and Ken did his best to put everyone in a good mood again. There was a comedian and a balancing act who had been part of the Welcome Aboard show that we had skipped the first night. They were excellent. The ship was really rocking, and it was amazing that the balancing guy didn't fall and break his neck! He managed to crawl up on top of a ton of various objects he placed on top of one another, including rolling cylinders. I held my breath the entire time.
We then went to supper, handed out our tip envelopes and said good-bye to Moses, Mustafa and Jasper. Then we went to the casino for our last night of gambling. We were ready to call it quits when we decided to play a Pink Panther dollar slot machine. We played about $10 and won $115! We cashed out, shopped a little at the Promenade shops and went bar hopping again. Our bar tab, by the way, was fairly extensive with the wide array of alcohol we consumed.
Finally, we decided we had better get back to the room and pack. What a depressing thought that was, because I did not want to think about getting off this incredible ship in the morning. We had a really difficult time packing because for one, we didn't want to, and for another the rocking motion was horrible. I actually got sick to my stomach for the first time. We managed to get everything packed and out in the hall at 12:15am. We did not fall asleep easily with the all the rocking the ship did on this last night.
Yesterday in St. Thomas, we went through the Immigration process while on the ship. Everyone had to do this even if they did not get off of the ship in St. Thomas, because we were back in a United States port. But since we didn't get off the ship, we did it at our leisure just before the deadline and there wasn't any wait at all. It only took a couple of minutes and we were happy to be done with this the day before we debarked.
The morning of debarking, we didn't have to report to a lounge at a certain time and get off the ship when our color tag was called, like we had had to on all our Carnival cruises. All we had to do was to be out of our room by 8:30. We had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room since we were staying in San Juan that day and were in no hurry to get off the ship. Then we walked around and decided to relax in the Lyric Theatre where they had CNN on for awhile, then Animal Planet and the Travel Channel. They announced airline flight numbers for people to know when to get off the ship. I was catching up on my notes for this review when finally, around 11:45, they announced that all remaining guests should debark at that time. There were no lines of people waiting to get off and when we got into the massive terminal, it was empty except for a few people and pieces of luggage here and there, so ours was extremely easy to locate. We hired a porter to load up our bags and take us to a taxi. He collected our Customs card from us and commented about how busy the place was an hour before. We got into a taxi and headed to the El Convento Hotel, since we were not flying back to Anchorage until the next day.
We got to the hotel before check-in time a little after noon, but our room was ready. The El Convento Hotel is a small luxury hotel right across from the San Juan Cathedral on Cristo Street in Old San Juan. For 250 years, it served as a convent to the Carmelite Nuns. It is really old and slightly musty, but restored very nicely. It is very comfortable and decorated with Spanish antiques, yet had all the conveniences and amenities we could possibly have wanted.
The worst complaint, or more of an "irritation," that we experienced on both ships was the population of the Spanish-speaking people on board. The people from Puerto Rico received incredible bargains for these cruises and brought whole families. It was one big party for them, and many of these families acted like they were the only ones on board. Everyone deserves to have a good time, but it was very hard to move through or around large groups of people as they congregated in walk-through areas. They didn't seem to care that they were always in the way of others, and they didn't understand the phrase "excuse me" or they wouldn't hear it until we said it the third or fourth time, because they were always talking so loudly to one another. It was a little bit of a pain at the beginning, but by the end of cruise, it was extremely annoying! It was uncommon to find ourselves on an elevator with anyone who spoke English, and on the few occasions when we were with English-speaking people, they commented that they were happy to be on an elevator that was not jammed with loud Latino conversation.
In closing I'm happy to say we had a wonderful time those two and a half weeks sailing back to back cruises on the Carnival Destiny and Adventure of the Seas. They were both great cruises, but the Adventure of the Seas was just so incredible that we absolutely fell in love with the ship. All of our previous cruises had been on Carnival Cruise Lines, and this Royal Caribbean cruise was by far our favorite cruise to date. We did not want to leave the ship and we will most likely try another Royal Caribbean or perhaps a Celebrity cruise next time out.
Leslie Watson and her husband, Brian, are in their mid-thirties and live in Barrow, Alaska. This 2001 voyage was their fifth cruise together. See her Brilliance of the Seas review, also (April, 2003). Leslie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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