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KimiCLAS

AOS 1/23/05 Summary of our Cruise - Very Long

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We are unfortunately back from our first cruise on the AOS (January 23, 2005). DH and I are both 42. We chose not to take our kids out of school (DS 14, DS 19, DD 21).

 

One word: WOW!!! More specific? Best vacation we’ve ever had.

 

Our cruise route took us from San Juan, to Aruba, Curacao, St. Marteen/Martin and St. Thomas and back to San Juan) - it was fantastic! We went to Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. The ship is amazing and beautiful! It is clean and just unbelievable! We had a 9th floor JS on the hump (9318). We booked it because the difference between a balcony and a JS (at that time) was only $200. The room was fabulous. The only problem I saw with it is the fact that I can never go back to an oceanview or regular balcony. We had more than enough storage space (didn’t use a lot of it) and the view was spectacular. The walk-in closet was a keeper & having the extra space for the bathtub was something I don’t think I could give up. We were in the middle of the hump and could see the entire ship on the starboard side. The food very good to excellent; we were never disappointed. There is always something to do on board and always something to eat! If you went hungry and forget to eat breakfast or in port (like we did) I’d have to say that’s your own fault. The weather was perfect (there was rain on the first at-sea day, occasionally during the cruise, and on the debarkation day, but how can you complain about a little rain in 80+ degree weather when everyone at home is freezing with snow/wind and the temp is at or below freezing)? DH really isn’t “into” shows, so we didn’t see any. Didn’t really miss them though - we had late seating and were generally getting ready for dinner about the time that the shows were happening. We did try to make it to Karaoke one night, but it was so packed that we just didn’t feel like pushing out way in.

 

Arrival in San Juan. We arrived in SJU at about 8:00 p.m. (long day of flying - our 1st flight left at 6:35 a.m. M.S.T.) The airport arrival was not our best experience. Too many people and not enough organization. We finally secured a taxi (which is definitely price-regulated) and were transported to the Wyndham. We arrived at appx. 9:30 p.m. The Wyndham (which we were awarded via Hotwire) was adequate. Our room had two beds, each big enough for two very small adults or one regular sized adult. We decided it would be more comfortable to sleep in separate beds. It was fairly under cleaned, etc. We were on vacation, though, and chose to make the best of it. I think that if I had to do it over, I’d stay in Old San Juan. There were some really groovy looking hotels there (El Convente is one I recall specifically). We went across the walkway and ate at Tony Roma’s - had a couple of beers and great Carolina Honey Ribs (even in Puerto Rico). We then decided to have a beer in the casino bar ($6.00 each - Coors Light). Pretty proud of those beers.

 

Embarkation. Leaving the hotel was the also “taxing.” I think everyone decided to leave at the same time. We made it to the ship around 12:30 p.m. and checked our bags and breezed through - right onto the ship. We went directly to our stateroom and it was a great first impression. Out cabin steward Mauricio was attentive and responsive, but unobtrusive throughout the entire cruise.

 

We then made our way to the dining room where we discovered, to our pleasure, that we had a table for 2 - late seating. Then onto the Sky Bar for a cocktail (or two, I can’t recall) before returning to our stateroom. We wandered, etc. and generally just chilled out. It was great. We went back to our stateroom and then our bags appeared. I unpacked and then we went and checked out the ship some more.

 

Day 1: San Juan. We met our waiter (Raz), assistant waiter (Stephen) and bar waiter (Erskine). They were all phenomenal. That may be too mellow of a word. If anyone ever goes on the AOS, they should have Raz as their waiter, Stephen and Erskine as support staff. Raz was informative, polite, pleasant, knowledgeable, sweet, etc., etc., etc., etc. I cannot say enough great things about our wait staff. Stephen was great and Erskine made sure DH had his Coors Light before he sat down for dinner every night. That was greatly appreciated. I also want to point out that our head waiter came over to check on us every night. He would have a short conversation, not necessarily about dinner, with my DH as well. We’ve never had such a great head waiter. Usually they’re not existent except on the last night (when they show up for tips). I saw our head waiter removing used plates, napkins, etc.

 

Dinner the first night was casual - lots of people still hadn’t arrived due to the winter storm; luggage was also slow in coming. We were very fortunate to have made the ship with all of our luggage. The food was very good; I had an onion tart, spinach salad and Shrimp Ravioli. More than enough food for me so I skipped dessert. We retired to our stateroom early to watch departure from our balcony. Unfortunately, we didn’t sail until about 2:00 a.m. (waiting on lots of late arrivals.) I missed the sail-away.

 

Day 2: At sea. This was another remarkable day. The weather wasn’t overly cooperative, but we still enjoyed it (vacation remember??). We enjoyed coffee every morning on our balcony. You can’t really beat that. We shopped/browsed along the promenade, had a couple of cocktails, ate lunch, played some in the casino, sat by the pool, etc. The pools weren’t overly crowded because of the weather, the ship just didn‘t seem that crowded. (Come to find another 300 or so people had missed the ship because of the terrible weather back East.) We really enjoyed this day - it was also our first formal night. The dinner was great. I had escargot as an appetizer, Caesar salad and Teriyaki Salmon and rice. I also had the Crème Brule for dessert (it took a while so Stephen brought me a strawberry cheesecake to “tide me over” while we waited for the Crème Brule) - it was absolutely worth the wait. We wandered after dinner and saw some great musicians (again), stopped the Casino, and then on to bed at about 1:00 a.m. (maybe).

 

Day 3: Aruba. We rented a 4X4 on our own in Aruba (Super Car Rental). They were right at the pier so we didn’t have to waste any time going to the airport or other location to pick up our ride. We wanted a 4X4 we could lock, w/ AC (because of posts from the CC board) - it cost us $85.00 + the optional $15.00 for insurance. Carnivale was going on in Aruba, so lots of places were closed. We finally found a grocery store where we could buy some bottled water and went off in search of Baby beach; we ended up on the very tip of the island (below the prison) - the road signs are almost non-existent. That turned out to be very enjoyable. We met an Arubian lady who was out fishing with her 2 sons. She had gone to college in Oklahoma and spoke fluent English. She and her sons were also picking “sea grapes” which grew on some very beautiful plants and were quite tasty. We learned a lot about the island, its culture, etc. from this very nice lady and spent about an hour talking to her. She then pointed us in the direction of Baby Beach. We stopped at the local rental shop and rented snorkel gear ($5.00/PP/hour) and on to Baby Beach. The snorkeling was great; we saw big, beautiful fish. The sand was white and wonderful; the water crystal clear and warm. Lots of people though. Also, keep in mind that you have to pay $.50 to use the restroom, and the facilities for food/beverage are really minimal. We were glad we had bought a large pack of water. We left there after about an hour in search of Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholas. We did find it, but it was closed due to Carnivale. We then went in search of the Black Hog (which was on the other side of the island. We found it, but it was pretty much closed up, except for the gift shop (fortunately they sold Coors light to drink while we shopped). It was still cool to check out the burn out track and the Harley Coaster. We decided to head back to the ship (traffic was really awful because of the holiday). We cleaned up a bit on the ship and set off to find Carlos and Charlies. We noticed when we were leaving the ship the 2nd time that there were many people boarding the ship. We decided to have a late lunch at Iguana Joes. Great choice - the beers were really cold and the Jerk Chicken Sandwich was really wonderful, bought one of the sons a T-shirt. We then walked down the street to Carlos and Charlies (which was also pretty quiet at that time). We had a beer and bought other DS a T-shirt (DH had to have one too). We headed back to the ship around 7:00 p.m. to clean up for our dinner at Portofinos. Our dinner there was really good, but I wouldn’t do it again. The service was definitely less personal than we had been enjoying in the dining room. I had the sautéed shrimp on saffron rice, Caesar Salad, a small portion of lobster sauce spaghetti with small bits of lobster. The Tenderloin steak - fabulous - was served with mashed potentates, caramelized onions and asparagus. It was a great Tenderloin, perfectly cooked (medium rare). Dessert was a chocolate cup with creamed chocolate inside (can’t remember the name). Overall, dinner was really great, except for the service was slow and impersonal, and they messed up part of DH’s order. We decided to skip the after dinner festivities and went to bed. DH did go to check out the midnight buffet (not to eat, just to take photos). He said it was pretty impressive.

 

Day 4: Curacao. (Gosh, is it really going this fast???) We again set off on our own adventure. We took a taxi to the Sea Aquarium (I think it was about $10.00 + tip). We really enjoyed the shows, especially the dolphin training exercise. DH got great video of this. They also had sea lions, sharks, sea turtles, fish, etc. After about 2-½ hours there, we decided it was time to venture to the beach. We walked along the Sea Aquarium Beach ($3.00/PP) and found two chairs ($3.00/PP) underneath two palm trees. Perfect. DH walked back up the beach and rented snorkel gear (I think this was about $24.00). We snorkeled and sunbathed. The snorkeling was okay, the water wasn’t as clear as Aruba. We did see some really neat fish up along the break. There was also a public restroom with a fresh water shower and plenty of public facilities. That was nice for after a swim in the ocean. We met a really nice couple from Arizona (Mel and Annette). DH is a musician and so is Mel. We visited for a while and they left to return to the ship. We left after a few hours and ventured back to town via taxi. We stopped to shop (had to buy some Baby Gouda) and some shirts, shot glasses, etc. Then walked across the swinging bridge back to the ship. We watched the sail-away and then had a couple of drinks while getting ready for dinner. Balconies are the best. I had shrimp scampi for dinner, a salad and some type of appetizer (I can’t remember what it was). As always, the service was perfect and the food was quite good. The breads were always fresh and I let Stephen pick my bread each night. We wandered after dinner and saw some great musicians (again), stopped the Casino, and then on to bed at about 1:00 a.m.

 

Day 5: At Sea. We had breakfast in the Windjammer and it was good. The variety was fine. We wandered the ship, stopped at the Windjammer for water and iced tea and met a really nice couple there. We then played putt-putt golf (DH won - I was fairly put out by that) and watched the belly flop contest. That was hilarious. I cannot imagine putting oneself through that kind of pain for a key chain. Obviously they were enjoying themselves and so was the crowd. We then moved the casino for the slots tournament - it was fun, but we didn’t make it to the 2nd round so continued to wander. Chairs at the pool were few and far between, so we chose to move up higher. We enjoyed the view from there better anyway. We took a nap that day, and just relaxed and tried to recuperate from the previous days. It was formal night at dinner that night, so we had cocktails on our balcony while getting dressed. We had crab cakes for appetizers (definitely not Chops quality) but OK. We then had salad, with Sea Bass as the appetizer. It was good.

 

Day 6: St. Marteen. We left the ship fairly early to go off on our own adventure. We wanted to go to the beach and have another relaxing day. We found our way quite easily (taxi stands are clearly marked by destination) to Orient Beach (French side). We shared a taxi with 12 other people and agreed to meet back at the ship at 2:45 p.m. I think the cost was $5.00/PP (plus tip). We then ventured down the beach to Kontiki beach (red and white chairs and umbrellas). The sand was white, white, white and just beautiful. We rented chairs and an umbrella (and switched between chairs to share the umbrella) for $16.00 (?) We were very close to the activity, but not so close to be concerned about others. There are vendors on this beach, but a simple “no thank you” worked quite well. There was also a public restroom (male/female share) with a fresh water shower. There was plenty of nudity on the beach (bare-assed naked nudity). It’s my understanding that folks at the naturist beach walk along this beach too. I guess it’s very European for women to sunbathe or walk the beach topless. We left the beach in time to avoid too much sun (sunburn) and made it back to travel with the other 12 people in our group. The “head” of their group was giving our taxi driver such a bad time that I was sure he was going to kick us all out. DH thought the guy was hilarious. It was very entertaining. We stopped at the small shopping area outside the docks and DH met a really nice English gentleman. He was traveling on the Princess ship (a back to back cruise) that just so happened to be docked at the same time as the AOS. His wife was out shopping and he was having a few “cold ones.“ We had a nice talk, but had to get back to the ship to avoid it leaving without us!! Dinner that night was really great. Raz and our head waiter picked out a very special wine for dinner that night. It was a 200 Behringers, Founders Estate, Pinot Noir. It was quite exceptional. I had a smoked salmon appetizer, a nice salad, Lobster and Shrimp, and a really great cheesecake. My DH had the prime rib (which was served medium rare - exactly as ordered) and the Lobster and Shrimp). Raz offered us seconds on the lobster, but we declined. It appeared that lots of people were partaking in second and thirds . . . . It was really good lobster. We wandered after dinner and saw some great musicians (again), stopped the Casino, and then on to bed at about 1:00 a.m.

 

Day 7. St. Thomas. We had to go through immigration, but that took only about 5 minutes. Show your passport and your sea pass card and move on through.

 

 

 

St. Thomas is an absolutely beautiful island. Need I say more? I really loved St. Thomas. We booked an excursion here; it was offered through the ship - a private yacht with no more than 6 people (plus your captain). We ended up waiting for about ½ hour because the ship had overbooked the tours and the owner needed to call another captain in. We were really glad we volunteered to wait. We had a wonderful sail with a great couple from Austin, Texas. There were only 4 of us on the boat. The captain powered us out to Buck Island where we snorkeled and lazed in the sun for about 1-½ hour. The water was perfect, the snorkeling incomparable, definitely an excursion I would do again. We then enjoyed beers (or rum punch if it was your preference) on the yacht and the company of a really great captain and our co-snorkelers/sailors. Our captain sailed us back and, unfortunately, the end of the excursion was upon us. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of my life.

 

We walked back to the ship from the excursion, rinsed off a bit, and then off to shop. Really shop. My husband bought me a new ring, plus we found the Harley shop and found some great bargains on hot sauces, shot glasses, T-shirts. Another perfect day - other than DH had to drag me back onto the ship, kicking and screaming, by my hair. I knew that if I got back on that ship I’d end up back in Casper, WY. I was right too.:rolleyes:

 

Unfortunately, the cruise and our vacation had to end sometime. We went back to the ship and started the unfortunate process of packing.

 

For dinner that night, I had shrimp cocktail, salad with pine nuts and sweet and sour Mahi Mahi. Another perfect day. Unfortunately, it had to end sometime. We went back to the room and finished packing. We put our bags out and went on the last of our adventures, seeing the last of the shipboard musicians, last shot at the Casino, and then to bed at about 1:00 a.m.

 

Day 8. Disembarkation. It was pouring down rain as we watched our arrival into San Juan. The rainy weather didn’t really slack off until we were just out of the terminal. We had the last number to be called because we didn’t have a flight out of San Juan until Monday. We were out of our room by 8:15 or 8:30 a.m., and made our way to breakfast in the dining room. Breakfast was very good and we were seated with 3 couples who were traveling together (they were from Wisconsin). Breakfast was very leisurely, but we left there at about 9:30. We then went to look at photos and purchased a couple. We made our way up to the pool deck and waited until our number was called. The line looked really long, but moved really fast. We found our luggage - it was stacked in color-coded section. This was really easy. Also, getting through customs was speedy (get a porter, they’ll breeze you right through and get you a taxi immediately). It was definitely worth the tip.

 

We were back to the hotel by about 12:00 noon and checked right into our room. We decided to go shopping/exploring Old San Juan. I’m really glad we did because we enjoyed that self-tour a lot. I would have liked to have gone to the rain forest or bioluminescent pool, but because of the rainy weather, we opted not to do a tour.

 

Well, I hope you found this summary of our 1/23/05 AOS cruise informative. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them.

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Thank you so much for your review! I'm fiending for AOS reviews now that my first RCCL cruise is coming so close! A positive, fun review like yours is just what I needed!

 

 

Thanks again!

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KimiClas-Nice review...My wife & I are sailing May 15 on the AOS....Since Aruba has the longest docking time (8 AM-1 AM),I would like to do several things in Aruba.Did you find the Seaquarium worthwhile?We live not too far from Seaworld in Orlando and have been there a dozen times,so I'm wondering if it's worthwhile....how did you like Baby Beach?I'm considering Palm Beach,even though I hear it's crowded and touristy,I also hear the water is crystal clear.I also have a JS suite in the aft on deck 10..did you feel any more movement or vibration?

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Do you know is Carnivale always that time of year? We go Jan. 22, 2006 and would hate to miss something. Thanks.

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What dock does the Adventure use in San Juan? What time was it when you started off the ship after your return to San Juan?

 

Great review......

 

Thanks,

 

Scott

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Great review ...did you go to any of the shows?

 

No we didn't go to any of the shows. DH is not one for "shows" - he's more musically inclined. We did watch parts of them on the TV. I'm sure that in-person is much better though.

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Skogler: It was the Pan American Pier - we could see the ship from our hotel window before boarding. I think we started off the ship around 11:00 a.m.

 

Cruzfiend: I believe that Carnivale is the same time each year. You could probably check on the Aruba board to confirm this though.

 

Big Al: We went to the Sea Aquarium in Curacao. If you go to Sea World in Orlando, you might find this a bit small. It was definitely more personal - we really enjoyed the 2 classes of 5-6 year olds at the Aquarium that day.

You should enjoy your stay in Aruba and shouldn't run out of things to do. We really enjoyed Baby Beach - however the facilities are limited. We did feel some movement - but not too bad. After you get your "sea legs," you'll miss it when you're off.

 

No matter what any of you do, it's a vacation (and a cruise) and you'll surely have a great time!! Happy Cruising. Sure wish I was still there.

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Great review. Sounds like I was within a few feet of you on many of the days as many of your activities were the same. We were at the KonTiki Bar as well, that is our usual stop at Orient Beach.

 

Skogler: click on my link below to see the location of the Pan American Pier in relationship to many of the hotels in Old San Juan.

 

We didn't catch too many shows either since most of them were pre-dinner (late seating) which is nap time for us. We did like Tony Daro the comedian and also enjoyed the Adventure Quest. I wanted to do some Karaoke, but it was in a large venue and was Karaoke Idol. I wasn't in the mood to be judged in front of a large audience.

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We were also on AOS 1.23.05. We had a great time. I thought the ship was in wonderful shape. I had a slight medical emergency and was treated very well by one of the ship's docs. Steve and I made use of the spa. Didn't find an excessive hard sell by the Steiners people this cruise. We did see the ice show, which was pretty impressive. We thought one of the production shows was pretty bad and decided not to attend any more. I wasn't crazy about the food, but I never am.... Steve was happy with it.

I found the service on the ship outstanding. We had luggage problems due to the bad weather flying in. The young woman who greets the RCI passengers was particularly kind to us at the airport. The Guest Relations person at the desk on the ship was very nice. We had little reason to believe our bags would make it to the ship by sailing. By some miracle our bags were in our room when we returned from dinner. Long story... I'll spare you all!

We planned to spend the last day in Old San Juan, but the weather was so bad we booked a room at the airport hotel and hung out there. In the long run, I'm sure it was cheaper than a day shopping and eating in San Juan.:D

We booked the same week on the Serenade for next year!

-- Judy

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Sounds like you had a fabulous cruise. We are leaving in 2 weeks!!!! Would you mind posting info on you boating trip in St. Thomas? We are a family of 5 (3kids ages 16,14 and 10) it sounded like a great time. Thanx. Your review was very helpful.

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Great review...makes me miss the AOS. Oh well, I have the Navigator to look forward too....

 

I agree, JSs are GREAT. We were a couple doors down from your location (9324) on our cruise in Oct......I booked almost the same cabin, actually it is the same, just on the Port side for our Navigator cruise!

 

 

Glad you enjoyed it. My only advice is fly in a day or 2 early and leave a day or so after...WAY too much traffic and mayhem at the airport!

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Always nice to read a review from someone who had a couple of hitches but makes the best of things and has a positive attitude!

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I would be interested in what others thought about the food quality on AOS. I found it to be lacking in many ways. Banquet food...

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KimiCLAS, I have a question about St Thomas. You mentioned showing your passport to go through immigration. Do you have to take your passport off of the ship? Can you make a copy & present it along with your seapass card? Thanks for the info! Susan

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Hi. You go through Immigration on the ship. You present your passport and you won't need it to leave the ship in St. Thomas. The only place we were required to carry our passports was on an excursion to St Barths. I don't think we needed to use them, but we were told to bring them. It is probably not a bad idea to keep a copy with you, however.

 

This has absolutely nothing to do with st Thomas, but I seem to recall that we had to carry our passports in key West. We had to produce them for Naval security personnel as our ship was docked at a naval pier.

 

--Judy

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I agree that carrying a copy of your passport with you to all ports is a great idea. We did that - just in case. We left the originals in the safe in our stateroom.

 

Thanks for the info on Key West -- we'll make sure that we have them on our next cruise as Key West is one of our ports.

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Who was and how did you like your Cruise Director?

Also, what types of dance bands were there, and any midnite R comedy shows?

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The CD was Jill . . . I can't recall her last name. She seemed to do an alright job. We didn't have any direct interaction and are quite good at entertaining ourselves.

 

Dance bands? The disco had a DJ who spun CD's - lots of dancing going on there. You could dance to the latin band, the 1 man band in the Pub, or the poolside band. It just depends upon what you like. My DH is a musician and we enjoyed the wide variety offered.

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KimiClas, Since Judy explained about going through immigration on the ship (thanks for that info Judy!) I have another question. We will be going on this same cruise in Oct so I am trying to prepare myself. Did it take a long time to get everyone through immigration so that you could get off of the ship? We have a tour planned and I didn't think about this. This is the first time we have experienced this so I don't know what to expect. Once you show your passport do they give you something to show that you have been through the immigration process? I am assuming that you can go back to your cabin after being "processed"? I hate to sound dumb but, as I said, we have never been through this. Thanks so much---and thanks for a great review---it makes me want to go NOW---LOL!! Susan

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I went down and got in line just before 7:00 am and was through immigration by 7:15. They just give you a little slip that says that you have cleared. You can then go and do what you want, back to the room, off the ship, etc...

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After you clear immigration you can do whatever you like and get off the ship when you please by showing the slip of paper they give you. Unfortunately for me when I was on the ship in July it took us over an hour to get through immigration. They said this was very rare as they had only sent two immigration officers that week when they usually send more. It was frustrating but there was nothing that could be done.

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