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Adventure of The Seas Photo Review 4/19/2015 (S.Caribbean B)

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Plenty of places to get your ADVENTURE fix:

 

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Well, at long last, photos are ready, it's time to do a full photo review!

 

I did a "live" thread for the first time during the cruise, that can be found here:

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2197856

 

It was fun and easier to go "live!" than I thought it would be, though I missed being able to illustrate with DH's photos, the live thread includes my immediate impressions and descriptions of each day.

 

I was also able to update my blog with photos during the trip and those posts can be found here:

 

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/

 

If you work your way down, you'll see each post related to the AOS cruise starting with 2 for Puerto Rico, a look at a sea day, St Lucia and Anitgua. Now that the water photos are "in" I will be posting Barbados and St Martin and St Croix...so be sure to follow on Twitter or FB for updates on the website. (icons on the bottom of our site or use the links in my signature below)

 

Lastly, If you are interested in the Cruise Compasses from Adventure of the Seas Southern Caribbean B cruise (including Diamond Benefits, a sheet with a list of the "shopping specials", the internet instructions and packages and the ship's officers.) Those can also be found on our website here:

 

http://www.goseeittravel.com/adventure-compass-southern-b

 

And so it's time to start!! Hope you can "cruise along" with us and we are happy to answer questions, that aren't addressed here!

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Do I need an introduction?? FamilygoBoston reviews are known for being photo intensive, with lots and lots of text (parenthetical comments) shambling digressions, lame attempts at humor and occasionally helpful information. Love 'em or hate 'em, that's how we roll! ;)

 

We have begun our blog which is a bit more succinct, but for those of us who just love to tuck into a multi day-no-detail-spared-every-moment-documented- review; there is nothing quite like these Cruise Critic photo reviews! I have many I love to read, even for places I haven't been, and don't even have scheduled...it's just one of the things that makes CC fun, and I'm happy to participate!

 

FamilygoBoston is Kathy and Jeff, not quite middle aged (only because we plan to be immortal!;)) married couple from New England (you can find us in greater Boston and Maine, depending on black fly season). For this cruise we sailed with our 18 yo daughter to celebrate her birthday and graduation (in a just a few weeks; so please pardon the distractions in trying to complete this review) This is who we leave behind when we travel...she's also black and she's clearly hoping we won't notice she lacks a luggage tag and that we will just toss her into the back of the car with the rest of the baggage!

 

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DH is the photographer, shoots Nikon and I forgot to take a photo of his "kit" but if you want to know, reply, I'll get all the dets for you! I am positively certain that the only reason anyone reads (skims through :rolleyes:) what I write is to get to his photos! My normal disclaimer is if you come across a clunker photo...it's entirely my fault...I've taken it with my iphone or insisted he take one on bad light or used one he would normally never let see the light of day. So don't blame him for bad photos; they are all on me!

 

This is the first cruise where I was able to truly "live blog" from the ship. Adventure has enjoyed the upgraded internet service and I was very, very pleased with it!! Here is what I wrote on the live thread about it (if I'm posting something verbatim from the blog or other thread, I'll just italicize it so if you've followed the other and don't suffer from memory loss, you can skip right through!):

 

We bought an unlimited WIFI package for 2 devices at a time. This was the best WIFI service I have ever had on a cruise ship, certainly, the newly upgraded service is excellent! I was able to see Face Book with all it's photos, and I was able to download my full color newspaper daily within 20 minutes (at home it downloads within 10-30 seconds, so I think that the internet might be optimized for uploading in order to get all us happy customers posting pictures of our fun cruise to our friends, vs downloading movies;). I was able to update my blog with photos in a matter of seconds! It is slower than at home, obviously, but I was very pleased and found the package well worth it for people who need to work on board. I'll post the whole list of available packages and prices on my blog when I get everything scanned

 

We chose this cruise for the itinerary. AOS leaves San Juan on Sundays, cruises to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, St Maarten, and St Croix, with one sea day on the first day. We had done Jewel Southern from San Juan November 2013 and we knew our daughter would love embarking in San Juan! Also, this cruise visited different islands, except for Barbados and Saint Maarten, which are two of our favorites! St Lucia was new for us and we hadn't been to Antigua in 20 years!

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Anyone who has read a review or two of mine, might be aware that I um...like to plan? over plan? obsessively plan? let's just say if there was a 12 step program for planners, I'd be there!

 

So I spend quite a bit of time packing and planning. We booked this cruise at least 20 months in advance; it was a very long wait and we had some other trips in between, but it gave me plenty of time to plan our excursions in each port. We scheduled private or independent excursions in every port and did not purchase one Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion. I didn't scan the brochure, because it's easily researched on the RCI website, but if you have questions, I can peruse it and let you know the details. I used my usual techniques of researching on Trip Advisor, reading reviews on Cruise Critic, reading guidebooks and generally pestering anyone online who had been for more details, I need more details, DETAILS...like a junkie needs...well, anyway, you know, maybe they should, in fact, have a 12 step program for planners!

 

Once I had all my plans together for each port, I actually make a spread sheet (I know, I know!:rolleyes:) of each day with the details of each excursion, and any dinner reservations, and a separate sheet (this is where it really gets pathological) where I can note what to pack based on the day's activities. You would think this would make us "over packers", but in reality, I pack much less because I bring exactly what we need for each day and no extras. I also take advantage of on board laundry service, sending one bag in on day 5 for $30 (minus whatever discount C&A offers)

 

Now, we didn't pack as lightly as we might usually. Our DD recently started getting "into" fashion (which also means she's been getting "into" our wallet!) and while ostensibly shopping for a prom dress, she would come home with yet another outfit "for the cruise!". This is trait she inherited from my dear mother, who we have cruised with in the past and may have instilled some bad habits:( But it was her cruise (and many of her purchases from her own job:D ) so we were doing the "dress up" thing each night to indulge her. When this happens we add a garment bag to our usual roll aboard bags and backpacks.

 

This is the stuff I can fit into my roller bag:

 

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And the stuff that went into the garment bag:

 

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Since we had 3 of us cruising this time we added a regulation suitcase for some extra shoes (and the hammock we never set up...more on that later!). This meant we had a skoosh more room to enjoy in our bags, so I decided to take advantage of the "extra space" to Pack For a Purpose (PFP). I had read about this organization in the past and because I'm a light packer, I had not tried it before. By planning and packing as early as I did, I knew about a month in advance I had room to Pack For A Purpose. You can find more about PFP on their website here:

 

http://www.packforapurpose.org/

 

The site makes it very easy to participate, with detailed wish lists from organizations in need. I noticed that most of the Caribbean organizations in need partner with the Sandals Foundation. That made it easy to drop things off at Sandals and go on touring, or if you make arrangements, you might be able to actually schedule a visit to deliver the items you bring while you are in port. I'll have more details about our PFP experience during the St Lucia post where we delivered our items.

 

But here is our collection...we used social media to let our friends and family know what we were planning and to share the PFP wishlist for St Lucia. We collected new and gently used items and we purchased several items on the wishlist to bring ourselves.

 

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Their tag line "small space, little effort, big impact" was certainly true for our experience..tune in to St Lucia day to see how it turned out!

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Off to a great start! I like your wordy, detailed style and am looking forward to this report unfolding.

 

The excellent photos help too! So what Nikon gear is hubby using?

 

Keep it coming,

 

Norris

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Pre Days: San Juan

 

We left for San Juan on Friday afternoon, with a connection in Miami, our plan was to enjoy Saturday in Old San Juan before sailing on Sunday. I'll spare you the painful details of the flight...it's the usual...too full, too filthy, too uncomfortable, blah, blah, blah, welcome to air travel in the 21st century! The Miami connection we boarded, pushed back and then had an "equipment" problem (stuck light?) requiring us to all deplane, walk to another gate and re board a new plane; two hours later...are you already as bored as we were?

 

Anyway, we arrived in San Juan after 2 AM, and grabbed a cab from the airport to the Sheraton Old San Juan.

 

(The Sheraton from the water during sail away)

 

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Thoughts on Hotel Selections in Old San Juan

 

We had originally booked the Marriott La Concha (full review in our Jewel of the Seas Southern Caribbean review linked in our signature) on Ashford Ave in the Condado section of San Juan. I would describe that area as the Beach/City area. There are many nice hotels on the beach, and all along Ashford Ave with it's restaurants, bars, and shops. I's a 10 minute (traffic dependent) cab ride to Old San Juan. The advantage to staying in Condado is you have the beach and resort hotels; it feels more like vacation. The downside is the high cost of these hotels and distance to Old San Juan.

 

Isla Verde is another area similar to Condado with hotels.We haven't stayed in that area in 20 years, but the hotels were slightly cheaper than what I found in Condado.

 

Old San Juan is the historic walled part of the city and there are several boutique hotels there, including Hotel Plaza D'Armas, where we stayed during our Nov 2013 stay (also reviewed in Jewel review). The advantage to staying in old San Juan is that you can walk everywhere and the boutique hotels are priced more moderately, and have more local charm. This downside is part of that "charm", for us on our last stay, was a room that was not as clean as we expected and a bit louder at night than we liked, and there are few of the amenities and no beach front you'd get at a resort hotel.

 

Another area to stay is near the convention center and airport. These hotels are usually cheaper, large chains and are handy (still need a cab) to the Pan American pier. The convention center hotels, offer a better price, shorter cab ride to the pier and are a good choice for a quick overnight before boarding. The disadvantage is they are isolated, with little "vacation" feel to them- neither the historic city or the beach.

 

Sheraton Old San Juan

 

We wanted a happy medium and the Sheraton Old San Juan fit the bill for us, but initially not our budget. I booked 2 fully refundable hotels and kept watching prices. About 3 weeks before our trip, The Sheraton Old San Juan offered a deal for a Junior Suite for $209 (our original reservations were over $300 per night at the Sheraton and the Marriott La Concha for unremarkable city view rooms) That made the Sheraton a relative bargain, and staying there allowed us to walk all around OSJ, while enjoying a more full service hotel and the peace and quiet of a larger hotel.

 

We found the service and comfort at this hotel to be excellent. It does lack some of the charm of the rest of OSJ, but it is located right at the pier for Carnival and Norwegian, so there were lots of cruise passengers staying there over the weekend. We really liked how convenient it was to everything, within easy walking distance to most attractions in OSJ. There is a CVS on the same road for last minute items.

 

(Our Jr suite at the Sheraton; the pull out couch in the living area)

 

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(The room wraps around the outside of the hotel in an L shape, with lots of windows, so you pass the desk, closet and little dining area to find the king bed room area and the bath on the left)

 

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I am enjoying your review. Looking forward to reading the rest!

Thanks!!

 

Off to a great start! I like your wordy, detailed style and am looking forward to this report unfolding.

 

The excellent photos help too! So what Nikon gear is hubby using?

 

Keep it coming,

 

Norris

 

I will get that info for you! I know he brought one SLR and one water camera, but I'll let him tell the tale, since I only understand about 1/2 of it!!

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Pre Days San Juan

 

So, here is the fun part!! We are on vacation! Yeah! I was so excited to take our daughter to Old San Juan. She is a big history buff and conversational in Spanish, so I knew she would love Old San Juan, and she did! We started the morning around 9 ish (slightly groggy after hitting the pillow at 3 AM). We figured we could sleep on the sea day! Our first stop was Starbucks for coffee and a light breakfast. Like most American cities, there is a Starbucks within strolling distance from the hotel. After breakfast we headed up the hill on foot to the Castillo San Cristobal, one of the forts that is part of the National Park. I carried my annual National Park pass, but it was a free entry day anyway.

 

The fort was built after El Morro, because the Spanish were getting their &^%'s kicked by folks arriving overland...San Cristobal provided a strategic defense from threats from the the interior of the island.

 

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DD and I at San Cristobal

 

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There is a very good museum in this part of the fort. You can't see it, but each hallway leads to another time period in history with descriptions of who lived in the fort, what their uniforms looked like, what the city looked like and my favorite thing- an interesting map that shows which countries "claimed" each part of the entire colonial Caribbean. I found it interesting to see how at one time Spain "claimed" it all and if you just go from map to map, moving forward in time, you literally see the Spanish getting pushed off the map! And yet the Spanish language and culture remains.

 

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I liked this old drawing of the El Morro, the walled city and San Cristobal in the distance...you realize how incredibly well preserved the city is! (and how far Adventure of the Seas is from that schooner!)

 

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Pre Days San Juan

 

San Cristobal

 

We were able to walk through the tunnels of the fort, so this is a good choice for a walk during the heat of the day. They run a tunnel tour at 10:30 AM, in English on Saturdays and in Spanish on Sundays. We did this on our last visit and it was very interesting. Arrive to sign up early because they only take 16 people.

 

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Inside the dungeon, the art work made by the occupants has been preserved.

 

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After walking inside the tunnels, you can walk out across the field above the tunnels, which could be boo-by trapped to explode if an army started marching across it; but of course today it's quite safe to walk! It's also a very cool place to be on a hot day, with an excellent sea breeze!

 

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From here, you can see the Pan American Pier. On this Saturday morning Celebrity and Jewel of the Seas are disembarking.

 

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Trolley

There is a free hop on, hop off, trolley offered through out OSJ. There are maps at all the hotels and most of the shops. There are several stops on 3 lines. The green route leads to the forts, and the red and purple routes wind around the old street of San Juan. At the height of traffic, it's probably quicker to walk, but if you have had enough of the cobble stone streets, the trolley is a nice way to relax and take a break. Here is an example of the trolley stop. if you want to ride the trolley to see everything, take the purple trolley line, it's the longest and passes everything.

 

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We took the trolley from San Cristobal to El Morro, which would be about a mile walk.

Edited by Familygoboston

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Pre Days San Juan

 

El Morro

 

The trolley drives all the way up to the fort, so don't hop off in the circle (the first stop) unless you want to get more exercise, you'll have about 1/2 mile walk up to the entrance!

 

El Morrow has fewer examples of the original fortifications, but I like the area because its a very busy place for local festivals and activity. During this trip, there was some kind of kite festival going on, and there were lots of families enjoying the day!

 

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The light house

 

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We walked up the light house, and took this photo out the window.

 

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Another local enjoying the fort!

 

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Edited by Familygoboston

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I've been waiting for this. I love seeing other people's pictures of places that I have been. I always enjoy thse tunnels in San Cristobal.:)

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Great to hear from everyone! I had to take my daughter to her first town meeting tonight...she got an earful...but that's democracy in action I guess!

 

I have a little time before bed here on the East coast to post more of San Juan...so post I will...

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Pre Days San Juan

 

Walk About Old San Juan

 

After touring the forts, we walked down the hill toward the ocean along the streets of Old San Juan. We were seeking Fortaleza Street and The Parrot Club for lunch which was recommended to us by a CC member who lives in PR!

Along Callieta Hospital we noticed a street cat rescue mission. We saw loads of cats and they were all healthy, well fed, had been fixed and notched and so there was no noxious smell (due to territorial marking by unneutered cats) and they were very pleasant to see and even pat! If you like cats, definitely take a walk along "hospital alley" off of San Sebastian.

 

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Here is a creative use of the Saint himself as an address marker on Calle San Sebastion.

 

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The colors of Old San Juan

 

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Pre Days San Juan

 

Lunch at Parrot Club on Fortaleza

 

Before our 2013 trip I had some tips from CC Member Aviator of the Seas about a few decent restaurants in OSJ. So we decided to take his advice a couple of years later, but the restaurant was still an excellent choice.

 

Exterior

 

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Interior of Parrott Club, with original art work and a piano for live entertainment at night!

 

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The menu; there was also another page with heartier dinner specialties

 

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Ceviche with Plantain chips

 

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Empanadas

 

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We found the food very tasty, and it was one of the best ceviches we have ever had anywhere!

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Pre Days San Juan

 

Shopping and more food at Cafe Cortes!

 

We wandered from Calle Fortaleza up toward Calle San Francisco popping into shops that looked interesting. We generally gravitate to local arts and crafts and home good shops. We bought a few small things and made our way to Calle San Francisco, intent on finding another recommendation we had read about in a recent review: Cafe Cortes, where we hoped to have some dessert.

 

The villa of the Cortes family, whose chocolate empire is well known in PR, has been transformed into a hip chocobar with chocolate specialty drinks, desserts and lunch and dinner specialties which all feature some sort of chocolate ingredient as part of the dish.

 

Cafe Cortes exterior on San Francisco

 

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The first floor interior is a casual beehive of activity, decorated with vintage Cortes Chocolate advertisements

 

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and a wall is covered with old chocolate molds bearing the Cortes name.

 

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Specialties include the Choco Frio, a cold chocolate drink made in a variety of flavors including strawberry chocolate.

 

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and chocolate lava cake

 

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Upstairs is a free gallery of contemporary Latin American art by a variety of well known artists. It was a fine collection, the gallery is sponsored by the Casa Cortes Foundation, and we enjoyed browsing while a free harp concert was going on by harpist Jose Luis.

 

Harp Concert and gallery

 

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Edited by Familygoboston

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Pre Days San Juan

 

A Food Coma Set In!

 

After an amazing afternoon touring OSJ, and enjoying some of it's best food specialties, we hit the wall...a food coma set in (and I'll remind you we got in at 3 AM the night before!!:eek:) We walked back to the Sheraton for a nap!

 

I'll post the menus for the Cafe Cortes here because I took them with my phone, ergo, they are BAD pictures (I took) and I did not want to post them with the GOOD pictures (DH took) in the last post!

 

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After our nap, we set out in the evening to walk along the Paseo De La Princesa, a pedestrian walkway along the outer old city wall. I'll post those photos tomorrow morning!

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Can't wait to read this! Booked on AOS next year with our kids. Slightly different itinerary than yours though. We're excited - all the islands but St. Maarten will be new to us. Thanks!

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I'm soo excited to follow this review. I can't wait for our cruise next month.:)

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