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Chase's Dad

ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS: 6/11 Review

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My parents took the families of my brother and me on this wonderful cruise. Our entourage included two seasoned cruisers (aged 83 and 82), four baby-boomers, and two teenagers (17 and 14). A jolly good time was had by all. :)

SAN JUAN: My family flew into San Juan on Saturday. A spirited mariachi band greeted our flight in the baggage area. What a welcome!! We checked into El Convento before 3:00 p.m. As the name implies, this landmark hotel used to be a convent. From our small balcony on the second floor, we looked over a pocket park to the façade of the Cathedral. The rooms surround an interior courtyard dominated by an aged fig tree. The hotel reminded us of paradores in Spain. Service was informative and friendly. We could walk anywhere in Old San Juan within 15 minutes. We walked the wall and enjoyed the promenade on Saturday. On Sunday, we chowed down at “La Bombonera” for breakfast before taking the short hike to El Morro. To reach the fort, you walk about five minutes across a vast lawn past local families flying kites and picnicking on the walls above the sea. Make sure you watch the fifteen-minute slide show inside one of the cool, cool rooms. Learn some history – and cool off -- before you man the ramparts. Take a lot of film!!

EMBARKATION: We checked out of the hotel at 12:45 p.m., grabbed a cab waiting at the door, and were sitting at a table in the Windjammer by 1:30 p.m. With SetSail Passes in hand, we walked onto the boat within ten minutes of getting out of the cab. The rest of our clan arrived around 3:00 and reported no problems at the airport or the cruise terminal.

THE SHIP: Hard to believe, but the only time I stood in line for more than three minutes was to get off the boat! The ship is so big, and there’s some much to do, that people otherwise congregate in mass only: (1) to get tickets for the ice show; and (2) wade in the pools on the single day at sea. A Cruise Critic post helped me avoid the long line of under-informed passengers who filled the third deck lobby when ice show tickets were first offered on Monday. Just wait ‘til later in the hour and you can walk right up to the man with the ducats.

Colorful, attractive art covers stairwell landings, stateroom halls, and even the walls of the public bathrooms. Sometimes, elevators were slow and crowded, but the stairwells were so attractive that a climb of one or two decks was no burden. For us, the location of our staterooms on Deck Three was perfect. We walked perhaps fifty paces to reach the Vivaldi Dining Room, where breakfast is served. We were assigned to a dinner table on the fourth level, but we could be in our seat within five minutes of leaving our rooms.

My Dad made use of the exercise bikes to continue rehabbing his surgically-rehabbed knee. My son shot some hoops on the 12th deck basketball court. My wife discovered a seldom-used 4th deck walking track around the ship’s perimeter that involves a short ascent to the 5th deck around the front of the Adventure. Son, father, and grandfather all toured the nine holes of “Adventure Dunes.” Even on a sea day, your yellow, blue, or orange golf ball will come to rest and remain stationary while you address your next putt. Ain’t those stabilizers amazing!

STATEROOM: We would have enjoyed a balcony, but since we chose the early seating for dinner, I’m not sure how much time we would have spent on the balcony if we had one. We did appreciate our large window, which afforded good views as we departed St. Thomas and St. Lucia. My son is pushing 6’2”, so we were a little crowded, but we were quite satisfied with our quarters; we only dressed, bathed, and slept there. Our attendant fashioned cute towel animals and kept thing tidy, although he never did deliver a third life vest as requested by my wife twice on Sail Away Day. She passed her muster drill anyhow.

ENTERTAINMENT: Diverse, fun, and well-produced. Do not miss the ice show. We loved each program in the lovely Lyric Theater. The comedians were funny and the ship’s singers and dancers put on terrific, fast-moving shows. We were treated to an amazing a capella performance by Mosaic, a sextet that not only sang but also provided the “instrumental” back-up.

I felt guilty that we didn’t sit down and listen to the numerous talents that we hear in passing: a classical guitarist playing on one of the ornate stair-cases on Sunday, the jazz singer on the Promenade, the pianist in the Champagne Bar. The guilt passed quickly; I was usually sound asleep by 10:30.

FOOD: I’m no epicure, but the only disappointing dinner entrée was strip steak. My son’s been raised on cheeseburgers and pizza, but he devoured a variety of seafoods. As for table service, I believe my father would trade in either of his sons for the marvelous Rumanian waitress who doted on him. For instance, after he told Camila how much he loved shrimp, he found shrimp cocktail waiting for him every night. Once, his little silver bowl contained 13 shrimp! No matter what dessert he ordered, Camila brought him at least one extra plate! Dad didn’t need it, but he’s 83 years old, so WHAT THE HECK!

Appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts were always delivered in quick succession. I looked forward to dinner every night – even when I hit the self-serve frozen machines at 4:30 after an excursion under the tropical sun!!

Highlights of breakfast in the dining room were omelets, French toast, and white chocolate doughnuts. Breakfast selections were delivered so quickly that we only ate at the Windjammer twice. Be aware that RCl will seat you with strangers so as to fill the tables. Our tablemates were pleasant, but I prefer to down my first cup of coffee alone or with those who know me best!

SERVICE: Polite, personable, prompt. How refreshing to be greeted by a friendly person who smiled and looked you in the eye when his sole function was to direct you to the left or right when you entered the Windjammer!

“Guest Relations” employees graciously helped us with two problems. We had reserved spots for my parents on the seven-hour St. Lucia catamaran trip to Soufriere. The night before, we realized my Dad might not be able handle the journey. A multilingual young lady helped me cancel my parents’ trip at no penalty. Then, when we became concerned that my father’s lack of mobility might impede our ability to make a 12:30 p.m. flight, another pleasant young lady made sure that we’d receive the coveted “Group One” departure baggage tickets. Given the anacondian line for the USAir counter at the airport, this assistance was a Godsend.

PORTS/EXCURSIONS: Wouldn’t do anything differently, except pray more earnestly next time for good weather in St. Maarten.

St. Thomas: On line, RCL said the St. John Beach Tour could only be reserved on the ship and would depart at 8:15 a.m. Passed on that and took a cab ($10 apiece) to Red Hook so we could catch the Cruz Bay ferry sail by at 10:00. Left the ship about 9:20 but our lady cabbie had to drive like Janet Guthrie on a roller coaster of a road so we could barely make the ferry. Take into account that the cab drivers don’t like to leave the dock until they’re full.

That ferry cost $5.00 apiece, the proprietors pack the boat, but the ride is beautiful. No problem in getting a waiting “safari” vehicle to Trunk Bay at another $6.00 apiece. Trunk Bay charges $4.00 apiece in admission, but that does cover a shower as well as beach access. Snorkeling equipment is cheap but requires a deposit. A great place for virgin snorkelers! Food is very pricey. Pack a snack to tide you over until your return to Cruz Bay. Take water, but be advised that both the ship and Trunk Bay vendors command a premium.

Took the 2:15 Charlotte Amalie ferry back to St. Thomas at $10.00 per person. Intended to shop, but we were so cooked by the sun that we decided to hike back to the ship. That trek is interesting for a while -- but Bataan-like before you complete the journey.

St. Maarten: Our one disappointment. I’d reserved a mini-van on line thru Budget, the office was close to the pier, and the people were helpful. The van was old but clean. We drove out of Phillipsburg with no trouble and enjoyed one panoramic view – before it rained cats and dogs. We sought shelter in an in-door mall in Marigot on the French side. Bought nothing but an expensive croissant. The rain continued, and the wind gained such strength that passengers at the pier were temporarily blocked from walking back to the ship!

Antigua: My wife’s friend who grew up on the island secured a guide known to us as “Mr. Cool.” Mr. Cool met us at the pier and gave us the grand tour in his immaculate van. He proudly pointed to things that we would have missed. We visited Devil’s Bridge (spectacular) Betty’s Hope (plantation ruins), Nelson’s Dockyard (much prettier than expected), and beautiful overlooks (one allowing a distant look at Eric Clapton’s cliff-hugger of an estate. We deleted Fig Drive from the itinerary so we could get Mom and Dad back to the ship. The rest of us enjoyed a late lunch and some beach time at Dickenson Bay before heading back to the ship. The cost? Only $200 total for the day.

St. Lucia: Thoroughly enjoyed RCL’s catamaran sail to Soufriere along the green, mountainous coast. The boat guides provided informative commentary about St. Lucia, as did the land guide, about the “world’s only drive-in volcano.” The grounds of the working cocoa plantation were quite pretty. After lunch on the boat, we stopped in a cove along with other boats, where conch peddlers in kayaks hawked their wares. Not the best beach, or the clearest water, but a quick plunge was refreshing. Oh, and the crew served unlimited rum punch!

Barbados: Thanks to Cruise Critic recommendations, our family and my niece booked the Silver Moon I along with eight other wise souls. My wife’s the sailor, and she admired the catamaran and claimed the trampoline for Jennifer and herself. Two brief showers interrupted the voyage and reduced the snorkeling time, but the rain cooled things off and produced magnificent clouds. The crew offered attentive, flying fish for lunch, beer for brunch, wine for lunch, and pina coladas for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the turtles live in a small area, so you’ll probably compete with four-five other boats for the favor of the animals. Fool that I am, I wasted too much time fooling with my disposable camera. Also, our “dive” at the shipwreck and reef was curtailed by rain. Still, a marvelous day, and a bargain at $100 apiece for a five-hour excursion.

DISEMBARKATION: Left our rooms at 8:20 a.m. because the multitudes had begun gathering at the gate. An hour-and-a-half later, we finally cleared customs. There has to be a better way.

Two intrepid handlers helped us quickly find our bags and secure a van to the airport. The ride took 15 minutes. Our wait in the USAir line took almost an hour. There has to be a better way.

CONCLUSION: A memorable trip for three generations of our family! The cruise supplied a better tonic than any pharmacist could offer. I remained in cruise/relaxation mode for a week after flying back to North Carolina. We’d do it again in heartbeat. My wife and I only waited a day before beginning research toward a 2007 Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

I’d be happy to answer questions if I can. This message board helped us so much in our planning that I’d like to return the favor in kind.

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Glad you had a great time. I miss the ship already. Boy disembarkation was very long for us. We had #10 to leave but since we were plantinum member we got a #1 also. We stayed on for awhile since we were just going to a hotel and could not check in yet, but we decided to leave when #5 was called at 10:30am.

 

We must have got in to the ship right before they closed the pier with that huge storm.

 

Mary

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Wow! What a fantastic review -- thank you for all of the wonderful details! My DH and I leave this Sunday for the AOS/Aruba route, and we cannot wait.

 

Thanks again,

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Thank you very much for that review. I'm scheduled for the Serenade in the future (yet debated with myself about AOS). Your review was quite convincing and honest and tempting me again with AOS. I'm glad the family enjoyed it. It is well worth remembering for many years. I hope you all have many more!

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Dad :)

 

Thanks for the review! We are doing the same itinerary, just in reverse.

We are also booked for the Silvermoon in Barbados, glad to hear you enjoyed it so much.

Do you remember what nights were formal nights?

 

What a wonderful memory your family will have - especially the teenagers! ;)

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Thanks for the compliments!

 

Dee, I believe Monday and Friday were formal nights. The guys wore coats and ties. My son especially enjoyed wearing the seersucker blazer bought him for about half-price at the Ralph Lauren outlet in San Juan.

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Thanks for the great review! I have a couple of ?s about the Silvermoon. We're booked for it in a couple of weeks. Where and what time do they pick you up? Was it easy to find? What time did you get back?

 

I know they emailed me that info, and I printed it out....but now I can't find it!!!

 

Thanks,

Chelsea

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Thanks, Chelsea. We met a representative just outside (street entrance) the terminal, at Gate 2 I think. It takes a couple minutes to walk from the gangway to the terminal and then about five more minutes to walk through the building, which is the largest pier building we saw. (Don't panic; look for signs to the gates.) You and other cruise passengers will ride 2-3 minutes in a van to the boat, where the crew members will take your shoes before you step on the boat.

 

The boat sails at 9:30, and I think we were supposed to meet the rep at 9:00 and were a little late. They still offered us a beer, however.:)

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Thanks for the info! Do you remember what time you got back to the port?? I'm trying to figure out if we have enough time to go to the Boatyard Beach afterward.

 

Chelsea

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Chase's Dad -- Thanks for such a detailed review! We leave on the same itinerary on August 6. I remember the classical guitarist from our Adventure voyage in January 2005. He was really fantastic! We bought his CD and we still enjoy it today. I hope it's the same fellow on board in August.

 

We are also flying USAirways. I booked a return flight with a 1:45 pm departure. Now, I see that USAir has moved the departure time to 12:10 pm. Do you have any advice as to how to get through the USAir line in the airport? I've read on the boards that it is important to leave the cruise departure tags on your luggage when you arrive at the airport. We are Diamond members, so we should be the first group to depart from the ship.

 

Thanks again for the great review.

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Cookie: Thanks for the compliment. It's probably good that you are in Group 1 because the airport line got longer as we waited in it. It may be that you can dump your bags with USAir at the pier, because I noticed a USAir counter near the port terminal exit as our intrepid bag guys were hustling us toward a van that they flagged down to transport the eight of us to the airport. I knew that Delta provided a $10(?) service whereby you checked your bags at the pier and they took them to the airport. Not sure if that would avoid checking in at the airport, but I would research to see what (if anything) USAir now offers. That might save you a lot of time and trouble.

 

As the posters advised me, you should make your 12:10 flight in time.

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Cookie: I should have added. The cruise tag may help you avoid the agricultural inspection at the airport. You can avoid that line (which seems to run parallel to the USAir check-in queue) if you just got off ths hip.

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Thanks so much for all this wonderful information!!

 

Who was your captain and did you get a chance to see the Montserrat volcano?

 

We will be sailing this same ship on July 9th. We are getting very excited!!

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Thanx, Obyx. Can't recall the captain's name, but I believe our cruise was his last for a while.

 

We didn't see the volcano, but it may have been visible after we left port.

Sorry I can't help you more.

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I think his name was Captain Stoobing and he was signing off for 13 weeks when we arrived back in San Juan on June 18 - going home to Norway for a well deserved holiday, I believe!

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And thanks to all the crew members who finished their stint and got to go home! PLEASE COME BACK TO THE AOS! :D

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Cookie: Thanks for the compliment. It's probably good that you are in Group 1 because the airport line got longer as we waited in it. It may be that you can dump your bags with USAir at the pier' date=' because I noticed a USAir counter near the port terminal exit as our intrepid bag guys were hustling us toward a van that they flagged down to transport the eight of us to the airport. I knew that Delta provided a $10(?) service whereby you checked your bags at the pier and they took them to the airport. Not sure if that would avoid checking in at the airport, but I would research to see what (if anything) USAir now offers. That might save you a lot of time and trouble.

 

As the posters advised me, you should make your 12:10 flight in time.[/quote']

I just returned from the AOS yesterday (haven't been organized enough to write a review yet:o ) We flew US air and were able to check our bags at the cruise terminal AND get our borading passes, which means when we got to the airport we were able to go right to the gate! Some confusion on this because many people were truned away at the pier. I THINK the deal is this, you had to have purchased transfers (or airfare I guess) through RC. We did air on our own but purchased the airport/pier transfers for $26 pp. We then decided to explore OSJ when we disembarked because of a late flight. Were prepared to take our bags to Barrachina in OSJ (a restaurant that stores luggage for free) and then saw the US air counter at the terminal. When I went to the counter they already had us down as having purchased transfers and had our boarding passes and luggage tags ready in a little packet. There was no additional charge. Because they had our stuff ready to go in a packet and I saw them turn several people away, telling them they had to do it all at the airport, I am assuming it was only for those that had purchased transfers. Not 100% sure on that, we did not stick around to question our luck :D

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Great review Chase's Dad, love the way you write! We sailed on Adventure in April and with four generations on Rhapsody a couple years back, it was fabulous and something each generation will remember!

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Wow, such a great review! We're also considering AOS, but I'm a little worried about the weather being too hot. What did you think of it? Thanks!

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Thanks, Kid. (What college?) The temperature hovered around 90 at the max, but we spent most of our time near the water, where we caught some wind. Probably the hottest interlude was on St. John, when an accident on the road to Trunk Bay tied up traffic for about 15 minutes. We spent little time on the ship when it wasn't moving, since we usually crashed after our excursions. Don't think you'll have trouble finding taxis, rental cars, and guide-driven vans that have AC -- although the safari-style "taxis" on St. John don't haev AC.

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Oops! I should add, as a warning. Some of my wife's jewelry was stolen after we checked our bags at the USAir counter at the San Juan airport. She's sure that the jewely was not purloined either on the ship or by the baggage people at the pier, because she hid the jewelry inside a glasses case that was packed inside of a bag that we carried off the ship with us. She would suggest that flyers pack valuables in carry-on bags. Fortunately, we think we'll get fair compensation between our homeowner's coverage and our travel insurance (with CSA) that affords secondary coverage.

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I have, and several others I know have had things missing from our luggage when flying home from San Juan. I thought previously that TSA took things out and never put them back into the same suitcase, but I am really not sure that's the case. We don't fly USAir, but things have disappeared from us on American, others on Continental and Delta. All from SJU. Something isn't right at that airport. Either TSA doesn't care or there are thieves working the airport that open cases even with the TSA locks on them.

 

I don't see the appeal of dirty clothes but shoes were also stolen and I have read on another post that they are a big item in the caribbean. I don't know how else to protect my belongings other than to lock them with the TSA locks. I NEVER put any jewelry or meds in my suitcase. The trip home is all dirty clothes, souveneirs (never missing) and shoes. I wish some investigations were done regarding the TSA people there as well as other employees, but then I dream a lot too.

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Katie,

 

Thanks for your reply, but we're sorry that we're not the only ones with a loss. We'll be fine; my wife already received a check from out HO insurer (All State), a company with an agent that has always prodided us with great service.

 

Maybe publication of our misfortunes will help other travelers to avoid it!

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