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Tamhugh

AOS 7/2/06 Long Review

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We just returned on 7/9 from the AOS sailing the Aruba route. I was trying to be motivated to get this review done yesterday, but I was just too tired. So here goes.

 

Background: DH and I (41 and 40) were traveling with our two boys (16 and just turned 13), and the in-laws (69 and 66). We also met up with a group of friends/acquaintances who were also taking this cruise, but we were more on our own. This was a large group of DS's friends and their families who were traveling as a graduation trip. This was our 5th cruise and 4th with RCI.

 

Travel: We flew AA out of Philly to San Juan. We arrived on Saturday at about 1:30 and our baggage showed up immediately. It was a little chaotic getting out of there with all the luggage tags being checked, but no problems. We went to the taxi stand and were immediately assigned a taxi. Our driver was a really nice guy and was chatting a lot. We were all a little nervous flying down that highway and weaving in and out of traffic. He laughed and assured us that everyone drives that way in P.R. Within a few minutes, in the left lane of traffic, the taxi stalled and would not start. The fuel pump was blown. He called for help and another taxi came and pulled up in front of us. It was pretty scary climbing out and getting to the new taxi in all that traffic, and we felt so bad for the driver. We tipped him and got in the new taxi and headed to the San Juan Marriott. I was nervous about this hotel because I had read some bad reviews recently. No need...it was beautiful. Our room was on the 17th floor, overlooking the ocean. What a beautiful view. The beds were incredible and i have never slept so well in a hotel in my life. My kids even took a nap and said they didn't want to leave the beds.

 

Embarkation: Again, I was nervous about this after hearing how bad it was at the pier in San Juan. I must be easy to please, because we again had no problems. We left the hotel a few minutes after 11, were met by a porter and were in line outside by 11:30. We were onboard by noon. The line moved very quickly and efficiently at that time of the morning. We somehow missed the little liquor store inside security, but we went back out for me to pick up a 6 pack of soda and for DH to grab some Tanqueray. Again, we breezed back through the lines.

 

Service: We were on Deck 5 for dinner. We had requested a table for 6 and our reservations stated that. We were assigned a table for 8. It wasn't an issue. The woman and her daughter we were seated with were very nice and fun to talk to. I felt sorry for them though to be thrown into a larger famly group when I am sure they were looking for more quiet and low key. We all enjoyed talking to them and I hope they weren't overwhelmed by us. Our waiters were Filip and Paul. Filip was very good and my only complaint is that he was clearly unhappy when my kids ordered a second lobster tail. Other waiters around us were encouraging people to order more. Paul was very quiet but very attentive. I'm not sure how much English he spoke because we only heard a few words from him. Our maitre' de was Mustafa and he was very visible and helpful.

Our cabin steward was the worst one I have ever had. We met him briefly on the first night when he stopped by to ask the ages of our kids. He said he needed to know so he knew which compasses to leave. I'm not sure why, because he never left them again. We had towel animals on 4 of the 7 nights. Two of those nights it was a towel folded into a square and turned on an angle which we assumed was a stingray. We never received beach towels in our cabin until the 4th day. There was a thick layer of mold around the edge of our shower floor. Two sets of tickets for our excursions didn't show up in our cabin and we went down to check on them. They reprinted new ones, but told us our steward should have dropped them in the cabin the first day. The originals would show up in the cabin on the day of the excursion, but in different spots. It wasn't a huge deal, but he definitely did not make the kind of effort we had seen in the past. And ironically, he did not leave a survey for us or for the cabin next to us to fill out. It was the first time we have ever only tipped the recommended amount.

 

Entertainment: Simeon Baker was the CD and he did a good job. He was pleasant and not annoying (at least to us). The opening show was good, the Drifters were very good, and the comedians were terrific...especially Rondell Sheridan (sp?) from that's so Raven. The teenagers in our group were hysterical over him. Most of us enjoyed the ice show and the first production number. I didn't see the second production show or the closing show, but the buzz on the closing show was that it was pretty bad. The musical acts we saw in the lounges were all pretty good....but one suggestion, the speakers were loud and seem to distort the music in the Schooner and occasionally in the pub.

 

Ports of Call: We did the Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin, St. Thomas route. We enjoyed all of these islands.

In Aruba, we booked the ABC Extreme Jeep Tour for the Half day excursion. It was a blast and my kids said it ranks as one of their favorite excursions ever. In the evening, DH and two of the other dads chaperoned the 18 year olds for an hour or two at Carlos and Charlies. The kids loved it...the dads, not so much. Shopping there was so-so. I would have liked to see the beaches, but we just ran out of time. I heard they were beautiful but very windy.

In Curacao, my in-laws took the trolley tour. Ironically, they asked someone on the ship about it and the girl told them to book it on their own. She said they would be charged almost double from the ship and they just had to go to the "yellow building" and wait for the trolley. They enjoyed the tour and said they learned a lot about the island. DH, the boys and I just wandered around town shopping and had lunch at a little waterside cafe. One of the street vendors told us to walk to an old hotel in town to take pictures and we did that..it was lovely! We enjoyed watching the swinging bridge, and chatting with people in town. Very pretty port.

We went in several directions in St. Martin. DH and the boys and several others did the Treetop Adventure and raved about it. They all had an absolute blast. My in-laws took an island tour because their semi-submersible tour was cancelled. And I went on the Marigot shopping and beach break with some friends. We had lunch in Marigot and it was awful. It took over 45 minutes to get our food and then only because we told the woman we had to leave to catch our bus. When the food came, it was not very good, and we had to ask a few times for our check and then run for the bus. We should have waited....the tour took us to BooBooJam Beach. The barbequed ribs and chicken there looked and smelled divine. The beach was absolutely beautiful. In all, we agreed that we liked the Dutch side of the island better, but the whole place was very nice.

St. Thomas--we had already been here twice and since it was the last day of the trip, a lot of us wanted to relax. We had booked the shopping, island tour, and beach with Godfrey. Most of our group wanted to skip the island tour, and Godfrey's brother Tony worked to accomodate everyone. I can't say enough good about this company. We shopped, made a few brief stops for pictures and then headed to Sapphire Beach. It was a very nice and relaxing way to end the cruise.

 

more to come soon...if I haven't already bored and lost everyone.

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Disembarking: We were given group 6 to disembark on Sunday and it went pretty quickly. They started calling numbers around 8 am while we were having breakfast in the windjammer. We were off the ship before 10. We did the AA onboard luggage check which was a godsend. The lines moved quickly and we were in a taxi in a very short period of time.

 

Overall: A few weeks ago I had seen a post saying that everything was in Spanish on this cruise and I was a little bit panicked. I knew that my Hola, and gracias would not get me very far. But we didn't find that to be true on this weeks cruise. There were probably as many Spanish speaking passengers as English, and there was definitely a lot more international passengers than we were used to. I liked that though. All of the announcements were in English and Spanish, and occasionally in French. There were a few dishes in the Windjammer that I think were to cater to a Spanish culture as well, but I think that is to be expected. We enjoyed watching the salsa dancing outside the casino every evening and seeing the girls dressed up for Quince. The only negative my DS encountered was that he is used to making new friends on cruises. He found it harder to communicate this time, since most of the teens he met were Spanish speaking. But again, this was not any problem, just an observation.

The food was not, in my opinion, as good as it has been in the past. I think the selections at dinner have gotten less. There are the same amount of choices, but less variety. There was lamb as a regular entree twice and salmon two or three nights (as well as almost every night as an alternative). The food was still good and no one should ever go hungry on this ship. It was just a slight change that I had noticed.

The ship itself is still a great ship, but is definitely ready for drydock. The carpets and bedding are starting to look a little worn and shabby, but not awful. One of the others in our group has sailed RCi several times and she felt the ship was very dirty compared to others she has been on. I didn't think it was dirty, but it was not as pristine as some others...probably due to wear and tear. There was a funny odor on deck 6 around midship a few days, and vomit in the bathroom outside the windjammer one morning that sat for quite awhile. But, on a ship that size, I think for the most part messes were cleaned up quickly.

We would sail the Adventure again, but I would like to see how it is after drydock. The negatives were so minute that they are really nothing. The positives definitel outweighed everything.

 

oh, and a tip for future cruisers....be onboard on time. We left two passengers on the docks in Curacao and a few others barely made it. Why do people feel the need to push that boarding time????

 

I hope this review was helpful to someone. Feel free to ask me any questions.

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Thank you for the VG review.

DH and I are sailing AOS on 9/3, the alternative route.

What room were you in? I am hoping to get different cabin steward:eek: !! We are D2 forward (port side) on deck 7,

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Could you please explain some things for me

The AA check in after disembarking, how exactly does this wor?. We are flying AA (flight is at 12:00) and would love to utilize this if possible.

The duty free shop at the pier, where is it? Do they give you any problems boarding if you have liquor?

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The AA Check-In:

 

A few days before the end of the cruise you are given paperwork in your cabin in which to sign up for it. It costs $10 per person and what they do is check you in for your flight, print off your boarding passes and luggage tags. When you get off the ship, you grab your luggage and bring it through customs and then drop it off.

 

There are a few requirements:

 

Your flight has to be after 11:59am.

It has to be all domestic.

And it has to be all on AA (no connections to other carriers).

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We were in cabin 6437, an inside cabin. I think you are safe on Deck 7.

Wrp explained the AA check-in process perfectly. It worked well for us, because the airlines told us that we had to check-in at the airport to get our seat assignments. Since we had a 6 pm flight, we had planned on touring Old San Juan before heading to the airport. By using this process, we got our boarding passes and seat assignments the night before.

The duty free shop is right inside the door of the terminal. After you go through the security scanner, look to you r left and it is there. They told us that you can carry on soda openly, and that they let you carry on the liquor as long as you don't have it out in the open. And to be honest, we bought liquor in Curacao and DH handed it to them on the way back onto the ship. The put it through the scanner and then handed it back to him. The liquor policy definitely seems more lax on this ship.

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The AA Check-In:

 

A few days before the end of the cruise you are given paperwork in your cabin in which to sign up for it. It costs $10 per person and what they do is check you in for your flight, print off your boarding passes and luggage tags. When you get off the ship, you grab your luggage and bring it through customs and then drop it off.

 

There are a few requirements:

 

Your flight has to be after 11:59am.

It has to be all domestic.

And it has to be all on AA (no connections to other carriers).

 

We flew on US Air, had purchased the RCI transfers (but done air on our own) and we were able to check bags and get boarding passes at the San Juan pier for no extra charge! In fact they were there waiting for us, already printed off even though a guest relations person on the ship told us that only AA did this. The US Air counter was right next to AA. Maybe SJ is the only place that does other airlines besides AA?

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Dirty ????? You have to be kidding... We were also on the 7/2/06 cruise. This was our third cruise and the ship, imho was spotless, by far the cleanest, best maintained ship I've ever been one. I saw nothing, I repeat nothing that needed repair or cleaning. far nicer than the last two cruises we'd been on. amazing how folks on the same cruise can see things so differently. Amd I also thought the food , with the exception of the Windjammer was excellent

 

As far as the folks missing th boat in Curacao . I saw him. We were all told to be on the ship by 5. At 5:40 he comes running up the dock waving his hands as all of us cheered.. I mean come on... 40 minutes late ?????

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Dirty ????? You have to be kidding... We were also on the 7/2/06 cruise. This was our third cruise and the ship, imho was spotless, by far the cleanest, best maintained ship I've ever been one. I saw nothing, I repeat nothing that needed repair or cleaning. far nicer than the last two cruises we'd been on. amazing how folks on the same cruise can see things so differently. Amd I also thought the food , with the exception of the Windjammer was excellent

 

As far as the folks missing th boat in Curacao . I saw him. We were all told to be on the ship by 5. At 5:40 he comes running up the dock waving his hands as all of us cheered.. I mean come on... 40 minutes late ?????

 

I agree with everything you have said here. Was also surprised that anyone found the ship dirty! We were on the 6/25 sailing and had a cabin on deck 6, we never noticed a bad smell. Perception is such an amazing thing.

I too was amazed at how late people showed up every day. And by the looks of them they were not on far flung excursions but shopping right there in the port. I cannot wait to tell my 7th grade students about people being left behind when they complain about getting detention for tardies;)

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Had to add this. Cruise was for my in laws 50th wedding Anv. I had called RC before the cruise to see if anything special could be arranged for them. The rep said he could arrange for the Captain to make some kind of announcement at the second formal night on the second sea day. Well dinner came and went , no announcement. Oh well. Friday night was the big song and dance number by the dining room staff who were joined by the captain. When number was over my daught goes over to the Captain and tells him about her Grandparents wedding anv. The Captain comes over to our table. congradulates them on their 50th, has his picture(s) taken with them and spoke to them for several minuter. Sorta cool meeting the Captain of one of the largest ships in the world. A real classy act in my opinion. A totally wonderful week and as far as I'm concerned, RC is my cruise line for all future cruises.

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I was on this cruise as well and must say it was amazing.

 

As for getting alcohol on board in San Juan - no problem at all. I was being sneaky after I bought it at the store inside the cruise terminal and trying to hide it in my bags and a RCI employee came up to me and politely explaind that this was not necessary and we could carry it on and take it to our room (Don't shoot the messenger - I know what RCI says is their policy - I am just telling everyone what I experienced first hand.

 

As for the Captain - I thought he was one of the most personable I have encountered - really a class act and always around - saying hi and chatting with guests.

 

TCCOX - were your in-laws on the bar crawl in Aruba - we were amazed at this couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary and partying it up later than us every night.

 

premiumrican - Carribbean night should have been on Wednesday - but due to a special menu it got pushed up to Friday. However, Wednesday is the usual night for it and Portofinos was packed - 70 people on the waiting list - book early!

 

Definetly try the Turtlecove Sail & Snorkel in St. Thomas - The crew of the Doubloon Pirate ship are great. They are awesome with kids, have a great sense of humor and mix some of the best drinks in the caribbean on your way back! So much fun

 

If any has any questions I would be happy to answer!!

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I was on this cruise as well and must say it was amazing.

 

premiumrican - Carribbean night should have been on Wednesday - but due to a special menu it got pushed up to Friday. However, Wednesday is the usual night for it and Portofinos was packed - 70 people on the waiting list - book early!

 

 

I am curious what was the special menu?

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Can you tell me which night was Caribbean night in the dining room? I want to make reservations to Portofinos.

 

This may be a very stupid question but what is Caribbean Night and why do so many people try to avoid it??

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They did a special Menu for 4th of July - just typically more Americanzed fair with names like "Thomas Jefferson Crab Cakes" etc.

 

I don't know why people try to avoid Carribean nite - just something we got in the habit of doing.

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The special menu was for 4th of July on Tuesday -- barbecue ribs, etc. They moved the schedule around for that. But I don't understand, because we ate at Portofino's on Wednesday, and there were plenty of tables available/empty. There shouldn't have been a waiting list, unless people were dead set to get a certain time.

 

I would agree with OP -- the ship could use a touch up -- few spots of chipped paint, wood that should be refinished. But nothing outrageous, and nothing that would really make you think twice while you were onboard. I guess I mostly noticed because I thought there would be MORE wear and tear than there was.

 

I also agree about the food. I understand that it can be difficult to cook for large numbers of people or for a buffet, but there are ways to make this situation better. For instance, my salmon was so dry that you needed water to choke it down, and I know that it's just because they cooked it too long before putting it under cover and under a heat lamp. A good chef knows how to mostly cook items so that they finish cooking while resting. On the other hand, I had risotto 4 times, and it was amazing! And risotto can be more difficult to make in large batches ahead of time. Just an observation - I couldn't figure out why this situation needed to happen. But as my DH and I always say -- you don't go to the Caribbean for 5-star cuisine, and we certainly never went hungry.

 

We had an amazing time, though, and will most likely go cruising again.

 

BTW -- the pre-departure check-in is available for AA and US Air out of SJU.

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I talked with the Portofinos hostess on Wednesday and asked about the extra tables.

 

She explained that they keep 3 or 4 tables as a backup because they book reservations in 1/2 hour increments but they never ask parties to leave if they have been sitting and hanging around after eating for a while.

 

This way people don;t have to sit and wait around for others parties to leave and they don't have to ask parties to leave if they have been sitting for a while.

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Gotch -- makes sense. I will say that the Portofino's staff was hopping that night. The captain was also dining there that evening.

 

As for the people left in Curacao, I think the first guy at least probably got his time screwed up, because when walked up, he didn't look like he thought he was late. I think he only realized he was late as he got close. Which is why you always go by your watch. 3600 other people managed to get back on with plenty of time. But that had to s*ck -- missing basically two days of your cruise that you had already paid for. Valuable life lesson for all.:)

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