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elaineb

Aos Review July 4th - Long (But Good!)

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Overall: This itinerary is not for the faint-hearted! It is non-stop and if you don’t want to miss anything, you’ll come home exhausted (like a Disney trip!). Ship is incredibly beautiful and well-maintained.

SJ Pre Cruise: We arrived on Sat– no lines or problems at the airport. We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Isla Verde. If you get there early (arrival is 4pm), they will store your luggage for you. The AARP rate was $165, Govt rate of $155. We had a suite which was quite roomy and clean. Cost included full breakfast. Pool area was nice. As for getting to the beach, straight out the hotel, cross Isla Verde Ave. and then you have to weave your way a couple of blocks to get to an access point. Public access to this beach is very limited and the hotels don’t allow you to go through them to get to beach. We ate at Lupi’s (Mexican) and it was very good. By the way, I had the bright idea to take a city bus instead of a taxi to El Morro. Unless you like being stuffed into a bus with way too many people and way too little air conditioning, I’d suggest you don’t try this. 2 passengers started fighting over a seat & the bus driver actually had to stop the bus to calm the people down.

Embarkation: We left the hotel around 11:20am on Sun – it took about 15 minutes to get to the ship. We had done all our paperwork on line, so it took only about 15-20 min and we were on the ship – no lines!!! Our room steward was just finishing off our room, so we put our carryons in the room, grabbed our camera and off to explore.

General Ship Info: The pools/hot tubs are open 24 hours on this ship. If you want to go to the very front of the ship, on level 5 go into the Imperial Lounge and then take the one of the exits from there. It was impressive – the wind grabbed my DH’s SeaPass card right out of his pocket and into the sea! The CD was Marc Walker. He was great fun, but was just ending his stint and on to a 6 week vaca & when he comes back he said he was going on another ship. As for the captain, Hernan Zini, I was quite impressed. We spotted him a couple of times in the Windjammer eating breakfast & he also was at a couple of shows. He really mingled with the people on the ship which I’ve never seen before. At his welcoming speech on the Promenade he reminded parents to keep their children under control and midweek also said the same. His attitude seemed to permeate the ship. I’ve never seen a group of better behaved children in my life. It never seemed like 3200 passengers were on the ship. The most people in front of me was 8 waiting for an omelet, but with 3 omelet chefs, it went pretty fast! Formal nites are Mon & Thurs– Caribbean nite is Tues, so get your printed shirt/dress ready! Sat. is 50’s, 60’s & 70’s attire if you want.

Food: We thought the food was ok to good, never hitting great. Get out your flames – this is one area which RCCL could take a lesson from Carnival. For instance, one evening this was the choice of entrees: cheese ravioli, lamb, pork chop or fish with bones in it. Sorry, none of these things would I order at a restaurant. I found myself ordering the alternative salmon a couple of times! The Caesar salad was soggy and tasteless. And coffee – well if they could get some half and half it would be better. We were served non-dairy creamer in the dining room and also in the Windjammer. The only place which had real half and half was the Seattle’s Best Coffee in the Promenade. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t starve, but I think for the price we paid we expected to have a better quality of food. We all thought the best desserts we had were in the Wind Jammer rather than the dining room. Our servers, though, were excellent! We had main seating – 6:30 for Sun nite and at 6 for the rest of this week. Late seating was 9 for Sun and 8:30 for bal. of wk.

Entertainment: Entertainment on this ship was fabulous. On Sun, for the 4th they did a special tribute with the song “I’m proud to be an American” – a girl in white was doing aerials with a rope and the lighting was in red, white and blue. We had 2 comedians – Jason Chase and Rick Corso, both good. We had a Motown review show one night by a group called “Spectrum”. The crowd was on their feet – they were wonderful. Also featured was a singer/impressionist Judy Kolba – kind of like a Charro entertainer who sang& joked. As for the main shows: Velvet Rope – very good; “Cool Art, Hot Ice” – the ice show was outstanding and a really not miss show; “Can’t Stop the Rock”- high energy and lots of fun! There was also a team of 2 guys called the Krooze Komics who started most shows and were in the Promenade here and there during the week. They were great & reminded me of the guys at Sea World in FL who entertain you before the Clyde and Seymour show! Don’t miss Quest You form a team with 1 to 10 persons (over 40 teams participated on our cruise!) and do a scavenger type thing. That’s all I’m gonna say – I may have to burn the pictures and get rid of the evidence…

 

Ports of Call –

St. Thomas: Did Godfrey’s tour this time. For $20pp ($10 child), this is a deal. However, I’ve seen just as much of this island just getting to Magen’s Bay last time. We went to Coki beach. Had a great time snorkeling (we brought our own equipment). 2 chairs and 1 umbrella was $20 – kind of pricey. The beach is very small and crowded. At the snack bar drinks were pretty quick, but food takes forever. They also come by your chairs to take orders.

St. Martin: Shopped in the am – took the water taxi. It cost $5 and you get a bracelet so you can go on & off all day. In the afternoon we took a taxi to Orient Beach (about $6/person). We went to Bikini’s on Orient– a good central area where they also have a water trampoline and a kid’s playground area. We paid $4 per chair and $6 for an umbrella. DS rented a jet ski for $40.

Antigua: We took the Adventure Antigua Eco-Tour ($91pp for internet booking). We meet Eli Fuller on the dock and he took us out all day on his boat. It is everything good which is said about it and more. We hiked up to the top of Bird Island, snorkeled and caved! The lunch he provided (cooked by a neighbor) was also great. This was a very memorable day and I would definitely recommend this tour. My DS and his girl didn’t come and took a taxi to Dickenson Bay – this stretch also has a Sandals on it. The taxi was $10 each way ($5pp). On the beach there were water sports for rent. They really enjoyed their day on the beach.

St. Lucia: We took an all day excursion with Jungle Tours ($75pp). They are no longer letting the non-ship excursions to pick you up at the dock, so it was a little scary going out of the guarded gated area to find them. But once we got going, we were fine. This tour is pretty rough – the roads in St. Lucia are pretty hairy & mostly unpaved, so you do get banged around a lot. After driving about 2 hours, we were brought to see the volcanic sulphur springs. From there we went to a small park like area – after a short walk the path ended at a waterfall and manmade pool area. The waterfall was very warm, warmed by the volcanic activity. It was very nice – although my DB is allergic to sulphur meds, so he didn’t chance getting in. We went to a restaurant with a wonderful view of the Pitons – it was a buffet lunch. After lunch we could swim on the beach, but it wasn’t too inviting. It was a black sand beach with dogs lying all over it. So we said no thanks and went back to the ship. Shal (who lead the tour) is a very nice man, and I don’t want to discourage his business. That being said, I think tour should probably end at the waterfall and skip the lunch part. Consensus was that it was really too long, especially for such a grueling ride. Knowing that, you could probably arrange with them for a shorter tour. The island itself is very beautiful, but very poor.

Barbados: Took the ship’s excursion 4X4 Paradise Adventure and Beach Tour. This was very tame compared to the day before! The jeeps can accommodate up to 10 people. We had a tour of the island stopping occasionally for photos. This included a tour of Bathsheba & the rock formations which was really something to see. Across from the beach was a small restaurant in which we were served rum punch and other soft drinks, rum cake and chips. Then we went onto another beach for a swim. There were some rocks here and there in the water, but it was still great. This island was very beautiful and more developed than the others. Parts of it definitely looked like England. In the afternoon, some in our group went to the beach called “The Boatyard”. All sorts of water sports are there for rent – they did the banana boat and had a great time. There was a charge of $12pp to get in, but you get $8 back in coupons to use towards food or drinks.

Disembarkment: Instead of waiting at the airport (we had a 3:05 flight), we took the Old and New San Juan City Tour. We waited in the Imperial Lounge and when called got our bags and went through customs. I’d suggest using a porter because it seemed they waved the people with porters through faster. The tour took us to San Cristobal and then to Old San Juan to shop for about an hour. Here we picked up some sandwiches from Subway to eat at the airport. Glad we did – the lines for food at the airport were staggering! Going through security at the airport went very quickly – were in line for only 10 minutes max. Maybe it’s because we got there around 1pm.

All in all we had a great time. If I could change one thing about this trip, it would be to not to take all full day excursions. I’d limit it to 1 full day, and the other do half day things so you can rest a little and also enjoy the ship. It took me a week to recover! But I’m back only 1 week and already picked up a couple of new cruise brochures. It’s hopeless, I’m addicted!

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We will be on this ship with the same itinerary in August. We have been contmplating the Jungle Tour and now I am not sure about that one. The beach sounds pretty gross. Did anyone go in the water? How far out of the gate did you have to go to find this tour? It sounds like it was really long. Would you reccomend this tour after taking it?

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Boston -

You have to walk out through the shops then way to the right - there is a security gate. Through the gate is a little parking area. Shal was waiting on the other side of the gate. He didn't have a card with our name, I found him by asking.

As for recommending this trip? What I would recommend is 2 alternatives: 1. asking him to end the trip at the falls and negotiating a cheaper price or 2. asking him to take you to a nicer beach. A couple of St. Lucia beaches I've heard are nice are Reduit Beach or Pigeon Point. I don't know how close they are to where the falls or restaurant was or if this would be feasible.

To be fair, I didn't walk down the steps to the beach to see if the water was clean or not. But it wasn't too enticing - there were fishing boats pulled on shore as well as locals hanging out and dogs sleeping on the beach. It was a black sand beach.

The falls were nice but again, not what I expected. I thought we'd be going to a natural fall/pool. The fall was natural, but the pool at the bottom man-made. It wasn't the nature experience I was expecting. During our tour, we saw other jeep type vehicles parked along different roads- they were going to different falls. These would not be the warm water ones, but I expect more natural surroundings. Again, maybe some e-mailing back and forth could get you the trip that you expect. Good luck.

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Elaine: Ditto on your review. We were on the same cruise and it was intense. But thats what we wanted.

 

We went to Megans Bay in St. Thomas and enjoyed it.

 

In Antiqua we caught a cab and went to Runaway Beach (Lobster Shack). Nice place and for the longest time we had the beach to ourselves. There is a bar there and they serve food. Also, have chair rental.

 

In St Maarten we caught a cab and went to Dawn Beach. The weather wasn't good at first but it did clear up. Very Nice beach. They have a bar, food, chair 7 umbrella rental and snorkle gear. The Caribe beer was only 75 cents a bottle. What a deal.

 

In St. Lucia we did the Waterfall Island Bike Tour. The roads were good to a point then they got a little rough. The bus ride was about 45 minutes. The start of the bike ride was the scariest (steep incline ans switch backs). This was really a short distance and the rest was on dirt raods. The scenery was beautiful and we stopped at a waterfall that we swam in. Joe our guide was excellent.:D

 

In Barbados we caught a cab to Folkstone Marine Park. Not much beach here but great snorkling. They rent chairs and snorkle gear. There is a bar and food stand.

 

Overall our favorite stop was St. Lucia.:rolleyes:

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Thanks for the great review !!! I'm crusing AOS on the same route in August. What night is the Captains Ball Monday or Thursday? Do you know if reservations were hard to get for Portofino's?

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Captain's Ball was on Monday. Not sure on Portofino's - since we have the best Italian food here in RI, we didn't want to be disappointed!

 

BirdieHunter - What did you think about the dining room food? And did it take you a week to recover?????

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Teach2 - Just check my compasses and by the Captain's Ball do you mean the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception? That was on Monday between 7:30 and 8:30 to catch both seatings. It was in the atrium and they served free champagne. The captain introduced his staff and gave a nice speech. He is the youngest ship's captain in the fleet.

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Could you tell me how many midnight buffets were there? On which nights? And finally, was there a chocolate buffet? Thanks for any info.

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I was on the July 11th sailing. We had two midnight buffets, neither of which was a chocolate buffet.

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Elaineb

Thanks for the info on the Captain's reception. Did they serve lamb, cheese ravolli, and pork chops in the main dining room?

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PM Fan - There were 2 midnight buffets, one on Tuesday which was at the Pool Party. This had barbeque, taco making station...and all kinds of other things. I had a sliver of key west pie - eating late doesn't agreee with me, but I couldn't resist. The second midnight buffet we missed altogether. It was in the Vivaldi dining room and was called a Gala buffet. So I gather it wasn't a chocolate only buffet.

 

Teach2 - Yes, those were the entrees for the main dining room on Thursday or Friday - can't remember which day. I was surprised when I ordered the chicken marsala and it was breaded with a flavored bread crumb (not how it is served around here). Also the shrimp scampi was not in a garlic/olive oil sauce. The shrimp were served on a half shell and had a red sauce on them. I think they do that to give the Head Waiter a job - he has to come around and take the shrimp out of the shell for you.

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Elaine:

 

In all honesty the food was ok to good. I really thought I had better food on the Carnival cruises. I never got the caesar salad, but my wife did and it was soggy looking. I always had the salad of the day. It was small in my opinion and they had 3 dressing choices. I always did the house and it was good.

 

The breakfast & lunch buffetts were pretty good. I had to try the infamous ranch steak the day they had it on the buffet. I have to say it was tasteless and bad. The jerk chicken was realy good. I did the omlette station for breakfast and switched between omlettes and fried eggs. I found out the first morning they will do fried eggs to order. They have them cracked ahead of time 2 eggs to a cup.

 

We never ate at the late buffets because we had the late dinner seating and we didn't finish till 10:15 to 10:30.

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We were on 7-ll also, a group of 40. Had a great time, did you catch the passenger talent show, if so, my son Dooley did a song by Brian McKnight.

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Butchie - The talent show was the only show I missed! And I was never in the room long enough to catch it on the TV. Wish RCCL would make the Talent show on the last nite as on Carnival. It's a nice recap to the week. Did your son do karaoke? If so, I might have caught him there.

 

BirdyHunter - Can't believe you were brave enough to try the ranch steak......

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Which ship in the RCI line is this referring to? We're going on Grandeur of the Seas in September.

 

 

Also, what tv channels does the tv get?

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