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AOS 7/19-7/26 - 1st time Cruiser Review with pics!


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My husband, two children (10 y/o girl - she turned 10 in St. Lucia, 13 y/o boy) and I just completed our first ever cruise on the Adventure of the Seas Southern Caribbean itinerary. As I did most of my research here on Cruise Critic, I would really like to give back what I can.

 

As first time cruisers we had lots of questions, some pre-formed ideas of what cruising would be and tons of excitement for our upcoming trip. We researched different cruise lines and with the recommendations of friends, our TA and CC we chose Royal Caribbean. Next came deciding on an itinerary. For me, one of my pre-formed ideas was that I was not going to want too many sea days. I had also read many of the reviews on the Southern Caribbean and these islands held the most allure for us. So we chose the AOS out of San Juan visiting Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Croix. Next came deciding on a cabin. With the two kids getting older we felt that we could use a bit more room. The idea of the larger cabin in combination with the Suite Perks led us to book a Grand Suite. We looked into booking two cabins, but the kids still want to stay with us so we took advantage of us all being together! We found great airfare on Continental that had a package including our two nights pre-cruise in San Juan at the Intercontinental. Now we just had to pack.

 

The Thursday before the cruise was my and my son’s birthday and we were heavy into making our lists and checking them twice when the phone rang. It was someone calling from AAA Travel telling us that there had been a change in our cabin. I immediately thought that there was some sort of problem and got ready to fight for what I had booked. Her voice shook ever so slightly as she told me that our cabin had been changed. I straightened my back even more and got ready to see what I would have to work out. She said that Royal Caribbean had called that morning and had upgraded our cabin to THE Royal Suite! My mind didn’t wrap around what she said right away and I was somewhat speechless. She then started to assure me that it was indeed a very nice suite and that she was sure I would be happy. I told her that I did know what the Royal Suite was and then asked if she was kidding. She assured me she was not! About this time my hands started shaking and my husband stared at me with a little more interest, now also concerned that something was wrong. I asked the TA to repeat what she had told me to my husband and then tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. My kids got really worried! I grabbed the Royal Caribbean brochure and pointed to the Royal Suite and said Royal Caribbean had assigned us a different cabin. I watched their excitement grow as they also began to understand what was going on. My daughter started jumping up and down while my son just stared at the page in awe. Yep... it was real. We have no idea why Royal Caribbean picked us, but we had the cruise of a lifetime!! So here we go!

Friday, July 17th - San Diego, California to San Juan Puerto Rico

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We had an early flight from San Diego, stopping in Houston and finally reaching San Juan ( I kept hoping the phone would ring again and maybe it would be Continental calling to upgrade us to 1st Class, but no such luck!). The day was long, but manageable. Everything went smoothly with all flights on time and all luggage arriving intact. Continental even provided an inflight “meal”. This is the part where I should explain that I’m fairly particular about my food. I’m a self professed “foodie” and fairly hard to please. As a point of reference, my favorite restaurants are Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in the Bahamas, Delmonico in Las Vegas and two local San Diego restaurant, Karl Strauss and Rubios (excellent fish tacos!). So needless to say, I was not too pleased with the droopy, croissant wrapped “turkey sausage” in a plastic bag that was dropped on my tray. I did however, enjoy the Pepperidge Farm cookies that came with it!

 

Intercontinental:

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We really liked this hotel. Again, I booked this based on recommendations from Cruise Critic reviews and they were spot on. While the room was a bit small (two double beds - the upgrade gods did not favor us here either!), the grounds were beautiful and the beach was really good. We had no trouble checking in. The man at the desk was exceedingly friendly and helpful and we had no wait. I had researched restaurants and had settled on Platos and he said that it was actually one of his favorite places to eat. So dinner for Saturday was settled. He also recommended Barrachina in Old San Juan, which has been highly recommended on CC as well. The next day we had the opportunity to walk past Barrachina and I popped in to read the menu. It looked like a really good place, so if that is on your list I would recommend it as well.

 

The Intercontinental room was clean and fairly comfortable. I don’t do well in hotels, and with my husband and I in a double bed (he’s 6’ 2”!) it was a bit tight. So my sleep here was not ideal. Good enough though... and everyone else slept fine.

 

The next morning we got up and headed across the street to Mi Casita. It was easy to find and the reviews again were spot on. The employees were all friendly and we had a good breakfast. My husband had eggs and pancakes, son had eggs and sausage, daughter had french toast and I had an egg white veggie omelet. All were good. The price couldn’t be beat, $4 to $6 per meal! We also had juice and coffee. Interesting that they had hand sanitizer that they brought around for us to use before we ate. They also sprayed down the tables when cleaning them. Nice to see things clean.

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Next up, Old San Juan!

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Next we headed to Old San Juan for the day. We took a taxi for about $20 from the hotel. We got off at the Information Center. They were somewhat helpful and not the most friendly. I almost felt like I was interrupting them when I asked questions. They did provide a map and some basic info. We hopped on the free trolley around the city to El Morro. We took Line 1, the open air trolley that takes you around the edge of the city rather than through the middle (shopping area). We saw the Capitol Buildings and drove past the Castillo San Cristóbal ending up at El Morro. The views were beautiful!

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Entrance to the Fort is usually $3, but a program called Free National Park Weekends was in effect and we didn’t have to pay to get in. The Fort was amazing, it’s interesting to imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago teeming with people protecting their city. I found this site extremely helpful in planning our OSJ walk.

http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/old-san-juan-basic-info/

 

After El Morro we wandered around the town a bit, but the kids were getting hot and tired. There are street vendors selling water, icies and drinks. Not bad prices either! I think we got a gatorade for my son for about a dollar, water also was about a dollar. After a stop at the San Juan Cathedral we popped into a spice shop I had found online called Spicy Caribbee. They are a small shop on Calle Del Cristo, near the Cathedral. I picked up some vanilla beans and some jerk seasoning. Nice store, lots of spices, rubs and sauces... and air conditioning! The owner of the store was there and we enjoyed chatting with her and she was happy to provide some restaurant recommendations as well. Barrachina was recommended again along with some smaller, local fare. We weren’t really hungry at the time, so we didn’t get to try them out, but she was a good source for info if you are in the area.

 

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Next we headed back to the hotel. We found a cab on the corner and had a wonderful little man drive us back. Turns out he was 75 years old! He didn’t speak much english, but with our broken spanish and his little bit of english we had a really enjoyable trip back to the Intercontinental.

 

Back at the hotel we spent some time at the pool and beach and ate at the Splash Bar & Grill poolside restaurant. I had read a recommendation for the Quesadillas and have to agree that they were good! My husband had the Lamb Pita which he enjoyed and the kids had pizza. Prices were not outrageous. $8-$16 or so for meals. Nice to sit beachside and eat! We enjoyed the beach and pool for the afternoon and then headed up to get ready for dinner.

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Dinner was at Platos, just a few minutes walk from the hotel. I had read a few reviews on the San Juan board that were very favorable and I concur! My husband and daughter shared a huge serving of Skirt Steak with steamed vegetables, my son had chicken with beans and rice and I had a Passion Fruit Glazed Mahi Mahi served with Mofongo that was very good. I also had a Tropical Sangria that was a bit coconutty, different than any Sangria I’ve ever had, but really good! The meals were priced around $20 each, but worth it.

 

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Next we are off to the ship!!!

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~jumping up and down~ -we're on the AOS, same itinerary on 10/11. And I have a 10yr old DD and a 11 (turning 12) year old DS. This is the PERFECT review for us! We are staying two nights in San Juan too and I can't wait to try your restaurants.

 

keep it coming!

 

(and on our 2nd RCCL cruise we were upgraded from a GS to an OS and it was HEAVEN!)

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Sunday, July 19, 2009. San Juan to the Adventure of the Seas

 

Sunday morning we woke up early and really, really, really excited!!! We had decided to skip breakfast and to make our way to the ship early so that we could maximize our day. After packing up (amazing how much “stuff” we unpacked in just a day), I glanced at the clock and saw 10AM. It seemed a bit early, but we were bursting with excitement to get going. We read that the ship may start boarding as early as 11 AM, so my husband and I decided to head downstairs around 10:15. This was a lucky move as checkout took about 1/2 an hour. Some people just getting off of the ships in port were checking in, others leaving were checking out so the lobby was a zoo. We grabbed a cab ($19) and headed to the ship.

 

I think all of our hearts skipped a beat when we rounded the corner and saw the Adventure! Both kids (and adults!) had wide eyes. She is impressive!

 

While we had thought we were early, there was already quite a line of people waiting to board. Dropping off the luggage was quick and easy, then we were directed to a much longer line that did not seem to be moving. We made our way to the back and waited, and waited, and then waited a bit more. The doors for check in did not open until about 11:45. Lots of passport checking along with the throng of people entering the check in area made the line move fairly slowly to start. We were directed to the “suite line”, but this perk didn’t really seem to make any difference. As our cabin # had changed they couldn’t find our Sea Pass Cards and we were in line much longer than any of the people around us. I think all of us were thinking that at any minute someone would come up and say “Oh, I’m so sorry... there has been a mistake...”. But they finally handed over the little golden gems and we were on our way! The line to get on the ship was another half hour or so and had even more passport checking. (So much for being in the Windjammer within 20 minutes as I had read others had done!).

Line waiting to get to check in area

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And then we were on the ship! We headed to the Windjammer as my husband by this time was deep in his “hungry mode” (basically all patience eliminated. Note to self... have breakfast before boarding the ship just in case there are delays!). Once again, we joined more long lines, but were fortunate to find a table right at the window. I was excited to try the Honey Stung Chicken as I had read so much about it. I must again preface this with my food preferences... basically I don’t do buffets, so one of my pre-formed thoughts before cruising was that the buffet would not be my favorite place. I found this to be one of my pre-formed thoughts that proved true. The chicken really was just OK... a battered, dry piece of chicken. I didn’t find much there (other than the Coconut Cookies which were awesome!) to my taste that day. Good enough though and not a big deal. The kids were thrilled. They both had the chicken, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, fries, and fruit polished off by a more than a few trips to the dessert bar.

 

After attempting to drop our bags (really to get a peek at the cabin!) we were told that no one would be able to enter cabins until 2 PM. I have to say that everyone we met on the ship was extraordinarily nice. Victor, the Windjammer greeter was a joy and the servers/clearers were all friendly. I told Victor that I had read about him on Cruise Critic and that people had mentioned that he always brightened their day. His engaging smile grew even larger and he said no one had ever told him that before.

Pool area

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Happy bar tender by the pool!

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Dining Room

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Sport Court

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Deck chairs waiting for guests

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We confirmed our My Time Dining reservation, checked out the dining room, the pool areas, sport court, the Promenade and then realized it was getting close to 2. My daughter peeked around the corner on deck 10 about 2:04 and exclaimed that the doors were open!!! We easily found the Royal Suite and held our breath to see if the Sea Pass Cards would really work... Low and behold, the door opened!!!

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WOW! The cabin is absolutely remarkable and HUGE! It takes up the entire hump on the port side of deck 10 (Another of my pre-cruise thoughts was "What's the big deal about the hump?" I loved the hump!). My husband entered first and as he held the door for me I walked into the entry to find a baby grand player piano. As I peered to the right I was greeted with a bottle of champagne chilling next to a fruit plate and the shiny (no fingerprints like home!) glass dining table that held a lovely bouquet of a dozen red roses. Adjacent to the dining area was large living room complete with an “L” shaped sectional sofa, 2 chairs, panoramic windows, and much to my sons delight a large flat screen tv that magically lowered into a cabinet when not in use.

 

Piano

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Champagne and Goodies

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Dining table with wet bar to the right

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Flat screen tv and an excited little girl!

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Wow! Wow! Wow!!! This was even better than many land hotels we have stayed at. And it was on a ship! And it was ours for a week!!! Woo Hoo!

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In the master bedroom we found a round, king size (yeah!) bed, a walk in closet walled with drawers, a vanity and another (not flat screen) tv that also disappeared into a cabinet when not in use. The bathroom had double sinks, a full jacuzzi bathtub and a shower that could fit the whole family! It had 3 shower heads and doubled as a steam room. The toilet area was was complete with a sink, bidet and toilet and could be accessed by either the living room or the master bedroom.

Round king size bed

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Double bathroom sinks

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Shower with 3 shower heads - doubles as a steam room!

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Jacuzzi bathtub

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At this point my daughter shrieked from the balcony and begged us to come out. She was sitting in the “hot tub”! (The hot tub is really more of an outdoor gigantic bathtub. When using it you fill it with water, then drain it when you are done.). She had the biggest grin on her face and jumped in and out to show us how fun it was, all while asking when we could fill it with water. The balcony has 4 chairs (two with foot rests) and 2 tiled tables.

 

Hot tub on balcony

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Chairs and tables on hump balcony

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We are doing this itinerary in a few weeks, and I've been on the AOS 3 times already. I know I have cruise fever bad because my breath caught when I saw the picture of the line at the cruise terminal! I thought, "I know that place!"

 

The pictures of the Royal Suite were slow opening for me, which added that extra hold-your-breath sense of excitement you must have been feeling when you opened the door. That stateroom is beyond incredible. I'm so glad you were upgraded!

 

Cannot WAIT to read the rest of the review and check out your pictures. I am making notes of some of your recommendations (the spice store is PERFECT for shopping for my friend who is sitting my cats!)

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I'm glad you had a great trip!

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WOW great review so far. If I had that suite, I don't think I would come out of it for the entire cruise...LOL.

 

We are going on the AOS at the end of August but not the route you took (darn).

 

Anyone know if going to check in around 1pm or after would avoid the long lines????

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On to the Muster Drill! Yes, we did have to bring, and wear our life jackets to Deck 4. The drill was at 6 PM and it was pouring rain. The drill went smoothly, and we had fun chatting with people around us. It was fairly quick and easy, and because of the rain it was not hot at all.

 

Heading out to the Muster Drill

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Muster Drill on deck 4

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Our dinner reservations had been set for 7 PM and we had absolutely no wait. After reading so many reviews about the food in the dining room I was concerned that I would not really like it. However, I was very much looking forward to not cooking, serving or clearing! This evening I was thrilled with my selection of the Veggie Quesadilla followed by a Strawberry Pavlova. My daughter inhaled her Prime Rib that was cooked to perfection. I think this was the night that they had the Vidalia Onion Tart which lived up to all of its wonderful reviews.

 

Strawberry Pavlova - loved this one!

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The next day was a sea day and as we were all still a bit tired from traveling we were happy to have a bit of an easy, not planned-out day. We took in the rest of the ship, attended our Meet & Mingle (Go to your M&M, it was really enjoyable!), laughed at the belly flop contest and then laughed even harder at the Sexy Legs Contest, ate at Johnny Rockets (decent burgers, although I’m far happier at my local In-N-Out... and geez, $50 for 4 meals with shakes is a tad high!) and my husband and I enjoyed a couples massage. Neither of us had ever had a massage before, and I can say that I could easily feel like I “need” one weekly after the wonderful job the girls did! I was surprised at how busy the spa was... If you are interested in using any of the services I would highly recommend making reservations before you arrive on the ship.

 

Bellyflop contest. This guys did not win!

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Sexy Legs Contest... the wrap-up!

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The ship was very rocky this day. The pool was sloshing over the sides at times and the bellyflop platform was a bit unstable. The Cruise Director was standing on top of the platform after the contest and the next thing I knew he was swimming in the pool... not sure if he was pushed or fell, but everyone was laughing!

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Thanks for your review so far, I have been on many RCCL and yet to score one upgrade, that is nice.

 

I suppose it would be wrong of us to hate her :D Thanks for the review, we are considering this cruise for 11.

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This evening was Formal Night and even the kids enjoyed putting on their finest. My husband and I stopped in at the Concierge Lounge for a pre-dinner drink and really enjoyed meeting the Concierge, Dede (she is a blast!) and getting to know other cruise guests. We ended up meeting the same people almost each evening and really looked forward to our evening CL time throughout the trip!

 

My daughter and Dede

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Girls ready for dinner

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Once again, we had no wait when we arrived at the dining room and we were seated at a window seat. At first I was excited about the window, but quickly realized that it was dark outside, so being by a window really didn’t matter. Nothing to see that evening, although other evenings we did see the occasional passing ship in the distance. We all enjoyed the Filet of Beef served with creamy whipped potatoes and crimini mushrooms with green peppercorn sauce, shrimp cocktail appetizers and Grand Marnier Souffles for the adults and Sherbet for the kids. Again, a really, really good meal! (Sorry, I didn’t photo that one.)

 

As we exited the dining room we were met with a throng of fabulously dressed people who were lined up to have their photos taken. We had planned to have ours taken, but the line was so long that we just went with photos from our camera taken by one of the ladies we met from our Roll Call. I've heard that the line for these photos is less on the 2nd Formal Night.

 

We took in the show that evening at 9 PM which was Mosaic. They are an a cappella group from Las Vegas who use no instruments. We thoroughly enjoyed this show! The percussionist who used only his voice was phenomenal!

 

We came home to this towel animal holding our fruit plate!

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DrmnOfMaui...WOW :D what a great review with the wonderful pictorial!! We are going on the same itinerary in a few weeks and you just got me even more excited than I was! :D Awaiting the rest...please type faster! ;) I am happy for you with the fantastic upgrade for a first timer...hopefully you will not be spoiled now.

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Barbados

 

My husband and I woke up early Tuesday morning eager to experience Barbados and the ship’s arrival into port. Room service for breakfast had been ordered the evening before and arrived promptly and with the food hot. I have to say that sitting 100 feet off the water, enjoying a private breakfast on our balcony while sipping our morning coffee and listening to a lovely steel drum band playing below on the pier was a real treat. The vantage point offers spectacular views and this quickly became our preferred morning ritual.

 

For our excursion this day I had booked a small catamaran snorkel trip with Shasa. We knew that we wanted to see the turtles and snorkel, and the fact that this excursion offered what was reviewed as a good lunch was really appealing. After seeing one of the Cruise shows on the Travel Channel with the cruise ship excursion and 50+ people all swimming around to see the turtles we definitely wanted to go smaller. Shasa is run by a husband and wife team, Jason and Tess. They responded to emails promptly and we easily found Tess and the arranged transportation after leaving the ship. She had a taxi van set up to take us about 20 minutes to the boat and the driver chatted the entire way giving us information about the island.

 

Jason met us at the boat and we were quickly underway. I had read that some tours use the motor all the way to their destination, but we enjoyed actually sailing with the wind on Shasa. We had 11 passengers on the tour and were not crowded on the boat. Jason will provide snorkel equipment if you need it, but we had brought our own. We first snorkeled over a shipwreck and saw lots of fish, though the water was not quite as clear as I had expected. Our group was not competing with other groups over the shipwreck and Jason swam with us keeping an eye out for the kids in our group and keeping us together. He also brought food and we swam through huge schools of big blue fish darting everywhere.

 

Shasa Catamaran

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Full sail!

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After the shipwreck we all got back on the boat and moved to the turtle area. This area was a bit more crowded due to other tours. Jason had brought food for the turtles and they seemed to be expecting him! We saw 5 or 6 well fed, docile turtles.

 

Another tour just entering the water as we were on our way out

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Honu! ("Turtle" in Hawaiian)

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The lunch was unexpectedly good and we all truly enjoyed the chicken, Greek Salad, pasta and steamed flying fish topped off by excellent carrot cake. He had rum punch, soft drinks, beer, wine and water. It was a good day.:)

 

A happy swimmer

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DrmnOfMaui...WOW :D what a great review with the wonderful pictorial!! We are going on the same itinerary in a few weeks and you just got me even more excited than I was! :D Awaiting the rest...please type faster! ;) I am happy for you with the fantastic upgrade for a first timer...hopefully you will not be spoiled now.

 

 

I think we are ultimately spoiled!!!:D It was an absolutely wonderful week. I had read a few reviews like this before we left as well and I know our excitement was hard to contain. You will have a fantastic trip!

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