Since we have sailed on both the Voyager and the Explorer of the Seas, we thought that sailing on their sister ship would just be deja` vu; however, the Adventure of the Seas is unique due to the exquisite decor and refinement of her interiors, all enhanced by beautiful holiday decorations. This was our 22nd cruise in the past five years and our 11th on RCI, so we are Diamond members of the Crown & Anchor Society.
The Adventure was built by the Kvaerner Masa Shipyards in Turku, Finland and had her inaugural voyage from San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 18, 2001. She looks just like her sisters, all white with aqua/green glass on her upper decks, a blue stripe above her yellow life boats and the same awesome size which could be seen from everywhere in San Juan. Her length is 1,020 ft. and beam is 157.5 ft.; gross tonnage is 142,000 tons with a draft of only 29 ft. She has 15 decks, a cruising speed of 22 knots and a crew of 1,185 with guest capacity of 3,114, and 26 of her cabins, in various categories, are wheelchair accessible. This is not just a ship, she is the largest resort afloat!
Captain Arnolf Remo (Norway) is a grand seasoned mariner, whose charm was evident at welcome aboard ceremonies, dinners and receptions. He comes from a long line of sea captains (father, grandfather and great grandfather). He graduated from the Naval Academy and Captain's School in his hometown of Alesund, Norway and he is an excellent representative of RCI who exudes competence. Most of this review will center on descriptions of this elegant new vessel; she certainly merits it.
Normally we sail out of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, but this itinerary and the attraction of a new ship moved us to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through RCI we had purchased transfers from the airport to the ship, but American Airlines made us claim our luggage and accompany it personally across the street to unmarked trucks, which delivered it to the ship. Needless to say, Mary was steamed by the time she had dragged the luggage and pushed the wheelchair so far. This was an unnecessary hassle, since after checking with other cruisers, we found out that only American Airlines required passengers to first claim their bags, all other lines allowed the luggage to be transferred directly to the ship.
We arrived at the port about 12:30 pm and found long lines, but as soon as Migdalia de Leon, RCI Terminal Manager, saw the wheelchair, she took us personally in hand, did our check-in and assigned a crew member to take us aboard. In less than ten minutes, we were onboard checking on our table assignment, all was in order and we were in our cabin by 1:00 pm.
The welcome aboard buffet was nicely displayed, fresh and crisp looking with plenty of variety and we enjoyed it, with the help of wait staff, who were attentive.
THE SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS
The center for many activities is a 394 ft. long Royal Promenade, located on Deck 5, between the front and aft Centrums. It is reminiscent of a quaint European town. This four deck high mall area hosts the Captain's Champagne Reception as well as carnival like parades with street jugglers, dancers, jesters, etc. Passengers may stroll, shop, or sit at the Duck & Dog Pub, or in the Sports Bar with a cold brew, while their children help themselves to ice cream, cookies, pizza or sandwiches at the Cafe` Promenade, where Seattle's Best coffee and tea are always available.
In the aft Centrum starboard are located the Guest Relations and Explorations Desks, while on the port side is the Champagne Bar (with two sculptures by the American artist Helaine Blumenfeld: "Cleopatra" and "Frieze"). This Centrum is dominated by a four deck tall art work entitled "The Dive" by Lawrence P. Kirkland (America): depicting a diver's view when looking up from the sea bottom; the blue and silver tubes represent a school of silvery fish once seen at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA. To us it looked like a water spout or tornado funnel. Very interesting, especially since it is a big improvement over the less inspiring art work in the Centrums of the Explorer of the Seas. Another attraction of the Royal Promenade is the 1939 Citroen Roadster (purple and beige with roll and tuck leather interior and rumble seat) restored by Bent Bowitz (Norway).
Deck 2 forward has the Entertainment Complex, Conference Center and La Marquis with screening room -- plus cabins.
Deck 3 forward has the Lyric Theatre, where live performances are held every evening, and the Entertainment Complex featuring Studio B, a two deck high skating rink and a Hi-Tech multipurpose TV Studio. Also here is the entrance to the Jester's Club (a disco for 18 and over) marvelously decorated with beautiful stained glass and gothic heraldic furnishings. On Deck 3 aft is found the Vivaldi Dining Room, the first floor of the three tier restaurant connected by a grand staircase and elegantly lit by the opulent central Crystal Chandelier (very impressive after the missing chandelier on the Explorer).
Deck 4 forward has the second level of the Lyric Theatre with its beautiful Peacock Curtain in blue and green with shimmering lights. Toward aft is the Schooner Bar with the characteristic odor of old ships' ropes, and four huge portholes overlooking the starboard side outdoor promenade; on the opposite side are four matching porthole shaped artistic compositions with nautical collages titled "Romance At Sea" by Janice Ebbing (Norway) utilizing ropes, textiles, sails and ceramic figures, very nice!
The upper deck entrance to Jester's is flanked by two cannons, miniaturized replicas of 19th century maritime artillery, "La Joelette" and the "Brillante," with two description plates erroneously switched, but very interesting anyway. There is also a model of the "Kalmar Nyckel," Capt. Peter Minuit's ship; Minuet is famous for purchasing Manhattan from the Indians for 60 Dutch guilders ($24.)
Farther along aft is the Casino Royale, which RCI claims is the largest afloat. This Las Vegas style Casino has a glitzy Hollywood Theme that enticed us into making our usual donation. Next is the Aquarium Bar with fishes swimming in and out of its walls of coral formations. However, the aquariums on this ship were not as well stocked with aquatic life as those on the Explorer. Still though watching them relaxes the pulse and brings down the blood pressure.
Aft on Deck 4 is the middle level of the restaurant, the Strauss Dining Room: Each level has 12 large, elegant round crystal lights and numerous other crystal lights on poles evoking an Austrian theme.
Deck 5 has the Royal Promenade and forward is the Imperial Lounge with a Chinese motif. Bronze like lions guard the entrance flanked by huge Chinese porcelain vases from Wah Tung China Ltd. Copies of paintings of "Chinese Warriors" and "Yunan Chinese Beauties" are on all four walls interspersed with huge floral panels. Most notable in this lounge entrance are two exact copies of the Terra Cotta Guards from the burial site of Chinese Emperor Qin, famous for the unification of China and initiating construction of the Great Wall (2nd century B.C.). In this archeological site have been found about 50,000 terra cotta warriors surrounding the Emperor's tomb.
To go to the elusive prow of the ship and the outdoor observation deck, take the starboard exit door either from this lounge or from the adjacent Connoisseur's Club (cigar smoking atmosphere and lots of leather seating).
On Deck 5 aft is the Mozart Dining Room, the top tier of the Restaurant. It is a truly glorious sight looking down from the laurel and ribbon festooned balconies. At the entrance of each dining room are two glass cases displaying 18th century costumes designed for "The Virtuosos" by Patrizia Zappaterra (Italy); these are masterpieces of needle work and quite stunning.
Deck 6 is mostly cabins. The Business Services area, adorned with several models of RCI ships, is between the aft stairways, facing the Centrum and the Royal Promenade.
Deck 7 is mostly cabins. Facing the aft Centrum and the Royal Promenade is the library (well stocked).
Deck 8 is mostly cabins and "RC On Line" with 19 internet stations (IBM). Vincent accessed his e-mail for only $5.00 -- not bad.
Deck 9 is almost all cabins and the Concierge Club, most capably managed by Marise Gagnon: She made many things simple for us.
Deck 10 has suites and Superior Staterooms. The views from the two Centrum Balconies are really nice from up here. Suspended in the aft Centrum is Austdahl's (Norway) "Free Sculpture of the Solar System" which is light and space evoking, but try as we may, we never saw the ninth planet. You must see this. Suspended in the forward Centrum is a sort of wooden helix or something, a modern sculpture, uninteresting to us.
Deck 11 has the Fitness Center & Spa, the Solarium Pool (sea water), Whirlpools and Bar. In the morning, between 8 am and 9 am this is deserted and wonderfully peaceful. The Venetian Theme in this area is carried out with 15 bronze murals "Scenes of Venetian Life" by Gianni Arico (Italy) and three larger than life bronze figures titled "Meeting at the Redotto," by Philip Jackson (America). The beauty of this area is enhanced by laurel and boxwood topiaries, while two giant Gondoliers survey it all from above. Next is the Portofino, an upscale restaurant, the Windjammer Cafe and the Island Grill.
Deck 12 has the Spa, Club Ocean, Video Arcade, Johnny Rockets (50's style diner), Adventure Beach and the Jogging track.
Deck 13 has Rock Climbing, a full size basketball court, Adventure Dunes Golf and in-line skating.
Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge which is divided into Crow's Nest, Blue Note Jazz Club and the 19th Hole Sports Bar. On the port side there are the Seven Hearts game room and the Cloud Nine Lounge.
Deck 15 has the Skylight Chapel which can accommodate 60 people and this is the highest point on the ship. There is a stained glass skylight and the Chapel can be accessed by the handicapped through a special motorized chair lift.
The Adventure of the Seas is truly a destination in itself considering all it has to offer in activities.
FOOD AND SERVICE
Hotel Director Martin Rissley oversees the service aboard, which is top notch. Martin is friendly and extremely competent. He took time to answer our questions and supplied us with many interesting bits of information. Chief Purser Michelle McGregor was efficient and very helpful. Gary Davies and Bob Tavadia are the nexus of the RCI Start-up Team for new ships coming on line and they are superb (more about Gary later). This ship runs like a well oiled machine considering she is so new. . . . smooth sailing!
Executive Chef is Helga Finnsdottir, unfortunately we did not speak to her personally, but her food spoke for her. We found the food good with flashes of excellent. The menu is eclectic with something to please everyone (Prime rib and salads were superb). Our waiters in the Mozart Dining Room were very efficient and friendly: Waiter Cengiz Coskus (Turkey), Asst. Waiter Cyrus Engineer (India). The Head Waiter Juan Gay-Frontal (Spain) was a kindly gentleman with whom we enjoyed conversing. by far, the best dessert was the Warm Chocolate Cake served with slices of pears on a lake of melted chocolate.
We dined at the Portofino ($20 per person). The service was first rate under Manager Alex Listuzzi. We felt the appetizers were good and the bread not so good (fresh breadsticks and crispy Italian or French bread would be better). The Risotto with prawns was excellent and the sole was wonderful (a huge fish served table side, light and succulent). However, RCI needs an Italian Chef if it wants to serve true Italian specialties. The Cacciucco Livornese tasted more like a cabbage soup than a fish stew. Especially at the Portofino, meals should be prepared with authentic Italian recipes, otherwise change the names on the menu. In addition, in such a small restaurant the pastas should be cooked to order, not parboiled without salt and held until served. These simple changes could result in a truly exceptional restaurant, as exceptional as their desserts, such as the Tiramisu` and Zabaione with wild berries. Our expectation for Italian food is quite high, since as Italians we have traveled throughout Italy from top to bottom and know the various regional cuisines; there is no surprise that we were disappointed again at the Portofino as we were a year ago on the Explorer.
We found Johnny Rockets to be a great trip down memory lane. The 50's atmosphere was created by red vinyl booths and stainless steel everywhere: juke box music, peppy service and line dancing by the servers ("YMCA" and "Staying Alive") added a fun atmosphere. They serve the best hamburgers on board (try the St. Louis with bacon, swiss cheese, sauteed onions and pickles, or a mega caloric "Shake of the Day" like the "Elvis" made with peanut butter, bananas, vanilla ice cream, soda and a cup of whipped cream on top, "Don't Be Cruel!"). The Asst. Manager Stefania Murariu (Romania) keeps the staff hopping and our waiter Pablo Antunez (Spain via Uruguay) made our three visits there fun. Thanks!
We found Room Service excellent. We ordered a full breakfast every morning with omelets, bacon, hash browns, rolls, juice and coffee. It was always on time and hot. There is good food all over this ship and ice cream machines on the Royal Promenade and at the Windjammer.
Our most memorable meal was at Captain Remo's table with his lovely wife Tove and their son Fredrik and friends; the company was great and the food delizioso.
We had booked Cabin #7600 wheelchair access with balcony and it was spacious and airy, but we were only in it for an hour or so when Chief Purser Gary Davies called to welcome us aboard. He gave us an upgrade to an owner's suite, "The Himalayan," on Deck 10 (these suites are all named after famous mountains). This was the first upgrade we ever had in 22 cruises; thanks to Gary we spent a fabulous week.
This suite has a separate bedroom with a king size bed, five mirrored armoires and a vanity/desk. The full living room has a gold sectional sofa, two chairs and oversized coffee table, a dining area with a glass table and a full bar with refrigerator, not to mention the 48" flat screen swivel TV; the balcony has a mosaic table, two chairs and chaise lounge. The bathroom had green granite counters (as did the rest of the suite), two sinks, Jacuzzi tub, separate shower, bidet and mosaics on the wall and floor. The color scheme is maroon, beige and gold with oak wood all around. If this is how the other half lives, then there is no problem in acclimating.
Our cabin stewardess was Amelia and she was stupendous. Needless to say this became one of our best cruises.
Cruise Director Ken Rush was a welcome sight, we had cruised with him before and enjoy his friendliness and natural warmth. The Director sets the tone for the passengers and he made us want to experience every show aboard.
We felt the highlight of the cruise was Studio B's "Cool Art, Hot Ice" show. The international skating cast was "Olympic Class" and Emmanuelle Balmori (Canada) did breathtaking aerial routines to standing ovations.
The shows in the Lyric Theatre were entertaining and we especially enjoyed Tressa Thomas; she has a beautiful voice and wowed the audience. If you get a chance, sit in the Duck and Dog Pub and listen to Pete Wickersham (guitar and vocal). You'll enjoy him. There are plenty of activities aboard from Bingo to Art Auctions and many different levels of entertainment for the young: Aquanauts Ages 3 to 5; Explorers ages 6 to 8; Voyagers ages 9 to 11; Navigators ages 12 to 14 and Guests ages 15 to 17 (movies, talent shows, special dinners, tournaments, dances, relay races, etc.)
ACTIVITIES AND PORTS
Depart San Juan, Puerto Rico Sunday 10:30 pm.
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA, Tuesday arrive 8 am, depart 6 pm.
We took the Town and Country Tour ($32) which is a bus drive through the capital with stops at the Casibari Rock Formations, The Natural Bridge etc., very nice. Also available are Snorkeling Tours ($37), Atlantis Submarine ($79) and Sea and Island ($48).
WILLIAMSTAD, CURACAO, Wednesday arrive 8 am, depart 6 pm.
There is a Williamstad Trolley Tour ($28) which is a nice way to see this new, for us, port. There is also a Discover Curacao Hato Caves ($36) with stalagmites, etc. and a Canoe Safari ($60).
PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN, Friday arrive 8 am, depart 6 pm.
There is an Island Tour ($21) an America's Cup Regatta ($78) , a Snorkel Tour ($35) and other physical activities like biking.
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, ST. THOMAS, USVI, Saturday arrive 8 am, depart 6 pm.
We have been here so many times that we do it on our own; however, there are good tours like the Sail and Snorkel ($46) and the Kon Tiki Party Raft ($34) Don't forget Mr. Tablecloth, Mary's favorite store with great bargains.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, Sunday arrive 8 am.
We took the Old and New San Juan Tour ($23) We started from the port and our luggage was brought with us and we were left off at the airport at noon. We had a nice guide, Alex, who was informative. We spent time at Fort San Cristobal (by wheelchair). There is a steep entrance going up to the fort, but it was all down hill from there. Interesting. We had booked the El Yunque Rain Forest Tour ($28) but had to cancel it due to a change in the airline schedule. . . next time!
Although we had a great cruise on this beautiful vessel, we can think of a few suggestions to further improve it, aiming for perfection.
A strong chlorine odor is present in the water and ice cubes in the dining rooms and cabins. It is recommended that purifying filters be used at the serving stations for drinking water and ice makers. There are very effective and inexpensive filtering systems which can be utilized by RCI.
If RCI wants to maintain the Portofino as an Italian style restaurant on some of its ships, it should redesign the recipes on the menu to better reflect true Italian taste. Now that RCI may merge with Princess, it will be possible to share information between the two lines, and RCI may learn from Princess something good about Italian cuisine. Princess has some great Italian chefs. We know Executive Chef Antonio Cereda, who does marvels with Italian dishes and bread. We had the fortune of meeting him on the Grand Princess and the Golden Princess and we loved his pasta sauces.
RCI should try to arrange with American Airlines a better direct transfer of luggage from San Juan Airport to the ship without involving passengers. At the airport the RCI staff gave us contradicting information regarding the retrieval of the luggage and inadequate wheelchair assistance. There is a definite need for improvement in airport transfer assistance.
Overall, this was a great cruise on a new ship. We enjoy sailing with RCI and seeing old friends while making new ones! In fact we enjoy new ships so much that we are sailing on Carnival Pride's inaugural cruise, December 30, 2001. Look for our next review early in 2002. Happy Holidays!