This was the 7th cruise RCI for my wife and I. This cruise was scheduled for 7-nights in the Southern Caribbean embarking from San Juan Puerto Rico, with stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
Pre-Cruise We arrived in San Juan on Friday. Our flight from Chicago was on time and we arrived in the afternoon. We booked 2 nights at the San Juan Intercontinental Resort and Casino. We had a great room; the hotel is situated right on the beach and has one of the most beautiful pool areas I have ever seen. The staff and service were great, comfy bed and a very clean room. The only downfall of the Intercontinental is the food prices at the restaurants; the cheapest beach grill item was a $12 hotdog! However, there were many dining alternatives right across the street, including a steak house, 2 delis, a bakery, and a Puerto Rican diner. On Saturday, we toured Old San Juan and saw the El Morrow fort and the old city wall. Also we visited the burial site of Ponce de Leon. Sunday we slept in and left for the ship around noon.
Embarkation This was easiest embarkation we ever had! From the time we walked out of the hotel room, checked out, got a taxi and drove to the port, checked in our baggage, went through security, entered the check-in line for Platinum members, checked in and was walking on the ship was a total time of……35 minutes! We did the online check-in and once again made our check-in time with the clerk only about 2 minutes. Just FYI, the Adventure of the Seas docks at the newer Pan American Pier for embarkation and debarkation, not the cruise docks in Old San Juan. A lot of reviews will tell you to stay at the Sheraton Old San Juan and the ship will dock right across the street, this is no longer the case.
The Ship We were blown away by the size and beauty of this ship! This is our 2nd cruise on a Voyager class ship, but for some reason, this ship seemed so much larger and more elegant. The Royal Promenade and the other public areas almost seemed to sparkle. The ship has 2 pools on deck 11, the main pool and an adult solarium. The sports deck has a basketball court, climbing wall, mini-golf course, roller blade track and a golf simulator. Being a Voyager class ship, the Adventure has an ice rink. The Viking Crown lounge is split into a couple of different areas, including a 19th hole lounge and the Blue Moon lounge. The children's area in the back of deck 12 has a small water slide and nice play area. I really couldn't find any flaws with the public areas, the crew was constantly cleaning and polishing and we had a full ship with never had a crowd anywhere.
The Cabin We booked an E2 balcony cabin, but received an upgrade to a D1 balcony about a week before we left. Our cabin was on deck 6, starboard side and forward. We felt the gentle rolling of the seas and slept great on this cruise. The balcony was more than adequate and we really enjoyed the view. No different than any other D1 balcony, decent room to move around, a nice couch area, no flat screen TVs yet, and the standard RCI stand-up shower and bathroom.
The Staff Of course the highlight of any RCI cruise is the service. Every crewmember had a smile and a greeting for me morning, noon and night. Our stateroom attendant did spectacular, kept the cabin spotless and handled our simple request with ease. One change is RCI will only fill the ice bucket in the evening now, no longer in the morning unless the guest requests it. Our dining room staff was the true stars of our cruise experience. Our entire wait staff performed superbly. They were so nice, we enjoyed talking to them every night. Everywhere we went the service from the RCI crew was great.
Ports of Call After a day at sea to start, our 1st stop was Barbados. We bought an excursion taking a catamaran ride and swimming with sea turtles. This was really fun, and our tour guides did a great job as well. Our 2nd stop was St. Lucia, we had some morning rain showers here and not the best weather. We had a complimentary day pass to the Sandals Regency Resort for the day, and spent the entire day in the Sandals pool. Our 3rd stop was Antigua, we also had a complimentary day pass to the Sandals Grande Resort and with much better weather, we spent this day tanning and swimming in the resort pool. Our 4th stop was St. Maarten. We booked an island tour that showed us both the Dutch side and the French side of the island. The tour took about 3 hours and we saw both the good and the bad of both sides. We had a particularly good tour guide on this tour; we spent some time in Marigot, the French side capitol and did some shopping. Out last stop was St. Thomas, USVI. Here we took a ferry tour over to St. John and did some snorkeling at Trunk Bay and took the underwater snorkeling trail. My only complaint was our tour guide who tried to be both a comedian (he wasn't funny) and a political persuader to the visiting US tourist for his favorite Presidential candidate. I, and many around me, didn't care for this and we reflected this in his tip. We don't go on vacation to get a live political commercial; we get enough of that at home. The island of St. John is a must see, 2/3 of the island is a national forest reserve, and Trunk Bay is a national underwater marine reserve. This was the most beautiful Caribbean island I have ever seen!
Dining I was pleasantly surprised at the increased quality of food on this RCI ship. We had noticed a downward trend in our previous cruises, but I noticed they made an effort to make better food in the Windjammer and kept rotating the food so it didn't sit under the warmers for long. The lack of variety is still in the Windjammer, but the quality is better. The dining room showed markedly increased quality. The menus are now hard backed, no more flimsy cardboard menus. We had many different entrees to choose from, and we could order as much as we wanted, including the lobster. The real highlight of the cruise was the Portifinos dining experience on our last night onboard. We have never had a better dining experience, and since this was our 5th wedding anniversary, the staff made our experience very special and something to remember forever. Also, let me say we once again lucked out and had great dining tablemates this cruise. We ate with a couple from the Atlanta area that was retired high school educators. What a pleasant and interesting couple to share a table with every night. Between our tablemates, the better quality food and the wait staff, this was our best dining cruise yet!
Entertainment Our entertainment was really a mixed bag on this cruise. We had 2 outstanding entertainment experiences, 1st was the ice show we saw on Tuesday evening. It is called "Hot Art, Cool Ice". It was an art expression themed show, it was spectacular and well worth going to see. The 2nd great entertainment we had was the BeatleMania Live show. The actual BeatleMania Live band from Las Vegas was doing a short tour of RCI ships and performed a shortened BeatleMania show for the ship. A really great concert that had us literally dancing in the aisles! The comedians weren't really funny, the same old cruise jokes about the sucking toilets, small showers and tiny cabins, and we have heard these same jokes on every cruise. We did enjoy the El Goucho from Uruguay, and the juggler. The Cruise Director, Mike, was really funny and did some great magic tricks and was very entertaining throughout the cruise. The cruise had the same Quest and Love & Marriage shows. They did do a new show called the "Cruise Family Feud", which is modeled after the TV game show and was unique and very funny.
Disembarkation We used the luggage valet for out debarking. We paid the $20 each, got our boarding passes for the return flight along with our airline luggage tags on Saturday night. We placed both the cruise line and airline luggage tags on our bags, and placed them outside the cabin by midnight. We were out of the room by 8am on Sunday, had breakfast and relaxed in the Platinum & Diamond special departure lounge until our group was called. We were off the ship in about 10 minutes, claimed our bags and walked them a few feet to the airline representative in the pier and didn't see them again until we claimed the bags at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. After getting off the ship, we stood in line for a taxi to the airport, and suddenly realized this was the 1st line we had stood in all week!
Overall Report I would definitely give this cruise a 9.5 out of a 10. We just had an awesome time, met some great new friends, visited beautiful islands, cruised on a wonderful ship and had the best anniversary we could've asked for. This cruise was VERY port intensive, and full of activity. When we got home, we slept for at least 12 hours straight! I highly recommend this cruise to adventure seekers, history buffs, active people and eco/nature buffs as well. The good weather, great service, beautiful ship and spectacular Caribbean islands made this our best anniversary cruise yet! One we will always remember.