CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Adventure of the Seas by Steven Pattee Southern Caribbean June 16, 2002

We arrived in San Juan via American Airlines non-stop from Chicago at 15:45 for our 23:00 cruise. We saw several RCI reps at the gate and baggage area. Our TA said RCI transfers were more expensive than a cab, and that you would wait until they got a full load of people. He suggested taking a taxi. We went to the ground transportation desk by the baggage claim area to get a taxi ticket. Do this first, as your luggage may take a while to appear, as did ours. They gave us a ticket indicating the fare was US$16. Then, outside the terminal doors, there's a short wait in line at the ground transportation desk while the attendant gets your cab. She took the ticket, and gave it to the cab driver. The ride is about 20 minutes and slightly scary even for Chicago traffic veterans. When we arrived at the terminal, the cab driver said the fare was $20, so rather than argue I gave him $20 and no tip. That's what I would have paid him anyway.

Embarkation was smooth and well orchestrated, especially compared to our previous experience with RCI in San Diego where we waited in line for over 2 hours and thirty minutes. In San Juan we were on the ship in about 30-45 minutes. I was able to smile for the embarkation photo instead of scowling as I did in San Diego.

We had a category D9 balcony superior cabin and found it to be simply wonderful. We will not sail again without a balcony. The balcony was large enough for two chairs and a table, with room to move about. We take our time in the morning getting ready, and the pleasure of sitting outside having coffee and a smoke is very relaxing. At night, I left the door open and we fell asleep listening to the ocean sounds and enjoying the fresh air. The balconies are visually private, so I grew to love being able to stand about naked in the sun and moonlight. Many people say they spend so little time in their cabins that the expense is not worth it. I say phooey! It is worth the extra money to have a beautiful haven with access to the outside that is all yours.

We only saw two shows. The ice show (for which my wife had to obtain tickets, and then drag me to) was excellent, far exceeding my dreaded expectations. The other show was "Don't Stop the Rock". I found that very enjoyable also, except for the Whitney Houston wannabe who screeched and warbled and exceeded her vocal range on every piece she sang.the crowd loved her.

The ship's casino is a sure moneymaker.for the ship. It is geared for the amateur gambler, and they do have fun. The most popular slot was the $1 Wheel of Fortune. The daily Compass ship newsletter claimed a one-night payout of almost $50,000, since I didn't see the progressive go down, it must have all been in $1k wheel spins. They were always crowded. The video poker was a bank of about 15 multi-game $0.25 progressives with the most horrid paytables I've seen. The blackjack had favorable rules, and the dealers were very professional, contrary to other on-line reports I've read.

Ship amenities have been covered in other reviews, as have dining, bars, and activities. We found all to be of the highest quality.

In Aruba we walked about town and then we took a cab to the Holiday Inn for their casino with full-pay video poker. We took an umbrella spot on their beach and no one questioned us, but it was 16:00 so they may not have been renting them by that time. We also rented a jet ski there and had a great time. The ship doesn't leave port until 01:00 the next morning, so we had time to see some of the nightlife. Carlos and Charlie's, from 22:00 until they throw everybody out at 00:30, was a really great time, even for geezers like us. If you're 20-something and single and can't hook up with some company for the rest of the cruise (or just that night!), put a big "L" for loser on your forehead and go on with your life. We had a great time drinking and watching the crowd. The D.J. and show were very entertaining.

We found Curacao to be a lovely town. As you leave the ship there is an interesting series of stone sculptures on the dock. My wife made me film them all so we can build some in our garden. Then I had to watch her the rest of the trip because she wanted to "bring some rocks" home. I reminded her of what happened to Lucy in the episode where she brought hundreds of rocks back in her trip to the Rockies. The warning had little effect. I still had to watch her. Walk across the moving bridge, and if you get a chance take the water taxi too. We got to do both.

We were looking forward to St. Marten/Martin. The port town was charming and had the same tourist stores as all the other islands. Beware the time-share sales people who offer you a map and tourist directions to hook you. We wasted an hour on a taxi ride to their paradise, and bailed before they even began their pitch. But St. Martin had Orient Beach. I read about this beautiful beach and it was one of our must-see sites. A fifteen minute cab ride (US$16) brings you to Pedro's, a beach side bar and grill (excellent burgers) that separates the topless beach from the full nekkid beach. Once again we were running late at 15:30, so most of the crowd was gone, but we had to be back on-board at 17:30 and we weren't going to miss this. We marched into the nekkid beach area marked by a sign warning away tourist lurkers and cameras. Umbrellas were available as to the late hour, so we found one sufficiently far from our cabdriver to make the ride back less uncomfortable. To Barbara's bemusement, I was naked and no longer a lurker in about twenty seconds. It took her a little longer to get accustomed to the scenery. We had a great time. I know it's not for everybody, but after fifteen minutes, you forget about nakedness and you just enjoy the beach.sort of. For first-timers like us looking forward to the experience, the anticipation and expectation, and the first fifteen minutes, are exciting. Maybe after a few more trips the real novelty will wear off. Most people ARE nekkid! Like I said, it's fun. There's nobody being nasty, no swingin' singles, no hanky-panky. There's just sun, sea, wind, and beach, and a lot of real sun-tanned people. Unfortunately, I spent the previous day at sea lounging at the pool from 10:00 until 14:00, and I looked liked a steamed prawn. Note to pasty white guys: SPF 30 is not enough! I think I might have "stood out" as a newbie in more ways than one!

The only excursion we went on was the Kon-Tiki Beach tour in St. Thomas. We booked it early that morning, and it was not sold out. The Kon-Tiki picked us up at the cruise dock, and there were people from Celebrity Galaxy with us. We then went and picked up other people at a dock downtown. As we were in town before and took a taxi to rush back to the ship by 13:00 to meet them, we wish we had known we could have boarded in town. I don't know the price of the tickets from their town pick-up versus the excursion price from RCI, but my guess is they were cheaper. Check it out. The cruise was very entertaining with an M.C. and one-man-band. Free rum punch, or rum and coke etc., was available throughout the cruise. They also had $3.00 hot dogs and chip things, a tee-shirt shop, and $6 rum-soaked cigars. We went to Honeymoon Beach and stayed for about 45 minutes. There are no rental facilities for snorkeling or anything. There is a snack-trailer and a very few souvenir vendors. On the return trip they had the conga-line thingy and a limbo contest. We thought the trip was a lot of fun and worth the money.

Disembarking was not as well orchestrated as embarkation. We waited for almost two hours in the lobby lounge while they called several groups for specific flights. Then they called nothing. Then they closed the lobby bar. Then we noticed most of the people in the atrium and lobby bar waiting areas were gone. Then we left. 'Nuf said.

We spent extra two nights at the Wyndahm El San Juan Hotel and Casino (five minutes from the airport, $$$$, absolutely beautiful). I highly recommend staying at least one night after, and next time we'll stay the night before. San Juan airport is not a model of efficiency, and if I were there on a Sunday with 3,000 returning cruisers, I know I would not enjoy it. Although there would not be that many people from the Adventure, as there were at least 25-45% local Puerto Ricans on the ship. It is a popular holiday for them, as they don't incur airfare.

Tips: The bow is accessible, do your Titanic thing there. OK, just look at the stars.

The bridge has a viewing area where you can watch the action through a window with descriptions of the controls, stations, etc. Wave to the officers, they wave back. The steering wheel is smaller than our Miata. They must have power steering.

Portofinos is a fine restaurant and worth the extra $20 pp.

Board early, we got there at 17:00 and people told us they were on board at 12:00.

The Caribbean night buffet has a whole roasted stuffed suckling pig.yum!

SPF 30 is not sufficient for us pasty white guys.

The only casinos with decent payback for video poker players are in Aruba, at the Holiday Inn. The rest of the suckers will get what they're used to. We did do well at the El San Juan in P.R. See; I said you have to stay an extra day!

Reserve a balcony room.

Go to the Captain's Reception in the Promenade, it's one of the only free drinks you'll get.

There were a lot of kids onboard. I didn't throw any of them overboard. They weren't too annoying. Here's the tip.only throw them overboard if they're annoying when their parents aren't always!!!

Buy the travel insurance. We didn't need it, but if you do.

Steve and Barbara Chicago

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