Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Review--Adventure of the Seas--September 30, 2007

Adventure of the Seas Review 9.30.2007

Just The Facts
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
September 30-October 7, 2007
Captain: Tommy Nyseter
Entertainment Director: Pierce Ivan
Ports: San Juan-Aruba-Curacao-St. Maarten-St.Thomas-San Juan
Weather: Good all week, hot during the day, some clouds and occasional rain.

Taking this cruise as a solo. This is also the first cruise that I have flown to the debarkation port in many many years.

Day Zero--Saturday
We left the Ranch very early in order to make the 6:20 a.m. flight from Waco Regional Airport to DFW. My first time to fly from Waco and it went well. Connections from DFW to San Juan arriving about 2:15 p.m. local time. A taxi from the airport to OSJ (Old San Juan) is $20. Arrived at Hotel Milano about 3:00 which is check in time. The hotel is located in the middle of OSJ and a convenient place to explore the city. I walked around OSJ and stopped at The Parrot Club to sample their Parrot Special drink made with passion fruit & Limon Barcardi Rum. A short nap and then another walking tour to see the lights of OSJ, the City Walls, and La Princesa fountain and waterfront. I stopped at the Cathedral of San Juan and the restaurant Barrachina, the birthplace of the pina colada. Since this day started very early I didn’t stay out too late although OSJ has a lot of boutique style clubs which seem fun.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
I had breakfast at La Bombonera an old established bakery/coffee house in the center of OSJ. It was full of locals and a few tourists. Setting at the counter it was very interesting watching the coffees being made on a very old machine. They had a big selection of pastries and this is very good breakfast location.

I checked out about 10:45 and took a taxi to the Pan-American pier arriving at 11:00 which is the time they start taking checked bags. Since I had to get baggage tags they just took my bags and saved me waiting in the line to check bags. They opened the terminal about 20 minutes or so later and being Platinum I was in the first group of Platinum, Diamond and suite passengers. I was on board shortly after 11:30. Very impressed with my first time on a Voyager class ship, it brings out that ‘cruise excitement’ feeling very quick. I did purchase a coke package which I don’t usually do, but I usually drive and bring coca-cola with me. My bet on the over/under on when I lose the coke glass is four days. We’ll see how that goes. I was in the Windjammer soon after the noon opening and the buffet was very good. The roast beef with horseradish was excellent. The salads, fruits and desserts were also good. At 1:00 pm we were allowed in our cabins so I went to deck nine and headed aft. They just finished with my cabin so I was able to unpack my carry on and set up the cabin. I explored the ship visiting: the Promenade, Spa & Sauna area, Viking Crown Lounge, and Dining Room. Knowing that dinner will be late tonight I did visit the Windjammer again for a bit of roast beef only late in the afternoon. I met a couple of Cruise Critic members sailing solo in the course of the afternoon. I shouldn’t put my photo out on roll calls if I owe money! Coke card doing well so far, I’ve had three refills, but at 5:00 I had to try a couple of Bahama Mama’s. Pool Bar bartenders and drink are very good so a few more sail away at 8:00+ pm. Sailing past the Carnival Destiny docked at OSJ and El Morro Castle at night is impressive. Dinner was at 9:00 this evening and I am at table 412 in the Strauss dining room which is an 8-top table. I had the Vidalia onion tart, the Tuscan tomato soup, Roast beef, and Savrin for dessert which were all very good. The Welcome Show featured comedian Tony Daro and he was good. The Entertainment Director is Pierce Ivan. They held a parade at midnight in the promenade, but I was too tired to make it that late and returned to the cabin for some reading and TV.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
I had breakfast in the dining room. Eggs Benedict, fruit, tomato juice. Very good. I met with the Loyalty Ambassador and changed a future booking in order to qualify for the $100 OBC. I was reminded about picking up tickets for the Ice Skating Show later in the week which was done just before the table closed. I ate at Johnny Rockets for lunch and it was very good. I took a nap after lunch and explored more of the ship in the afternoon. The Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle was at 5:00 pm in the Blue Moon lounge. We had a small group probably just making the minimum number. I ordered the fruit plate and cheese plate for evening cabin/balcony snacks. The Captains reception was held in the Grand Promenade for both dinner seatings so it was very crowded. Good idea and location, but they should have two receptions. Dinner was very good. Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Lobster Bisque, Beef, and Grand Mariner Soufflé were my selections. The headline entertainer was Greg Bonham and was after dinner for late seating. At midnight I had a coke refill in the coke mug so it has survived two days.

Day Three--Tuesday--Aruba
The weather is again very nice, but hot. Calm seas, fair winds. Most on board are getting ready to get off for the day as we are docked at 8:00 am. I went up to the Windjammer about 8:30 and brought a breakfast down to eat on the balcony. I went to the Solarium and had a swim then had a coke at the pool bar. I swam in the main pool for a full 45 minutes and had the entire pool to myself. Great. Somewhere in the process of getting ready to swim I lost my S&S card. It was in my shirt pocket. No problem, guest relations replaced it and the coke sticker without any hassle at all. No charges were made on it and all is well. Lunch in the Windjammer is very good. Corned beef was the feature at the carving station. I went into Oranjestad about 12:30. I was going to do a quick tour of the island ($20) but passed. Visited the shops, casino, had one Balashi, and was basically ready to return because of the heat by 2:30 pm... I ventured back to town, which just a very short walk from the ship, to meet BFFW Dan at Carlos & Charlie's. I had a few more Balashi and enjoyed the time. I do admit that there was some curiosity about the Natalie Holloway situation two years earlier. We then went to Iguana Joe's for an Iguana Mama and then back to the ship. I did visit the Pool Bar, and my favorite Jamaica bartenders for some Jamaican Mama’s before the late, 8:00 pm, sail away. I went down to the Dog & Duck pub for a beer and people watch. At 8:00 two singers appeared on a cross bridge just above the D&D and they same down to a small stage on the Grand Promenade and did a 20 minute show. The promenade is very interesting. Dinner was again good. I had the Chicken Marsala and a Strip Steak from the alternative menu. Dessert was Tiramisù. They had a deck party on pool deck with food and special drinks. Very crowded, I attended for a while, but still turned in by midnight.

Day Four--Wednesday--Curacao
We arrived by 8:00 a.m. and again the weather is fair, but very hot. I had a room service breakfast on the balcony which was nice and delivered promptly. I went into the town of Willemstad early in order to beat the heat. A very beautiful and colorful town, but I returned early to the ship. A very enjoyable swim to cool off and then lunch in the Windjammer. I walked around the ship and took photos of both the port and of the ship before taking an afternoon nap. I attended the C&A past guest reception which was at 5:15. The reception was good with better quality drinks than CCL and two at my table ordered specific call drinks which they received without problem. The production show, Can’t Stop The Rock followed the reception and before dinner. One of the female feature singers, Tamara, is outstanding and all the singers and dancers are very good. Dinner was good, but one of the weaker menus. I had the Tilapia, but also with a steak and the BBB for desert.

Day Five--Thursday--at Sea
Calm seas and weather. I had a dining room breakfast this morning, fruit and an omelet which were great. I watched a movie in the cabin during the morning. This is the last day for the dining room to be open for lunch so I went there for a nice soup and sandwich. I went to the Promenade to people watch for awhile and caught another movie in the afternoon. I attended the ‘Cool Art, Hot Ice’ show which was outstanding. Certainly a first for me to see an ice show at sea. Don’t miss this if you ever have the opportunity. There was a reception for Crown & Anchor Platinum & Diamond members in the Blue Moon lounge which was very nice. They had cocktails, canapés, and music by Rosario Strings. Dinner was good, the Pork Chop was excellent, the best entrée of the week so far. Baked Alaska was the featured dessert. The production show, after dinner was Billy Richard’s Coasters, which were great. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it, but heard it was very good.

Day Six--Friday--St. Maarten
Rainy day all day. We arrived at St. Maarten about 8:00 a.m. We are backed into the dock so I have a great view of the action down on the pier. I went up to the Windjammer for a breakfast, then took a water ferry into Philipsburg. Visited the shops and a casino, but not a lot of sightseeing due to the light rain. I returned to the ship in time for a late Windjammer lunch and I was also able to catch the movie I had been wanting to see in the afternoon, so it all worked out for a nice day in spite of the rain. The production show was Jackpot, a Las Vegas theme, featuring the singers and dancers. I actually thought the show was just good, not great. The best scene being the multiple Elvi. Dinner was very good. It was lobster night, first time it hasn’t been on a formal night for me that I recall. I actually had three entrees: the ziti as a starter, the lobster (seafood), and then the prime rib, which was actually the best. BTW-I still have the insulated coke glass, so that is a surprise.

Day Seven--Saturday--St. Thomas
Cloudy today, but not raining as yesterday. We are docked at Havensight and we are aft to aft with the Carnival Miracle. I went through the mandatory immigration early as to avoid the crowds and confusion. That went smoothly. Then to the Windjammer for a light breakfast and then on the pool deck for a swim and some sun. I did go to the spa and use the whirlpool on my knee. That felt good. While forward I did discover a viewing area on deck 11 or 12 that you can observe the inside of the bridge. Lunch in the Windjammer. Roast beef again, but still very good. The menu doesn’t vary as much as the RH and I guess the menu caters to the passengers and port of debarkation. Afternoon was a good cabin day with football on TV, pre packing, customs forms, and the balcony facing the pier for people watching. The show was before dinner and featured the Duo Ignatov and Dario El Gaucho. Also the Adventure orchestra and singers for a farewell. Dinner was actually my favorite of the cruise. I had Caesar salad, Shrimp Cocktail, French onion soup, NY strip steak, and Key Lime pie. The head waiter promised me some hearts of palm and she had a bowl for me which were great on the salad. Good byes to the table mates, waiters, and new friends and back to the room to pack. After setting out my bags at the midnight deadline I went up to the Blue Moon lounge where members of the Adventure orchestra were playing jazz. It was great. Seemed to be the hangout for the entertainment staff on a late Saturday night while the pax are all snug in their cabins preparing to leave early the next morning. It was good music for sure and the grand mojitos were great, but I could only last to 1:00 am.

We were in San Juan early. No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu in the dining room. I had a nice breakfast then soon afterward my number was called and I was off the ship about 9:15. There was some anxiety when I couldn’t immediately find my bags in the Brown-1 section. I did find them and thought a porter may speed up my getting out easier and it did a lot. I was in a cab to OSJ by 9:30. The hotel Milano keeps the bags for early arrivals so I left mine and was off on a walking tour of OSJ.

This was my first time on a Voyager class ship since we will not have one in Texas until later in the year. I am very impressed. There are good and bad things about the size. There are a lot of people and the pools seemed very crowded especially during peak times. The elevators are always packed. The Grand Promenade is very impressive. The additional size also means that there is room for the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck. The aquariums are impressive as are the Studio B, the Theater, and other public spaces. There is some vibration, but not very noticeable especially since I am in an aft cabin.

The staff and crew are very good. Captain Tommy is the son of Olav Gunner Nyseter, the captain of the Rhapsody who we sailed with last month. He is the youngest Captain in the RCL fleet and was very informative with his daily announcements. My cabin steward and waiters were all great.

I had cabin 9692 which is an aft with an extended balcony. The balcony is partially covered which is very nice as it’s not completely in the sun. Thanks to a Cruise Critic tip I knew that deck nine is one of the decks that you would NOT want the corner aft. This was very evident after inspecting the balconies, the corner is much smaller although perhaps still larger than the standard balcony. The cabin seems slightly larger than the aft balcony cabins on Rhapsody; however, there is less storage for sure. Plenty of room for one, but two would be tight on storage. The bathroom has a solid shower door which is a big improvement from RH. My cabin steward is Mario and he is good. He has kept my cooler full of ice for me although I haven’t used it as much since I did have the coke card on this sailing. Never used the refrigerator. The safe has a button key pad. On debarkation I went down to inspect cabins 7388 and 7688 since I have future cruise on the Voyager in them.

I first saw the new room service breakfast menu on the RH and it has fewer selections than previously, but still more than most cruise lines, so it is a great option. My two favorite room service items are the Seasonal fruit plate and the International cheese plate. The cheese plate consists of five different cheeses and garnished with a strawberry, walnuts, and dried apricots. It is served with water biscuits or saltines. The fruit plate usually has grapes, pineapple, kiwi, melon, strawberry, and orange slice. Both are great. Johnny Rockets was a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer buffet is also very good and better than many other lines. There are several ice creme and yogurt machines. You can order room service on the RC-TV which works very well especially for breakfast. I had late seating, table 412 in the Strauss Dining room. Lloyd was the waiter and the assistant was Joenelle from the Philippines who I had as an assistant waiter previously on the Rhapsody. The dining room food was good to very good. Some entrées were better than others. Cold baked potatoes seems to be the norm according to those at my table and I noticed desserts that should have been warm were not. Overall the dinners were very good and enjoyable, but the overall opinion was that it the food overall was not up to the standard of other Royal Caribbean ships I have sailed.

Needs Improvement
I really have no comparisons as to physical improvements as this was the first time on a Voyager class ship. I noticed that the water features in the Solarium pool did not work, but that seems to be the norm now.

They should add more security when they have a Quinceañeras cruise as they do during spring break cruises. There were a very large number of young and teen cruisers on board and they were playing the elevator game, laying in stairwells & hallways, swimming in the pool without adult supervision, etc. Also many unexperienced cruisers on board who seemed to be on the rude side.

They really seem to do a very good job of scheduling the entertainment and production shows then coordinating them with the various receptions, and other events. The additional public rooms on a Voyager class certainly helps.

I really enjoyed the cruise, but would not cruise from Puerto Rico again this time of year. Too hot, too many children, and too many other variables just make the cruise a little less than perfect.