A bit about a cruise which I went on
Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas
My husband and I took a western Caribbean cruise during February of 2019.
I haven't written a travel piece in a while, so I thought I'd take a few moments to talk about the cruise, show a few pictures, and maybe give a bit of advice from my experience. I hope you enjoy the informal style of this article, as well as the photos.
Preparing for the Cruise
After checking the weather, I realized it was going to be fantastic in the entire area where we'd be.
I still brought a rain poncho because I never trust weather forecasts, but I never needed to use it.
I knew from past experience that I often get cold on cruise ships, so I brought several neat-looking long pants which I could wear with comfortable sandals and sneakers.
At night, I usually changed into black slacks and a pretty blouse. There were two 'formal' nights, but formal nights are very different on Caribbean cruises than they used to be. One night I wore a regular, not fancy, dress, and the other night I wore black slacks with more jewelry and make up than I did on other nights.
I overpacked sweaters, but I really could have been fine bringing only one.
Off the ship, I was fine with Capri length pants. For the excursions we did...Distillery tour, boat ride, and trolly ride...That's all I really needed.
I was one hundred percent glad that I brought sunblock. Even in temperatures which barely touched on eighty degrees, the sun still burns in the Caribbean.
I knew that the bathroom on the ship would be small, so I packed a hanging toiletry bag. I had no problem hanging it on the door hook, and it worked out perfectly!
The ship provides some sort of combined hair wash dispenser in the shower, but I was happy that I brought my own shampoo, conditioner, and soap.
The hair dryer is weak and low grade. I hated it, but I didn't mind too much. I know some people like to bring their own, but why lug that in a suitcase?
I did pack lots of wire hangers, which I left when I was packing again to leave the ship. There's plenty of closet space, but not a lot of hangers.
There are also tons of drawers and shelves in the room.
The Key - Unlock Exclusive Benefits
Hubby and I decided to purchase, The Key, before we went on the ship.
This was an excellent decision!
The Key is a special package which costs about $20 a day more per person. With it, we got on board the ship before others...Even before Crown and Anker members!
We were looking forward to getting on the ship as early as we could because we also paid a little bit more for the specialty dining package. That package allowed up to eat at the specialty restaurants, but we couldn't make reservations for those restaurants until we got onboard.
The main reason we bought the Key package was for the internet, which is included with it everyday. Ship internet isn't the greatest, but it's something.
The Key also gave us a special lunch at the Chops restaurant when we boarded, and a special breakfast when we were about to leave the ship.
There were also a few other nice benefits of the key. They gave Key members reserved seats at all of the shows, priority debarkation at all ports, and private hours at Flowrider and Rockwall.
Other Special Packages
We didn't buy the unlimited drink package because we knew we wouldn't drink five cocktails a day to get our money's worth, but I saw a youtube vid which recommended buying it anyway.
We thought it was only good for cocktails, but it's good for special coffees, milkshakes, smoothies...The video recommended starting the day with a juice smoothy or a Mimosa. They said that people get a glass of wine with dinner, and they have the freedom to try various cocktails - take a sip, if you don't like it, get a different one without worrying about wasting money!
As I mentioned already in this article, Hubby and I bought the specialty dining package.
We never make vacation plans way in advance. Because of that, all the good seats were already booked at the main dining areas. The specialty dining package made sense for us because we didn't have to eat in the main dining areas. Instead, we dined at Chops, which is a steak restaurant, Giovanni's, which is an Italian restaurant, and Izumi for Sushi.
Things to do on the Ship
My husband and I never ran out of things to do on the ship. We were on a mission to fit in as many activities as possible. Our very friendly stateroom attendant commented that every time he saw us, we looked like we were in a rush!
Of course, we couldn't fit in everything, and we weren't interested in everything. We didn't take part in activities like dance classes (line dancing, salsa dancing), napkin folding classes, free rum tasting in the shops, ice skating, mini golf, shuffleboard, tours of the ship, gym workouts, poolside activities (like bellyflop contests or big screen movies - I noticed Solo was playing one day, and Smallfoot another), Karaoke, football parties (we were on the ship during the Superbowl), sushi making classes, or Spa services.
The ship makes it very easy to know which activities are available each day. The 'Compass' is a ship newsletter. One is delivered to the stateroom each day. They are also available at the information desk. There's even an app for phones to keep in touch with ship activities.
Announcements are also made about some of the larger activities. I'll talk a little bit in this article about some of the activities which we did.
BINGO - I really think there are bingo games several times a day! LOL
My husband and I went to about three bingo events during our stay on the ship. We didn't win, but we had a great time. ...And, we won $34 from the scratch-off cards which came with the game cards/tablets.
These days, one can also play bingo on a tablet. It's so easy. The host sets the tablet up for the user, and all one needs to do is stare at the screen while it automatically does the rest. There's a charge to play bingo. The fee depends on what package you buy. You can spend as little as $20 or as much as $50 or more. There were some pretty nice prizes, like $500, $1,000, or free cruises. The host also picks (free) raffle tickets throughout the games for prizes like tee shirts, stuffed bears, or spa treatments.
TRIVIA - Trivia is another activity which might be available a few times a day. We went to as many of these fun and free activities as we could. Most of them took place in a friendly bar called, The Schooner. This was just one of the many bars on the ship.
The prizes for the trivia games were tiny, like Royal Caribbean key chains, but everyone there always has a fun time. Most of the trivia questions were music related, like name the song (themed trivia, such as Beatles songs, pop songs, or Disney), but some trivia games were general knowledge. Do you know which is the only land animal which doesn't jump?
WINE TASTING CLASS - Hubby and I enjoyed one of the wine tasting classes. For a reasonable fee, we got to taste some very nice wines, while learning all about each wine and the proper way to taste them. The event was held in the large, elegant dining room and we were given a fruit and cheese plate each during the experience. We were also gifted Royal Caribbean coaster sets to take home with us.
CASINO - We probably visited the ship casino three times during the cruise. I love slot machines, so I made sure to play a few times. We didn't spend too much time or money there, but we had fun each time we were there. It's not Las Vegas, but it gives a moment of the Las Vegas feel!
ONBOARD SHOPPING - The Adventure of the Seas has a big promenade filled with shops and restaurants. I enjoyed looking through the shops, and I took advantage of special shopping events. Each day had a different type of item offered at a discount price. Kiosks were set up in the center of the Promenade which featured these deals of the day. For example, one day Royal Caribbean tee shirts and hats were for sale at two for $20. Another night, fancy shawls, ties, and handbags were selling at $10 each. Jewelry and watches were on sale a few times.
SHOWS - The shows on the ship are must-sees. We enjoyed a fun magic show, a musical, a comedy show, and a very amazing ice skating show. The ice skating stadium was a little chilly, but I was prepared with my long pants and sweater. The people who went in there from the pool area wearing shorts and tank tops looked as though they'd never be warm again!
There were things going on in those places throughout the day, prime time, and late-night. Hubby and I attended a seminar about getting to know the ship, and about shopping at the ports.
ART AUCTIONS - We attended one of the three Champagne Art Auctions which were offered. We didn't go with any intention of bidding, but we did end up bidding (and lost) on a painting or two while sipping on the free champagne. The auction we were at sold paintings from $75 to $9,000. We had a good time, but if we ever did that again, I probably wouldn't stay for the whole thing. Ours ended up lasting two whole hours, and we missed a trivia game during that time. Everyone who stayed until the end got to leave with a free, small piece of artwork.
LOUNGES AND DECKS - When hubby and I weren't rushing around to enjoy the many activities, we took a moment or two to relax at one of the many indoor and outdoor places to sit. We found a favorite spot at a quiet, indoor lounge, which had an amazing view of the poolside decks. I took a bunch of great pictures of the ship from there. It was also a nice experience to look out at the water from the outdoor decks.
I briefly mentioned a few of the restaurants where we ate already in this article. I thought I'd talk a bit more here, and include a few photos.
We mostly ate at Chops which is a steak restaurant, Giovanni's which is an Italian restaurant, and Izumi for Sushi. We also popped into Johnny Rockets, the Promenade Cafe, and the ship's large buffet restaurant. We did go to the elegant main dining restaurant for a farewell breakfast, and for a wine tasting class. So, in a way, we had a taste of many places which the ship had to offer.
Hubby and I didn't book this trip far in advance. In fact, by the time we booked it, there were no reservations for two-top tables left in the main dining area. We really didn't feel like squashing in at a big table filled with other people in a crowded area, so that made the decision of buying the specialty dining package so much easier.
By far, I enjoyed the Italian restaurant the best. We visited this restaurant a few times. We even went there on the night when lobster was featured at the main dining area. My husband and I were slightly disappointed that we'd be missing it, but we were thrilled to find out that the specialty restaurants had them as well. Our friendly waiter insisted that we try the lobster, so we had surf and turf. He always brought us so much food, like grilled prawns, ravioli, and too many other amazing foods to list!
Izumi Sushi was just as amazing, and the waiter there, of course, got to know us. He suggested plates which he thought we would like, and we were never once disappointed.
Chops restaurant was great, too. It was the first restaurant which we ate at on that cruise, as the Key members went there for a welcome lunch while everyone was boarding. I think I ate more steak on this cruise than I ate in a year!
This steak restaurant offered many choices, and each one was excellent. One afternoon, I opted for a gourmet steak hamburger, and I enjoyed it very much.
Once for fun, we ate at Johnny Rockets, which is a better 'burger' place. We chose a table on the deck outside the restaurant. It was a nice experience to watch the ripples of the sea, feel the gentle ocean breeze, and view the mini golf course which was nearby.
The waiter brought my ketchup in a smiley face design on a plate for my fries, which added to the fun. I don't normally eat hamburgers, so this was yet another good memory for me.
I bought a 'specially coffee package', so I made sure to stop at the promenade cafe twice a day for my Starbucks! The waiter there remembered me and what I like to drink. Hubby isn't really a coffee drinker, but he always grabbed a pastry whenever we were there.
Ports and Excursions
Our ship stopped at Haiti, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten, with the rest of the days at sea.
Each one of these ports had a really beautiful dock area, so we got on and off with ease.
We booked excursions before the cruise, so we wouldn't have to worry about anything selling out. Excursions aren't really necessary when cruising, because one can get on and off the boat to simply walk around, shop, and explore on their own. Hubby and I do some of that as well, but we also like to do the excursions which the ship offers.
When I heard that my cruise was stopping at Haiti, I was a bit nervous at first. I was under the impression that Haiti was full of violent crimes, unrest, and poverty. Why would a cruise ship bring tourists there?
Just as there are many private islands which cruise ships stop at, Labadee beach is one such place.
My husband and I took a boat ride excursion, which gave us a scenic tour through the waters of Labadee Beach and it's nearby Labadee Villiage. The boat didn't stop anywhere, except for us to talk with a couple of very friendly fishermen from the village.
The comfortable two level boat was driven by a very informative man, who mentioned that their government appreciates tourism from the cruise port, and keeps the area safe. It is a privilege for people to live in the village, and work at the cruise beach. Anyone who misbehaves is thrown out, and a disgrace to their family, so the villagers are always on their best behavior.
After the boat tour, hubby and I had time to walk on the beach, walk around the large beach port area, shop at the craft market, take a tram ride, and walk on the trail to a lookout point.
Some people didn't go on an excursion but elected to enjoy the many other opportunities the beach area offered instead. There was a large eating area which served all types of food (brought from the ship), complete with many tables and a Caribbean band.
Children enjoyed the playgrounds, and there were also floating 'playgrounds' in the sea. Lounge chairs were everywhere, on the sand and ground areas.
People were having the time of their life on a big zip line ride which stretched from one cliff to another across the water.
There were cabanas to rent for the day, and tour groups left to the nearby village for voodoo crafts and things.
Everything was safe and fun!
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
My husband and I have vacationed in Puerto Rico in the past, so I was very excited that the cruise ship would stop there. We had such a wonderful time, as expected. Beautiful Puerto Rico always reminds me of Miami, with a more islandy, tropical feel.
Since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S., I took the opportunity to call my family while there, without the worry of international whatever.
We chose to go on the Bacardi Rum Factory tour. Once on the dock, it was slightly difficult to find where our group was meeting because there were so many excursions grouping all over the place at the same time. Once we figured it out, it was all fine. Everyone at the port spoke very good English, so it was easy to find our way around.
The friendly bus driver narrated much information about the area on the way to the factory. The factory and tour were great, and we were also given a little bit of time to explore the site on our own before getting back on the bus. We were glad we picked that tour out of all excursions offered.
Once back at the dock, we walked around a bit more to shop at the local souvenir stands before reboarding the ship.
PHILIPSBURG, SAINT MAARTEN
Saint Maarten is half Dutch and Half French, although everyone I encountered there spoke good English.
My husband and I chose the trolly tour excursion. It was a great way to see the whole area, and to stop at a charming little Dutch cheese shop. We bought a few souvenirs there, like Dutch slippers, and we were treated to ice cream and cookies as part of the experience.
After the tour, we stopped back at the ship to drop off our packages and to have a quick lunch. Then, we went back out to take a water taxi to a shopping street where we planned to spend a bit of time. The water taxi was fun, with music playing and everyone singing along to songs like, "Sweet Caroline".
We enjoyed gazing at the beautiful white sandy beach, with its many colorful umbrellas and people at play. There were also many beach bars and cafes, with Carribean type music filling the air. It made for a fun walk through the tropical paradise.
We visited a shop called, The Yoda Guy, and were lucky to actually meet Nick Maley, the guy who did the artwork for a lot of Star Wars and other movies. He was very friendly, and his museum was filled with sci-fi memorabilia. I could see how this might be a Star Wars fan's goldmine, as people usually need to go to a sci-fi convention to meet with such people.
Hubby and I were happy that we also found the pet accessory shop which we saw from the trolly ride earlier that day. We picked up some souvenier doggie tee shirts and headed back to the ship to board for the last time.
The next port would be back at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where we'd have to say good bye to the ship. ...Until next time!