Back in December, MrsMJ and I took off on a 2-week back to back (B2B) cruising “adventure” aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. Adventure is a member of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class of ships, once the largest ships in the world. Nowadays, they seem kind of quaint. I’m kidding! Make no mistake, while Adventure and her other Voyager Class sisters are no longer the world’s largest ships, they’re still very big ships with the kind of amenities one expects from today’s megaliners.

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Checking In

We arrived in San Juan 2 days before our departure, staying at the beautiful El Convento in Old San Juan. When the day of our cruise finally arrived, we made our way to the Pan American Pier via taxi. The fare was around $18 from Old San Juan. When arrived at the terminal to what looked like a gynormous crowd milling around outside attempting to figure out where to go. Fortunately, we were dropped just far enough down the line that a sign caught my eye that said something to the effect of Crown & Anchor Priority Baggage Check. If you are facing the front door of the terminal it would be to the very far left. Basically, it’s a separate baggage check area for Crown & Anchor elites and suite guests. It’s also relatively tranquil compared to the scene by the door.

After dropping our bags we were directed to enter the queue to the far left (closest to the building), where our passports and boarding passes were checked. After a quick transit through security, we were in line to check in. In relatively short order, we were processed, and on our way to the ship. C2C time – 19 minutes.

On Board

We had a few errands to run right after boarding. MrsMJ was actually teaching four Zumba classes while we were on board, so she had to drop off some paperwork with Guest Relations. This gave me an opportunity to snap a picture or two.

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Not sure why, but seeing the Royal Promenade the first time always pleases me. From there, I explored the ship for just a few minutes before heading up to the Windjammer. I’m not much on buffet food photography, but our Windjammer lunch was standard fare. Perfectly serviceable buffet food. Better yet, even with over 3,000 passengers on board, the overall experience was not yet nutty. We were able to easily find a seat and enjoy our lunch before heading to the stateroom at 1:30PM.

The Stateroom – 9312

Our room was a D1 Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony. It had plenty of storage, a comfortable sofa, and was just fine for our 2 weeks on board the ship. We managed to keep the same stateroom for both weeks, which makes a B2B all the better in my opinion. It was close to the elevators, but we heard no noise, and best of all, we were steps from the Concierge Lounge. We met a lot of great people there over the 2 weeks onboard.

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When we arrived in our room, we found our usual Crown & Anchor gifts (wine, Diet Cokes, and a snack basket) as well as an extra bottle of wine with a note from the Hotel Director welcoming us on board. Not sure if that was due to our B2B status or not. Our water was there as well as I typically order a water package for delivery on board. I’d carry our own if we didn’t have to fly to a port. As it is, ordering for delivery on board saves a lot of hassle.

Around the Ship

Adventure of the Seas is not lacking with amenities. The Royal Promenade is the center “mall” of the ship, lined with shops, snacks, a coffee shop, and of course, a couple of bars. The Royal Promenade serves as the host area for the Captain’s reception, various street parties, and parades too. It was also decked out for the holiday.

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Adventure’s pool deck was where we spent a lot of our days on board. Unlike some ships I’ve sailed, I never had to search endlessly for a desirable pool chair.

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The pool deck was also where MrsMJ taught Zumba – two classes each week. She attracted a good crowd, and everyone seemed to enjoy the Latin-inspired dance music, even if they weren’t taking part in the class based on the crowds standing around watching.

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I mainly participated in the classes from here.

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The ship’s adults only Solarium also featured a pool. This was another of my favorite areas. Less hustle and bustle than the main pool area.

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Dining

Dining options aboard Adventure of the Seas include the main dining room, Windjammer buffet, the pizzeria on the Royal Promenade, and my favorite by far, Portofino Italian Restaurant. Food in the main dining room was for the most part very good. I enjoyed the new menus immensely. For those keeping up with the mystery of the missing escargots from Royal Caribbean ships, it was available every night in the main dining room. No, I did not eat escargot every night, but I did enjoy it more than once. Our main dining room servers were outstanding – Inyoman and Curtis.

We dined in Portofino on 3 occasions during our 2 weeks on board. Both San Juan sail aways, and one other evening. Food and service were uniformly excellent. We dined there on one of the formal evenings as well, and it was obvious that a lot of our fellow cruisers had the same idea. They were obviously over subscribed. The food was still excellent, but service was slow. This was not an issue the other evenings.

I can’t even complain about crowding in the Windjammer on this cruise. Don’t get me wrong, it was busy. I just did not experience any issues finding a seat when needed, and we both enjoyed our handful of visits there for lunch. The pizzeria on the Royal Promenade was also fine. Basic pizza. They do offer gluten free crust, which made MrsMJ happy. If you need that, just ask, and they’ll gladly make you a gluten free pizza.

Highlights of the Cruise

The ship – Even though she’s entering a dry dock shortly for some pretty big updates, Adventure of the Seas was in great shape. The crew that I interacted with were excellent in every way. After 2 weeks on board, I could have easily stayed for 2 more. It was wonderful to disconnect. Cruise Directer Drew, and Activities Manager Michele were great! I still miss the morning show.

The ports – Aruba and Curacao were new ports for us. Enjoyed both greatly. St. Maarten is always a favorite of mine. The aerial tram in St. Lucia was awesome. Our itinerary for week 1 was:

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And week 2:

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Note: Itinerary images courtesy of Royalcaribbean.com.

I personally preferred the week with more sea days mixed in, but both of these cruises were among my favorites ever. Frankly, this was the first time we had been alone for 2 weeks since….well…ever. It was a very nice vacation. I am not reviewing each port of call individually. I enjoyed all of them immensely, but I always look forward to returning to St. Maarten. Of the ports that were new to us, I think I’d have to pick Aruba, followed by Curacao.

Miscellaneous

Cruising B2B – The B2B process in San Juan was easy. We received a letter in our stateroom towards the end of our first cruise. It contained our SeaPass Cards (room keys) for the next cruise, “in transit” cards, and instructions. If we wanted to go into San Juan, we could leave the ship anytime we wanted. All we needed to do was present the in transit cards and take our room keys with us. If staying on board, instructions were to meet in a lounge where we would be escorted through customs formalities. We elected to remain on board and enjoy the ship. At the appointed time, we met in the lounge where we were escorted to customs and then back onboard. “Formalities” included simply showing your passport to the customs agent and re-queuing to board the ship. We did not have to complete the “blue card” customs paperwork in San Juan since they considered us as in transit. That is different than our previous B2B experiences in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

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The Bottom Line

I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that our 2 weeks aboard Adventure of the Seas was one of our best vacations ever. We really got away from it all this time and enjoyed ourselves. Ship and crew were outstanding. We were well treated throughout. San Juan is a favorite city of ours, and spending a few days there before sailing is an ideal way to begin your vacation. Next time, to stay afterwards as well! We really enjoyed Adventure of the Seas, and look forward to sailing on her again. Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section.

-MJ, February 14, 2014