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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

San Juan, Puerto Rico - Aruba Itinerary
June 29 to July 6, 2003

By Mal

Pre-cruise Flights & Hotel
Security was complete and thorough, and we didn't mind that a bit. (Made sure our socks were nice.) Our flights on American Airlines were great, and the business class seats from DFW to San Juan were worth the extra miles, IMHO. Our service was extraordinary, and the two flight attendants were gracious and always there to get anything whenever we wanted it. (ONE NOTE: our flight was overbooked and they were asking for "volunteers" to travel the next day. No one volunteered, even for a $300 voucher. If you have a really low fare, and you were the last one to book it, then you'll be recruited. Sometimes those LOW LOW fares have a price. This could be a disaster if you are trying to reach a ship!) Once on the ground, we easily grabbed our bags and stood in a short line for a cab. They ask "Where?" and then give you a slip with the price. It’s a comfort to know the price was $18.50, and the next taxi won't be cheaper.

Once at the Caribe Hilton, (booked for us by BurBunny... thank you!!!!... for $65 a night) we knew this was going to be another FANTASTIC vacation. The music was playing, and we saw lots of smiles. (Good Sign!) We are Hilton HHonors members, not because we travel a lot, but because if you stay there even once a year the perks are worth it. (KEEP READING and sign up for Hilton HHonors when you finish!) Hilton HHonors members may check in on the SECOND floor, which means no line, no exhausted person at the Front Desk sick of hearing why YOU deserve that perfect room, and personal service even for Priceline customers. We got a HUGE corner room with a BEAUTIFUL view, a king bed, and HHonors members get a free continental breakfast and Happy Hour every day. We were so happy.

Went down to the Oasis bar, where the Piña Colada was invented. (Other places make the same claim, so I don’t know who’s right!) There was live music, so we sat down to listen and split a burger. We also had a couple cocktails before heading back up to our gorgeous room. Yes, the drinks were high... about $7 each, but they were good, and we only had a couple. Hey, we're on vacation! We fell asleep instantly... 

San Juan
I always picture San Juan from the short three hour visits we've had from the cruise ship. BIG MISTAKE. We had a really great day! We woke up rather early and went on our daily four mile walk. There are many interesting places to hike around the hotel, and in the interest of safety we chose to stay close and in very populated areas. There were families on the beach, cooking and enjoying the water. On our return, the hotel pool seemed extremely inviting, and we paid it a three hour visit. There were quite a few children, which should be expected at this time of year. What I did NOT expect was how wild some can be. (No one wants pool water in their Piña Colada.) We enjoyed a couple "adult beverages" and split my husband's favorite lunch—a grilled chicken sandwich.

Next, we caught a cab ($8.50) and visited Fort Morro, and then trekked to Fort Cristobal (it's the one we've always visited before.) This was for my dear husband—he loves forts! The forts were interesting and fun to walk through. We then realized we were dehydrated, so we paid a visit to Senor Frogs for some water and cerveza.

Now... the GOOD part—SHOPPING! We hit the Ralph Lauren outlet, and got some great deals on clothes for huz—he was quite impressed with the $60 slacks on sale for $20. He got three pairs of slacks and a couple of shirts—we were very happy with the purchases. Me???? Oh well... I will find something in St. Thomas, I'm sure. 

When we returned to our room, there was a fruit plate, obviously another perk from Hilton HHonors. We took a very short nap, and then got ready for our anniversary dinner. We made reservations at the Hilton at Morton's Steak House of Chicago, and we were not disappointed. The food and drinks were pricey, but wonderful, and we had a great meal. We then went to the Oasis for one more drink before retiring. Once again, live music and a relaxing atmosphere—lots of fun. A wonderful day in a beautiful and historic city. 

Embarkation-Day 1
We arrived at the terminal around 10:45 a.m. (Cab ride was about $10 from the Caribe Hilton.) We were #14 and #15 in line. Around 11:30 they allowed us indoors to sit for a while until they were ready for us. COMPLETE your forms ONLINE—it really does help. About 12:30, we began the boarding process, and we were at the Guest Relations desk getting our cybercabin by 12:45.

First to our cabin, a category DA with a beautiful aft balcony. The cabin really seemed small to me, but perhaps I've been spoiled with those minisuites. We checked out our table reservations, and they were a tad off—table for 8 is not a table for 2, so headed to the dining room to request a change... that process started at 1:30. No changes were granted on the first night, so we made reservations at Portofino's for dinner that first night. We wanted to go there anyway, so this worked out fine for us! Once completed, we headed to the Windjammer for a quick bite, and then to the pool to enjoy the sun. (Wear a swimsuit under your clothes, and have some sunscreen in your carryon.) The pool was great, and not crowded! There are pool towels in your cabin, but don’t lose one or you’ll be charged $20 for that ugly tan towel.

We returned to our cabin around 4, and our luggage was there! Do bring a power strip—two outlets is not enough for a cabin, especially if you have cybercabin. Sandra, our room steward, paid us a visit and was sweet and accommodating. She got us extra towels and robes with a smile. She also found us a lounger for our large balcony, and delivered it during dinner. We unpacked, showered, and got ourselves ready for the evening. Be aware that due to the late departure, some bags were arriving as late as 11 p.m. We saw some strange outfits this evening, so make sure you’re covered.

The Welcome Aboard show was cute and short, and then it was time for the MUSTER DRILL. This was the ONE WEAK LINK in our day. You are outdoors, and we stood there sweating for over 25 minutes with babies crying and old folks swaying, and the captain made remarks we could not hear due to the number at our station. They didn't do much instruction on anything, and wanted your life jacket on when you arrived. It was the one dark spot of the day for us. But we survived, and we understand the need to practice safety. Just felt it was poorly handled.

Portofino's was after the Muster Drill and it more than made up for the time we spent sweating on deck. Our dinner was fabulous, and the service outstanding. After dinner, we went to the parade on the Promenade—a MUST! The parade begins around 11, so be prepared! The parade really gets your vacation off to a fun start! We had a table at the Duck and Dog, and therefore a Front Row seat for the parade.

Day at Sea-Day 2
I love it when the room service waiter is your wake-up call, with a pot of coffee, juice, and fruit. (Of course we also ordered an omelet too, but you didn't need to know that.) Then we were off for our daily walk. We also stopped on the way to pick up our tickets for the Ice Show. You are allowed to pick up the tickets you need for any show at this time. It took about five minutes! The allow you to pick up tickets from 9am-12pm in front of Studio B on that first day.

There were dozens of lounge chairs with towels, books, etc. on them before 9 a.m. Sad that the folks don't listen. We found a perfect spot in the adult pool area, and enjoyed sitting in the sun from about 10 until 2. We took a 15 minute break to grab lunch, but did not feel guilty since there were some chairs that had not been occupied all morning, still sitting there unused with a book on top!

One other area that is mentioned frequently is the fact that some adults think their children do not count when a sign saying "Adults ONLY" is posted by a pool. There were two different times when 2-year olds were in the pool splashing and throwing toys. Both were reported, and both were allowed to remain. You can choose to let this annoy you and ruin your day or not—I chose NOT.

We had our dining changed to a table for 2, but we had to be at the early seating for this change—that's ok, since they will allow 2 to arrive a bit later. (7-ish) Before dinner, we attended the ice show, "Cool Art, Hot Ice," and it was FANTASTIC. You HAVE to go see this show—perhaps the best I've ever seen. Then it was off to dinner. We had a great waiter named Luis, and enjoyed our formal night dinner very much. 

Then... HEADLINER SHOWTIME! Paul Boland was the entertainer, and did some wonderful impersonations, and made us laugh until we cried. We enjoyed this show almost as much as the ice show. We stopped by the Duck and Dog for an adult beverage, and then we were ready to turn in for the night. It was a GREAT DAY!

Aruba-Day 3
I think we booked this cruise so we could visit Aruba. I have to admit that the beaches were gorgeous. We had a bit of trouble finding a place to park ourselves, though. Evidently, the best beach to use if you want a "Day at the BEACH" is Baby Beach, but it is about a 30 minute ride to the beach in a cab and about $35 each way (for 2). We couldn't find anyone to share a cab at the time we wanted to go and we spent about 3 hours that morning shopping for souvenirs, so we asked if there was a nice beach closer by. We were taken to Palm Beach, where the high rise resorts are located (less than 10 minutes from the ship.) Cab is about $8 for 2 each way, and the public bus is $2.50 for 2—take your choice. We rode the bus one way and the cab back... it was fine either way.

We found that cruise passengers were not very welcome. (I have since discovered that it depends on how booked their resorts are at the time. No one would take our cash, or even speak to us. Other cruisers I visited with told us they were allowed complete use of the facilities when they visited Aruba. Just know it's not a given that you will be able to get a chair or a drink. The beaches are public, but the amenities do not have to be offered to you. I understand why resorts have these policies, since their first loyalty should be to their guests. We did not want to use the pools, but maybe just rent a lounger and buy some drinks. I just don't think they are doing themselves a favor by alienating potential customers.) Please know I'm not complaining... just relating the information for the week we were visiting. We finally found a little guy next to the Radisson who rented us a lounge chair WITH a pool float for $6 each—his name was TATITO and he has a rental shack right on the beach, and the beach was nice. There is a place to get beer, water, etc., and after 3pm it's HAPPY HOUR—two for ONE drinks. We spent a few nice hours there, and then headed back to the ship. We also heard that Eagle beach is nice, but the only thing at this place was the beach and some jet skis. No food, drinks, chairs, etc. So don't visit unless you want to jet ski ONLY. The beach was beautiful though.

Back to the ship for a shower and some dinner. (Room service, since we were exhausted.) After a short nap, we went out to check out the nightlife in Aruba—mainly Carlos and Charlie's. It was WILD... I mean REALLY WILD. Even the Cruise Director was there leading some songs. Everyone was very happy, and it was packed. We could stand that about an hour, and then headed back to the Adventure, the Duck and Dog, and our table for some late night adult beverages.

Curacao-Day 4
I have not heard too many good things about Curacao, but we enjoyed our brief visit there. It was a national holiday in Curacao on the day we visited, so many of the shops were closed. We took our time getting ready that morning, took a walk, and then headed off to explore the island. There are some interesting characters made out of stones that you will pass on your way to the shopping area. It was very crowded due to the holiday festivities, so we decided to sit at a sidewalk cafe and people watch for a bit. They had helicopter demonstrations, and huz loved watching them.

After downing a couple of Amstel Lights, we shopped for a few souvenirs, and then headed back to the ship. All in all, we were gone for about 2 hours. We decided to use the afternoon as a "sea day" since it was less crowded and easier to get a great lounge chair and frosty beverage. Some passengers did visit a beach on Curacao, but we chose to stay close to the ship today and enjoy the Adventure of the Seas. 

It was Italian Night in the dining room, and the food was delicious. The production show that evening was "Velvet Rope." The music and productions seemed to be aimed at the Baby Boomers, and that is fine with us since we're baby boomers! They also had a 50s party later, but we opted to go to the Duck and Dog again, where our sweet waitress quickly brought our "usuals" without us even asking. She also knew my huz loved to take a glass of ice water with him, and I enjoyed sipping a Coke on the way back to the room. Both were there with our drinks in seconds! That's service, my friends.

Day at Sea-Day 5
Seemed like most people got a late start today... that 50s party last night must have been a good one! Anyway, days at sea are meant for ONE thing—relaxing! So we walked and then parked ourselves in loungers for the day. There were still quite a few saved loungers again, and most were in the adult only pool. Again, there were children in the adult only pool, but I think no one got upset enough to make it an issue. We chose to stay by the main pool today, and it was festive without being too noisy or obnoxious. They had games and contests, and the service around the pool was excellent.

We did have a family arrive and put their loungers almost ON TOP of ours, in an obvious "squeeze play" to get us to leave. They needed 4 loungers and there were only 2 empty in the area. However, 2 feet from us... oh well, never mind! We stood our ground, even though those two family members just stood right behind our loungers waiting for us to go. There were plenty of chairs in plenty of places, but I guess they wanted this particular spot. Weird, huh? We were ready to leave about 45 minutes after they arrived and one of the people called out to her son and daughter standing at the pool bar, "They're Leaving!" So they came running over to our chairs and threw bags on them before we got our towels off. I didn't get mad, but I did giggle. How silly to base your entire happiness on ONE or TWO deck chairs. What was the big deal—three feet from us were 5 or 6 empty loungers—oh well! All I can say is, don't let anyone ruin your day... just laugh at them. 

We had a nice lunch at the Island Grill at the back of the Windjammer. In fact, we ate lunch there almost daily. We sunbathed a bit longer on our balcony, and then took a nap. It was formal night, and that meant LOBSTER. Actually, the lobster was not the best, but I still thought it was good and I didn't have to COOK IT! Our waiter was sweet and brought an extra for us since our lobsters were smaller than he liked.

The show tonight was Revolution, and it was a Beatle tribute show. It was fun since they also included video clips from TV commercials from this time. There was also actual footage of the Beatles and their screaming fans! After the show, we did the usual...Duck and Dog.

St. Maarten-Day 6
This is my one of my two favorite ports in the Caribbean. We have been to St. Maarten a few times, and I love it more every time we stop there. (Beers are ONE DOLLAR!) This year we opted to try the St. Maarten Sailing Regatta, since everyone has raved about that excursion for years. It is only a 2 ½ hour excursion, so it left us plenty of time to “beach it” and shop a little as well.

The excursion is fun, but you do some work unless you are one of the two people out of 18 who are chosen to do nothing. One word of caution: the ocean can get rough. If you are prone to seasickness, you need to take precautions to prevent “making a deposit in the ocean.” I started taking Bonine the week before our cruise (one every night before bed, and every night during the cruise, as well as a few days after coming home.) I am usually the FIRST to get motion sickness. I didn’t even have it for a second. I was also in the front of the boat, and that seemed to be helpful as well. Huz had an inner ear infection and a head cold brewing as the cruise began, and we thought he was about over it—wrong. He was in the aft and got quite queasy, but never made the “deposit.” He was such a trooper to stick it out. Another point: some people on this excursion think this is the REAL race, and tend to be QUITE competitive. Luckily, we won, but I hate to think what might have happened if we had lost. We were on the excursion for fun, but one of the couples had done this before and lost, and they were determined to settle an old score—meaning that our boat was going to win at ALL costs. The huz appointed himself as captain almost before we got off the Adventure, and they were scoping all of us out to see who had done this before. Just know that every sailing has a different group aboard, and what we experienced is just one possibility. I just was not prepared for that attitude, but I have to admit that I enjoyed winning. We would do this excursion again, so I’d consider it a success, and something you need to experience at least once. After the race, you are given a chance to buy an authentic “crew” t-shirt, and a photo as well. The photo was $30, but it is a once in a lifetime picture of the crew while you’re sailing.

Then, we decided to stretch our legs and walk past the shops to the Everyt'ing Cool beach. We did a little souvenir shopping on the way, and then had lunch and drinks at E.T. (They have a website—check it out here.) The beach is gorgeous, and the water is wonderful. After about three hours there, we stopped by a shop on Front Street for the bargains on alcohol.

We enjoyed relaxing so much at this beautiful beach. Many of the passengers go to the French side (clothing optional), but we enjoyed staying close to home and relaxing. Make sure to allow plenty of time for your return if you go to the other side—several passengers said they worried that they wouldn’t make it back in time due to traffic. Wonderful beach, wonderful shopping, and wonderful day.

St. Thomas-Day 7
The only place I love as much as St. Maarten is St. Thomas. All passengers are required to go through an Immigration check before leaving the ship. They ask you to come to a dining room between 7 and 9 a.m. The long lines shouldn’t scare you, as they move VERY quickly. We went ahead and ate breakfast in the dining room since we were up and ready to go, and then headed off to the shops. The shops are open by 9 and ready for you. There are hundreds of cabs, but they are actually “vans” with drivers who want to fill the entire van before heading to town. We found a van with a couple of spaces left and hopped on
—$3 a person.

After shopping, (and be sure to check out the Flea Market across from Little Switzerland), we flagged another van and headed to Megan’s Bay. (about $6 a person, honestly can’t remember what it was exactly!) It’s a perfect beach for us—food, sun, sand, gorgeous water, loungers, and adult beverages delivered to you. They also sell fantastic t-shirts. Our driver agreed to meet us at a certain time in the afternoon, and wouldn’t even accept our money until the round trip was completed. (This is pretty common in St. Thomas.) 

Sailaway from St. Thomas is beautiful! It’s really tough ending a cruise gazing at the beauty of St. Thomas, and knowing in the back of your mind that you have a ton of packing to do. We just took the time out to enjoy the scenery, and then it was time to go to the dining room for the last time. Tips are easily added to your card and then vouchers and envelopes are given to you to hand out on the last night. Luggage is due out in the hall by midnight—you know the routine! It’s pretty sad.

Dinner was great, and the farewell show was sad... it’s hard to believe how quickly the time passes. We had one last drink at the Duck and Dog, and then it was time to get back to the cabin, put out the bags, and fall asleep.

Never fun, always sad. Once again, it takes a bit longer in San Juan than in Miami, so prepare yourself. There was NO PIER BAGGAGE CHECK BY THE AIRLINES on our voyage due to security, so be prepared to get your own bags to the airport (a cab is about $18).

We had a 2:30 p.m. flight, so we were among the last to leave the ship. Keep a book with you to read, and you can sit on the Promenade one last time and enjoy the ship. We were called about 10:45, stood in a rather long customs line, and still made it to the airport by 11:30. So you should easily make a flight by noon. Any earlier might have your heart racing a bit. 

Final Observations
If you have this ship and itinerary booked, you will have a wonderful cruise. The Adventure of the Seas is a beautiful ship, and the service we received is about the best we have had so far—
at least on one of the mega-ships. The word “No” was never uttered to us, but always a smile and “We will do our best to take care of things for you.” This was noted in every single area of the ship... dining room, cabin steward, bar. Everywhere. The ship is also VERY clean, and kept that way throughout your stay. 

Itinerary - We chose this itinerary since we wanted to visit Aruba, and I’m not sure if the increased air cost justifies that one port. It was beautiful, but if your airfare is like ours, and close to $400 a person more than flying to Florida, I’m not sure it’s worth the added expense. (Luckily we were able to use air miles.) However, cruising from San Juan is another experience, and we really considered San Juan an added port for us as well. We will probably just cruise the Eastern from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale from now on. If you live in an area where air to San Juan is reasonable, go for it and have fun!

Dining room and Windjammer - Much has been said about the drop in the quality of food on the cruise ships recently. We thought the food was fine on this ship and, although the number of choices has been reduced, there was always something great to order. The waiters are very happy to bring you extra entrees to share so you can taste everything. The service in the dining room is outstanding, and we had enjoyable meals every night. Portofino’s is a step above, no doubt, and fun for a special night during your cruise. We found the food at the Windjammer to be very good, and we utilized the Island Grill at the back for quick lunches. Room service on our sailing was PERFECT—every single order we received—and that was every morning. It was always exactly what we ordered. Huz said the coffee got a little bitter as the week wore on, but he drank it and said it was fine. Bravo to Room Service!

Bar Service - The “Duck and Dog” is the cousin of the “Pig and Whistle” on the Voyager. It is in the middle of the activity on the Promenade, and the perfect place to have a drink. We did not purchase a cocktail card for $44 since they no longer allow you to request Stoli vodka. (They did last year.) The soda card for an adult is $33, a whopping $13 more than the exact same card on Princess. I wonder why their soda is so much more expensive on RCCL? Hehehe.

Promenade Café - This is a fantastic place to grab a something sweet, like a cookie or a piece of cake or pie. They also have pizza and great sandwiches. It’s open about 22 hours a day. This ship also had frozen yogurt machines located all over the ship, and they were always working. Fantastic!

Alcohol - You were not allowed to carry on alcohol from the ports. It was taken upon reboarding and delivered on the final night of your cruise. Alcohol bought in the duty free shop could be taken to your stateroom for an additional $9.95 per bottle. That made it cost us about the same as at home, but still less expensive than buying drinks at the bar.

Photo service - Photos were taken every time you blinked, but the quality was VERY poor. We usually buy quite a few of the ship’s photos, but the quality and poses were not good, and often we weren’t even close to the center of the picture. Needless to say, be sure to take your own camera and don’t count on the ship’s photographer to get a great shot of your group. We were really glad we took lots of pictures with our own camera.

Cruise Director - The cruise director on this sailing was Omar Lugo. He was fabulous and had such energy and vitality that it made you join in. He was everywhere, from sunrise to sunset, and the guy never stopped smiling. He seems to love his job. He was even at Carlos and Charlie’s in Aruba, leading some dancing. 

We had a fabulous time, and hope you enjoy your cruise as well! 

Bon Voyage!

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Photo courtesy of Kvaerner Masa-Yards

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