This was my first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, and it
exceeded my expectations in every respect: ship, crew, activities,
dining, price, and ports of call. I will describe each of them in
SHIP: The Adventure of the Seas was built in 2001, which makes
it almost middle-aged by current cruise industry standards (seems
young to me). It is well-maintained, and other than a few fogged
windows (in the aft buffet) age is not an issue.
It is 137,000 tons (three times the volume of the Titanic but
smaller than its newer sister ships), and carries 3,000 passengers
and 1,000 crew. It is the largest cruise ship that I have traveled
on so far.
I was afraid that the large size would create crowds and waiting
lines, but that was never a problem. The ice skating rink (yes, ice
rink) blocked through-traffic on decks two and three, and shoppers
sometimes slowed traffic on the deck five mall, but the other decks
never seemed crowded.
The large size of the ship allows for a greater variety of
sports and entertainment venues than on smaller ships. I was
surprised that I never had
to wait to participate in sports activities and always found a seat
at entertainment (and enrichment) events.
The decor of the ship is stylish with a few whimsical touches.
The stairwell art works are especially enjoyable. If you have a
chance, take the free art tour given by a crew member several times
during the cruise.
At about 153 sq. ft., my inside cabin was a bit smaller than I
am used to, but it was well-designed and very functional. Only the
CRT-type TV seemed dated. The climate control worked very well, and
there always was enough fresh air at whatever temperature I
The bathroom was snug, but the shower had great water pressure
and the circular enclosure worked much better than the usual shower
curtain. I was pleased with my inside cabin. I did not have an
opportunity to view other cabin categories and cannot comment on
For a look at the ship inside and out, a link to my photos is
given at the end of this review. Photos of the ship are better than
CREW: All of the crew members were well-trained and thoroughly
professional, from the cruise director (Abel, a charming polyglot
from Switzerland) to the numerous people who worked behind the
scenes keeping everything shipshape.
I was impressed that the crew were very responsive to requests.
When my shower backed up and later when my ceiling light flickered,
the maintenance crew had each of them fixed within an hour. When I
noted that the spa schedule was heavy on fee- and light on
free-activities, the spa staff responded by adding a free stretch
class every morning (try it, you will be amazed how enjoyable it
The entertainment crew also did a great job. The singers and
dancers were very talented, and the ice skaters were world class.
The activities crew made certain that guests felt welcome to
participate in (or simply watch) the numerous events they offered.
They were always very polite and friendly, which is not easy when
one loses an hour of sleep almost every night on an eastbound
My dining crew (I had open seating) were always first rate, and
they always seemed to know my drink preferences even though I
rotated tables and dined at various times.
My cabin steward Joel also did a fine job. My cabin was always
immaculate, and he greeted me by name and helped me practice my
Spanish (for my trip through southern Spain that followed the
PASSENGERS: Transatlantic cruises tend to attract an older and
often better educated crowd with fewer children than shorter
regional cruises, and that was the case on this cruise.
Since the passengers on this itinerary were about a quarter
North American, a quarter Hispanic, a quarter German, and the
remaining quarter other European and Asian, one had a chance to
experience a broad variety of backgrounds, world views, and
languages (although most passengers also spoke English). Meeting
them was one of the pleasures of open dining.
Surprisingly few passengers smoked, and smoking was not an issue
since it was limited to only a few areas. As on most ships, smoking
was not allowed in the dining rooms and most other public
ACTIVITIES: The ice rink was a surprising pleasure. The ice
shows were infrequent but impressive, with the cast of ten skating
at a world class level. This will be your best chance to see (up
close and personal) how athletic an ice show really is. Obtain your
free tickets the day you board, and go early since it is open
The gym was adequate in size and equipment, but its open floor
plan with a central whirlpool made it a bit noisy. Bring earplugs
or headphones when you head for the gym. I carry earplugs to all
cruise ship venues because of my personal bias against the muzak
and over-amplified entertainment on almost all cruise lines,
especially on the pool deck where one wants to relax.
The sports deck offered a wide variety of activities. The rock
climbing wall on the back of the smokestack was much more fun than
I had expected. Make sure you give it a try. It is exhilarating,
and easier than you think.
On warm days the pool area was very busy, and as usual on cruise
ships some people saved their deck chairs in advance, in spite of
signs to the contrary. While it was warm in the Caribbean and
western Atlantic, the eastern Atlantic was windy and very cool for
April -- good for deck walks but not for sunning or swimming.
The jogging/walking track on the top deck was often busy and
sometimes very windy, but the deck 4 promenade area under the
lifeboats was more protected and never crowded. By climbing stairs
up to deck 5 in the bow and then back down to deck 4 one could
encircle the entire ship. The balcony "bulge" midship gives
beautiful sea views on these walks.
The library had a relatively modest selection of books that
often appeared to come from remaindered titles. You might want to
bring some of your own reading material. The library had open
shelves and was run on the honor system, which was convenient.
Enrichment lectures were relatively lightly attended for a
transatlantic crossing, but the three speakers were all
entertaining and enthusiastic. Most lectures related to the next
port of call or to our final destination (Spain), which was a
Some passengers were disappointed in the speed of the internet
connection while mid-ocean (especially since it is billed per
minute), but I did not have a problem since I only used it when we
were in or near a port (public libraries in ports often have free
internet, just ask locally). Wi-fi users seemed to like the outdoor
tiled alcove near the solarium pool for a good connection.
CROWN AND ANCHOR: A nice perk of my diamond Crown and Anchor
status on RCI (based on reciprocity with my Captain's Club status
on Celebrity) was 20 minutes of free internet usage.
When you book a cruise with RCI and join their Crown and Anchor
frequent-cruiser program, ask them to check your Celebrity account
too, to see if you already qualify for RCI elite status.
In addition to the internet credit, I received a free 8x10 photo
of myself (the professional photographers were very good, and very
polite), and I received coupons for reduced prices in several
venues including laundry service.
Perhaps the nicest perk was a daily pre-dinner cocktail hour in
the Imperial Lounge with free wine and soda for diamond and higher
Crown and Anchor categories.
DINING: Dining preferences are subjective, but the following
suggestions may be useful to you.
The breakfast and lunch buffets (in the Windjammer) had both
steam table and cold offerings. On every cruise line the former
tend to be over-cooked, and so I tend to opt for the latter. The
fresh fruit and crisp bacon at breakfast were excellent, and a wide
variety of salads was available at lunch (although the main dining
room salad bar was even better on sea days).
Remember that the hand gels at the buffet entry are good for
bacteria, but hand washing with soap and water is even better for
viruses like the notorious Norovirus.
It is just as important to wash your hands after using serving
tongs as it is before entering the buffet. A nice bonus to hand
washing is the beautiful view from the restrooms near the buffet
entrance (they each have a glass wall overlooking the sea).
All but one of the twenty meals I had in the main dining room,
both lunches and dinners, exceeded my expectations (a great record,
I think). The menu is not quite as inventive and the presentation
is not quite as elegant as on premium or luxury cruise ships, but I
did not expect it to be. However, the quality of the ingredients
and their preparation were always first rate.
At lunch on sea days, when the main dining room is open, you
must try the chef's salad bar. It is the best I have had anywhere,
on land or sea. Just make sure that your serving person is not too
generous with the salad dressing. Main courses and desserts are
offered in addition to the salad bar, but the salads are so large
that you may not want anything more.
At dinner the beef was always top quality prime rib or
tenderloin (I did not try the off-menu sirloin and cannot evaluate
it). Only once was the prime rib well done, rather than the rare
that I ordered. At my request they even grilled the filet mignon
extra rare, which few ship galleys are willing to do.
The seafood (various white fish, shrimp, scallops) was always
cooked to perfection, and except for the off-menu salmon, the
seafood was never dry or overdone. The seafood was so good that I
often ordered it.
There was no rack of lamb, but the lamb shank was tender and
flavorful. There was a variety of poultry and pork, which I did not
sample since I have that often enough at home.
I had a dinner salad (the Caesar) only once, and it had wilted
under its dressing. At dinner it may be best to order salad with
the dressing on the side. I did not try the soups, although my
tablemates enjoyed them.
Desserts at dinner and during the afternoon in the buffet were
usually American style, with an emphasis on cakes, puddings, pies,
and ice cream. Classic French desserts were less frequent, and
chocolate desserts were not as flavorful as one would like.
I opted for My Time (open) dining with pre-paid gratuities. I
had multiple different servers and assistants, and all were
excellent. Unfortunately there is currently no system to reward
them with additional tips unless you hand each one a cash
supplement at the end of the cruise. I hope some day RCI will be
able to computerize this process from one's shipboard account,
since it may involve a dozen different servers.
I experienced three minor disappointments with My Time
First, some passengers reserved the same (usually small) table
at the same time for almost every night of the cruise, essentially
locking out others who might also want a table for two or six. The
rest of us usually were seated at long tables for ten, which made
both conversation and service difficult. To be fair to all
passengers, My Time dining should not be My Table dining.
Second, the servers were so generous that they often brought
unordered cheese and fruit plates before presenting the menus. On
one occasion a couple at my table (perhaps they had previously
complained about something) even received two huge Greek salads, a
platter of bruschetta, a cheese plate, and a plate of petits fours
before they placed their orders. This generosity is done with the
best of intentions, but extra food should be on a request only
Third, rather than seating guests in their order of arrival, my
tables for ten were sometimes partly filled, service commenced, and
then the remainder of the table was filled 15-20 minutes later.
This staggered seating is difficult for both the servers and the
earlier guests, who usually must delay their remaining courses
until the later guests catch up. Open dining works better when a
table is closed to new guests once the first course is served.
PRICE: The good news is that this eastbound transatlantic cruise
was the best value I have encountered in more than 20 years of
cruising. The bad news is that cruise prices are capacity
controlled, and you might not be able to obtain such a good price
for your own transatlantic cruise.
Several months before this cruise, I crossed the Atlantic
westbound on a Celebrity ship. When I wanted to return eastbound on
the same ship, the price was raised $400 for residents of my state
(but not for residents of about 20 other states). Although I could
afford the increase, the geographic discrimination turned me
Instead I found this RCI cruise online. It was just as long as,
but cost half as much as, my prior Celebrity cruise (excluding
gratuities and port charges, which are fixed). Even better, I was
able to obtain a solo cabin for only a small surcharge (most cruise
lines charge solo travelers 200%, and sometimes even 300-400% of
their standard rate for couples).
My per diem as a solo passenger in an inside double cabin on
this cruise was an astoundingly low 48 USD, before standard
gratuities and port charges. Thank you RCI!
However, when I considered extending my cruise on the same ship
in the Mediterranean, a solo cabin for the extra one week would
have cost more than four times the rate offered to couples, and
more than twice what I paid for the prior two week transatlantic
Also, when I considered taking the same transatlantic itinerary
westbound on the same Adventure of the Seas next fall, a solo cabin
would have cost three times the rate I paid for my cruise
eastbound. Go figure.
The lesson is that there is sometimes no apparent rhyme or
reason to cruise fares. One must simply stay alert and watch for
good values on the internet.
I hope that RCI has another good value in the future, because I
would happily cruise with them again when their solo cabin price is
a good value.
(N.B. Shortly after I wrote the above, I booked back to back
Alaska cruises for June on the RCI Radiance of the Seas -- not the
fantastic bargain that my transatlantic cruise had been, but a good
value compared with all the other solo cabins on cruise lines in
PORTS OF CALL: I rarely book a tour in any port of call. I much
prefer to explore ports on my own, taking cheap public
transportation and meeting locals along the way. The following
information may help you to do the same on this itinerary.
First, my photo links are given here and again at the end of
this cruise review. You will be surprised how attractive these
Click on this link (or copy and paste it in your browser if
Thumbnail photos will then appear (if you get a "stack overload"
alert due to the number of photos, just click on the alert till it
closes). Then click on the "slideshow" option in the upper left.
Wiggle your mouse to access the control panel to set speed, pause,
or go back.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Our cruise began in San Juan.
San Juan hotels are overpriced, especially near cruise departure
days, so I stayed in a basic and inexpensive (less than the cab
fare from the airport) posada in old San Juan (Posada San
Francisco, on Plaza Colon). There I met several others going on my
cruise, and we shared a taxi to the RCI cruise terminal in the
Old San Juan is a pleasure for strolling. Make sure you leave
enough time to enjoy it, especially the two historic forts run by
the National Park Service (El Morro and San Cristobal). For free
entry to both, remember to bring your national park pass (Golden
Eagle, etc.) from home.
The RCI cruise terminal is across the bay from old San Juan.
There is no bus service nearby and you will need to hire a taxi to
get there. Taxis from the airport to old San Juan are regulated and
cost about $24 (for the entire cab), but taxis from old San Juan to
the cruise terminal may take some negotiating (always agree on the
price in advance, since most taxis are not metered).
Boarding begins around noon. Getting there earlier means you
will simply have to wait in line (outside) longer.
ST. THOMAS, USVI: I regret to say that this is my least favorite
port in the Caribbean. It is usually overwhelmed with cruise ships,
even though the locals try very hard to accommodate them.
In years past we used to take the small ferry to Water Island to
escape the cruise crowds (this is most convenient if your ship
docks at the yacht harbor in Crown Bay). Unfortunately, local tour
operators now bring party barges and catamarans into the Water
Island beach every mid-day, so it is no longer quiet or
Magens Bay beach is probably the best alternative (pay for a
taxi to the north shore, then pay for beach entry). We may simply
stay onboard and enjoy the empty ship when our itineraries take us
to St. Thomas in the future.
ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN (DUTCH/FRENCH): I am a francophile and a
francophone, but I must admit that the Dutch half of this island
(where the cruise ships dock) is much nicer than the French side.
The French beaches (including the famous but unpleasant Orient
Beach) are on the windward side, with rough surf, no free shade,
and seaweed and plastic debris in the water and on the beach.
A much better alternative is to walk from the ship into
Phillipsburg along the nice pedestrian walkway. A few blocks inland
from the town waterfront you will find mini-vans heading west to
Mullet Bay Beach (a scenic 20 minute ride for 2 USD). Look for the
Mullet Bay sign in the mini-van window, and remember to greet the
driver and other passengers when you enter. The driver will drop
you a short walk from the beach.
Along the way you will pass the infamous Maho Beach, where jets
land and take off just overhead. This is an awesome event,
especially the late morning arrival of the KLM 747 from Europe
(check flight schedules if you are interested in being blasted by
awesome jet noise).
Mullet Bay Beach is far enough beyond Maho Beach that it is not
bothered by the jets. It offers a long strip of pristine white sand
and crystal clear water straight out of a travel poster. On week
day mornings it is almost empty and absolutely glorious. There is
shade, but no changing room, so wear your suit if you do not want
to change under your towel. Vendors there rent chairs and
umbrellas, and they sell snacks and drinks.
SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS (SPANISH): The first of the
two Canary Islands on our cruise, Tenerife Island is well-developed
and tourist friendly. Most of its tourists arrive by air from
Europe. Most of the beaches are on the south coast, but the best
sightseeing is to the north and west of the Santa Cruz cruise
There was a good deal of construction along the Santa Cruz
waterfront (it is being upgraded), but signs will direct you along
a 10 minute walk to the main waterfront boulevard, where you can
catch a local bus (you will need a few euros for buses, drivers
make change) westbound to the large main bus station ("Estacion" on
the front of the bus, or ask the driver).
From there, you can catch a bus (there are several per hour, I
believe #15) to La Laguna, an inland town about 20 minutes
northwest, with a UNESCO World Heritage preserved historic center.
Old La Laguna is wonderful for strolling and is just a 10 minute
walk from the local bus station (or take the modern tram those few
blocks). The local tourism board in the center provides free guided
walks on most days around noon.
There is an old tower in the town center with nice views (it
does not open till 10am), and there is a nice farmers and florists
market a few blocks northeast of the old town.
Remember that clean and free public restrooms are available in
the La Laguna bus station and in the farmers market building.
If you have time and interest, there are frequent buses from La
Laguna to Puerto de la Cruz on the northwest coast, an additional
20 minute ride on the freeway. This is an attractive tourist
enclave with a nice parks and a waterfront walk. The local tourism
board has good maps for self-guided walking tours, and their
historic office on the waterfront has a nice gift shop with local
crafts, including handmade lace.
There is no bus station building in Puerto de la Cruz. Instead
the buses all line up along one street located a few blocks above
the waterfront, with street signs giving the destinations and
schedules. There are frequent buses back to Santa Cruz, about a 30
minute ride on the non-stop (I believe #103) bus.
With your remaining time in Santa Cruz (the cruise port) I
suggest you walk around the Calatrava-designed Auditorium of
Tenerife, which is near the main bus station. It is similar to his
famously winged Milwaukee art museum in the U.S.A. Make sure you
look at the painted rocks along the waterfront near the auditorium.
The portraits will surprise you. See how many you can
From the auditorium it is a 15 minute walk back toward the
center of town to the modern TEA public library and contemporary
art museum. The former is the most beautiful library I have seen
anywhere (and it has free internet). The latter has temporary
exhibitions, some of which are very enjoyable if you are an art
lover, and are relatively inexpensive. There is a coffee shop
between the library and museum, with a separate entry.
Next door to the TEA is the anthropology and natural history
museum, which some recommended but I did not have time to see. From
there it is a 20 minute walk back to the ship.
There is usually a shuttle from the ship to the town center for
a few USD, but it was not operating early enough for me, and the
public bus stop is close to the ship anyway. You will be surprised
how enjoyable Tenerife and La Laguna can be.
ARRECIFE, LANZAROTE, CANARY ISLANDS (SPANISH):
Lanzarote Island is famous for its barren volcanic landscape,
which has been used in some science fiction movies as an alien
planet. Incongruously, one of the most popular ship tours is a
camel ride in the remote volcanic national park. There are also
many things you can do on your own at a fraction of the cost.
Cruise ships dock about 2 miles (3 km) east of Arrecife town.
There is a small beach at the port (too cold to swim, but adequate
for sunning on a warm day). Just follow the pedestrian walkway
signs. One can continue on foot to Arrecife, but it is too far and
uninteresting to be worthwhile.
Instead of the walkway to Arrecife, walk 10 minutes straight out
of the cruise port to the main highway (follow the trucks and
buses, and use caution because there is no sidewalk toward the
end). On the highway traffic circle is the Estrella restaurant.
On the side of the highway next to the Estrella restaurant you
can flag the local bus (I believe #3) eastbound to Costa Teguise.
It departs every 20 minutes, takes about 15 minutes, and costs
about 1.50 euros (drivers make change). At the end of the line,
there is a condo area with shops and several pleasant beaches (walk
through the mall to get to the beach promenade).
Alternately, across the highway from the Estrella restaurant is
the westbound bus (I believe #3) into Arrecife (10 minutes, about
1.50 euros) and beyond to Playa del Carmen on the south coast
(about 30 minutes more, although I did not go there).
Instead, I changed buses in Arrecife (at the main bus station
inland or at the large outdoor Intercambiador bus stop near the
waterfront) and took the #60 bus for a 60 minute long, 4 euro ride
along the center of the island past the volcanic national park (no
access by public bus) to Playa Blanca on the west coast.
This route gives a scenic view of most of the island, and the
beach walk at Playa Blanca is very pleasant. The #60 bus runs only
once every hour (near the top of the hour) so plan your return to
the ship accordingly.
FUNCHAL, MADEIRA ISLAND (PORTUGUESE): Madeira Island has a local
bus system, but most of it is thinly scheduled, for locals going to
and from work.
However, there is good bus service (#20 or #21, I believe) up
the mountain behind Funchal to the beautiful vistas and street sled
rides of El Monte.
Funchal itself is a beautiful town with wonderful gardens. A
ride up and down from El Monte followed by a walk through Funchal
with visits to the farmers market and several churches and museums
will easily fill your day.
At the cruise port pick up a free map of Funchal. From the
cruise ship it is a scenic 15 minute walk along the yacht harbor
and waterfront to the Praca de Autonomia (Plaza of Autonomy).
On the west side of the plaza, heading uphill along the (usually
dry) riverbed is the bus stop for El Monte. It is a scenic 15
minute ride up (about 2 euros) to the church (igreja) of El Monte
(ask the driver where to get off). From the church front you can
look down over Funchal and the cruise port.
Right below the church is the starting point for the famous
street (basket) sled rides part way downhill. The bus ride back
down was thrilling enough for me, but just watching the sleds take
off is fun. Near the church is a large public garden, but the entry
is 10 euros, and the gardens in town are free.
On the east side of the Praca de Autonomia downtown is the
indoor farmers, fishmen, and florists market. There you will find
colorful photo ops, especially since the florists still wear the
island's traditional red costumes and caps.
Walking along the pedestrian zone west from the market and the
Praca de Autonomia you will come to the historic town center along
Avenida Arriaga. There you will find many cafes, free wi-fi,
beautiful blue (in spring) jacaranda trees, and a wonderful public
If you head uphill from that flower garden, you will come to
Santa Clara street, which leads up to two fine museums, a beautiful
church (San Pedro) and a nice old convent (Santa Clara).
Near the top of the street is the Museu Quinta das Cruzes, a
fine old mansion where the last Austrian emperor was exiled after
the war. It is now a museum of decorative arts. In the museum
garden is a nice orchid display.
A few blocks below this, also on Santa Clara street is the Museu
Freitas. Half is a modern building with a good collection of the
famous old tiles (azulejos) which one sees in churches and homes.
The other half is the former mansion of Dr. Freitas. The mansion is
particularly impressive because its valuable art objects are in
situ, and not behind glass.
To see the Santa Clara convent you will have to ring the bell
next to the gate. If it is answered, a nun (or employee) will
include you in one of their tours. San Pedro church is near the
convent on your way back down to the town center.
For those who are unable to walk well, I believe Funchal has a
hop on/off bus tour that leaves from the waterfront, but I do not
know the schedule or prices.
MALAGA, SPAIN: Malaga was founded by Phoenicians, then settled
by Romans. It is surprisingly attractive and enjoyable for a day
visit (or preferably an overnight), and the local tourist offices
are friendly and helpful.
Torremolinos is a short bus ride west of Malaga, and Nerja (less
crowded and more attractive than Torremolinos) is a 50 minute bus
ride east. Buses to either leave from the bus stop on Avenida
Herredia near the waterfront, which is closer to the town center
than the main bus station.
Cruise ships dock about a mile (1.5 km) from the historic center
of Malaga and about two miles (3.0 km) from the back-to-back train
and bus stations. The airport is several miles west of town, but
there are good airport buses every 25 minutes (2 euros) leaving
from Alameda Principal, the short boulevard with florist booths
located between the waterfront and the old town center.
On arrival in Malaga at the end of my cruise I walked off the
ship at 0630 and took a taxi (they are all small, white, and
metered) from the ship to the bus station (about 10 euros plus tip)
for my bus ride to Ronda. I was at the bus station before 0700 and
was glad to have taken the taxi since it started to rain a few
I stayed in Malaga for two nights (at the small, central, and
very reasonable Hotel Trebol) after spending two weeks traveling on
my own through Andalusia (Ronda, Sevilla, Cordoba, and
From Malaga I then took an inexpensive Veuling (Iberia code
share) flight to Barcelona, where I stayed a few more days before
flying back to the U.S.A.
In addition to a side trip to Nerja, I enjoyed Malaga's Picasso
Museum (Malaga was his birthplace) in a restored mansion with a
pleasant garden cafe. While the Barcelona Picasso Museum has mainly
early (adolescent) and late (Las Meninas cycle) works, the Malaga
Picasso Museum has works from his middle years that he kept for
himself and are now on loan from his family.
Near the Picasso Museum is Malaga's large cathedral (with a
small but free art museum in the adjacent historic Episcopal
Palace), and also nearby is Malaga's open Roman amphitheater.
The entire downtown area is a stylish pedestrian zone with nice
shops and cafes, which are especially enjoyable for people watching
during the evening paseo.
West of the town center is a photogenic indoor farmers market (a
block from my Hotel Trebol), and north of that is a small but
enjoyable costume and decorative arts museum
All of these sights are listed on the free tourist maps, which
are available from tourist information booths near the waterfront,
the cathedral, the Picasso Museum, and the amphitheater.
Like Cartagena farther up Spain's Mediterranean coast, Malaga is
much nicer than one expects. Malaga is a very enjoyable place to
start or end a cruise.
Again, for those interested, my photos of the ship and some of
the ports are at the following link. Click on this link (or copy
and paste it in your browser if necessary):
Thumbnail photos will then appear (if you get a "stack overload"
alert due to the number of photos, just click on the alert till it
closes). Then click on the "slideshow" option in the upper left.
Wiggle your mouse to access the control panel to set speed, pause,
or go back.
I hope you find the above information useful. Enjoy my photos
and your next cruise. Bon voyage!