Royal Caribbean International Reviews

Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 22
Category: Mainstream

Summary: The largest and most technically impressive cruise ships in the world. Great for kids, families and adventurous adults. A large fleet, but Oasis and Brilliance are often cited as favorites

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

50 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean

Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.

8 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean

Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.

45 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

48 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean

Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.

68 Reviews

Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

17 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

46 Reviews

Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

2 Reviews

Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

27 Reviews

Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

20 Reviews

Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

15 Reviews

Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic

Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Group.

47 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas

Good for: Teens. Group. Families.

37 Reviews

Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

46 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.

15 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

43 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania

Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.

41 Reviews

Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific

Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.

23 Reviews

Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai

Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.

28 Reviews

Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles

Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.

33 Reviews

Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

73 Reviews

Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
4.18
from 732 reviews

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User Reviews

732 User Reviews of Royal Caribbean Ships
Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: April 18, 2012

Grandeur of the Seas Royal Caribbean. Transatlantic Miami to Malaga.May 18 2012. Honeymoon. OWNERS CABIN Dirty. 5 days no sleep due to food cart noise from kitchens above, a problem theyre aware of. Inconsequential ships management under Hotel Manager Mr Tony Curtis , admitted they have complaints every cruise -FOR 17 YEARS, and do nothing to resolve it. Simply replacing worn out rubber tyred wheels would fix it.

Daily toilet would not flush. Many toilet sewage overflows taking hours to clean.

BED BUG infestation causing insect bites necessitating medical treatment, requiring 3 fumigations and dry cleaning of all clothing and suitcases to control it. Refusal to provide a sleeping cabin obliged us to breathe insecticide fumes all night. Inebriated stateroom attendant. Cleaning carts left in passageways are a safety hazard. The US Coastgurad should be informed.

Ineffectual and disinterested UK customer services Team Leader Mr Sam Murdoch offered a 25% discount off future cruise. An absolute insult for for a ruined holiday.

Look elsewhere if you want a good cruise experience, or be very careful when choosing a cabin.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: April 15, 2012

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 that order.

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 wanted.

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 them.

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 any description.

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 is).

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 itinerary.

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 cruise).

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 areas.

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 seating.

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 plus.

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 dining:

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 basis.

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 off.

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 cruise.

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 Alaska.)

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 ports are.

Click on this link (or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary):

https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/TACruise412Album?authkey=Gv1sRgCNOnrerv9O-wUA#

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 morning.

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 pleasant.

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 port.

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 recognize.

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 flower garden.

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 minutes later.

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 Granada).

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): https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/TACruise412Album?authkey=Gv1sRgCNOnrerv9O-wUA#

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!

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 17, 2012

Think "destination resort" that travels to Caribbean destination resorts by ship! My wife and I booked the Qasis of the Seas March 17th western Caribbean cruise because we had recently sailed on the Allure of the Seas and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The Oasis was everything we expected and more. If you have doubts about sailing on a ship as big as the Oasis there is no need to be concerned. Royal Caribbean has mastered the art of accommodating large numbers of people and providing them a memorable experience. Embarkation/Disembarkation: It took us just 15 to 20 minutes from dropping our bags at the terminal to boarding the ship. We left our cabin at 6:15 AM on disembarkation morning and were in our car at 6:35 AM. We drove to Port Everglades and entered the port, shortly after 11 AM, through the main entrance because terminal 18 is closest to the main entrance. We dropped our bags at the terminal entrance and parked in the lot adjacent to the terminal. The charge was $15 per day. The lot is a two minute walk from the terminal entrance. We provided our set

sail pass and credentials at check in where there was no line, had our pictures taken and boarded. Getting off, we used the express system. Customs was a breeze. Crowds: Want to experience crowds and wait in lines? Select peak times to do things. Board the ship between noon and 1 PM. Go the Windjammer buffet immediately after boarding between 12:30 and 1:30 pm. Get off the ship at any port immediately after the ship is cleared. Have breakfast in the buffet at 8 AM and lunch at noon. Use the stand-by line to get into any show. Disembark the ship at 8:30 AM. We made reservations for Giovanni's Table for 12:30 PM on embarkation day. We arrived at the restaurant before noon, were seated immediately and enjoyed being served a very nice Italian themed lunch. There was no crowd or waiting line. Our cabin was available at 1 PM. We eat early, usually 7:00 to 8:00 AM for breakfast and 11:30 to noon for lunch. We selected "My Time' dining for dinner which allows dining as early as 5:30 PM. We made reservations for all the shows we planned to attend and there were no lines for people with reservations. A crew member scanned the bar code on the backs of our room keys/identity cards to verify the reservations. There were always good seats. We got off the ship at the destination ports at least a half hour after the ship was cleared. There were crowds at special events like parades on the Royal Promenade so it is mandatory to show up a little early if you want a good vantage point. There is too much to do on the ship to waste time standing in lines waiting for anything. Ship and Cabin: The Oasis is a spectacular ship! Embarking, you enter on the Royal Promenade which is filled with shops, restaurants, lounges, customer service, a Starbucks and kiosks where you can reserve tours/excursions, reserve a spa treatment or purchase drink cards. The statistics about the ship are awesome! You can read them on the Royal Caribbean web site but they must be experienced to truly appreciate. Central park on deck eight is a peaceful place, filled with plants, restaurants, a rising bar and a couple shops. We tried Giovanni's table for a lunch and Chops Grille for a dinner. The park café is a popular lunch spot. The boardwalk on deck six has a lot of action with shops, restaurants and even a working carousel. We tried Johnny Rockets for breakfast, the Seafood Shack for lunch, the ice cream and donut shops, and the cupcake shop. All good! It is also the place for the water shows, complete with high diving and water acrobatics. The Royal Promenade has a lot of favorites; the café promenade which is great for morning coffee or a scone, the English themed pub, shops and a pizza place. The entertainment deck on deck four has the ice rink, casino and a couple of clubs. The casino is large with modern games. Our cabin was 6240, nicely located a couple of minutes from breakfast or lunch on the Boardwalk, one set of stairs from the Royal Promenade and our dinner restaurant, two sets of stairs from the entertainment deck and convenient to a large number of activities. It was also located nicely from the express carry off on disembarkation day. No noise and a morning shade location on port days. Dining: The dining options on the Oasis are better than those at many destination resorts. The brochures advertise at least a couple dozen choices. We tried several. The food was very good in every venue we tried. It was prepared and presented well. We tried breakfast in Johnny Rockets, the main dining room express buffet and the Windjammer Café. Our lunches were at the Seafood Shack, Giovanni's table and the Windjammer. All of our dinners except one at Chops Grille were in the main dining room. We tried an assortment of dishes including filet of sole, sea bass, filet of beef, filet mignon, roast turkey, lobster tails, pasta, eggs, and pancakes. American, Asian, Mexican, and Indian dishes were available. Sandwiches and salads, customized to taste, were abundant. The Oasis is a great place to dine. Ports: We sailed to the western Caribbean that included Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica: and Cozumel, Mexico. They all had a wide variety of water activities, local tours, and shopping. The new Royal Caribbean developed port at Falmouth is a pleasant place to shop and sample local flavor. Labadee has a lot of local color. The big ships like the Oasis and Allure go to ports that allow docking so tendering is a thing of the past. That is convenient for passengers with minimal plans for going ashore. Entertainment: The number of show venues is impressive. In addition to the main show room, the aqua theater and ice rink host excellent shows. Add in the lounge acts, audience participation shows, music, parades, the Dreamworks characters and there is always action somewhere. The casino is in a class by itself for cruise ships. Staff: The staff on the Oasis were noticeably happy. We called it a happy ship. In addition they were very competent and accommodative to the passengers. Kudos to the managers who set the tone, select and train the thousands of staff members. That made the cruising experience even more enjoyable. Conclusion: The Oasis is an excellent ship, a true destination resort offering a huge variety of entertainment and dining options operated by a staff of thousands who seem to enjoy being on board to provide a great cruising experience for the passengers.
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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 3, 2012

The RCI Breakdown:

Let me begin by saying that we are first time cruisers and I have a mixed review that I hope you will take the time to read thoroughly through.

My finance and I have never experienced a cruise and after a month of reading reviews and getting input from friends and family we finally decided to take a Western Royal Caribbean for our Honeymoon. We were married March 1 and scheduled to board on March 3rd. All my wife could keep telling me was about how beautiful Cozumel and Costa Maya Mexico are, and that's all I could think about from the day we married until the day we boarded the Jewel. With that being said here is my break down of our first cruise experience.

We boarded around 1:30pm on March 3rd and our first objective was to get to our Stateroom and get our carry on luggage put away. Upon arrival some of our luggage was already waiting for us, so we quickly put away what we could and took advantage of walking around the ship since we still had a few hours before departing Tampa. Being avid

coffee drinkers we thought it would be nice to get some java and explore the Jewel. So we proceeded to start at the AFT part of the ship and work our way forward, surprisingly every restaurant and coffee machine we saw was closed, now being first time cruisers we didn't know the difference so we continued on exploring. The Jewel was beyond our expectations for a cruise ship we were in astounded by the beauty and architecture we seen – it was truly a fabulous ship and I envisioned a fantastic honeymoon a few hours away from beginning.

With no luck on the coffee we continued to walk in hopes of finding some kind of refreshment or open restaurant, and as we got closer to the center of the ship on Deck 12 we heard music so we worked our way in the same direction figuring something would be open. Upon arrival at the main pool my hopes of a romantic honeymoon crashed and burned. The complete pool deck was filled with 21 year old college students at which time half or better percentage of them were already hammered from drinking and here it is only 2:30 in the afternoon, looking around we seen all the sun bathing lounge chairs – pools and hot tubs were completely taken over by college students who at this point could careless who else was on the ship. It was their world and nothing was going to stop them. Now for the record I am not opposed to anyone of legal age having a good time, however there are still rules of engagement and clearly these young adults were far from understanding the words "Respect and Courtesy" and being drunk was all they cared about.

Emergency Evacuation 4:15 March 3rd At 4:15 The Captain called for the must have emergency evacuation drill. Being first time cruisers we were very interested in understanding the process. We arrive at E16 our evacuation center and along with us were half the drunken college students talking and yelling above the crew and the PA system completely ignoring the safety protocols that were being announced. Also during the evacuation drill it was brought to our attention that a group of College students were kicked off the ship and 4 were arrested stemming from obnoxious behavior to other passengers and smuggling drugs through customs. This delayed us from leaving until almost 5-5:30pm. Again, the only unfortunate issue here is that none of the RCI personnel stepped up to control the unruly crowd.

Food: Being that the culinary staff has to feed 2,000 plus people from several different ethnic back rounds I feel they did an adequate job with the food – but not necessarily superb. It was your basic buffet style food – we did go to one formal dinner but nothing wowed us to go to any others so we mainly ate at the buffet.

Eat when you want? – No such thing on this cruise – All the main restaurants closed at 11pm and you were left with Pizza and maybe some nacho chips – and the worst part was, it was only available at one location at the bow of the ship which made it even more difficult to fight the crowds, and if you wanted a Soda – good luck finding it after 11pm. However, you can opt for room service with a little more on the menu however one and half hours waiting wasn't worth the extra money you had to pay.

Entertainment The entertainment at the Center of the ship was absolutely fantastic – it was where most of the older generation couples were hanging out because the pool areas and lounges were being overrun by the college students, but as soon we thought we found a nice quiet area where we could talk and enjoy a late night drink while listening to some very good live music – while dressed in our casual evening clothes here comes the College kids staggering across the dance floor in their swim suits / no shirts or shoes to one of the bars.

The Motown show featuring the Horizons was beyond Fantastic – Kudos to Royal for having them on board.

The 70's Dance Party that was held on deck 4 inside was Excellent – However it slowly crashed and burned when (Yep) the drunk college kids got into the party wearing their bathing suits, screaming hollering and using profanity.

Excursions All canceled due to inclement weather – The cruise line did absolutely nothing to try and compensate with on board activates and or offer other excursion options.

Service Service from the wait staff was good – but again not superb as I thought I would suspect or read from other reviews – again I contribute this too the college crowd and their lack of respect for others, It almost felt like the crew was intimidated by the actions of this young crowd and preferred to let them just do what they want so they wouldn't have to deal with the insubordination or derogatory remarks.

State Room Our Stateroom 9636 was fantastic with a nice balcony and view located in a pretty decent part of the ship where walking to the stairs or elevators was very convenient. Final Day of Cruise: My wife and I inquired with the some of the crew about purchasing some wine so we can go back to our stateroom for a last cruise evening toast – we were told that if we purchased a bottle at the Ship store we would be able to take it with us because it was the final night of the cruise – However after our purchase we were informed that because there was so many college students on the cruise the Ships staff was suspending any liquor purchase back to the rooms and we would have to wait until morning to pick it up. Another amenity taken because of the college gathering, with that we assumed we could just go buy a drink and take it back to the room however upon arriving on the main pool deck – everything was closed early, so that the college crowd didn't get out of hand partying all night and ensuring they got off the ship on time the next morning. How sad it is that the responsible passengers suffered for the inadequacies of these younger persons.

Over all our first cruise experience was dreadful – I expected a lot more interaction from the RCI staff and security to ensure everyone on the ship had a pleasant experience – I felt as if this cruise was geared strictly for Spring Break College Students and that we were simply the people that filled the empty cabins – I completely understand that this was bad timing for weather and spring break activates – but it was extremely unfortunate that RCI wasn't more involved with security and managing the unruly – disrespectful younger generation.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: February 19, 2012

My family (wife and two kids) wanted to try a cruise. Naturally, I resisted being a "landlubber". Between the air fare to Florida from NY and the cruise - it is in excess of $12,000. We could go to Europe for a week for the same money. So I gave in. I was very very disappointed.

The positives first. The staff was very helpful and professional. You don't know there are 6,000 people on the boat it is so big. The ship swallows up everyone and you still feel relatively alone. They make great mixed drinks and they are reasonably priced. The Mojitos are great. The pool staff is great. If you want to sit on a lounge chair for the week, you can do it here. The pools got crowded at times.

The negatives last. First the food is not edible. we all lost weight!!!! The only hope of eating anything resembling other than dog food is in the specialty restaurants but you must reserve 30 days in advance so do your research where you want to eat. The specialty restaurants don't rise to TGIF quality but have expensive price tags.

The dining room food is disgusting, to be kind. They will keep letting you try dishes, but you are wasting your time.

You may decide to rent the iPhone walkie talkies to stay in touch with and track the rest of your party. The network works 1/2 the time and are basically unreliable. Beware the penalties in the rental agreement. You may think that $500 for a damaged or lost 1st generation iPhone that sells on ebay for $50 is not something they enforce. They do. We returned our 4 iPhones and they claimed one of them was not working. You return the iPhones the day before the cruise is over. They told us they would let us know later if they got the one to work, but they charged $500 to the credit card right away. Weeks of attempting to get answers were frustrating and fruitless. They refused to send me the iPhone they claimed was broken so I could independently verify their claims. They first claimed that none of the iPhones were returned. Then they claimed that they were returned but all were broken. Only after I asked for a copy of the agreement with the notations did they admit that each of the four iPhones were returned but one was broken. I offered to replace the iPhone with one I purchased on ebay but they refused. Challenging the credit card does not work since they refuse to negotiate and the credit card sides with the cruise. I would have had to sue them and would have won since they admitted that they could not locate the iPhone that was allegedly broken.

Next time I cruise, I will try a different cruise line.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 21, 2012

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Western Caribbean Cruise Jan. 21 – 28, 2012 By Mary & Vincent Finelli

Each January Vincent books our anniversary cruise and this year was no different. We celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary aboard the Oasis. The same time last year we cruised on the Allure of the Seas, in a wheelchair accessible cabin with a balcony overlooking the sea and we thought it would be interesting to try a different cabin site – so this time we booked a wheelchair accessible cabin over looking the Boardwalk. Well, there is an old adage: "Never leave the true and tried road for a new one." Or as the Italians say: "Chi lascia la via vecchia per la nuova, sa quel che lascia, ma non sa quel che trova" (Who leaves the old road for a new one knows what he leaves, but not what he finds). Just a word of advice: If you want a restful and relaxing cruise book the ocean view cabin!

This week the Oasis was fully booked with 6380 passengers (approx. 75% from USA) and 2200 crew members – On the Royal Promenade at

times it was like being in a busy airport or train station – However, we always managed to escape the crowds by walking to the most peaceful place aboard: Central Park, where the many plants, flowers, and the soft background music and sounds of chirping birds and water falls evoked in us a sense of pastoral relaxation.

Due to logistics, Captain Thore Thorolvsen remained a remote figure; we did not have a chance to meet him: The Oasis is too big and too busy for anything else! But we did have the opportunity to meet again Hotel Director Martin Rissley, whom we had known from past cruises. He gave us a warm welcome back to the Oasis on which we had spent 12 wonderful days during her inaugural cruise in December of 2009. It is amazing to see that everything in this huge floating resort runs perfectly: From stateroom to dining room, from casual dining to specialty dining, from entertainment to passenger service, etc., etc…. A lot of credit for the successful outcome of cruising on this behemoth floating city goes to the great experience of our friend Martin. We were so happy to see him again.

EMBARKATION Considering the huge number of embarking passengers, RCCL has adopted a well oiled check-in process, a large number of check-in booths where passengers are directed by their cabin deck. In addition, priority is given to people in wheelchairs, Suites and "Frequent Floaters" (Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members of the Crown & Anchor Society). So our check-in was expeditious and in minutes we were in our cabin. Here was the first "wow": A telephone call notified us that Vincent had left his wallet at the check-in booth. He went back to retrieve his wallet, thanked the kind lady that found it, but, due to the crowding, did not ask her name, so later he could not mention her for the "wow" employee who made the difference in our cruise! To the special lady: We wish we could have thanked you more appropriately. We are sorry we did not.

SHIP The Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship afloat, was launched the fall of 2009. She was the first of an innovative class of RCCL ships. The second ship of this class is the Allure of the Seas, which was launched a year later. Needless to say, no other existing cruise ship matches this pair in size, shapes or innovations. For a detailed review of the Oasis we refer the readers to the one we posted on this web site in December 2009. This review will be confined to the impression of our return to the Oasis and the difference of our balcony exposure.

CABIN Our stateroom was a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony, # 14303, on deck 14, the top deck with passenger cabins. This cabin was similar to the one we had the last cruise on the Oasis, #14166. The major difference between the two cabins was that the first one overlooked the ocean and this one was above the Boardwalk. Needless to say, it lacked privacy since it was facing the cabins on the starboard side and the Sports Court on deck 15, with constant passenger activity. The first time out on the balcony, Mary was startled by two dangling legs whizzing by. Yes, the Zip Line went right by our balcony. The balcony was a bit smaller than the one we had before, thus we did not ask the steward for a chaise lounge for Vincent. No matter, we soon realized that for privacy we would have the drapes closed during most of the voyage and the use of the balcony was limited to very little time, since Vincent could not enjoy relaxation due to the noisy activities on the Boardwalk below, nor could he be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean's waves. Moreover, he could not stargaze during clear nights. Don't let us deter you from booking a cabin overlooking the Boardwalk, since your preferences may be different from ours and you might enjoy looking at the Aqua Show or watching the people having fun below.

Wheelchair accessible cabins on this ship have no automatic door openers, which facilitate the handicapped passenger to enter and exit the room. On a few ships we have enjoyed the automatic openers (see the Solstice class ships), thus we suggest that such convenience should be used on all ships. However, on the Oasis the wheelchair accessible bathrooms and most of the doorways are equipped with automatic door openers.

SERVICE & FOOD Despite the high number of cruisers, service is excellent under H.D. Martin Rissley. In the Opus Dining Room, Head of Restaurant Operations Oliver Dzalevski, gave us an excellent table near the entrance. Head Waiter Jay was on the ball and our waiters were terrific: James Francis, Michelle Edwards and MacArthur couldn't have been sharper!

As usual RCCL has tremendous portions and excellent meats. We feasted each and every meal. We also enjoyed Giovanni's Table, the upscale Italian restaurant and its special atmosphere, music and service. We lamented the absence of Chef Marco Morrama, whom we met on the previous cruise, but now he is on the Allure. He has an exquisite touch with authentic Italian cuisine.

The abundance of venues for food and the hot cookies and scones are still very popular and much appreciated on RCCL ships. The Concierge Club Lounge is unique to RCCL and it is a positive perk for Suite passengers and Crown &Anchor advanced members: Complimentary specialty coffee (Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, etc.), pastries, juices and fruits are available for breakfast and through the day; and hors d'ouvres and drinks are offered before dinner in the evenings. This cruise Ricardo Mock and Allan Fajardo shared the duty of Concierge and were very helpful to us regarding reservations for shows and specialty dining, etc. The Concierge Club Lounge is also a nice place to meet people and make new friends. We were fortunate to befriend a couple of very interesting people from California, Sandy and Dennis, with whom we spent some nice time conversing about the cruises and other topics of common interest every evening during our pre dinner cocktail hour. We promised to keep in touch with each other, but have not yet been able to do it, first due to a computer problem and then to some health problems that afflicted us. We promise to get in touch with them as soon as possible.

ENTERTAINMENT Amy Fickert from Springfield, Ohio is the youngest Cruise Director of the RCCL fleet. Attractive and outgoing, she rallies the passengers for the many venues on board: sports, exercise and poolside activities. She introduces the major theater shows and she hosts "The Love and Marriage Game Show" on Monday evenings in the Opal Theater. There are several shows performed in the Opal Theater which require reservation. Some shows are presented several times, so if you miss them on the first day of the performance, you can catch them on the second or third time. The Headliner Showtime "Mosaic" and the production shows "Hairspray" and "Come Fly with Me" are currently shown in the Opal Theater. A stand up comedy show is offered every night in Comedy Live, deck 4.

In Studio B there is an Olympic quality ice skating show, "Frozen in Time" which is based on Hans Christian Anderson's tales, just fantastic! Don't miss it. At the end of the ice show there is an interesting attraction: A young lady and her assistant who tell stories using sand painting or sculpturing – unbelievable, touching the sand on a screen with rapid motions of her hands and fingers she created numerous changing scenes with characters and animals, etc….

There is live entertainment all over the ship, including classic string music, jazz and dancing. Go out and find your favorite entertainment.

PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Depart 5:30pm

Day 2. At Sea

Day 3. Labadee, Haiti Arrive 7:00am Depart 4:30pm

Day 4. Falmouth, Jamaica Arrive 10:00am Depart 6:30pm

Day 5. At Sea

Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:30pm

Day 7. At Sea

Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive 7:00am

DEBARKATION Debarkation was just as efficient as embarkation. The passengers in need of wheelchair assistance met in a designated area on deck 5, where a coordinator indicated the order of debarkation according to the passenger's luggage tag color. In less than fifteen minutes we collected our luggage and went through customs. Within half an hour we were on our way home.

CONCLUSION This was a good cruise, but not as great as the last one on the Oasis. The big disappointment was the selection of our cabin with the balcony facing the Boardwalk, rather than the ocean. However, Oasis and Allure offer alternatives that other ships do not have, most of their inside cabins have balconies or windows on Central Park, Boardwalk or the Royal Promenade.

Our next cruise will be on the MSC Poesia, a new cruise line for us, and on March 17th we'll return to one of our favorite ship, the Grand Princess. Happy Cruising!

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 8, 2012

GENERAL INFO:

Please read through to the bottom where I have posted the "politically incorrect" comments about cruises departing from San Juan.

We arrived in San Juan 3 days before so we could tour El Yunque national forest and Old San Juan. San Juan has dozens of hotel choices ranging by price. If you check Expedia.com they provide a list of hotels and give you the ability to sort the list by price or by traveler opinion. The latter is the way to go and you'll notice that Hampton Inn is consistently listed in the top 5, and its worth it. The choice of hotel really comes down to life style: some want more from a hotel and some accept less for lower price. Just remember that choosing a hotel is like paying taxes in the United States: you get what you pay for.

From the airport you can take a cab at a defined rate by zones, just ask the driver what it will cost, and also be aware it is posted at the airport by the baggage claim. From your hotel the next morning you can again hail a cab

and pay a defined price to the pier. You can ask the front desk for info on cabs and typically cabs hang out at hotels for morning travelers.

RCCL TRANSFERS:

Trust me on this one and learn from someone who has been burned in the past. Do not, and I mean DO NOT, and I'm saying you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT take the RCCL transfers and here's why:

1) They pay a local cartage company to transfer your bags FROM the airport TO the pier. Problem 1: Bags are often pilfered due to the locks being cut off. This violates your privacy and trust in them. Cruise lines do nothing to stop this so its YOUR problem, not theirs. Problem 2: Bags arrive at the pier whenever the cartage company truck arrives. On a prior cruise we bought the cruise company transfer and arrived at the pier just before 6:00 PM but our bags didn't arrive at our cabin until nearly midnight. Until they arrived we presumed them to be lost and sought help from the cruise line who gave us a small pouch with a tooth brush, past, and comb: big deal. The bags arrived with locks cut off and contents rifled.

2) RCCL hires local buses to transport you to the pier. The problem is they decide to fill the bus and that means waiting around for passengers to arrive, which can take an hour or more and that delays your transfer to the pier and boarding time. Several years ago on a Celebrity cruise we got off the airplane at 4:00 and didn't make it to the pier until 6:00 PM. After checking in we were late for our 6:00 dinner seating and denied access to the main dining room - because the bus had to fill every seat before departing the airport.

You'll probably spend less on cabs to/from the airport/pier than the RCCL transfers, and you'll arrive when YOU want, not when THEY want you to, and with your bags intact. The lesson is to handle bags yourself to insure their safety and your convenience.

ONLINE CHECKIN;

We used Royal Caribbean's online check-in and this is a must because it saves a great deal of time at the pier. Either you fill out personal information (name, address, phone, various data) online yourself or they do it at the pier, which will take at least half an hour. When you arrive at the pier all they need from you at that point is your signed "Set Sail" agreement where you basically agree to pay your ship account, and a swipe of your credit card.

EMBARKATION:

In general the earlier you arrive at the pier the better off you are going to be. If you arrive in morning you will likely have to wait as passengers are still disembarking and RCCL will delay entry. But the line is short that early in the day. Unfortunately, you are going to have to take some initiative and ask about the lines into the terminal. There were 2 lines: the line to the RIGHT was to drop off bags to be handled by RCCL. Meanwhile the line to the LEFT goes into the terminal and first through security. Note that large bags cannot go through their xray machines and must be handled by RCCL. You should hand carry (roll) all other bags to insure their safety and timely arrival on the ship. This insures you'll at least have something.

Cruises start on day "one" which obviously is your first day. But if you arrive at the ship at 6:00 PM you don't have a very long "day one" so the goal would be to arrive as soon as RCCL will allow you to board the ship, which is around 12:00 noon on day one.

THE SHIP:

Adventure of the Seas is huge. OK, its not in the Oasis class (new ship) but its still huge with lots of features. It's been very tastefully decorated, far more so than Carnival ships, which tend to be gaudy & overbearing. You can find images on the RCCL website. The Royal Promenade is a great place to hang out having shops, bars, and a cafe with pizza & deserts (included in your cruise price). On this cruise we began to notice the ship is getting a bit tired and needs a few weeks in drydock to recondition rails, replace carpets, etc. But its still a great ship.

CABIN CHOICE:

Most likely you already know the differences between inside cabin, outside with window, outside with balcony, etc. But what you may not know is you are vastly better off with a room towards either bow or stern. Rooms mid ship tend to be burdened by lots of traffic. People pass by those rooms at night, drunk, and conduct themselves like noisy recalcitrant children. But when they get near THEIR cabin they quiet down and behave like an adult (you hope). Midship, having lots of traffic by fact of location, offers little protection from jerks. We chose a room aft for less traffic. Unfortunately there can be misbehaving inconsiderate jerks in any section.

CHEAP ROOMS:

In case you are not aware of this cruise lines offer rooms VERY cheap at the last minute to keep cabins full. Be aware that cruise ships have relatively fixed costs (crew, food, etc) which doesn't change from week to week. Because of this the cruise industry maintains a business plan to fill rooms at almost literally any price and after that they can then make their profit on excursions, booze, and gambling. HOWEVER - keep in mind this is usually only possible for locals, which in the case of Puerto Rico led to noisy, unruly, barbarians (more on this at the end). You ALWAYS want to carefully consider the departure port for this reason.

DINING:

Food is very good and most people typically eat lunch and breakfast at Windjammers on deck 11. Some choose the dining room instead. Breakfast at Windjammers tends to have some of the same items every day, but with many choices it shouldn't matter because you can't eat everything. Lunch tends to be similar also but they do vary some of the meats, fish, and sides. The deserts change daily and are very good.

The main dining room, which is 3 floors high with each having their own name, is excellent. For us service was very good and the food was great. Waiters work for tips so they highly motivated to please you.

DINING ROOM DRESS:

This is one major flaw in cruises and not due to the Royal Caribbean but rather very lax social standards. Many people don't understand the etiquette of dressing for dinner on cruises.

There are 2 formal nights in which the majority of people actually dress formally. If you are the kind of person who refuses to dress up then I suggest having dinner at Windjammers Cafe on deck 11. Also, if you cannot get to dinner on time you should have dinner at Windjammers Cafe. It's informal and buffet style. When people refuse to dress properly in the dining room they disrespect their fellow passengers. When they refuse to arrive on time they disrespect the dining room staff and make life very difficult for them. If you need a reason why its because waiters typically have 3-4 tables they serve and it works much better if all tables are on the same schedule, which is to say serving starters at all tables, serving main courses at all tables, and not breaking up the rhythm due to diners coming in late, forcing wait staff off their schedule. This affects service at tables where guests did arrive on time.

BEDS:

Other reviewers talk about how bad the beds are and if they are talking about the edge of the bed they are right. But what people forget is the cardinal rule of beds - which is you DO NOT sit on the edge of the bed. In addition you don't sleep on the edge. The beds are large and though the mattress is a bit thin it's not bad in the middle. My wife and I had plenty of room. Unfortunately the mattress was past its prime and I noticed some room attendant had stuffed a bag full of towels or sheets under the bed in the middle to keep it from sagging, another reason the ship is due for maintenance. Still it was adequate (not good but acceptable).

ALCOHOL:

RCCL is pretty chintzy about this and want to make sure you ONLY buy THEIR liquor at their inflated prices.

In ports of call, for the purpose of confiscating liquor under a guise of "security", they x-ray your bags so you are not going to sneak on liquor. If you purchase liquor they WILL confiscate it from you and it they return your liquor to you on the last night of the cruise.

PORTS OF CALL & EXCURSIONS:

Renting a car VERSUS excursions:

It certainly is cheaper to rent a car than go on an island excursion, and this is true for any island. However, you have to consider that first you are driving in the 3rd world and if you are American you take for granted the roads you drive on. If you drive a highway in America there's likely local police who will offer assistance if you pull over with a problem. It is rare to find police on roads in 3rd world countries.

On the other hand if you can manage the roads the advantage of a car rental is you can come and go as you please. And it will cost less. But note that all Caribbean islands heavily push "collision damage waiver" which limits the amount you are responsible for. And worse some require a "deposit" which is island speak meaning a promissory note to pay $500-1000 in case of an accident claim. We purchased an insurance policy through CSA Travel Insurance over the Internet that covered the trip INCLUDING cruise, air, and the collision damage waiver so don't take their coverage - it stinks and is just another way to get money out of you.

St Thomas:

Rented a car from Budget Car rental at Havensight Pier, very convenient. HOWEVER, the map provided was virtually worthless and its only purpose was to show where restaurants were, which we didn't use. We parked the car at the pier during lunch time and went back out and drove. Driving is on the left side of road. Avis is across from Havensight pier and had a better map on a prior visit to the island. For that reason I suggest Avis because driving without a map is a waste of time and money.

St. Kitts:

A very pretty island which has some interesting attractions such has Romney Manor and Brimstone Hill Fortress. Rented a car which actually worked out well, driving is on the LEFT with steering on the RIGHT. Note they require a $24 local license.

Aruba:

Did an offroad excursion through Port Promotions (find them on the Internet) for $84 each which included lunch, it was OK. Interesting sites that could not be seen without an offroad vehicle. Aruba is essentially one big rock.

Curacao:

Nice little town with a Dutch harbor. The bridge moves back and forth for ships passing through in which case it closes. Town has all the usual tourist trap stores.

In general there are tons of excursions offered by Royal Caribbean, but what's not generally known is there are other companies providing excursions. One such and previously mentioned is Port Promotions who we used in the past. They have any number of excursions on many Caribbean islands and are comparable to those provided by the vendors selected by RCCL, and may cost less. BUT - if you choose them you MUST keep track of the time returning to the ship and let your guide know. DO NOT expect them to keep track of ship departure time because they won't. You DO NOT want to arrive late for the ship since it may not still be in port.

ENTERTAINMENT:

This is pretty subjective and depends upon your personal taste so that must be up front. The ice show is fabulous and not to miss and consists of various Olympic skaters from around the world. Get your tickets as soon as they are offered because they go fast. There typically is a musical shows that is 'Broadway' and/or Las Vegas quality. Around the ship there are various other musicians and usually pretty good.

ART AUCTIONS:

Auctions are held on most cruises lines and on most ships. I've sailed Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Carnival, and Park West Galleries was on all of them. Royal Caribbean has now established their own inhouse auction vendor due to a particularly checkered history of Park West Galleries which is a lightning rod for complaints. Just check any cruise review website and you'll see what I mean.

DISEMBARKATION:

People leave the ship in groups and you are provided with a group number, which they call for disembarkation. RCCL wants you off the ship as quickly as possible so expect a knock at your door by 7:00 AM. This cruise required us to go through customs which took more time than without a customs inspection.

OVERALL CONCLUSION:

On this cruise we had a great deal of problems with obnoxious people, and because America's economy is so bad Americans are not sailing. As talked about earlier the cruise industry works on the business model of filling rooms at whatever price needed to get people on board and make money on excursions, booze, and gambling. The problem with that is you get locals who are NOT the classiest people and often are poorly behaved, which sadly was the case on this cruise.

PUERTO RICAN LOCALS:

In the past there has been a limited number of Puerto Rican passengers and typically well behaved and respectful of other passengers. This time was entirely different and it got downright ugly with half or more of passengers being Puerto Rican, it was easy to see a cultural gap that created real problems. This time we noticed they moved in squad and platoon sized groups that made people feel very uncomfortable overwhelming people nearby, and they were completely inconsiderate of others and quite rude like they didn't know how to act in public. Here are some of the problems encountered:

* They played drums and sang loudly in public areas without concern for others (I'm not making this up). * Teenagers were typically unsupervised by parents and unruly. * Many sat on and stood around stairwells blocking them. * Walked into elevators without letting people off first and you were shoved in by a large group who insisted they all get on the elevator. * Very loud in hallways at night, often yelling. * Came into the dining room late, often one hour or more late, disrupting wait staff flow. * Low local fares attracted really lower class people without manners and any concept of how to behave within society. * During disembarkation notice one man repeatedly spoke very loudly of "Gringos" while waiting in line so that Americans could hear him. This was intentional and designed to goad us.

At this point we likely will NOT sail out of San Juan until such time as America's economy improves and cabins are filled with Americans and Europeans. After what Europeans experienced I don't think they'd want to sail out of San Juan again.

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Brilliance of the Seas
Publication Date: January 5, 2012

We have cruised with Royal Caribbean at least 10 times in the past and never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that I would see the cruel indifference exhibited by Royal Caribbean after we boarded the Brilliance of the Seas January 5th. My daughter, who is 25 years old, had some gastrointestinal problems due to food poisoning for a few hours until the Friday afternoon prior to our sailing; however, she felt fine by the time we boarded the flight from NY to San Juan Saturday morning and filled out the "24-hour illness" cruise form with a "no", since her symptoms were outside of the 24-hour window. When we arrived in San Juan my daughter and I boarded the ship, ate lunch and attended muster. Since my daughter felt a little warm we decided to go to the medical center for a "free evaluation" to make sure she was OK. An employee in the facility took her temperature which was, if I recall, 100.4 degrees; we admitted that she had symptoms the day before but felt fine otherwise at that point. With no further examination, the doctor walked over and

announced that we had to leave the ship immediately.

We were given no instructions as to our options, no help to secure accommodations for the evening, no help even in getting a taxi from the terminal and not even so much as a sheet with a list of phone numbers. We were escorted off the ship and dumped at the deserted terminal like so much detritus. This was not only cruel but put us in a potentially dangerous situation.

It is unbelievable and downright inhumane that Royal Caribbean can, first of all, pronounce someone ill without the most cursory examination and then put them in harm's way by throwing them off in a strange country without so much as a list of phone numbers. I shudder to think what would have happened if my daughter had really been ill; as it turned out, by the time we arrived at the hotel an hour later her temperature was 98.6 and she was 100% fine. I'm also wondering why they didn't quarantine us, as we had already been on the ship several hours and, if she had something communicable, would have exposed several passengers to the illness. By throwing us off the ship they had no way to follow up to see if she was, in fact, ill; I have a sneaking suspicion that this has something to do with CDC reporting, but that's just a hunch.

At any rate, in an attempt to get information over the next several days I called RCI customer service, RCI emergency travel assistance and RCI Choice Air. Not one of those was able to help or knew what to do in our situation.

We spent the next six days in San Juan at our expense, around $3,000. We are both extremely disgusted and traumatized by the way we were treated and will certainly be a lot wiser in the future.

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New Zealand
Publication Date: December 18, 2011

This cruise varied between average to very poor. Many issues - the largest ones described below. Royal Caribbean seems only interested in extracting as much money as possible while denying any responsibility to provide service or satisfaction.

Food - generally low average to inedible - some dishes served in the dining room appeared to have no relationship to descriptions - some I wouldn't feed to a dog - beef stroganoff is one example

Smoking - we paid for a balcony - couldn't use it much of the time as the people next door were smokers – every time thy lit up, our cabin was filled with smoke an rapidly began smelling like an ashtray

Guest services desk staff - generally unhelpful to downright aggressive if faced with a question they didn't like e.g. when we queried the smoking policy we were angrily – yes angrily – told smoking was allowed on balconies – basically tough if we didn't like it

Promises to return answers – on 2 occasions restaurant (Main/My-time & Giovanni's) Managers promised to get back to us the day we made the query – neither did – and this in on your

records as found out by your guest services staff when my husband complained for the 3rd time that the vanity in our cabin had still not been repaired – "oophs" was the response – not satisfactory

Maintenance – on first entering our cabin we found the corner of the vanity's previous repair had failed – there was an obvious and open crack of about 3 – 4 centimetres in one corner, with one edge raised. We pointed this and the piece of piping on the sofa that was detached to the rom steward – he was distressed about the piping but tried to tell us the vanity was not broken. When we insisted it was broken and needed to be fixed, he got on the phone and reported it to maintenance. A few days later the piping was fixed but the vanity was not. I met the maintenance man in the corridor and queried him about this – he said there was no report of a broken vanity – so I showed it to him and he agreed that it was broken and also got on the phone to report it. Still some days after and still not fixed, my husband spoke to guest services – no reports of a broken vanity – what happens to these reports – anything too hard seems to disappear into telephone space. After considerable insistence a maintenance person was dispatched and, on examining the vanity, felt it couldn't be fixed until port. More discussion with my husband and suddenly the maintenance crew found they could fix the problem after all – it took about ½ hour and a small amount of filler

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: December 11, 2011

Ship: Mariner of the Seas, Dec 11, 2011. As usual our Royal Caribbean cruise was wonderful. This was our first sailing since achieving our Diamond Level status. It is certainly worth being Loyal to Royal to achieve the high tier status perks.

The ship was all decked out with Chirstmas decor and is a beautiful ship on its own. Clean and well maintained.

The only issue; the servers in the Diamond and above breakfast venue. The staff was pretty sullen, as if were a chore for them to wait on us. The staff in the Windjammer were more welcoming and accommodating. Although getting coffee in the windjammer took an act of congress. I realize they had extra sanitation issues to take care of to keep us all healthy. I can wait for coffee versus getting sick. Good Job people.

I do enjoy the style of cruising Royal Caribbean offers and I do realize there are times when things are not perfect.

The sailing before ours was a sick ship. It is amazing how everything comes together to ensure the ship is as germ free as possible before we boarded. Our crew went

over and above to ensure all passengers sanitized their hands. The crew was constantly disinfecting all surfaces.

There were 500 children on board and Royal Caribbeans children's programs kept them very busy. You rarely saw any bored children.

Our first cruise was on Royal Caribbean so they are special in our hearts. We have sailed on other lines and enjoy them, but our heart is with RCCL.

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