Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 22
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
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Group.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
If you're looking for a first-rate cruise for the family, look no further. This was our 4th Caribbean cruise and our 2nd on Royal Caribbean - and hands down Royal Caribbean is the best. We have two teenage children, 16 year old son and 13 year old daughter, who traveled with us and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. From rock climbing, ping pong, video arcades, basketball, miniature golf, kid friendly food such as Johnny Rockets and Ben & Jerry ice cream, in-room movies and room service, your kids are guaranteed a great time.
Older couples traveling together will have an enjoyable time too, but in my opinion, Royal Caribbean caters more to the family-friendly crowd. Last year we sailed on Mariner of the Seas (another Voyager class ship) and it was equally as good so you can pick from any of the 9 Voyager ships and know you're in good hands. I'm assuming all of the Voyager ship's are built exactly the same, since Adverturer and Mariner were identical! We definitely knew our way around the ship this time.
We arrived in San Juan on Saturday, August 12th and spent the night at the SanJuan Marriott which is only 15 minutes from the pier. The next morning, we arrived at the pier at 2pm right when you could board because we wanted to start enjoying the ship's ammenities right away. We had pre-ordered a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered to our stateroom upon arrival, which made our sail-away very special.
We had 2 balcony staterooms on Deck 8 in the Aft section of the ship. Last year we had adjoining staterooms, but we couldn't get them this year. The adjoining rooms have a pocket door (sliding interior door) between the rooms. Getting on the ship was a breeze, although it was very hot. We had pre-printed our Sail Away Passes which speeds the entire process, so be sure to do that before you go. We were on-board around 2:45pm, which includes having our photo taken as we boarded. We met our Stateroom Attendant, Arlex from Costa Rica, who was very pleasant.
We promptly changed into bathing suits and headed to Deck 12 to read books and lay in the sun. The muster drill (lifeboat drill) was at 8:30pm with dinner for second seating guests at 9pm the first night. If you've never cruised before, be sure to request second seating for dinner (8:30pm dining) because you'll have more time for excursions and won't have to rush back to the ship to get ready for dinner by 6pm (first-seating dinner time.)
Our only disappointment on this cruise was that we didn't have a table for 4 at dinner, which we had specifically requested when we booked. We were seated at table for 10! Since we're a busy family we don't eat meals together at home as much as I'd like, so the cruise was a special opportunity to dine alone together as a family. You know kids, they won't talk if the adults are talking. Luckily, you can make changes to your dining room assignment on the first night, so I spoke to the Head Dining Manager (Mustafa from Turkey) and he was kind enough to move us to our own table. Mustafa became a special friend on the cruise because he knew how happy he'd made us by honoring our dining request. Not everyone is accomodated in the dining room, the most common request is to move from first seating to second seating, so be sure to make your dining request when you book and follow-up the first night if there's a problem.
I'm not going to talk much about each port, except for a few highlights. In Aruba, we spent the day at Palm Beach, which is a top-rated popular beach in Aruba that's only a short taxi ride from the ship. We did not book an excursion in Aruba because we'd heard about Palm Beach and wanted to go there. At the beach, we rented 2 chairs, 2 floaties and an umbrella. We forgot to bring our towels from the ship, so we purchased 2 inexpensive $10 towels at a beach-store. The kids also forgot their goggles on the ship, so we purchased 2 pairs of goggles for $10 each too. There were lots of others from the ship, who were part of the Beach Break excursion, but they could only stay for 2 hours on the beach before they had to leave. Those folks paid more and stayed less, so my recommendation is if you want to spend a day at the beach to take a taxi on your own. It's definitely cheaper and you'll have a longer day.
Next stop was Curacao. We booked the snorkeling excursion at the underwater park, which you access by boat. There were about 40 guests from the ship on this excursion. The boat ride was a bit choppy but once we got there we saw LOTS of fish, rainbows, angel fish and even a small barracuda! Seriously! But we're told it was harmless....hmmmm. Back on the ship, we overheard some other guests talking about the Sea Lion tour which they enjoyed but thought it was too long (if you've seen 1 sea lion, you've seen them all, ha, ha.) That night dinner was "Caribbean Night" and we had Red snapper, shrimp salad, lobster bisque and cherries jubilee for dessert. We purchased a Wine and Dine package (5 bottles of wine at the gold level, although there are other packages too in various price levels) and we had a nice bottle of Merlot. You can only purchase the Wine and Dine Package on the first and second nights of the cruise.
Next port was St. Maarten, on the Dutch side. Here the street vendors are a bit more aggressive, so be sure you can say NO if you're not interested in their goods. It's tricky with kids because they will come up to the kids and put merchandise in their hands and ask "How much you give me?" Just be firm, take off the merchandise and walk away. We struggled with this on our first cruise, but we're pros now. Have a tough skin, unless it's something you really want to purchase. (Side note: Jamaica is WAY worse! St. Maarten was a piece of cake.) i purchased a beautiful ivory shell and silver necklace and paid cash to get a better deal. Then we took a taxi to Orient Beach and had another wonderful day. My daughter had corn rows and beads put in her hair on the beach for $40, which she likes. dinner that night was "Italian Night" and we had cheese tortellini, crab cakes, caesar salad and baked alaska for dessert.
Next port was St. Thomas, the highlight of the trip. We've been here before but never to Magen's Bay, one of the Top 10 Beaches in the world. We took an open-air taxi to the beach for $8 per person. Tried to negotiate the price down to a flat $20, but they are firm and won't budge. The taxi ride is a bit unnerving because you're basically in the back of a pick-up truck that's been converted to a taxi with padded bench seats and a canopy overhead. The roads are very narrow and mostly uphill to the beach, so it's a roller-coaster ride. My husband and kids didn't mind, but I was not a fan. At Magen's Bay, the views are spectacular! We took lots of pictures, rented beach chairs and floaties, had lunch at the beach bar and enjoyed another great day. We all purchased Magen's Bay T-shirts before we left.
Last night: We attended the Farewell Show, which was good but a repeat of our last cruise (same jokes, same skits "Top 10 Questions the crew is Asked) so it wasn't as funny this time for us. There's definitely a "formula" to the cruise industry, so if you're a repeat customer you'll pick up on that right away. We put our luggage outside our door at 1AM even though it was supposed to be out by 12midnight. We just couldn't get everything packed on-time and wanted to soak up as much of our last night as possible. They were still moving luggage at 2AM, so I doubt it was a problem.
Leaving the ship: This was the only time we felt like we were part of a crowd. There are 3000 people on board and you don't realize it until you're leaving! They put everyone in Groups (1 through 10) and you wait in the public areas until your number is called. We were group 10 (the last one) because our flight home wasn't until later that night. We didn't mind because we sat up on Deck 11 in the solarium (covered outside deck chairs) and read.
Oh and don't forget that the food on Deck 5 (Promenade Deck) is FREE, except for drinks and Ben&Jerry's ice cream. The pizza, sandwiches, cookies, cake, muffins is all complimentary. But since it's behind a glass case (and not self-serve) it's not obvious, I guess. We felt so sorry for a family that didn't realize that until they were leaving! Oops! And another piece of advice, you can order 2 or more meals at dinner too. So when it's lobster night, be sure to get plenty! Bon Voyage!
There are plenty of reviews describing how beautiful and wonderful the ship is.
I am reviewing solely to provide accurate technical information about the internet and telecommunications features aboard the ship, which are important for those of us who need to stay connected and who are hesitant to take a cruise vacation without knowing if we'll be knocked offline for a week. Some of us - like me - are in charge of being on call in case things at home - like servers, etc. - decide to throw a fit while we're gone.
I took an Apple iPhone (AT&T carrier - GSM) and my laptop abord the ship.
I felt Liberty's connectivity is decent.
I was able to get a good GSM cellular signal for voice calls throughout the entire voyage, provided by the onboard ship system when at sea. The carrier name showed "Cellular at SEA" and coverage throughout the ship was decent. In port, they apparently must switch the system off, and you depend on the country's signal from shore. It's sometimes hard to get a signal from an interior stateroom. Text messages were delivered promptly, both send and receive. GPRSis functional but expensive. Voice calling is latent (delays) - I experienced round trip delays between 1.0 and 2.0 seconds on voice calls. I believe AT&T hits me for $2.49/min voice calls, free incoming text if I am on a text plan, and some nominal fee for outgoing text, but I won't know until I get the bill.
I am told that CDMA phones work as well, but I didn't travel with anyone who took one aboard. (last time I took a Verizon CDMA phone aboard Splendour in 2007, I could call but couldn't send or receive text, and wondered if that had been improved since then).
Liberty's WiFi is fairly decent. I was able to sustain a video call using Skype on my laptop, and use Remote Desktop to my computer at home. The latency was surprisingly favorable for what should be a satellite connection - seemingly better than voice calling on my cell phone. The biggest caveat (arguably fair though) is that the usability of the connection is greatly influenced by the time of day, owing to the number of people onboard you are sharing it with. The connection is virtually worthless even for simple web browsing if you try right after the main dinner seating gets out, but a midnight Skype video chat is completely doable and less choppy than a calm sea. I was able to get WiFi in my room (73xx) and in most areas of the ship I tried with few exceptions (the front of the Platinum Theater got no WiFi). Time was charged by the minute - 55 cents a minute from the time you log on until the time you either log off or shut off your WiFi adapter. And billing was fair - if I turned off my WiFi without logging out, I didn't get charged for any time after I powered off.
There was an unlimited option available for $250, as well as some prepay packages at various amounts between $0 and $250 to get a rate down to as low as around 28 cents a minute (but of course you forfeit any minutes you don't use).
We traveled the liberty of the seas and it was great. The entertainment was awesome the food was very good and the stops were all great. The room was big to speak of for a cruise ship and was always cleaned up twice a day. I would rate the cruise a solid 9 out of 10. The only complaint that I have is that, while boarding our luggage, it somehow manage to rip and when the crew members brought it to our room the first night the bag was torn and some of my wifes close were hanging out the bottom of it. We had a jewelry case full of jewelry that had fallen out the bottom. The cruise line did replace the luggage bag that next day but refuse to replace any of the $750 worth of lost jewelry.
We had a balcony on deck eight on the 20 through 27 February 2010 sailing. This was not our first Royal Caribbean cruise and we have multiple cruises on Princess, Holland, Celebrity and Norwegian.
First; the Oasis of the Seas is a Royal Caribbean ship. They follow the standards and practices of Royal Caribbean. The things you liked about Royal Caribbean before, you will like on this ship. Those things you think Royal Caribbean needs to improve need improvement on the Oasis. If you are new to cruising, read the professional reviews to find out what each cruise line is like. Ditto the ports.
Other than a large flat screen TV, our cabin was a standard four to four and a half star cruise ship cabin. Shampoo and soap only in the bath. A five star room has shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower caps, and other items.
What we consider Royal Caribbean’s already marginal cuisine was further degraded on the Oasis by the presence of, and here I'm guessing, and Indian chef. I say that because there was a lot of Indian food and curry everything. If you like Indian food, especially curry, then youmay have enjoyed the food. If, on the other hand, you are like me and doubt there is enough water or boards to force you to endure curry, then an already limited menu was further degraded. I'll just say this about the food; this is the first time I lost weight on a cruise.
They seemed a bit more disorganized than we have come to expect from all cruise lines. Nothing spectacular, just numerous small things. They had regular, skim and chocolate milk the first three days, then no chocolate the last four. We booked transportation to the airport on board. They did not give us tickets. Said we did not need them. Just show up and we would be on the list. We did and we weren't. Two mornings we asked them if they had bananas while breakfasting in the cafeteria. Both times the said yes, but did not have then out for breakfast. Salad makings at lunch with no salad dressing out. No self serve hot water. No iced tea before lunch. I should mention that a very friendly staff rectified the issue most or the time. Couldn't help me with the tea, but did find salad dressing and bananas. An unforgivable was no post cards of the Oasis of the Seas.
Serving sashimi or sushi without wasabi is, and was, unacceptable. They had wasabi in the Japanese restaurant, but not in the Solarium bistro. The Solarium bistro is a specialty restaurant we tried one night. Place was uncomfortably warm.
The cafeteria has several "food islands". The one marked International was all Indian food. The one that said Asian was fried rice, miso soup and Indian food.
Enough about the food, the real attraction is the Oasis of the Seas. Even though the ship is huge, with 5,400 paying guest we thought it would be like Times Square on New Years, It wasn't. The Royal Promenade on deck five gets crowed when they have an activity such as the Disco show. Central Park on deck eight never seemed to be crowed. Although to be fair, there is not much to do in Central Park. No more than normal cruise ship crowds anywhere, and generally less that normal cruise crowds.
Royal Caribbean has a reputation for the best entertainment on the seas. There was nothing on this cruise to diminish this reputation. They did do something I had not seen before. Many of the shows require "tickets". You need a reservation and your on board account card is your ticket. Not by specific seat, but by show. This seemed to work very well. They had a small intimate 100 seat comedy club. Try to imagine 5,400 people trying to get in to a 100 seat club without a reservation system. The show featured two comics. Both were outstanding. Ice show was outstanding. As was the water show, and the production show. The Ice show intermission show was a sand-on-glass artist that would be better seen than described. Ice Show Video
Hairspray was the full Broadway production.
The casino is a standard, but much larger that normal, shipboard casino. A nice touch was designation one side of the casino a no smoking area.
There are two wave riders aft on deck 15. Watching the boogie board want-a-be’s wipe out was good entertainment. The much touted Zip line was, as one of the comics put it, "the most exciting four seconds of your cruise".
A lot of technology in use on this ship. The ship has two banks of six elevators fore and aft – 24 in all. On each deck every bank has an approximately two foot by four foot touch screen with several interesting menus. One is find you room. Touch room locator, enter your room number, touch enter and a map to your room is displayed. Entire display has several language options.
Another very cool use of technology is in the photography department. If you are new to cursing, it is easy to have 50 photos taken on a seven day cruise. No more looking through thousands of pictures looking for yours on the Oasis. They use your on board account card at many of the picture taking places. Where they don't, they use face recognition technology. All of your prints are in a folder assigned to you.
Embarkation went smoothly considering the number of guests boarding. Getting to the ship was a bit slow. The 10 minute ride to the pier took 35 minutes. Twenty of those minutes were sitting on the bus getting into the pier. Re-boarding at the ports also went smoothly. Disembarkation was unnecessarily complicated. There was a woman that insisted you have your Passports and US Customs form in your hand before she would let you into the luggage area. You do not need these until after you pick up your luggage. Most people knew this and did not have said documents readily available. They had to hold up the crowd while they got them out. Also, luggage retrieval could have easily been better organized. I fought my way down an isle of 14 stacks of luggage and then back out the same way. Exiting behind the luggage would have greatly eased the flow of bodies and luggage.
Royal Caribbean has a new policy of encouraging interaction between guest and crew. Our cabin attendant wanted to engage us conversation every time he saw us. Not the normal "good morning", or "how was your day" but he would tell us about his day, why he liked his job, the food, the ship, etc. Our waiter read us the Chef’s recommendations from the Chef’s recommendation portion of the menu every time we dined in the main dining room. Not an illuminating expansion of the menu, just read what was printed. While I consider myself a long way from being a snob and have actually worked in the Philippines and Thailand, there is just not that much that I want to discuss with a Filipino and/or Thai cabin attendant / waiter / assistant waiter / busboy. None of the 4 to 8 staff that engaged us in extended conversation daily had ever shorted the market or knew who Big Papi was and what he might do this season. Imagine that!
For us the Oasis of the Seas is a "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" experience. We are glad we did it, but do not see us doing it again.
This should be one of your considered reviews before purchasing a Royal Caribbean Cruise: First off you're my cruise was in February and the average age of a passenger was about 60 years old or so. No biggy I wasn't there for anyone else but my wife and I. However, this did impact the nightlife and overall vibe; a very boring atmosphere. However, I never had a problem getting a table after 7:30 PM. The staff is about as fake as it can get. There is a thing called prepaid gratuities. This is the only means of payment for everyone in food, drink, and housekeeping. If you don't tip; they DON'T get paid. This is one of the ways why RC's prices are so low. A legal version of slave labor.
My favorite is when I got food poisoning for the first time. All I wanted was some medication the next day and the onboard medical facility wanted to charge me $400 to see the doctor and $220 for any prescriptions. I was like well I got poisoned off your food. Their response "prove it". Guest relations told me tostick it and the restaurant manager said that "I don't believe you" well sir I got it from a bad oyster "no you didn't because you're the only one I've heard of on the ship with this poisoning". I simply tried to tell him that it was a bad oyster and just to be more careful next time. What a bad and embarrassing experience considering that their classless remarks were in front of several passengers.
Now we get to the actual cruising. Ya know the first couple day's weren't that bad. I didn't mind the tea cup size pool with never a vacant chair in sight or a bar with The Four Seasons drink prices. However, this was a 10 day cruise and really the absence of interesting activities really starts to creep up on ya by day 3. Honestly, if you like bingo (30 minute game twice a day for $40), towel folding, horrific 1 hour nightly shows, singing lessons or how to cook the ship's food class (the food is somewhere between TGI Fridays and Denny's). However, the miniature golf course was so so and casino wasn't bad either. Just no vibe in the casino. And really I was on a 10 day cruise and this was the offerings of fun.
Now just imagine the beautiful ports and they were the shining beacon on this abysmal cruise. What a blast we had at these ports and DON'T buy an excursion from the cruise. I wasted 2 hours in Acapulco waiting for the tour guides to get their crap together and another 2 hours in transit. I paid $80 per person for 4 hours at a mediocre resort. DON'T GO WITH THE SHIPS EXCURSIONS. They are way overpriced and every tour guide / cab driver at the ports speak good English. Now just imagine you're sitting at the beach getting served like a king amazing food, the drinks, wow the sun the water the view, Your melting in relaxation and fun. How would you like to be on a timer during this? There was nothing worse than having to leave these places to be locked up on a ship with by day 4 NOTHING to do. Average port arrival 7 AM average departure 4 PM. So if you were lucky you could squeeze 6 hours of fun out of these stops. So on a 10 day 5 stop cruise I got 30 hours of real vacation.
Now my favorite part; I get back on the ship go to the hot tub and spark my Cuban cigar. Some jerk from the 3 Caribbean song playing horrific band motions to a waiter and here comes the waiter to tell me to put the cigar out. No smoking in an outdoor hot tub! Ok sir, I go to grab my beer, No drinks allowed either at the hot tub! So as I walk up to one of the café's located by the pool area to grab a salad and wings for my wife and I, immediately I get stopped at the entrance. I wasn't wearing a shirt so I couldn't enter an outdoor café located right next to the pool. Had to redress and go all the way back.
Listen to make a long story short. I paid $2000 for this 10 day cruise and that was without my $1500 liquor/food bill. Not to mention the at least $1000 spent at the ports. Add this up and tell me that you wouldn't rather go to an all inclusive for a week at "enter destination here". My idea of a vacation is a break from the world where I could do anything I want. The rules and constant threat of dismemberment really adds even more insult to the constant boredom we suffered through from day 3 on. Also, during dinner you have to dress up 50% of the time or you can't eat. I love putting on a suit on and told what to do on vacation don't you?
This was my first and last cruise on Royal Caribbean. I've cruised over 30 times on various lines & this was the worst ever. Dinner was always bland & poor quality, constant music blasting all over the ship, complete disregard for dress codes, & poor quality entertainment. Celebrity is a far better choice in this price category.
My husband and I just returned from a 4 night cruise on The Navigater of the Seas. This was our 27th cruise (4th on Royal Caribbean). We were very pleasantly surprised. The ship was just wonderful from head to toe. The food, the entertainment, service etc. All great!! We were not impressed with Royal Caribbean in the past, but we were certainly wowed by this ship. The promenade deck is a great addition, especially the 24 hour cafe. The ice show was spectacular!! We cannot wait to go on this ship again, and I would highly recmmend this ship to anyone.
See pictures here: CruiseMates Gallery
This is my second time on the Navigator of the Seas. I think my first visit was better than the second time.
Let me start with the good, because no cruise is completely bad.
The ship is very clean and well kept. The food in the main dining room is very good, and the staff is friendly for the most part.
This ship is starting to show some wear in areas.
Let me be specific. I noticed wear on the carpet going into my stateroom from the hall. I noticed the railing on the balcony was so in need of teak oil it felt like I would get a splinter.
Ok so that's not so bad let me continue..
Two days in a row I had towels with holes in them, and I don't mean small holes, really big holes.
Too top it off, I had no hot water on Saturday night. i had to take a cold shower.
The hot water issue really upset me because when I called I was told "This is a cruise ship" and in a matter of words they said this is tobe expected.
I'm not going into the details but let me say that it was handled badly and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
The food in the windjammer was no better than ok.
It seems like lunch and dinner are much better than breakfast.
I tried to use room service but I waited and waited on hold for at least 20 minutes and no one ever answered, so I gave up and walked down the the cafe.
Bottom line is that this cruise did not go so smooth for me. Will it be the same for you? I won't say, but things are not looking up on the Navigator.
To end, even with all of this I did enjoy the day in Cozumel, we went on the "Jungle Buggy" on Sunshine tours, I highly suggest this tour.
I also really enjoyed the dinner in the main dining room.
Our (me and hubby) second cruise on the Mariner and first time since it moved to LA. We flew in same day to LAX and took a taxi to the port. It was only about a fifteen minute ride at sixty dollars one way.
We arrived at the port around 10:30, went through security and got our sea pass cards in less than fifteen minutes. However the ship had not been cleared yet so we sat in the Diamond member chairs and had to wait till a little after 11:30 before boarding. We have had to wait before so no big deal, however before at other ports there was usually cookies, water or lemonaid available but nothing this time. Not even for suite or diamond members.
After boarding there was the usual orienting ourselves with the ship and lunch at the windjammer. Rooms opened at 1:00 and our luggage was delivered a short time later.
In general the cruise proceeded without anything unusual happenings. We were onboard with a bunch of Santas on a group cruise that made for an unusual and very enjoyable trip with all of the jolly Santas.
We neverate at the main dining, more as a preference than anything to do with the food. We ate twice at Portofinos, it was such excellent food and service we had to go a second time. The rest of our meals were in the Windjammer, which we prefer to the dining room, because of the quietness and that we like salads and fruit (trying to eat as healthy as we do at home).
It rained on our day at Cabo which dampened alot of activities we had planned but after a short trip on shore we spent the afternoon in the Solarium in the jacuzzi's.
We had great weather the rest of the time and was pleseantly surprised at how nice the ports were. We liked them and the Mariner so much that we have already booked this cruise again for next year.
This was whale season and we were able to see at least a dozen whales from the ship during the week, as well as passing through two huge schools of dolphins (one on the first day at sea and the other on the last sea day). If going on this cruise during whale season I would reccommend bringing binoculars, we forgot ours and really wish we would have had them.
Overall this was an incredible cruise and the differences between cruising the west coast verses the East were quite a nice change. The water isn't near the clear blue/turquise water you get in the Caribbean, but you don't get the oppurtunity to see whales and dolphins there either. We live in Utah so it was a nice short flight and we were able to leave the same morning which saved the pre-cruise night in a hotel that we usually have to add to our costs of leaving from the East. We have always loved the Mariner since first cruising on her in 2007. But also can't wait to bask in the Caribbean sun on the Oasis. The Mariner for us was one of our least expensive cruises ( the price dropped a total of $1200 total since booking in Nov. 2008)based on just the cruise fare alone (we were in a Jr suite). For those who usually stick to the Caribbean this is a very nice cruise and the ports were more stunning than I expected and very comparable to the islands in the Caribbean.
Service on the ship was very good as expected with RCCL, there were a couple of employees saying that doing the same cruise itinerary week after week was monotonous and they wanted to change ships. Service in Portofino's was better than our last few cruises as was the food.
Thanks to all the Santas onboard for there fun loving attitude and for reminding us how fun life is.
My approach is going to be a hybrid of review and suggestions based upon experience.
To begin with 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. Your objective should be to maximize day one.
Its always a good idea to arrive in the departure port the day before and stay overnight at a local hotel. San Juan has dozens of 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. First, it costs far less than the Caribe Hilton with the added bonus of a morning breakfast that includes a couple of hot items. Mostly the choices are toast,bagels, English muffins, fruits, cereal, juices, coffees, etc. This saves you on breakfast for 2 in the morning which won't be cheap in San Juan unless you find a McDonalds.
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, just ask the driver what it will cost. From your hotel the next morning you can again hail a cab and pay a defined price to the pier. Ask people at the front desk for info on cabs. NOTE: they charge an additional $1.00 per bag that goes in the trunk.
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:
Problem 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. RCCL does nothing thing to stop this so its YOUR problem, not theirs.
Problem 2: Bags arrive at the pier whenever the cartage company truck arrives. We once arrived at the pier just before 6:00 PM and our bags didn't arrive until nearly midnight. Until they arrived we presumed them to be lost and sought help from the cruise line (Celebrity) 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. This latest trip we got lucky and our bag arrived by 3:00 PM. That is a fluke.
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 board 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 nearly 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.
DO NOT USE RCCL TRANSFERS.
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. I suggest you do that yourself from home over the Internet. 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. While they are better than the cartage company they hire to transport your bags, nonetheless, your bags are still out of your control. Those bags then arrive at any time during the day so don't count on getting them any time soon. My suggestion is to bring with you any bags you carried on the plane. Note that large bags cannot go through their xray machines and must be handled by RCCL. You hand carry (roll) all other bags to insure their safety and timely arrival at the ship. This insures you'll at least have something.
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 the price).
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. Room aft (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 quite down and behave. Midship, having lots of traffic by fact of location, offers little protection from jerks. We chose a room aft and not only was there little traffic but people were well behaved and we had no problems.
CHEAP ROOMS: In case you are not aware of this cruise lines offer rooms VERY cheap at the last minute to keep cabins full. This is desirable for them because that way the room attendants and dining staff stand do lose less money due to high occupancy. I've heard that Carnival lets rooms go for as low as $200.00 last minute. But keep in mind this is usually only possible for locals, which in the case of Miami led to noisy, unruly, barbarians. In the case of San Juan I found that to be much less of a problem. So 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 so 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.
Portofinos has great food and offered the best tenderloin I've ever had. Great deserts! Worth the $20.00 per person. Make your reservation(s) as soon as you board the ship. It can be a great escape from noisy diners in a really dignified environment.
DINING ROOM DRESS: 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.
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 thin it's not bad in the middle. My wife and I had plenty of room.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 security purposes, they x-ray your bags so you are not going to sneak on liquor. But hopefully RCCL won't read this and I can pass this on to you: at San Juan pier we purchased liquor at the pier shop (AFTER we went through port security - the guys that x-ray bags) and then brought the liquor on the ship. After you go through port security no one gets intrusive with your property. At the ship's door someone was there to greet us but didn't pursue our bag (with liquor inside) as they did on past cruises. So we did manage to sneak something on board. Even if it gets confiscated they return you liquor to you on the last night. Trust me - buy champagne!
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.
When driving a car in the Caribbean you have to keep in mind you are NOT in America, but rather, the 3rd world and they don't have a tax base to support the roads and infrastructure. For example we rented a car on Barbados and found it impossible to navigate because there are no road signs. None. I'm talking about standard signs like speed limit, warning signs, and even street signs. You have no idea what road you are on and no idea where to turn. And it gets worse because the roads are VERY narrow, unmaintained, and covered with potholes everywhere. Cars driven by locals are often full of dents so that tells you how little they care and how bad the roads are.
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. On St. Lucia we paid $55.00 each (2 of us for $110.00) for a 4 hour island tour. A car rental would have been 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 in island speak means a promisory 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.
Barbados:This island is a 3rd world pit. The roads are so bad you DO NOT want to rent a car there unless its a jeep. After driving on Barbados you'll have a new appreciation of how tax dollars provides services and infrastructure. I would NEVER consider opening a business on Barbados because it cannot support one. Most "houses" owned by locals are propped up on cement blocks (so it can be moved) and there's no utility hook ups. I have no idea what they did for electricity, water, and sewer. Be advised that houses are next to the street, there's a tiny curb, and between the curb and house there's a trench for drainage, which might be used as sewage also. Barbados is a total dump! Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
St. Lucia: This was far better than Barbados but still a very poor island and some of the Barbados characteristics exist here also. You can see some of the palaces owned by the rich who control the island. Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
Antigua: Yet another 3rd world island. We rented a car and the roads were slightly better than Barbados but likewise roads are not marked. It is smaller than Barbados and a bit easier to navigate. Betty's Hope Sugar Plantation is in ruins but still interesting, and free because no one is there to charge you. The wind mill is very scenic and appears to be in working condition. Nelson's Dock Yard is another worthwhile place to see and entrance is $5.00 per person. There's parking just off the entrance for free. But watch out for the rental return because its very hard to return a car to the cruise port - the town is a complete zoo. Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
St. Maarten: Because driving was so difficult on other islands we gave up on a car rental. But you can take a water taxi from the pier to town for $6.00 and good for all day passage as often as you like. The town had been spruced up a bit since our last visit 3 years ago. Lots of shopping & very nice beach.
St. Croix: Since this is a U.S. territory the roads are more like America. The pavement is fairly maintained and there's actual signs to assist you. This might be a good place to rent and drive a car. Driving is on the LEFT.
There are tons of excursions offered by Royal Caribbean, but what's not generally known is there are other companies providing excursions. One such 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.
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. Get your tickets as soon as they are offered, which I believe is Monday. There were 2 musical shows that are '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.
Park West used to claim they sell art for 60-80% below gallery prices. That's hogwash. Today, they no longer make that claim because people were catching on. On this last cruise they wanted over $6,000 for one of pieces from Salvador Dali's 100 illustrations from the Divine Comedy, which we purchased from Park West back in 1997 for $200.00. But if you check the Internet you'll find them being sold by Lockport Gallery (southwest suburb outside Chicago) and their websites says the Divine Comedy pieces go for only a few hundred dollars.
Park West appraisals come from outer space because they don't jive with the real world. You can get some good pieces but you MUST do your homework first. If you see something you like go research it on the Internet BEFORE you bid. The will NOT tell you the minimum bid they will accept so forget that. Watch out for opening bids because they can be very high.
About once in each auction they give a low opening bid for piece and let it go just to get the audience fired up, and so Park West can claim the buyer got a really great deal. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But be aware there are other places to buy art so don't feel obliged. Drink their champagne and wait until the end so you get your free artwork - which is an 8 x 10 that's probably not worth much. And don't forget the purpose of the champagne is to get you loosened up to buy are their prices.
Also, you can catch the Park West people on the cruise, let them know what you are interested in, and make them an offer. You're going to have to do it blind, having no idea what their minimum bid OR opening bid would be. FYI: Often their opening bid is higher (maybe MUCH higher) than their minimum bid, which typically are 2 different things.
WARNING: Park West auctioneers like to talk about the value of a piece and how it rises so quickly. Be advised - they are salesman and very slick. Many auctioneers are NOT knowledgeable. Buy artwork because you like it and NOT because some fast talking 29 year-old says it's a great buy. Trust your instincts, not them.
Art work is shipped from a Detroit suburb and we've never had a problem. HOWEVER, you WILL see some reviews in which people describe their nightmares with Park West.
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.
OVERALL CONCLUSION: We had minimal problems with obnoxious people, probably because mid January is a highly desirable time to travel so there's not too many cheap tickets issued. Food was very good, entertainment was great, the ship is fantastic, I would take this ship and cruise itinerary again.
SUGGESTIONS:It's worth it to try to sneak on alcohol at San Juan. It's your property. Don't miss the ice show. It has world class skaters and you'll see it up close rather than on TV. They are incredible on such a small ice rink. Check in online. Embarkation will be faster. DO everything possible to AVOID letting ANYONE to handle your bags. If you have problems with rude people at Windjammers then eat all meals in the dining room. WARNING: Be advised to avoid a confrontation with rowdy people. You are at sea and there is no local sheriff to arrest people. The ship's "security" will "file a report" which you CANNOT get a copy of for documentation or further legal matters. They WILL NOT cooperate with you. Been there, done that.