We recently came back from a 7 night Southern Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. We booked this cruise after our Allure cruise so we were a little concerned about going from a newer, larger ship to an older, smaller one. We need not have worried though because overall we had a great cruise.
The cruise sailed out of San Juan and we decided to fly down there a day early. I’m glad we did because we were able to enjoy a leisurely day in San Juan prior to boarding the ship. However, getting to SJU was not leisurely at all. We flew JetBlue and our flight was scheduled to leave at 8am. As I was getting dressed that morning I got a text from JetBlue letting me know that the flight was delayed to 10am. Not great, but we were already up so we decided to leave the house at the originally planned time. As we were getting ready to request an Uber I got another notification that the flight was delayed again, now until 10:30am. When we got to the gate we were told that there was yet another delay and that the flight would be leaving at 11am. Had we been flying in the same day of the cruise for a 4pm departure this definitely would have been cutting it way too close for my personal comfort level but luckily we were getting there a day early and the ship was scheduled to leave at 8:30pm. I will say that JetBlue did a great job of giving updates and they even set up a cart with complimentary water and snack boxes for everyone on our flight while we were waiting. It turned out that our original plane was having maintenance issues so they were flying a plane up from FLL for us. Once it arrived we started boarding and expected to be wheels up shortly because that what’s supposed to happen, right? Except, it turns out that due to bad weather (not in our area) our flight path had to be revised and because of that we needed to refuel. We eventually took off around 12:45pm and landed around 4pm, 5 hours later than scheduled.
Uber didn’t allow pickups from SJU so we took a taxi, and it’s a flat rate of $15 to Isla Verde, where our hotel was located. I wish Uber did allow pickups there because our hotel was less than 5 minutes from the hotel and would have been cheaper than the cab. We stayed at the Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel and Casino, which is where we stayed during our last visit to San Juan. Once I do the full review of the blog I will link it here, but the quick review is that we enjoyed our stay and would recommend that hotel. Since we arrived later than expected we didn’t go to the beach as planned but ended up just going to the onsite Outback Steakhouse and hanging out at the hotel.
After checking out of the hotel the next morning my mom and I made the short walk to the beach and spent about 30 minutes there enjoying the view and getting our feet wet. We were able to get an Uber from the hotel to the pier, but the driver could not pick us up directly in front of the hotel due to issues with the taxi drivers. We only had to walk literally just across the street but that’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to be calling an Uber from your hotel. The cost was $8.17 to the Pan American pier and it was a short ride.
We arrived at the pier around 1pm. Royal Caribbean sent us an email a few days before the cruise with a boarding schedule based on cabin decks, but since we had a suite we could board anytime. I don’t recall ever getting an email like that and I’m curious how many people actually followed the scheduled and how many arrived whenever they pleased.
Check in was quick as the suite line wasn’t very long, and we were soon on the ship. The rooms were available at 2pm so we didn’t have to wait long until we were able to relax in our room. We booked a Grand Suite and although it’s certainly big enough for my mom and I we’ve been spoiled by the Crown Loft Suite on Allure.
The first thing we noticed in our suite is that the welcome letter explaining the suite amenities was addressed to other people in a different cabin, and the room service cards had already been filled out. Also, the sofa and chairs could do with reupholstering as they are pretty stained. Due to the age of the ship I know those things are to be expected, but it was definitely noticeable after coming from Allure. The balcony was the full length of the cabin and was bigger than expected, which was a nice surprise. The bathroom was a nice size but one thing I don’t like is that it’s a tub/shower combination and the height of the tub is pretty high. My mother does not have any mobility issues but she was concerned about getting in and out and frankly so was I.
The next day was our first sea day. We had breakfast at Giovanni’s Table and the omelette and orange juice were delicious but the pancakes not so much. We spent some time in the casino and I was up about $28 at one point but eventually I donated it all to the house. We attempted to go out o the suite area on the pool deck but it was uncovered so it’s great for those looking to get some sun but not so great for shade lovers like me. That evening was also the first formal night and it was nice to see so many people dressed up for the occasion. The main show was Invitation to Dance; I love a song and dance number so I enjoyed it but it wasn’t the best Royal production show I’ve seen. The seats in the theater were very comfortable and have cup holders which is always a plus.
The third day was out first port stop, Bonaire, and we booked the Bonaire Highlights tour (we booked excursions for all of the ports through Cruise Planner). I enjoyed the Bonaire Highlights tour and would recommend it for a good overview of the island. This happened to be the day of the eclipse and one of the other guests brought along eclipse glasses so we were able to get a glance of it during one of the stops on the tour. Once we returned to the ship we had a quick bite to eat at the Windjammer. It was our first time there this cruise as I’m not a big fan of buffets in general, but the food wasn’t too bad. After we had some food we went up to the Peekaboo Bridge as there was a special sail away party for suite guests and Pinnacles. The top tier event was held last night too but we ended up not going to that one. The show was comedy/stunts with Matt Baker. Does anyone know if this is the same Matt Baker who used to be a cruise director for NCL? I was too tired to attend the show but I was curious if it was the same Matt Baker.
Day 4 had us in Curaçao and we booked the Discover Curaçao tour. I enjoyed the tour; I would have liked more time at the museum as I didn’t have time to really look at everything but since it was so hot maybe it’s good that were were only there for about 30 minutes. The caves were also interesting and the kids on the tour seemed to really enjoy that part. After the tour we were given the option to be dropped off in town and make our own way back to the ship or be dropped off at the ship. We were worn out from the heat so we decided to head back to the ship. Also, I had been sick for the past two days and I’m not going as far to say that I had Noro because I haven’t thrown up but I did start having GI issues after the cocktail party. It was also the only time I ate food without using hand sanitizer first (I used tongs for the finger food) so I don’t know…
Something we noticed on this cruise is that the service wasn’t as attentive and was slower. Did this have a negative impact on our cruise? Absolutely not, but after being on 20+ cruises with excellent service we noticed the difference on this one. I do think that this ship is a nice size as it is big enough to have some of the big ship amenities (flow rider, Royal promenade, ice rink, etc) but is not so big that it’s overwhelming and overcrowded.
We were in Aruba for Day 5 and we booked the Best of Aruba tour. This was probably my favorite tour this cruise as the guide Eric Brown was excellent and I liked the island the best. I could see myself going back to Aruba for a land vacation, and as nice as the other islands were I don’t see my self going out of my way to return, I wanted to stop into Louis Vuitton (just to window show of course…) but they were closed by the time we got there so we went to the casino next door. It was pretty smoky and looked a bit dated, and neither my mom nor I had any luck so we didn’t stay long.
Day 6 was a sea day, and I don’t have any notes from that day so I assume it was a pretty chill day.
Day 7 took us to Phillipsburg, St.Maarten and we booked the Schooner Sail Away tour. I had high expectations for this tour as we were going to anchor at a beach for a swim and then head over to Maho Beach to see the airplanes, which we had never done on our previous visits to St. Maarten. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but once we arrived at the beach the crew put out the ladder to get into the water and I did not feel comfortable going down it. There was another lady who was looking forward to going in the water but also decided not to because of the ladder. I guess we could have jumped, but I was feeling a bit bummed so decided to just stay on the boat. We actually weren’t there very long so had I actually gone into the water I wouldn’t have felt it was worth it since I would have to deal with wet hair, swimsuit, etc. We then moved on to Maho beach, and the crew told us that the big planes usually arrive later in the day and since we were there in the late morning we probably wouldn’t see much, and they were correct. The crew of five were very nice and you could tell they loved what they did, but this was the most expensive tour we booked and it left me the most disappointed.
Our flight didn’t leave until 6pm on debarkation day so on Day 6 we decided to call hotels tomorrow to see how much a day room would cost instead of hanging around at the airport. We decided on the Sheraton Old San Juan, and since this wasn’t a normal reservation (in that we would only be staying a few hours) they told us that they would hold a room for us but we couldn’t reserve it over the phone. I didn’t love heading there without having a confirmed room but we did as we were told and had no problems securing the room once we arrived. I believe they quoted us $175 for the room over the phone but when we got there the total price was $185 and that included the refundable $50 for incidentals. Since we knew we we would be leaving the ship late we didn’t have breakfast before we left, so as soon as we dropped our bags off in the room we went to the hotel restaurant to have breakfast. The service there was excellent and the food was good as well. After that, we made the short walk into Old San Juan. We only walked for a few minutes before we saw a stop for the free trolley so we waited about 15 minutes before the next one came. I was sure we rode the trolley before when we were at El Morro and it was the typical tourst-style open air trolley, but this appeared to be more of a city bus. We got on it, but since we weren’t 100% sure if we were on the right bus or where we were going we got off at the next step. The weather was very hot so we decided to head back to the hotel. I ended up taking a longer than planned nap and my mom caught up on social media. I’ll do a more in-depth review of the Sheraton Old San Juan and link it here, but the quick review is that I would gladly stay there again.
We took a taxi back to SJU and I feel like we were overcharged so I would definitely get an Uber next time. The time at the airport and our flight were both uneventful and we got home safely that evening.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in San Juan and on Adventure of the Seas. I was devastated to hear about how the recent hurricanes affected San Juan not because we were just there but also because I have family on the island. My family has done our part to donate money and supplies and I hope they can recover as quickly as possible.
My mom and I are working on our travel plans for the next year or so and so far we have another trip to LA/Indian Wells. Orlando and a cruise in the work (plus our annual US Open trip) so I’ll definitely be busy planning everything. I wouldn’t have it any other way :).