Tag Archives: adventure of the seas


Adventure of the Seas at Kralendjik, Bonaire. Photo: @antnich

After a couple of weeks at home, and having had time to catch my breath, now seems as good a time as any to reflect on this cruise experience.

While the destinations are wonderful, the holiday as whole is built around the ship. So, how did Adventure of the Seas shape up?

First of all, if you want a quiet, peaceful holiday, you are NOT going to get it on a ship carrying 3300 plus happy, pumped up passengers, especially when so many of them are young. That alone should be self evident to anyone whose IQ is actually larger than their shoe size; it’s not rocket science, people.

Yet I could find all the solitude and serenity I needed out on my cabin balcony. With just the sound of the sea as a backdrop, and a side order of cold wine and tender, beautifully sculpted sunsets to hand, it provided me with all the calm, healing balm that I needed.

Lines? Yes, you’ll find lines of people for the elevators, and they will be crowded, too- the same as in any small city. And that’s essentially what a ship like Adventure of the Seas is. Exercise a little patience, and just bear in mind that the entire ship is not your own personal, private fiefdom; you’ll always get where you need to in due course.

And sure, the buffet is crowded and noisy at breakfast times, and especially so on sea days. But the staff work miracles in clearing tables and keeping the flow moving. And do you need to eat breakfast in the buffet, anyway? Er, actually- no.

You can enjoy a far more leisurely, waiter served breakfast in the main dining room which is downright delightful, or even have breakfast brought to you in your cabin. And breakfast on your own private balcony is something you’ll never ever forget once you’ve tried it, for sure. Problem solved.

In fact, food on the whole was very good indeed, and better overall than I expected, especially on a mass market ship like this one. The extra charge ($38 per person, reservations only) Chops Grille was an outstanding steak house experience; my Filet Mignon was so tender that it almost crumbled at first touch of the knife. With ample, included sides of asparagus, mushrooms and truffle fries, plus some of the most decadent desserts I’ve ever sampled, Chops Grille was an amazing experience savoured in hushed, deeply luxurious surroundings. More of a food temple in fact, than a mere restaurant.

By contrast, the Johnny Rockets diner is pure Happy Days at sea and yes, it’s every bit as kitschy as you’d expect. It’s all streamlined chrome and screaming red booths, with tiny faux juke boxes on each table. Needless to say, there’s a conga line of burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings and milk shakes on offer. Did I mention the cookies?

Johnny Rockets is simple, uncomplicated fun with it’s home cooked comfort food, served up with a side order of Cadillac sized nostalgia. For $6.95 on an all you can eat deal, it seemed to be open right around the clock. And, obviously, it was hugely popular with families.

The main dining room is a swish, glamorous affair. Some three stories high, it looks like a Hollywood film producer’s idea of what a 1930’s ocean liner dining room would look like. It serves up lavish, five course dinners for those on the normal two evening sittings, as well as those opting for flexible dining times (and yes, you can choose). While the menu on all three levels is the same, it changes each evening, and such staples as Caesar Salad and Manhattan Strip Sirloin are always available. It’s as much about theatre as cuisine, but it’s a hugely enjoyable experience. It’s well worth dressing up for at least once to share a real sense of occasion with family and friends.

Apart from the buffet (which also offers a casual dinner each evening) there are also free snacks, including pizza, sandwiches and cakes available at the French style Cafe Promenade, located on the Royal Promenade. This is also a good option for a light breakfast and, while the coffee is free here, there are also speciality coffees that incur an extra price. So, too, does the ice cream from the nearby Ben and Jerry’s franchise. If you want free ice cream, there is self serve stuff available from the dispensers outside the upper deck buffet.

You certainly won’t go hungry, and nor will you be starved of entertainment options, either. From nightly street parties and parades on the Royal Promenade to ice skating spectaculars in Studio B, the Adventure of the Seas has it all. From cool jazz to colourful calypso poolside, an acoustic guitarist to a sizzling salsa band, and even late night pool parties and non stop casino action, the Adventure of the Seas literally rocked, rolled and rhumaba’d through the course of our week on board. You’d be very hard put to find a more rollicking party boat than this one, if that’s your thing.

But, for those craving simple peace and quiet, there are no shortage of quiet, intimate nooks-in particular the gorgeous Schooner Bar- that serve up nothing more than great Martinis and some stellar conversation.

I really enjoyed my time on this glitzy, stupendous seagoing resort. Adventure of the Seas more than met my expectations, and frequently exceeded them in some really delightful ways. I’d certainly do this again.



Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

Finally, it’s Saturday morning, and the Adventure of the Seas is back where we started in Puerto Rico, just one week ago. It’s time to go home and, inevitably, the sense of regret and loss I always feel at the end of my trip sits as uneasily as an unwanted side order on my breakfast plate.

A long couple of days lies ahead; the inevitable downside to whooping it up for a week in winter on the other side of the world. But, truth be told, both Royal Caribbean and their partner airlines do their best to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.

Thus, our luggage already awaits us ashore, and I had been able to check in for my Delta flights the night before. I’m flying from Puerto Rico back to the UK via New York, but there’s plenty of connecting time. Finding my luggage is easy once off the ship; it goes into a separate, sealed van that follows our transfer coach to the airport. We enjoy a curbside reunion under sullen, humid skies. The warmth and wonder of those islands in the sun already feels a lifetime away.

Despite my flight not being for several hours, I’m glad to be able to check my luggage right away, and all the way through to Heathrow at that. Those last few hours pass in a blur of retail therapy, a couple of beers, and the attempted consumption of an armour plated hamburger that’s as spiky as an Armadillo. And, I might add, just about as edifying.

I’ve lucked out with an exit aisle seat on the four hour flight back to JFK, and it’s on a brand new 737-900 with seat back TV’s for everyone. The plane lofts into a flaring purple twilight, and I lapse into some obviously much needed sleep. Not long before landing, some very welcome (and free) Starbucks coffee gives me that vital caffeine lift that I need. As first legs of a long journey go, this was actually a damned pleasant flight.

JFK is rain lashed, with pools of light shimmering on the tarmac as we rumble to a halt. The Delta staff on our flight have been perceptive enough to inform us at which gates our onward flights will be waiting. It takes me all of fifteen minutes to debark and arrive at the gate for my next flight.

I’m on a Boeing 767 back to the UK, and my initial dismay at being on an ‘older’ plane fades when I see the smart, obviously newly refreshed interior on this one. Again, I luck out with an aisle seat (the 767 flies in a 3-3-3 across configuration in economy) and there’s more than enough room for me to hunker down for the next seven hours or so.

Manhattan falls away below us in a rain soaked, neon smear and, before I know it, the first drinks run comes through the cabin. I cradle a vodka and orange- Delta serves free spirits, wine and beer on all international economy flights- and decide on the chicken from the three choices on the dinner menu. I flick through a choice of more than ninety boxed seats on offer to watch, and that’s before I get to the films, when the main meal arrives.

It’s hot and plentiful, with some taste to it. At 36,000 feet, it’s realistically as good as it gets. Wines on offer are white, red, rose and even sparkling. The pours are generous too, from full bottles into plastic glasses rather than the small, quarter bottles that most airlines offer. Somehow, this just seems more satisfying. And, by the time I have munched my way through the meal and then gorged on four episodes of The White Princess, sleep finally creeps up and coshes me. I sag into a gentle, three hour snooze and, as I do, we cross the Atlantic, and dawn breaks once again over old Europe’s beckoning shores.

London is sunny enough as I transit through Heathrow in around thirty five minutes on a Sunday morning- something of a personal record. Both Delta flights have been agreeable, hassle free experiences; in fact, the crew on the overnight flight in particular were outstanding. But now I’m off to Terminal Five to surrender myself to the tender mercies of British Airways for the last, short leg home.

Check in is painless enough, and I have ample time to grab some lunch at Terminal Five. It’s over priced, over rated, and served up in hugely over crowded surroundings. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask. But, needs must; because BA will offer you nothing in with the price of your ticket, not even a coffee. Nada. Zilch.

The hour long flight passes in a blur and, before I know it, we land with a gentle bump. The warm, welcoming lights of Newcastle’s passenger terminal glint on the rain sodden runway. The air is shockingly bone chilling. Even my luggage has made it home with me; something of a win-win situation these days. I sag with genuine gratitude into the back of my taxi, and recoil from the cold, oppressive darkness looming just outside my window.

So, those are the actual, physical logistics of the long journey home laid bare. It wasn’t too bad of an experience at all; long, but not interminable. And, for once, I didn’t actually feel jet lagged, either.


Pastel pink waterfront buildings are typical of Oranjestad, in Aruba @antnich

Next in line, the Adventure of the Seas rocked up in Aruba’s pretty capital of Oranjestad. The local motto here is ‘One Happy Island’ and, after a few hours here, it’s not too difficult to understand just why.

It’s a chocolate box pretty kind of place, with fussy, flamingo pink buildings overlooking a waterfront strewn with yachts. To the north, the lush, expansive sands of Eagle and Palm Beaches invite para gliders, scuba divers, and those simply in need of some weapons grade relaxation.

Me? I just strolled, took pictures on the afternoon, and then dropped into my favourite waterfront bar- The Paddock- for a couple of ice cold Heinekens. Dutch beer in a Dutch bar; it just makes sense, especially on such a muggy, overcast day as this one. Make no mistake; this really is Holland in the Caribbean and yes, you do hear quite a lot of the mother tongue spoken out here, too.

Late afternoon, and I’m aboard a smart, snow white catamaran for a sunset cruise around the harbour. The sails go aloft, and we bumble out onto the sparkling blue briny. There’s free rum and other similar stuff for our crew of apprentice pirates and, once clear of the pier, we’re given our leave to wander around the boat at will.

I’m quite surprised at how many people simply remained glued to their seats, to be honest. It’s almost as if they are afraid of any actual contact with the elements all around us. For a full two hours, I lapped up the sensation of the warm breeze in my hair, and the gentle rise and fall of the ‘cat’ as she bucked the briny head on.

There’s something intense, truly elemental, about being this close to the water. I can never get enough of it. Also close to water- very close, in fact- was the rum, which was as weak as the water sloshing around on the floor of the men’s toilet. But the rum wasn’t the point; it was the sights on offer that I had hoped would be far more visually intoxicating.

Sadly, Mother Nature declined to play ball, gifting us only jagged, crimson smears that slashed the horizon as the sun set at the end of what had been an all day haze. But, as darkness fell, she instead gifted us a curve ball that drew gasps of awe and admiration right across the boat.

Sudden, ragged displays of lightning flickered across our bows as darkness encroached, coming and going for a few minutes on end. It looked as if some random deity was casually flicking a light switch on and off, just for the fun of it. Deep and intense, this stunning, totally unexpected visual feast rolled right across our horizon. I’m pretty sure that it seared itself into the memory of most of us lucky enough to get to see it.

Once the boat had bumbled to a halt along the floodlit waterfront, I wandered back down to The Paddock for a couple of quiet farewell beers. Pools of light shimmered on the ink black water; the evening air was as warm as toast, with just the hint of a cool breeze floating around the town.

We were in port until 2230, so there was ample time for those last beers ashore. And that’s what I love about cruising the Caribbean to this day; those special little moments where you can simply kick back, meet and talk to strangers, and form new bonds.

I’m all for that, personally. There’s more than enough negative, destructive rhetoric out there as things currently stand. Me, I’m all for talking to people from wherever, whoever they are. Because, if humanity is sometimes depressing, more often than not it is still damn fascinating. And, in the Caribbean, there truly are no strangers; only drinking partners that you haven’t met yet.

Sweet, soulful stuff, and so life affirming. Special memories made anew in a special place. Fine times in a fine style. What’s not to love?


Salt deposits, Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. Photo: @antnich

Well, here we are on the one of the famous Dutch ‘ABC’ islands that I’ve never been to before; pretty little Bonaire.

Bonaire is the ‘B’ (Obviously, Aruba is the ‘A’ and Curacao the ‘C’). Physically, Bonaire is something like twenty seven miles long and five across. The northern end has some higher hills and vegetation, but the much larger southern half is mostly flat, arid, and yet utterly mesmerising.

The plains closest to the coast are still studded with the mountains of salt that are still produced here. Alongside the cool, crystal clear waters they give the place an almost stark, Arctic white quality, one that the average daily temperature of thirty degrees centigrade is quick to dispel on first contact.

Yet, further down that same coast, you’ll find clusters of dense, dark mangrove swamps. Clumps of cactus and gnarled, wizened Divi Divi trees bend in the breeze for which these islands are famous. Ospreys wheel and swoop in the skies above those salt lakes. In the distance, a herd of slender, long necked Flamingos preen like a posse of supermodels. Their bright, vibrant pink plumage- the result of a lifetime’s diet of the local shrimp- makes for a vivid burst of colour; an all too briefly viewed counterpoint to the dried coral and bracken scenery that so enchants us. Goats and donkeys dot this arid expanse, foraging for both food and shelter alike.

A gaggle of diminutive slave huts stand huddled near the surging, ice blue Caribbean rollers that drum the acres of pristine sand that flank Bonaire’s coast. The breeze makes the entire island a paradise for para gliders and windsurfers; the underwater coral, and the bright, vivid sea life is a full on nautical wonderland for born divers. Three different kinds of sea turtle breed and give birth here. The beach scene is as idyllic as on any of the more famous Caribbean islands. In short, Bonaire is a very pretty girl, indeed.

But it’s those stark little huts that entrance you, and turn the warmest day just a little bit colder. Like the rest of the great, ancient European trading nations, the Dutch were great believers in the ‘benefits’ of slavery. over the centuries, they exported a torrent of cowed, petrified humanity from the Azores to the Caribbean, mainly to work those self same salt mines.

In 1850, a few small settlements were built by the coast to house these slaves. They consisted of gaggles of tiny huts- each one smaller than a modern caravan-that were used to ‘house’ up to four people each. They came with no facilities; each has a sloping roof, two small windows, and an open door. That’s literally it.

Today, still clad in shades of terracotta and canary yellow, they litter the shoreline like so many small, silent clusters of molars. Sad, simple and sobering, they are stark milestones in a past that many would simply prefer to forget. For that reason alone, I hope that they stay there forever.

Back in the pretty waterfront capital of Kralendijk, and I’m in a happier frame of mind. Pretty, vibrant houses and cafes in a riot of pastel shades sit serenely on a sedate, palm splayed waterfront where the calm, nigh well indolent Caribbean laps at the sleepy shore.  The Adventure of the Seas looms above all of this like some benevolent Matriach. In fact, the island is so flat for the most part that we could see the ship from almost anywhere on it.

There are warm smiles everywhere from the locals, and an ice cold Amstel Bright beer to hand as I sag back into the old routine with almost pathetic gratitude. Truly, leisure is only sweet after work well done. But, unlike those poor people whose past I had encountered earlier, I at least had the option of leaving here once I’m done. Worth remembering, methinks, in this increasingly selfish day and age.


Warming up for the show @antnich

They said it would be a party. Specifically, a Seventies themed party. A tinsel coated, glitter spangled tribute to the most gloriously tacky age that modern music has ever given itself over so shamelessly to.

Whisper it- the Adventure of the Seas is going totally D-I-S-C-O. Tell only who you must…..

Naturally, the venue has to be totally over the top, with more than just a hint of swagger and bravado. And, as Royal Caribbean are expecting around 3300 guests, it has to be B-I-G, too.

So, naturally, the Royal Promenade gets ready to get jiggy. More than six hundred feet long and four storeys high, bisected by a trio of overhead bridges and lined with bars and cafes, plus dance space aplenty, only something so truly, magnificently over the top could play apt host to the ghosts of Disco past.

The DJ is poised aloft, like the master of ceremonies that he surely is. The first six notes of Boogie Wonderland burst like a series of musical star shells in that vast chamber; the adrenaline begins to flow with the vodka. It’s wheels up, and most definitely time to get down.

Afro sporting dancers appear on the bridges, and the crowd down below begins to move, sway and sing as if gripped helplessly by some unspoken, ancient power. Earth, Wind and Fire give way to a blistering KC and the Sunshine band medley. Arms begin to wave; the crowd begins to sing along. The vibe begins to build into one gloriously tacky tsunami that overwhelms the throng down below, as over three thousand people begin to dance all ways, waves and styles, right down there in the street.

The DJ plays the crowd like a baby grand piano; Chic’s Good Times elicits one almighty surge forward from the crowd as Nile Rodger’s classic guitar riffs cut through the ether like a light sabre; by the time that the DJ gets to the inevitable Bee Gees stuff, most reserve has long since been cast to the winds. Even the coolest and most nonchalant dude on the ship- a young Swedish guy who looks like a pocket version of Alexander Skarsgard- tips his hat to Mother Disco as Le Freak floods the air, and he bops helplessly along to something at once both primal, and yet utterly decadent. When the funk is this strong, resistance is futile.

And then- they appear….

Yes folks, it’s time for the Village People!

The famous five appear on the centre bridge, arms aloft, as the first bars of In The Navy roll down the street like a tidal wave. Cameras flash; arms wave in the air, but that’s enough about me. Because everybody else is right up for the whole show, too. Even the oldest folks are by now getting up to get down. And, by the time they segue seamlessly into the inevitable YMCA, more than three thousand people- most of them perfectly rational- have abandoned all sense of sanity, propriety, or decorum. The Village People will tolerate no nonsense; decadence truly rules the roost once more. Any approaching pirate ship confronted by this happy, howling mob would probably have struck its colours at once.

The O’Jay’s sublime Love Train triggers a vast, snaking conga that grows bigger by the second. Black, white, every damned shade in between, they all get on board; it’s one nation under a groove- a seagoing nation-getting down just for the funk of it (with apologies to Funkadelic for that), riding a wave of fun that it took hours to surf down from.

So, that was the start of our night. How was yours?


Curacao waterfront. Photo is copyright of the author

Day three found the Adventure of the Seas in the sunny, spectacular setting of Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. I had planned to do a sunset catamaran cruise here, but that tour was cancelled. So, with ample free time to myself, I sauntered back into one of my favourite Caribbean capitals for some platinum chip strolling and rolling, a pastime for which Willemstad seems to have been created in the first place.

After a while I found myself at an old, wooden decked bar grill near the historic Rif Fort. It’s the sort of place I love; all ancient, distressed teak decking and wooden railings, sprinkled with similar style tables and chairs. It actually stood out over the ocean itself. There were a few bits of flapping muslin canvas, affording some scant shade from a mercilessly hot sun. In the background, they were playing Christmas carols. It was eighty three degrees in the shade, and that sun was taking no prisoners. ‘Incongruous’ barely cut it here: I had to smile.

The deck itself is built on pylons, kept in place on the sea bed by a cocoon of old oil drums. One night back in January of 1942, a German U boat surfaced near here, lobbed a quick volley of shells at the oil refineries located nearby, and then slipped away back under the ink black Caribbean. Human nature being what it was I pondered that any one of those same German sailors would have loved the taste of the ice cold bottle of Amstel Bright that I was cradling in the here and now.

The view was sublime. Curacao is an island washed by warm, temperate winds, and so the sea spray here can kick up quite a bit. Sheets of it leaped at the shoreline like waterborne shrapnel. It’s an exciting and dramatic spectacle, one a million miles removed from the usual Caribbean images of supine waves lapping gently at a swathe of pristine sand. Curacao has a bit of an edge, and that’s part of its continuing appeal for me, I guess.

Walking back along the waterfront, I admired the pretty, pastel hued swathe of shops, bars and restaurants that often draws comparisons with ‘old’ Amsterdam. Rows of umbrella shaded tables flank a waterfront thronged with grimy trawlers, bustling local ferries, and the occasional passing tanker. Like an asthmatic old woman. the venerable, steam powered Queen Emma pontoon bridge swings open and shut, folding itself against the shore to allow ships to pass upstream. Once done, it chugs back into place to allow pedestrians to cross to either side. It’s a quirky, amusing sight that still gets me after all these years.

Hunkering back down in a welcome bit of shade, I stumbled on an old town square that could have been lifted intact from any medieval city in Europe. With a trio of gnarled, wizened old trees as a centre piece, it had bars, cafes and restaurants that looked totally out of place and time in this most beautiful of sea cities.

Centre stage, an enterprising local paraded his captive Iguana for the presumed amusement of locals and tourists alike. And, of course, to collar a dollar or twenty for the ‘privilege’ of a photo taken with the hapless creature. Bubonic green, with bulging eyes and a flickering, snake like tongue, he eyeballed the crowds all around him. By contrast, the Iguana he was carrying just sat there like an old ham. The poor thing was probably long since bored beyond caring. I guess one load of cruise ship passengers looks much the same as another one when you’re an Iguana.

I enjoyed a nice cold Belgian Leffe beer at the Copacabana (yes, really) but, alas, there was no sign of either Tony, Lola, or indeed, Bazza himself. Whether the Iguana or the strange, flickering creature that was his familiar were even acquainted with such platinum chip musical folklore is something that I’ll sadly never know.

Musing the strange ups and downs of travel, and encounters in general, I wandered slowly back to the Adventure of the Seas. The rosy glow of a slowly setting sun caught her vast, pristine white flank, turning it into a subtle shade of magic that not even Rembrandt’s brush could have replicated. Walking back on board, the air conditioning felt like so much healing balm.


Striking up the band aboard the Adventure of the Seas. Photo; author’s own

Today finds the Adventure of the Seas in the pretty Dutch port of Willemstad, Curacao. There’s a warm breeze whipping across an otherwise cloudless sky. In front of us is P&O Cruises’ Britannia. From both ships a torrent of passengers is pouring ashore like a stream of maddened ants.

I’m thinking back to last night right now, and remembering one of the most spectacular welcome aboard cocktail parties that I’ve ever seen on any ship in over three and a half decades of cruise travel. As events go, it was- like the rest of this enormous ship- spectacular, and well over the top.

The venue was the vast, four deck high Royal Promenade, a huge open space that bisects the middle of the ship over a length of around six hundred feet or so. It’s done up like a European main street, and is lined with bars, shops and cafes that run right along the length of both sides. There’s an English pub here, a sports bar there, and a French style sidewalk cafe for good measure. Tables and chairs spill out along the paved ‘street’; a trio of viewing bridges span the middle levels of the complex while, on both sides, three rows of atrium cabins have huge bay windows that look down on all the fun below.

So you have a grand, truly glamorous venue that buzzes and hums with foot traffic at all hours of the day and night. This being formal night, most people put on their glad rags, and really dressed up to the nines.

The large Puerto Rican contingent on board looked every bit as smart and snappy as you might expect. They promenaded up and down the huge expanse of space in large, expansive family groups, from Grandparents right down to tiny tots. It was a wonderful sight to behold.

One young couple even paraded their baby dog. Naturally, the little doggy was carried, proudly sporting a bright new red bib that it had been bought for it’s prom stroll. It got almost as much love and attention as the cutest of the kids. You couldn’t help but smile.

In the midst of all this, a battalion of solicitous Royal Caribbean stewards circulated among the crowd, delivering glasses of complimentary chilled champagne to the milling throng. And, stage left, the ship’s eight man orchestra took it’s stand. All sporting full tuxedos, they launched into a rollicking set, with the five man brass section creating a wall of sound that reverberated off the upper level of this cavernous chamber and it’s crowd of schmoozing, boozing fun lovers.

They played it all; starting with classic Sinatra staples, then segueing smartly into sultry Brazilian samba and a medley of delicious Dixieland jazz. People began to shuffle their feet and dance as the music, mood and venue came together to create something utterly magical, and well worth getting dressed up for. To those who say that the magic has ‘gone’ from cruising, well- no. No, it hasn’t.

There then followed the usual welcome introduction from the captain and his officers, and then we all set away to indulge in our own wealth of diverse whims for the evening. All in all, it was a truly stellar beginning to a magical night at sea.

On another front, by now I was beginning to grow mildly worried about my increasing addiction to the fried dumplings served up at the on board breakfast buffet. My arteries started to whimper every time I laid eyes on the damned things, but they were just too good to resist. It’s only a week, I kept telling myself…

And so, with the sun well and truly past the yardarm on another sunny day, it was time for my daily Jacuzzi aerobics session before heading ashore. Honestly, who knew that lifting a Strawberry Daiquiri in a hot tub required such intensive practice?