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Adventure of the Seas August 3-9, 2019. The Oddball Musings of KMom.

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PART 1, Page 1, Post #1

 

Hello, friends.   I may as well go ahead and apologize right now.  This here review is LONG and it is only a matter of time until you get thoroughly SICK. OF. IT. Be warned!!

 

I made the decision about doing a review months ago, long before we departed for the drive from the area south of Chicago toward the scenic shores of urban New Jersey. Well, docks and/or piers, really. Not so many “shores” in this region of the Upper New York Bay.  And the best scenery is the Manhattan skyline with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A couple of housekeeping issues here.  While I love all the supportive comments that I desperately hope will follow my review, I also realize some folks become weary of the review-in-50-installments format, interspersed with sidebars, off-topic questions, arguments, quotes of extremely long and/or photo heavy posts in their entirety, and weeks of waiting to find out what happens next while the writer inconsiderately returns to the gainful employment that afforded them the resources to travel in the first place.

 

So you’re going to get, right here, right now, a big fat data dump. The whole deal in just a few posts in rapid succession. I will, however, break it up into PARAGRAPHS. This makes it easier to read; easier to see and perceive when the topic changes. Easier to identify what you want to SKIP. Which, if I’m being honest, is probably everything. Because this is a lot of info from someone with a weird perspective, mmm-kay?

 

I’m gonna try putting up all the text first, and then the photos in follow up posts. I will also, of course, be happy to further discuss anything mentioned here as well as trying to answer any questions. Try to stop me!

 

If you want to quote some of this in a reply comment, please just quote the actual segment you are interested in. Please don’t quote whole posts.

 

About me – I am Kmom, 53 year-old mother of one female child who is now going on 14 years old. In fun, I call her a “meanager” occasionally, and she actually thinks that’s pretty funny as well.  Oh, quit hating!  I only do it when she is actually being mean. She is so spoiled and she knows she is the center of my universe and I tell her about 8 times a day how much I love her!  And the spoiled part is only partially my fault, because she’s an only child, an only grandchild, and has a father who grew up in an underprivileged home and is determined she will never want for anything.

 

We were travelling this trip with my husband and my mother who actually paid for our two adjacent (but not connecting) Junior Suites on Adventure of the Seas, Deck 10, rooms 1624 and 1628.  Mom went on her first cruise in the early 1960’s as a young single woman living in NYC – she shared a small apartment in a brownstone on West 69th Street off Central Park West right across the street from the one shown in the movie, “The Apartment.” Believe it or not, that was a fairly affordable location in those days. She went on her first cruise with her roommate and a couple of other friends.

 

They sailed on The Queen of Bermuda to, guess where?  They had 2 days down, then several days riding mopeds around the pink-sanded island while staying at a local hotel, before sailing back to the city so nice, they named it twice. And cruising became part of her memory wall.

 

Mom took me on several cruises as shown in my signature (Premier x2, Scotia Prince which was really an overnight ferry, and Celebrity Millennium). I brought her on one of my Disney Magic cruises back in the 90’s when I worked for Disney World. She had not come along on any of our modern-era cruises (beginning in 2017), so back in May of 2018 I talked her into giving it one more go.  She had a lot of stipulations, like decent, uncrowded rooms for all involved, large balconies, and a mobility scooter. Since she raised a cheapskate, I tried to object based on cost, which she graciously offered to take care of, if, and ONLY IF I could get her what she wanted.

 

COST:  It looked high from my financial viewpoint, but based on how far ahead we booked, it turned out to be a reasonable deal at $6K for the four of us for six nights. Easy for me to say, since someone else was paying. This rate included taxes and fees, prepaid gratuities, a $100 OBC per room, and additional “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. The insurance alone was almost $600 and a discretionary expense. The cost of this insurance per person was much higher for my mom than the rest of us, obviously due to older people being more likely to have a medical reason to cancel their vacations.

 

We used an online travel agency which I also used when we booked Oasis of the Seas a couple years ago. I have found for Royal Caribbean we do better on both rates and room availability through online agencies, unlike Carnival which I just book direct with the line as they offer the exact same terms and rooms either way.

 

Within a few months of booking, prices had gone up substantially and they never looked back. In fact, prices for a regular balcony room were soon equal to what we paid for these Junior Suites. I really did not have to do much over the next year or so except make a few bookings for hotels along the drive, the aforementioned in-room scooter, and a rental car for our port day in Saint John, New Brunswick to drive up to see the sea caves in St. Martins.

 

SORRY, I realize this has all probably been exhausting for you already. Blah blah, all this background! Getting on the ship soon, I promise!

 

We stayed 2 nights pre-cruise at the Hyatt Place Secaucus Meadowlands with FREE PARKING. We visited the Edison Estate and Laboratory on Friday morning, then took a very, very slow public bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and walked several blocks to see Beetlejuice on Broadway at the Winter Garden Friday evening, chosen by whom? That’s right, the not-always-so-mean-teenager. It turned out, that show was totally worth it. Super fun. Warning, F-bombs inside. Loved it.

 

If you want to hear more about this hotel and location and convenience factors, let me know.

 

Port Liberty, Bayonne:  Saturday morning, we drove over and found Port Liberty, Bayonne, to be VERY EASY to navigate, easy parking for our big pickup truck and easy drop off for my mom at the door.  Perhaps it didn’t hurt that it was SATURDAY.  Security and check in were both annoying clusters, partly our fault, I suppose if I’m being honest. We 3 gals headed in and being in the handicapped line, we had no wait so we charged ahead while DH parked. We had his carry-on bag, which had some sort of power adapter that was confiscated while they questioned the meanager about it.  I was on the other side of the belt waiting, because I had DH’s passport, so I couldn’t intervene regarding this questioning, and my mom didn’t really understand what the problem was. And they made my sweet, perfect, innocent little baby CRY during the power adapter interrogation.  Who’s mean now?

 

Actually it worked a charm as they sort of dropped the ‘tude after making a little girl cry over a stupid power cord.  Eventually we got that all worked out, though they did confiscate the item, wrap it up in masking tape and gave us a claim check to pick it up after the cruise.

 

Rude Incompetence with Wheelchair Assistance:  Then we were sent over to a waiting area for wheelchair assistance.  We sat for about 10 minutes while people who came in behind us were checked in on tablets and sent on their way.  Since we seemed to have been immediately forgotten, I went up and asked someone if I needed to go over to one of the check-in lines and she snapped at me, “are you waiting for a wheelchair?” Yes. “Then we’ll GET to you!”  Oooooh-kay.

 

Keep in mind, I’m already slightly salty due to the minor security fiasco. But I can just sit down and shut the *@$& up now, no problem, so sorry to be that annoying passenger who asks a question once in a while.  Oh, by the way, *@$& yourself as well, madam. I got a flustered meanager here as well as an easily tired, mobility limited senior citizen on my hands. By the way, she’s a VETERAN! But WHATEVER!

 

A few minutes later, someone came with a wheelchair, one of the agents told him to take my mom, and we were on our way through a series of corridors and elevators. At the end of this rolling journey, we arrived on deck 4 of the ship to be scanned aboard. They asked for some sort of documentation we did not have, but I did have my pre-check in barcodes on my phone, which they used to look us up in the computer and said, “you’re not checked in.” No kidding! We’re just doing what we’re told here, folks! Let Kmom’s smug smirking commence. Oh yeah, baby! It’s commencing RIGHT NOW!

 

This is obviously not their first rodeo, because they have a guy right there to deal with exactly this problem.  He’s the calmly smiling, non-threateningly handsome, extra-charming check-in supervisor guy whose job is to fix others’ screw-ups while placating the increasingly irritated passengers who have been mishandled by the port staff.

 

So super-nice guy figured THAT out for us, while we held up a long line of properly-checked-in passengers behind us (sorry not sorry, because IT WASN’T OUR FAULT!!) then into Bolero’s on Deck 4 where the wheelchair deposited my mother into a lounge chair.

 

It’s around noon at this point and she and the kiddo can spend an hour pretty happily in one place so they hung out while DH and I did our first quick looky-loos around the ship. At 1pm we headed to the land of instant spoilification, i.e. the Junior Suites of our Dreams.

Edited by KmomChicago

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PART 2, Page 2, Post #2

 

Junior Suites:  Gosh Darn it! We’ll never be able to go back! These rooms are no less than 150% of the size of a normal balcony room. Do you even know how nice it is to be able to walk around the end of a bed with SPACE TO SPARE?  And don’t get me started on the STORAGE!! The walk in closet is big enough to use for a dressing room, even with all our stuff in it! And the drawers! And the cabinets! Oh yeah, and because we were on the “hump” we also had a big wedge shaped balcony!

 

Of course, the from a land side perspective, this room is still smaller than a typical Motel 6 double, but because we are on a CRUISE SHIP this constitutes the transition to the high-rent district. DH and DD had a slightly smaller wedge balcony but still nice. Though the balcony is nice, it’s the interior space I really appreciated.

 

We were right next to room 1620, some sort of super mega suite. I don’t know what kind of people stay in such a room, because I never saw them, but more importantly, I never heard them or really any other kind of noise to speak of.  I did peek in once during daily housekeeping on my travels and saw there is a piano in that suite, which is clearly there just to remind you that you are rich enough to pay a fortune for space on a cruise ship and then waste said space with something you have no use for whatsoever. 

 

Junior Suite and Special Needs: The scooter from Scootaround was in the cabin with a fully charged battery as promised. We also had a gallon of distilled water and extension cord for the CPAP machine that we had ordered from the special needs team. I mention this because I recently saw a CC thread where the vast majority of people stated that RC Special Needs has NEVER provided the stuff that they ordered in advance, and they had to ask the room steward. Not the case for us. Everything we had asked for was there when we busted into the room promptly at 1pm.

 

One slight misfire for us, though, relates to the scooter.  We actually have a Shop Rider power chair at the house that we could have brought aboard.  Everything I checked out said that the Junior Suites have the same, narrow little cabin doors as every other room on the ship.  That narrow door is too narrow for the Shop Rider, so instead we rented specifically the scooter that fits into the standard door. 

 

We did not get accessible rooms, because the selection was kind of lousy and mom wanted other amenities more than she wanted a roll in shower.  Well, this door was plenty wide and the Shop Rider would have fit through it just fine. So we could have saved the $325 for the rental.  I don’t know whether either vehicle wins for maneuverability aboard ship but I think the shop rider has more of a square footprint which might have fit better on to elevators than the scooter’s long, narrow shape.

 

The JS also had a coffee maker, again something standard in any cheap hotel room landside, but like GOLD on a cruise ship.  Our location was good as well. Right off the aft Centrum elevators, just below the pool deck but underneath a basically unused space (called the florist on the deck plan for Deck 11 but just looked empty when I walked up there) right outside the Windjammer.

 

 

Edited by KmomChicago

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PART 3, Page 3, Post #3

 

DINING, or more accurately, FOOD:  Speaking of the Windjammer, here’s what happened with the dining for us on this 6 night cruise.  I guess I should just come clean and say, We. Don’t. Dine.  We are the classless hoards of face-stuffers on the go.

 

We mostly ate all our meals in the buffet.  Mom and I tried, one time, on the 3rd night, to eat in the MDR. We had Your Time or My Time or Anytime or whatever RC calls it. We were there at 5:15 which we had reserved and which is the earliest time. We were just not very happy or impressed with this experience.  Our assistant server, a man who was very nice but seemed old for this kind of demanding gig, greeted us kindly.  The main server, a young lady, seemed to be at that sick-of-this-crap point in her “career.”

 

I have been a server in my younger days and I know full well it absolutely sucks. People complain a lot about food. I also know not everyone has the personality to constantly act like it doesn’t suck for the sake of the guests. (Me, for example.) She was of course not flat out rude, but just didn’t seem to have her heart in it. Mom got French onion soup, strip loin steak, and crème brulee and didn’t much enjoy any of it. Get ready, I’m gonna just go ahead and let you have it. The cliché’d cruise food complaint rant.

 

Cliched Cruise Food Complaint Rant:  Mom’s French Onion soup was cold, flavorless, and the bread was just a soggy lump rather than a crouton with any color or texture. The cheese was melted but was an unappealing white glob.  She said her steak was sort of okay but gristly, served barely lukewarm – borderline cold, and the crème brulee was grainy.  

 

The bread basket buns were all fresh and incredible, the highlight of the meal. I may have eaten too many of these heavenly rolls, and I may have put too much butter upon them first. I also got two appetizers – a salad and something else I can’t remember, and they were okay.  I got the chef’s choice fish of the day and it was also okay but slightly overcooked and served barely lukewarm. It didn’t have a lot of flavor outside of the sauce on top of it.  The vegetables it came with were a bit understeamed, unseasoned, and again, borderline cold in temperature.  I’m actually not super picky so I ate it all anyway with no lasting scars or ill effects.  No dessert for me tonight.

 

When the server asked how the food was, and Mom told her, the server gave her a sort of raised eyebrow “okay, you’re obviously a psycho” look and simply backed away without a word.

 

The head waiter for that section noticed us sitting there a few minutes later looking unhappy, came over to check on us, and got an earful.  He was a lot like that charming guy who got us all fixed up during embarkation.  He was professional as could be, really and truly tried to help, offered to bring something else, got us refills on our water which had not been topped by the servers though they were empty when the food came, apologized profusely, made sure we got that crème brulee sooner rather than later, and promised to pass on the comments to the chef. 

 

We didn’t want anything else as we had already eaten what was served so we were full and just wanted to move on.  In addition, the dining room in general was pretty chaotic with lots of families and groups constantly streaming in, rather noisy, lots going on. It was really not much more elegant or peaceful than the Windjammer. 

 

Later that night I had forgotten to put the do not disturb sign on the door so as we were drifting off to sleep, someone delivered a covered plate with chocolate strawberries and macaron cookies and an apology note from the Executive Chef.  This was a nice gesture. I do appreciate their acknowledgement and effort.  And did I mention that I am well aware that food service jobs are terrible and soul-crushing?

 

I prefer not to make a big fuss about it all, but of course if my companions are not happy, I’m not going to be happy either.  This is now 4 cruises in recent memory (2 on Carnival, 2 on RCI) that I’ve tried to get my family to enjoy the MDR and they don’t like it, and frankly, I am finished with listening to them airing their grievances about it.  They win. I surrender.

 

While the Windjammer is often a madhouse as well, it had a lot of things going for it that we liked. We always were able to find seating, even at high demand times. It was well staffed, fresh food constantly being added to the lines and bus / service staff constantly picking up plates and clearing empty tables for great turnaround.  They also often tried to help my mom with her limited mobility issues, and offered to bring us more drinks and asked if we needed anything else.

 

There was always a variety of dozens of interesting foods, with plenty we liked. This included stuff like lamb dishes which we would not normally have access to in our regular repertoire, and I had the best ratatouille of my life on this buffet.  Lots of concentrated tomato umami in a vegetable dish. I enjoyed things like smoked salmon and prosciutto on the cold lines, things I love but rarely splurge on at the supermarket.

 

Each night was a different theme so it did not feel too repetitive, in my humble opinion.  Breakfast was somewhat repetitive, but that’s kind of misleading because it was repetitive with dozens of options, so it’s on you if you chose to eat the same exact one every day. We never had to wait long as the queues always moved quite fast. 

 

Minor Windjammer Tip:  If things were bottlenecked at the front queue we learned quickly to go all the way to the back which was a separate line and often less crowded.  We grabbed a few snacks in the Promenade Café as well and found their pizza to be a substantial improvement over what we had at Sorrento’s on Oasis of the Seas in March 2018.  No specialty dining, beverage packages, or room service for us. We did buy the coffee card but didn’t use even half of it once we found out we had in room coffee.  They say it’s still good on our next cruise.

 

Booze / Get Drunk One Time Cheap via Martini Class Hack:  Speaking of beverages, we did decide to do the Martini Making class on the last sea day.  This cost $25 per person plus 18% gratuity.  If you had the booze package, you got $5 off, big deal!  I would have been annoyed if I paid that kind of $$ and still had to pay extra for the martinis, but whatever. 

 

This started off on a weird, bad foot. The bartender didn’t seem to want to do it; we only had 7 people and he needed 8, and he seemed to be trying to get out of it, delaying the start time several minutes after the schedule promised. But in the end he went forward, after getting permission, so he said, from his supervisor, and he was fabulous!  Once it got going it was fascinating. First he showed us how to do a classic old time martini, in and out with the vermouth to line the glass, then he mixed plenty of Bombay Sapphire gin with ice using exactly 26 gentle stirs to chill (really!) before straining in to the glass and adding two olives. Never shake gin, he told us. It damages the juniper flavor. Never listen to 007 and his ridiculous shaking! So says RC martini class. He explained a dirty martini has olive juice in it, but we were going basic.

 

Okay, this 1st drink, a true, classic martini, tasted TERRIBLE regardless of having been made perfectly and carefully and without shaking.  Essentially straight gin, albeit decent quality gin. Still, we paid our $25 so we drank it – and ate both olives which cut the battery acid quality slightly - and started feeling the effects pretty quickly.  We were the only ones at the class to finish it, though the bartender tried to hurry us all on.  It was honestly vile.

 

Next he demonstrated how to make a Lavender Lemon Drop Martini:  Absolut Citron vodka, lavender syrup, a little sour mix (he gave ratios and explained the difference between a good homemade sour mix vs. commercial stuff, but I’m not going to really make martinis in real life so who cares?).   This tasted worlds better than the tough-guy martini we started with. And it was very pretty, a soft mauve color in the frosty chilled glass.  He had made too much and so topped us all off after a few gulps. Because we needed more booze at 2:30 in the afternoon.

 

While we enjoyed that one, he moved on to a Chocolate Martini, with the story about how Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor invented it while they were filming Giant in Marfa Texas. He probably told us what went into this, but other than the chocolate syrup I don’t remember any of it, because I don’t usually drink and had a solid 4 or 5 shots in me now in about 30 or 40 minutes’ time. It tasted something like a mudslide, not that I was tasting much at this point.

 

I worked my way through that rather yummyish concoction while he started on the last drink of our class, I guess an espresso martini and I remember nothing from “class” about how he made it as I was way past driving condition at this point. Remember, we’re supposed to be learning something here. DH had to drink mine. 

Considering the price of alcohol onboard ship, this was an incredible deal for the cost of $25 plus tip. Four very strong, full size, high quality cocktails, all made with call brands. The only problem is it was the last sea day and mid-afternoon and being mostly non-drinkers, we were not in fabulous condition for debarkation and our drive to Gettysburg the next morning.

Edited by KmomChicago

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PART 4, Page 4, Post #4

 

Entertainment:  We managed to stumble down one floor from the Champagne bar to Studio B, immediately after martini class, to watch the ice show. It was comprised of three sections that were absolutely impacted by our lack of sobriety:  Intro – Weird, avant garde, hard for drunken people to quite figure out. Middle - Beatles. Okay, that’s fine, we get it pretty well even in this state. End – weird again.  The skaters, were, of course, talented and entertaining in spite of several falls during jumps.

 

I have to say I was more impressed by the kick-butt dancers in the Lyric theatre shows. We watched them all, from the welcome aboard show first night to the farewell show last night.

 

WOW. Those dancers are in spectacular shape and managing very difficult, complicated, and high-energy, faced paced choreography. The singers were very good too, but honestly I feel singers are partially just lucky to be born so talented, where dancers, no matter how talented, have to work incredibly hard to pull this stuff off and maintain this athleticism.  Our headliner show was Kyle and Mistie Knight, husband and wife magicians/illusionists and they were a lot of fun. DH got to hold the butter knife for one of their tricks, and holler out on cue, “I’ve got the knife!” which elicits a few laughs.

 

We did a lot of trivia and similar games and the quality of the quizzes was all over. Some were pretty easy or at least straightforward, and some were really hard and obscure, and some were of arguable accuracy, but we had a good time with this overall.  We won a lot of the swag they unload at these things. Even the staff constantly joke about how crappy their prizes are.  We got the highlighters, the zipper pulls, the keychains, and somehow my mom got a navy blue baseball cap with a big crown and anchor logo on the front that looks completely ridiculous on her, not being the baseball cap type by any means, but that’s not really the point, is it? She wears it all like badges of honor, though there were plenty of other worthy competitors for these battles.

 

They did some sort of mystery game one night where you had to join up with others to form teams of six, each of which got this packet full of handouts and clues and puzzles, involving an art heist and footprints and running around in the Imperial Lounge looking for more clues, and it made no sense whatsoever.  After an hour, time was called, each team just threw a guess on their official report dossier, and most of us were unsure what any of our clues had to do with anything.  No team solved the mystery! I don’t think anyone even came close. Yeah. I know. But wait for this: The hosts admitted at the end that it was their first time doing it and they didn’t understand it either!!!  That’s okay, it’s all really just for fun anyway. Except it wasn’t fun, so there’s that.

 

We thought the Friendly Feud game was sort of lame and also not all that much fun.  Again you had to hook up with other groups to make teams of six, of which there must have been 30 or so, and only six teams got to go up and play.  Most of the teams had kids under age 10 who really did not understand any of the questions so that sort of further slowed down the action.

 

We also watched karaoke one night. Since I’m being realzz here, I have to say, I was surprised just how terrible this can be. There were two songs that were quite good and most of the other 15 or so were bad and a few were actually painful to watch. As in, you could see the audience was personally offended by this quiet, off-key, low energy performance that seemed never to end. I notice in Carnival reviews people often say the karaoke is terrible, but there is such a lighthearted, supportive atmosphere that it’s fun anyway.  That was NOT the case for this karaoke and I don’t know if it’s because of the audience makeup or RC vibe as compared to Carnival vibe. I can tell you that only the best acts, or those with a big entourage (never the same people, BTW) received much applause.  We did not return for subsequent karaoke sessions.

 

Fellow Cruisers:  Speaking of the audience, it was a very NYC metro area heavy passenger manifest, as you might expect cruising from Bayonne. This was definitely a different overall demographic from the cruises I have taken from Florida and New Orleans, which had more representation from a broad range of the 50 states. Any time people came up on a stage and were asked where they were from, there was at least a 50% chance they would say: New Jersey.  Followed by: Long Island. Then we got the general nearby areas of the Northeast Megalopolis, with just a small smattering of outsiders like my Illinois crew.

 

I have seen on Cruise Critic some debate about the clientele from this port. I never know quite how to feel about these discussions, but it was not an issue one way or the other. I don’t really think NYC area people are much different than Americans anywhere else. People were kind, or at least, polite and patient and helped whenever they saw my mom struggling to drive her scooter into or out of an elevator. We would have no problem sailing with “them” again in the future, if they will have us.

 

The Obligatory Uncomfortable Crew Member Interaction: I’m right at 9 cruises now in the books, 10 if I include an overnight ferry journey on the old Scotia Prince.  I always, always, always have at least one interaction with a crew member that is Less Than Perfect.  You know how you read these reviews ranting about bad service.  I don’t cruise on premium lines so I’m not accustomed to solicitous butlers running around behind me devoted to my every whim.  I cruise with the regular people and service is just not always Perfect, nor do I have expectations that it will be.  On every cruise, somebody would be the unhappy crew member, scowling, whining about their work conditions, looking clinically depressed / about to blow, or having a short tone of voice. Having worked in hospitality, I know these tactics well as I used them all.

 

Though I didn’t ask, one of the bar servers on this cruise ended up telling me that if you’re in the Schooner bar on Deck 4 playing trivia and want water, they’d prefer you go up to the Promenade Café on Deck 5 and get it yourself, unless you are also at least buying an actual drink along with it. What had happened was, I overheard a bartender joking derisively to the server about guests at trivia who just want water.  Apparently this server realized I overheard and thought I was giving him the stink eye about it, because he ran over and started over explaining himself for like, three minutes. And at the end of his story, he went over to the bartender and told him he made a guest “mad.”

 

Afterward, my mom told me he bad been “flirting” with me. Haha. He was most assuredly NOT flirting. This guy was about 20 and I am, as mentioned earlier, in my 50’s and there was nothing charming or appealing about the way he was talking to me. More desperate and nervous. I explained to mom he was trying to do damage control in case I was going to complain or, oh, I don’t know, maybe blog about it all over the interwebs.

 

I didn’t file a complaint with the suits of course, but this did make me think: if everyone at trivia wants water, why don’t they just set up a tray of water glasses before each trivia game and have them sitting there for the taking? They’re so good about overfeeding us constantly onboard, but water seems to be relatively scarce. Just an idea, but what do I know? Once I buy one of those old Carnival Fantasy-class ships they keep trying to unload, the Kmom Cruise Line Incorporated (KCLI to you) will have ice water available for free all the time, all over the ship. It worked for Wall Drug and some things never change.

 

Stateroom Attendant:  Our room steward was excellent, always cleaned up the room very fast, cheerful, never whined or complained about his long hours or 7 month contract without a day off (unlike a few other crew members who felt the need to remind me about that, thank you very much and see above section). He was almost too good – my husband would set up his coffee maker late in the afternoon so that in the morning he would just need to turn it on – and the steward would empty it out and clean it while we were out at the Windjammer having dinner. But he always left a fresh coffee pod so it was not a big deal. It never occurred to us to ask him to stop doing that.

Edited by KmomChicago

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PART 5: Page 5, Post #5

 

BY THE WAY:  Okay, if you are still reading, then I have to tell you, I am absolutely astounded. This is a lot of information. But we have ports to discuss so I’m not through yet.  I plan to post short reviews in the forums for the Canadian ports as well, eventually, but you get to see it here first!

 

PORTS: These ports feel nothing like visiting a Caribbean or Bahamian port. They really don’t feel like you are in a foreign country at all (of course you aren’t at Bar Harbor).  Canada is obviously a “foreign” country and I know some Canadians find it offensive to be considered the same culturally as the USA.  So how do I put this delicately then?

 

Here is the most delicate way I can put it:  Canadians are the same culturally as the USA.  Canadians are not foreign in any way.  The signs are in English first and then French. That’s sort of foreign, I guess. The lady who gave me my rental car had an accent, so I asked her “Parlez-vous Francais?” And she said, “No, I’m from Brazil.” Well big deal, we have people with accents who don’t speak French right here in Illinois. We saw a few drunken crazy homeless people wandering around in the two Canadian port cities. Also the same in the USA. I guess the weirdest thing about the Canadians is they are slightly more polite than we are. Not very weird. Although they do give us the same disapproving looks we get everywhere else, and you can just read their little minds: “Americans! Here in our Port City for the day!”

 

Also there are no obvious pier runners at these ports. You’re too far to see people running for the tenders in Bar Harbor, and both of the Canadian ports sent you in through covered gangways through a terminal building so you really couldn’t see if anyone was running through the corridors.

 

Bar Harbor, Maine. I did not go ashore. Mom and I wanted a day to explore the ship.  If I can swing it, spending one port day on each cruise ship is something I really enjoy. You may see 2 or 3 other people by any of the pools or really just about anywhere you happen to go.  I paddled around in the Solarium pool alone except for the careful eye of the lifeguard for a few minutes and manufactured a little Vitamin D on a padded lounger. The tender boats were right underneath our (large, wedge-shaped, did I mention that?) balcony, so I did spend some time watching them come and go. It didn’t seem that people were having to wait very long to get on them. It looked like a smooth operation. I did see wheelchairs getting on and off the tenders as well. As always it slowed things down but didn’t seem to phase anyone very much.

 

It was fun to watch the tenders pull away, and then when they got a bit of distance from the ship and swung around, all the people on the top deck stood up and took photos of the ship. Of course I am a total dork so I always waved at them to see if anyone would be my friend for 2 seconds. There was always someone who would wave back. So I like odd things. You saw the title of this review!

 

DH and DD did a ship-excursion haunted walking tour of Bar Harbor and they LOVED it! However my husband noticed something funny about his guide’s accent and asked her where she was from. She tried to say, “here” but when he pushed her she ‘fessed up that she’d only been in Maine for 5 years and was really from Arkansas.

 

Saint John, New Brunswick. Mom had a mission here. My late Uncle Don, her brother, had mentioned wanting to see the Bay of Fundy tides. After his wife died fairly early of cancer in her 50’s, he travelled a lot in his retirement including places like Easter Island and other exotic locales, but never made it here. So mom wanted to visit a fishing village with the little boats sitting in the sand at low tide. We rented an SUV from the Budget car rental office which is just a block down Water Street from the port so we could drive ourselves up to St. Martins. I booked this months in advance. We did this as soon as we got off the ship at 8am and beat the tour buses up to the area, though there were a few other tourists already there in cars. Mom watched as we walked over the sand and rocks to the world famous exposed sea caves.

 

I enjoyed this self-managed excursion of ours quite a bit. The caves are not very deep and they are caused by erosion from the constant in and out of the tides. The walls are very soft and crumbly and constantly being washed away a grain at a time. You can easily see the stratified and tilted layers in the rock face.  And you can easily see the sand is composed of what used to be these same walls.

 

We also stopped in a little convenience store and mom-and-pop bakery (!!) right in the town of St. Martins that had fresh made Canadian Nanaimo bars, which were actually on our pre-researched list of Canadian native foods to seek out. Very sweet, creamy, and chocolaty.

 

A girl also shopping in the store told us darkly, “Just a warning. This is a nowhere town. Good luck.” She was a meanager so we found this more charming than disturbing.  A great place to visit but I can see being bored out of your mind in about your 17th year in a little seaside town 40 minutes from the “big city” of Saint John. I certainly felt the same in my 17th year in a little farm town 30 minutes from the nearest biggish city and 60 minutes from Chicago. She’ll be fine.

 

The drive was along a quiet, somewhat scenic country road from Saint John.  We had the rental car back by lunch time and the cost was drastically less than a ship tour would have been (about $70 Canadian, plus about $15 to fill up with gas), plus we were much more comfortable going at our own pace and being able to manage mom’s mobility issues on our own.

 

The area near the port was quite nice for walking around as well. We only had a fairly short time here, though, arriving at 7:30 with all aboard at 2:30.

 

Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mom stayed aboard while the rest of us went ashore. I wanted to see the Citadel, and my daughter wanted poutine. The walk to the Citadel was okay if you are a good walker and can handle the big hill. IT WAS WORTH IT!  There are various old forts lying around the Americas. Nassau has some, and Florida has the one in St. Augustine and the other one in Dry Tortugas, and of course there are many others. This one is GOOD.  There is a lot to see here. It’s in excellent condition. There are several exhibits detailing the military past and significance of Halifax. I was really, really impressed. We spent a couple of hours here and needed every minute to just get through everything fairly quickly.

 

After, we found poutine at one of the places in Halifax that is known for it. The service at the shop was very good from a nice hipster type young lady and we got a lot of poutine each and we all ate most of it. BUT here’s the thing. WHY IS POUTINE SUCH A BIG DEAL? You know what poutine is? It’s french fries. That’s what it is. It’s a big serving of fresh cut french fries (the best kind of course) with some brown gravy and melted cheese curd, plus extra toppings of your choice.

 

If you like fries, this is good. Really good. But it doesn’t feel very (here I go again) FOREIGN. It feels like something I could get, oh, I don’t know. Here in the United States???? French fries with a bunch of savory gooey toppings. We call that “loaded french fries.” Or variants like, “chili cheese fries,” for example. But this was poutine and nothing else, and now we can check that off the exotic Canadian food list.

 

End of the Adventure and another little crew interaction snag: Like all cruises, eventually those jerks decide they can just kick you off the ship whenever they feel like it. This was no different.  We received luggage tags with the number 1, but the letter indicated if you had wheelchair assist you needed number 56.  So I went down to Guest Services and spoke with someone who: 1. Like the server in the MDR, had definitely stopped loving his job a while ago and 2. Really didn’t know what I was talking about, or what he was talking about either, for that matter.

 

I asked him about the tags, and showed him where on the info sheet it said we needed 56 rather than 1, and he took my sheet out of my hands, turned it over, and directed my attention to something unrelated to the bag tags about where handicap people needed to go next morning for wheelchair assist off the ship. I asked again about the tags and he said, “You asked me about handicap and I showed you.” WOW.  I replied, “No, I asked about luggage tags. It says we need 56 but we have 1.”  So he went in the back and came back with tags with the number 6. My sheet said bags with number 6 are going to Newark airport.

 

Yes, I would not have believed it if I were not there myself either.

 

After I continued to protest, he went back in and asked someone in the back what to do, then came back with a couple of 56 tags. However now I wondered if these people had any idea what they were doing so I decided to just use the original 1 tags, because my sheet also said they would be the very first ones off the ship, before even 56.  This turned out to be a small mistake on my part, but you will see my clever solution below.

 

You know how we read those “everything was so terrible” reviews, and you think, “they’re exaggerating some of this or they are just hard to please.” I did not think this cruise was terrible. It was great. We really loved the food in the Windjammer, didn’t just tolerate it. Loved it. We loved our Junior Suites, loved the entertainment, loved the martini class, loved winning all those famously crappy trivia prizes, and loved the ports. There are hundreds of crew members constantly doing their best to make all those things happen, being super nice, making things great all around.

 

But unfortunately these aggravating moments can stand out as more memorable. I’m not trying to harp on those moments to tell you how they ruined everything. Just the opposite.  They are just part of life, even life that we paid thousands of dollars to experience and think should be perfect. I get through them and move on to something more fun. In the moment I might be steamed, but often the things that go a bit awry are the ones I laugh about afterward, and recommend you do the same. Sometimes I'm laughing quietly inside at the sitcom that is my life even as it unfolds before me. Wooo, all metaphysical there.

 

Next day (disembarkation morning) we went where they told us to go and wait (Boleros), and the lady running that show told everyone it didn’t matter what order you arrived in the wheelchair lounge. You would be let off the ship in order of baggage priority, with 56 first, because otherwise you would be off before your bags. Son of a . . . and I had those 56 tags after all my running around in circles with Guest Services, but used the 1 tags anyway.

 

She then asked each group what baggage tag number you had.  Guess what number I told her? I told her 56, of course and you should do the same. A good thing because we would have been pushed back behind several people who did arrive in that lounge after us with number 56 luggage, and our luggage was already off the ship anyway when we got to it. Because luggage number 1 was the first off the ship! And this wheelchair lounge lady had no way to confirm where you luggage was or what zone tag number you had filled out anyway, so tell her whatever you want. Good grief.

 

The crew member pushing my mom’s wheelchair took her all the way out through the terminal and to the uncovered parking lot where our vehicle was waiting, but that might be because I had already handed him a $5 bill at the beginning of the trek.

Once off, we got back our power adaptor pretty easily at the port and we were out and on our way quickly. And just like that, number 9 (or 10) is in the books.

 

If you’re an oddball like Kmom, as you drive off you may picture your room steward running around your stateroom in your absence, vacuuming and  changing all the bedding for the next group. Later, as you stop at a service plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for lunch, you may wonder why you have to actually pay for this stuff, rather than just doing a quick washy-washy (ay, ay!) and loading up yet another plate at the Windjammer, where you actually belong.

 

Happy cruising fellow passengers. God bless, please be kind to yourselves, to each other, and to the crew, even the crabby ones. They are all doing their best, even if some days their best falls a little short. Thanks for tolerating this mess. Photos coming shortly.

Edited by KmomChicago

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First photos. These are coming from my phone where I always end up with typos and autocorrect fails, so sorry about that.

 

We had front row mezzanine seats at Beetlejuice on Broadway for just $59 each, way off to the side but a great value for us.

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Edited by KmomChicago

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We like all the song and dance shows onboard.

 

But when you’re a bit tipsy / more than a bit, and a skater is out there with a big floppy doll thing, it can be slightly weird.

 

The middle part of the show was more traditional.

 

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Edited by KmomChicago

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The large, JS length, plus “hump” extra wedge shape dimensioned, balcony. I believe there are apartments within view of the home port that are smaller than this.

 

 

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Edited by KmomChicago

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Loved  every  minute  of  reading  your  review .   Sounds like  you  all  had  a  great  time  in spite  of  the  snafus.   I do  have  a question  about  parking  at the port.  You seem  like  a  person  who  does the  research  pre-cruise . . . So did you  look into  other parking options  or simply decide that parking at the port was just easiest ?  Do you  mind  sharing  the costs ?    We are driving  over to  NJ  from the Pittsburgh  area and cruising  on a 10  day on the Adventure  so we're  trying  to  save  a  little  money  if possible .   TIA  

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1 hour ago, thegraminator said:

Loved  every  minute  of  reading  your  review .   Sounds like  you  all  had  a  great  time  in spite  of  the  snafus.   I do  have  a question  about  parking  at the port.  You seem  like  a  person  who  does the  research  pre-cruise . . . So did you  look into  other parking options  or simply decide that parking at the port was just easiest ?  Do you  mind  sharing  the costs ?    We are driving  over to  NJ  from the Pittsburgh  area and cruising  on a 10  day on the Adventure  so we're  trying  to  save  a  little  money  if possible .   TIA  

 

Hi, Graminator. Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I did.  Parking is $22 per day and it is RIGHT THERE next to the terminal. Could absolutely not be easier or more convenient. We were in my husband's 2016 Ford F-150 crew cab, which is not a monster truck or anything but is a lot bigger than my crossover SUV.  There was a garage for smaller vehicles and an adjacent open lot for the big'uns.  Keep in mind, with mom's mobility, getting in and out of shuttle buses is not easy.  Nor do we want to wait around for someone to pick us up. I visited the following Cruise Critic thread for more info about this area, and there are various conversations in here about parking and lower cost options.  For the NY metro area where parking can truly cost a small fortune, I feel $22 per day is quite reasonable. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, BSocial said:

Thanks, Kmom,

  

Very good and entertaining review.  I enjoy your writing style

 


Thank you, BSocial. You are very kind to take the time to say so. I'm glad you enjoyed.

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1 hour ago, dani negreanu said:

Thank you for posting such an enjoyable and well written review 😁

 

Thank you Dani.  I'm glad you enjoyed. I certainly entertain myself doing this but you never know if anyone else will get the jokes. 

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5 hours ago, KmomChicago said:

I guess I should just come clean and say, We. Don’t. Dine.  We are the classless hoards of face-stuffers on the go.

Love it! Wife & I have a strong-willed 6-year old. We're 'practicality-minded.' That said, did you try a specialty restaurant? Granted your MDR experience should've been better, but I've enjoyed the specialty restaurants on some ship - really good.

 

It is a bummer when encountering someone whose, how shall I say this, 'hospitality performance could use some work?' That said, I know many of these people come from places that, by American standards, are poor. Parents are on multi-month assignments and don't get to see their kids, hours are often long, I doubt the pay is great (witness they take care to hit at least one foreign port to comply with the Jones Act and avoid falling under American minimum wage law, etc...), and yet this is presumably the best opportunity they can get.

 

And, from what I see and hear on ships and on this forum, they are driven by management to get excellent scores. One MDR waiter years ago said with Royal Caribbean, 'good enough' is good for nothing!

 

So, between hard working conditions, stressful family separation, pay I assume could be better, and dealing with the public (where is that not a trial?), I'm surprised at how well they do.

 

I keep imagining the crew breaking out into an acrobatic dance number to the tune of that old, old song, 'So Happy Together,' but I'm not holding my breath. 

 

Not a criticism of your review. I just empathize with people caught between a rock and a hard place (until someone gets on my nerves, of course. That's different. I can't explain why, but it is). 

 

You did a good, thorough review.

Edited by drrich2

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45 minutes ago, drrich2 said:

Love it! Wife & I have a strong-willed 6-year old. We're 'practicality-minded.' That said, did you try a specialty restaurant? Granted your MDR experience should've been better, but I've enjoyed the specialty restaurants on some ship - really good.

 

It is a bummer when encountering someone whose, how shall I say this, 'hospitality performance could use some work?' That said, I know many of these people come from places that, by American standards, are poor. Parents are on multi-month assignments and don't get to see their kids, hours are often long, I doubt the pay is great (witness they take care to hit at least one foreign port to comply with the Jones Act and avoid falling under American minimum wage law, etc...), and yet this is presumably the best opportunity they can get.

 

And, from what I see and hear on ships and on this forum, they are driven by management to get excellent scores. One MDR waiter years ago said with Royal Caribbean, 'good enough' is good for nothing!

 

So, between hard working conditions, stressful family separation, pay I assume could be better, and dealing with the public (where is that not a trial?), I'm surprised at how well they do.

 

I keep imagining the crew breaking out into an acrobatic dance number to the tune of that old, old song, 'So Happy Together,' but I'm not holding my breath. 

 

Not a criticism of your review. I just empathize with people caught between a rock and a hard place (until someone gets on my nerves, of course. That's different. I can't explain why, but it is). 

 

You did a good, thorough review.

 

Hi, Dr. Rich. I don't do the specialty dining either. You know why? Because I really don't care much about food in the first place.  At home I try (and often fail) to practice some intermittent fasting and some keto/paleo stuff so simpler eating and less of it is really my preference.  My fish and plain veggies were similar to what I would eat at home.  If the food tastes too great I'll just eat more of it and feel worse in the long run. As evidenced by the stupid and delicious rolls and their yummy butter!

 

In the Windjammer the next night, they had onion soup next to yummy browned cheesy toast, and I fixed mom a bowl of that and she said it was way better than in the dining room. The food was consistently really good there!

 

These issues were really not a bummer to me. None of these people or situations were on my nerves, they're just the facts of what happened. I really don't let strangers' behavior impact my mood. It was a great cruise.  Repeat. A GREAT CRUISE!

 

These jobs are not good jobs and I feel guilty at times about supporting the industry at all. I particularly felt sorry for the nice older man who was our assistant waiter and I hope my mom didn't get him in trouble because our water wasn't refilled. I would never have complained like she did to the head waiter; I wanted to crawl into a little hole, and I was actually trying to tell him it was all fine, no big deal, and unfortunately my companion disagreed and was shutting me down right there in the dining room. I just wished we hadn't bothered in the first place, and so of course we did not return.

 

On another cruise my cabin steward made it a point to kind of whine about all his hard work every time I saw him.  "Hi, Steward, how are you?"  "Ohhhhh, Kmom, I am so tiredddddd, I am working soooooo muchhhhhh all the timmmmmmmme."  I didn't complain to management about that either, but I did not give him additional tips at the end over the prepaid, which I normally do. It's always something, every cruise. Human nature.

Edited by KmomChicago

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14 hours ago, KmomChicago said:

I remember nothing from “class” about how he made it as I was way past driving condition at this point.

 

That would also be me!

I loved your review.   It was very nice to have the whole thing in a timely manner!  And you didn't do anything "cutesy",  but it was still very entertaining.

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10 hours ago, parrotfeathers said:

 

That would also be me!

I loved your review.   It was very nice to have the whole thing in a timely manner!  And you didn't do anything "cutesy",  but it was still very entertaining.

 

Hi, Parrotfeathers. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. You should definitely let yourself go if you have the chance to do this on a future voyage - highly recommended!  After all, you don't actually have to drive anywhere, at least not until they kick you off the next morning. 🙂 Boozily speaking I am a lightweight for sure, but it in retrospect it is one of my favorite experiences of an overall great cruise!  

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1 hour ago, tcmagnum said:

Great review...

 

Hi TCMagnum and yes I think I get the reference of your screen name. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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Beautiful but not-for-the-weak real deal martinis from class all lined up in a pretty row.

 

And below, one perfectly crafted lavender lemon drop martini. That bit of lavender infused simple syrup gave it the gorgeous hue and it tasted great as well.

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Views from our balcony off Bar Harbor, Maine. Tenders ran continually all day and were rarely full so I don’t think there were long waits. In busy ports like Nassau I always enjoy watching the other ships come and go, but the tenders were the closest I came to this as there were never other cruise ships in port with us.

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We did this same cruise earlier this summer. We always eat  in the MDR for dinner. I don’t need fancy, but I am not a big fan of buffets because I always eat way more then I should. Portion control is the main reason I avoid the Windjammer as much as possible. 

Anyway, this was my 20th cruise, 18th on Royal, and the first time I did not enjoy the food in the MDR. I know there have been lots of complaints on these boards in the past couple of years about the quality of the food going downhill. Our previous cruise was on Allure last December and I found the food to be excellent. I really think that the quality varies from ship to ship and that Adventure definitely needs improvement in both food and service in the MDR. 

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