Cruising the Southern Caribbean: Embarking on an Adventure

Captain’s Log, Stardate 43153.7

Passenger’s Log, Cruisedate July 1, 2017: Embarkation Day!!!

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I had that quiet contentment of being on vacation.  I went out to the balcony to enjoy the morning views, and when I finally tore my eyes from the beautiful ocean to scan the entire stretch of our view, I noticed that I could see the Pan American Pier in the distance.  And what did I see there at the Pam Am Pier?  Our ship, the Adventure of the Seas!   I suddenly shifted gears.  My quiet contentment became absolute giddiness, and I was ready to grab my luggage and race to the pier.  Oh but wait, no boarding the ship until afternoon.  You know, something about getting everyone off the ship, cleaning, loading supplies, blah, blah, blah.  So we took our time getting ready, had breakfast at the hotel, and then met up in the lobby to head to the Pan American Pier.

morning view puerto rico.jpg
our morning view #1
aos in port pan american pier
Our morning view #2.  Can you see the ship to the left?

Boarding officially begins at about 12:30 pm, but I have read that they will usually start boarding before then, so we thought we would try our luck.  By noon, we (8 adults and and 14 suitcases!) were all piled into an Uber XL and heading to the pier.  Our driver was able to drop us off really close to the check-in line (as opposed to taxis who have to drop off farther back), and we were thrilled to see that the line was not too long.

uber to aos.jpg
Love that moment when the ship comes into view…

We hopped into line–well, as much as one can hop while burdened by a backpack and 2 suitcases 😉 –and proceeded to turn in our luggage.  Typically the luggage check-in system includes bringing your tagged luggage and handing them to a porter who will then ensure its safe transition to the ship.  Tips, of course are appreciated.  You then head to an entirely new line that will take you through the check-in process.  When we got to the porters, we went ahead and gave the porter all 14 bags and tipped him for the lot of us.  I am not sure if our porter was just a nice guy or if our giant heap of bags made him think we were a part of another group or something, but we somehow got whisked under the rope and into an expedited check-in line.  Did we argue the point that we belonged in the longer line back there with everyone else?  Um, nope!  We went on in.

From here, you show your passport and Set Sail Pass before going through security.  Then into another line to get Sea Pass cards.  Once your card is in hand, it is time for a cheesy ship picture, and then up to the ship.  This all went very fast and our group was on board the beautiful Adventure of the Seas by 12:30pm.  Here are a few shots as we headed up to the ship.

Typically when we board the ship, we head straight to our rooms and dump our carryon bags before wandering around the ship.  This time was a no-go, as we actually boarded before the rooms were ready.  We took this opportunity to check out the ship a bit before the masses joined us.

aos royal promenade
Deck five is the Royal Promenade, a “street” with shops, bars, and a cafe.
aos pool deck
uncrowded pool deck–a sight I never thought I would see
aos new slides
The new Typhoon and Cyclone water slides
aos embarkation day 2
our view while docked

At 2:00 on the dot, an announcement was made that rooms were ready, so we abandoned our tour of the public areas and headed downstairs to our rooms on deck ten.  Amazingly our luggage was already there waiting for us.  This is pretty impressive, as luggage is known to arrive slowly throughout the day, even after dinner sometimes.  We took this opportunity to get unpacked and settled early.

serenade grand suite
This was not our room on the AOS, but the same category room on a different ship 

Once we were all situated, we continued wandering around the ship a bit.  At around 5:30 we had the muster drill, which is an emergency drill.  All passengers are assigned a meeting point based on stateroom location.  Stations are posted on stateroom doors as well as printed on sea pass cards.  Once we arrived at our station, we waited off to the side as long as we could in avoidance of the sardine packing of passengers.  Alas, it was inevitable we would be wrangled and forced to fall in line.

muster drill.jpg
muster drill from years ago–thank goodness they don’t make us wear the life vests anymore!

After the muster drill was completed, were were free to go about our business.  We had late seating for dinner, so we still had time to kill before getting ready.  We recently became diamond level loyalty members, so we went upstairs to check out the diamond lounge.  We ended up being big fans of this lounge in the evenings, as the views are great and they have appetizers and drinks between 5:00-8:30pm.  They also have an espresso machine available 24 hours and continental breakfast in the mornings.

Right next door to the diamond lounge is the Blue Moon Lounge, which became a pre-dinner meeting place each evening for our group.

aos pool deck 2
view from the Blue Moon Lounge

Sail Away from San Juan was scheduled for 8:30pm, so we went out to the pool deck to watch our departure and enjoy the music from the sail away party.  Leaving at night is interesting, as you don’t have much to see.  The main highlight is passing by the Castillo San Felipe del Morro when it is all lit up.

aos sail away screen
sail away party on the pool deck
sail away past el morro
passing by El Morro on our way out of San Juan

At 8:45 we decided we’d better make our way to dinner, so we trekked down 7 flights of stairs to the deck 5 dining room.  We met our servers, Ruben and Kateryna, and had our first of many gluttonous meals on the cruise.  You gotta love transitioning from small, somewhat healthy meals at home to giant three-course meals on a ship.

Once we finished dinner, it was straight off to bed.  We have found over the years that we are not much into the evening shows, especially after a late dinner.  We are very contentedly the ‘early(ish) to bed, early to rise’ types, even on vacation.  Besides, we needed our sleep for the very exciting day ahead of us in St. Thomas…

Tips and Lessons Learned:

  1. Many cruise lines are no longer providing luggage tags to guests.  The new system is to print them and fold paper tags onto your suitcase handles.  If you are at all paranoid about a flimsy piece of paper being your suitcase’s only chance of getting to your room, you have options:
    • you can buy cruise tag holders (like these)
    • you can laminate the tags and use zip ties to attach them to your luggage
    • you can reinforce them with packing tape
    • you can ask the porters to tag your bags (which gets you a sturdy tag, but takes a bit longer and could hold up the line)
  2. If you decide to board early, you may find the same positive results as we did (shorter lines, emptier ship, earlier luggage, etc.).  But do not show up too early or you may be stuck waiting a long time.  From what I have read, 11:45 is about the earliest you should show up.
  3. Take advantage of the ship’s stairs if you are able.  We make it our goal to never set foot in an elevator when we are cruising.  Why?
    1. The elevators get really crowded, which for me is the perfect place to have a little claustrophobic melt down (like my super awesome Duomo freakout).
    2. Many people are unable to use the stairs, so it is nice to free up space on the elevators for those who need them.
    3. Being that we eat a little bit of extra food while cruising (you know, like breakfast, snack, elevensies, lunch, snack, appetizers, 3-course dinner), it seems wise to use the stairs to our benefit.  Nothing like ten flights up and down a couple of times a day to avoid popping a button on your cruise shorts!  😉

Next Up:

Cruising the Southern Caribbean: A Day in St. Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Cruising the Southern Caribbean: Embarking on an Adventure

  1. This is awesome, thanks for the tips! I love the pictures and you guys look super happy;)

    Have a nice day,
    Sara (www.thecookingart.wordpress.com)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh how I love to go to on a cruise again. Hmm thats awesome you were able to avoid the long line and jump right on in the expedited check-in line. Those were always such a drag waiting. Ha cam’t say I miss those life jacket drills lol. Great pics!

    Liked by 1 person

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