Cruisin’: We join the line for adventure at sea

After our blustery departure from Bayonne, New Jersey, we awoke to warm, sunny weather off the coast of North Carolina. It was a welcome relief after the chill and wind of the day before. It felt like a cruise!

Most of our group of 17 decided to eat in the dining room with table service. I thought there would be some specialty items not available in the buffet, but this really wasn’t the case. In fact, I saw waiters grabbing items from the buffet for the table service diners. The breakfast was fine, but service overall was very slow. My food was also cold. Our idea to have fresher food than the buffet didn’t pan out. So, this was the first and only time we ate in the dining room for breakfast.

Breakfast took such a long time that we didn’t make it up to the pool area until about 11. By this time, all of the poolside lounge chairs were taken. We found a round table near the door and used this as the family’s camp for the day. Someone from the table was basically there, but we got up and tried to explore and participate in the ship’s activities.

I say ‘tried’ because the ship was incredibly crowded. Everyone wanted to try out all the fun things advertised. Adventure of the Seas is a refurbished ship. As far as I can tell, this means they did minor upgrades to the amenities and large expansions to the number of staterooms. The ship seemed to hold almost 800 more people that originally intended. Since the slide and pools were not also expanded 25%, this made for a very congested experience.

Slides, rock climbing, pool, Flowrider, ping pong-everywhere we went, there were loads of people. I get it, they all wanted to enjoy the first full day on the ship as well. But it was very difficult to find a place to be. Quietly reading on the deck like I’d expected? Forget it.

To escape the crowds, I offered to take my grandmother and great-aunt to the solarium. This is basically a spot for people that want to be away from children. It was much quieter and easier for my grandmother to enjoy.

I took them by myself, and this was a big mistake. It turns out it’s very difficult for 90+ year-old women to get into a hot tub. They handled the stairs all right, but then couldn’t sit down. They both were floating on their backs saying “I can’ta sit!” (They are Italian grandmothers in every sense of the stereotype). I was trying to push them down and to help them sit. They stayed in for about 37 seconds and then wanted to get out. Thankfully another cruiser was able to help me get them out of the whirlpool. I would never have been able to do it myself. No good deed goes unpunished.

My girls squeezed into the pool and hot tubs, but had a hard time getting on the big slides. Sport did manage to ride the Flowrider in the afternoon. We managed to time when it reopened for a shorter wait. She loved it (as did my surfer husband) and they made it a point to get to Flowrider as often as possible throughout the trip.

One activity that was uncrowded-ice-skating. Maybe people wanted warmth after the cold departure the day before. Maybe they didn’t bring ice-appropriate clothing. But the girls were able to ice skate with no wait and few on the ice. Helmets and wrist guards were provided, so I was able to take my worrying down a few notches.

My family, my parents and my brother’s family secured a table in the dining room for dinner. Everyone else decided to do the Windjammer buffet. But, duck was on the menu and is one of my favorite foods to enjoy on vacation. I didn’t want to miss it! It was also formal night, which made dinner a little more festive.

Dinner service moved much faster than breakfast. There weren’t as many courses as I remembered from years ago. I counted about five courses (appetizer, soup, salad, palate cleanser, dinner, dessert), but the dinners all seemed condensed to a starter, main and dessert. Choices also seemed more limited, but I’m not entirely sure. The dinner was fine, but not the exciting experience I remembered.

The girls, not knowing the more upscale nature of our previous cruises, loved every minute of it. Both chose to order off the adult menu, so they enjoyed duck and prime rib. They ordered creme brulee for dessert, and this made the entire meal a success for them.

After dinner we caught the tail end of the captain’s welcome. We had some champagne for toasting, which was nice. We were able to explore the promenade a bit and took some pictures on the deck. I discovered Cafe Promenade, a small eatery that would become my favorite spot on the ship.

We all decided to do the dance and singing show. To my surprise, there wasn’t a line for this and we got seats with a minimal wait. It was just about an hour. I liked that it was appropriate and enjoyable for the whole family.

Our first full day on the ship did not alleviate any of the original concerns I’d had. Despite the crowds and lines, the girls had a blast. They loved the lunch buffet and the energy of the ship. They really helped me to have a better attitude about the whole trip. Towel animals helped, too.

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