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Adventure of the Seas

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Adventure of the Seas debuted in 2001 as the third in the series of Royal Caribbean's game-changing Voyager-class vessels. Though Adventure has been bypassed in size and amenities by the Freedom-class trio and the massive Oasis-class quintuplets, it's still among the world's larger ships, with a range of the most uncruise-like venues at sea, such as a rollerblading track, ice-skating rink and rock-climbing wall -- not to mention the bustling hub that is Royal Promenade, a shopping mall-esque boulevard of retail stores, bars and cafes.

Ambience variety is key. The Lyric Theater has a nifty Art Nouveau interior; the solarium pool evokes the glories of Venice; and the Casino Royal centres on a Hollywood theme. The Duck and Dog Pub is perfect for Anglophiles, Champagne Bar is elegant and Bolero’s nightclub resonates with a Latin vibe.

This ship is so well designed -- with lots of very distinctly themed rooms and with even the larger venues like the Lyric Theater and Imperial Lounge feeling unexpectedly cozy -- that Adventure of the Seas has the potential to spoil first-timers and even seduce some of us crusty ol' cruise traditionalists.

Daytime: Dress is quite casual during the day.

Evening: There are two formal nights where most men wore suits and women wore dressy (but not long) cocktail gowns. Otherwise, people dressed in "smart casual" which varied from country-club wear to dressy. We saw all types. A couple of nights were themed and you could wear, say, country-western garb or '50's styles.

Not permitted: No tank tops, bathing suits or baseball caps are permitted in the main dining room or speciality restaurants, and footwear is always required. Shorts are not permitted at dinner, except in the buffet.

Where do you even begin? It can be very hard to relax on Adventure of the Seas -- even on sea days -- because of the head-spinning array of activities that run from dawn to dusk and beyond! The ship's entertainment staff offers an intriguing blend of options, and everyone, from the most traditional passenger to the completely contemporary traveller, will find something to do.

Highlights? During the day, you'll find plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as bingo, dance lessons (line-dancing), rock-climbing wall competitions, horse racing, art auctions, seminars (on everything from healthy eating to gemstones), Mr. Sexy Legs contests, bridge pairing, art and craft workshops and films in the tiny cinema. Poolside, throughout the day, a live band plays a blend of Caribbean and American songs. Royal Caribbean does not offer much in the way of onboard enrichment.

Throughout the day and night, there's often some type of performance along the Promenade, either a parade or jugglers and comics who wander through the giant mall-like space and perform with the crowd.

At night, there are two kinds of entertainment -- the traditional-style cruise productions -- singing and dancing shows in The Lyric. Bar venues, of course, offer a variety of musical performances that are aimed to please just about everybody at any time -- classical guitar, country/western, jazz.

Beyond the usual, where this ship excels is unique. Studio B (the ice rink) hosts full production ice-skating shows. (There is no charge but the venue is small so tickets are limited. They make announcements about when you can pick them up.)

Even on sea days, everyone has plenty of room around the two pools -- an admirable feat. One interesting feature about the hot tubs is some are double-sized, which again makes room for more folks. Tiered decks surround an outdoor theatre, where everything from "men's sexiest legs" contests to live dance band performances take place. There are two bars by the main pool. The Solarium pool and whirlpools are situated in a quieter, more laid-back setting; the area is adults-only.

All of the major (outdoor) athletic activities -- the nine-hole miniature golf course, rollerblading rink, full-size basketball/volleyball court, golf simulator and rock-climbing wall -- are tucked into a "sports centre" that lies aft. The pocket-sized ice skating rink is tucked well below, into the bowels of the ship. Note that some of the more specialized activities -- rock climbing, rollerblading and ice skating -- are offered only at specified times so check your daily compass for available hours. The ship's jogging/power walking track winds around the main pool area.

One nice touch: Royal Caribbean does not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment "rental" -- there is no charge for using everything from ice skates (you can choose between hockey and figure models) to rollerblades.

The 15,000-square-foot spa -- the usual Steiner, Ltd., production -- spans two levels. One houses the quite ample fitness facility (no overcrowding here) and a workout room where classes are offered. Upstairs in the spa and salon facility, a wide range of treatment programs are offered, such as facials, massages, manicures and hair-styling.

A couple of caveats: The prices for treatments have risen to breathtaking levels, though the spa did offer "discounts" on port-of-call days (and as the cruise wound down), but that just brought the prices down to industry-normal levels. In addition, treatment employees will engage, way too aggressively, in the much-loathed "Steiner Product Pitch" at the end of your appointment. The products are also over-priced. Just say no.

What's nifty about this ship is there is no one recurrent theme. Feel like an Asian atmosphere? Head for the Imperial Lounge. Feel the urge for a clubby, elegant salon? Try the Sky Bar. Most of the major indoor venues are located off or along the Royal Promenade, which tends to really come alive at night. There you'll find shops (the usual cruise-style boutiques that sell logo items, duty-free liquor, perfume and cruisewear) and bars like the Duck & Dog British style pub (though many of its draught beer choices are puzzlingly non-Brit), and the somewhat-elegant-but-mostly-bland Champagne Bar. However, the highlight is the 24-hour Cafe at the Promenade, which is a great place to snack and people watch.

Off the main promenade, in various directions, are the Imperial Lounge (the ship's secondary theatre with entertainment ranging from line-dancing classes to cooking workshops) and the Duck & Dog Pub. Connected to the Promenade, via various stairways, are additional entertainment arenas, including Casino Royale, the Schooner Bar, the Aquarium Bar (with its huge fish tanks), the Lyric Theatre and Bolero's. Tucked away on Deck 2 -- easy to miss -- are the ship's intimate cinema and conference facilities. Each of the performance venues -- Lyric Theatre and Imperial Lounge, for instance -- has its own bar as does Studio B, the phenomenal ice-skating rink/show lounge on deck three.

Overlooking the Royal Promenade is the Library, with an adequate collection of books and comfy leather chairs, and an area for future cruise bookings. The ship has an Internet cafe and cabins are wired for Internet usage; various Internet packages are available to purchase.

The Photo Gallery on Deck 3 is the place to giggle over silly photos of your shipmates and buy your own for outlandish prices.

You'll find fabulous vistas in the Viking Crown Lounge at the top of the ship. On the same deck, you'll find Seven Hearts Card Room, 19th Hole Golf Bar and Cloud Nine. Adventure of the Seas has a nondenominational chapel called the Skylight Wedding Chapel.

From the meals in the dining room to the buffet choices in the Windjammer Cafe to the options available at the 24-hour Cafe Promenade, the food is consistent and well prepared, especially considering the capacity of the ship. And options are pretty plentiful.

Three main dining rooms offer Royal Caribbean's flexible My Time Dining program during dinner. Passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for flexible dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or walk-in when you're hungry. (Note: Those choosing My Time Dining must pre-pay gratuities -- Royal Caribbean does not automatically add gratuities to your final bill if you've elected set-seating.) The cuisine is generally well prepared, if not innovative; Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line. Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chilli, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black Angus top sirloin). Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two.

The Windjammer, Adventure of the Seas' buffet restaurant, is open for breakfast and lunch, and it features mediocre steam-table cuisine. Kudos must be given, however, to the egg station at breakfast (where you can request a variety of prepared-to-order dishes) and the carving station at lunch. Baked goods are consistently excellent. Vegetarians will do much better in the main dining room at lunch.

The Windjammer is also open for dinner and is an option for those nights when flexibility is preferred. The buffet features the same items as are on the main dining room menu.

Speciality eateries include Johnny Rockets, the 1950's-style burger joint; passengers can indulge in burgers, hot dogs, chilli fries, apple pie and onion rings. Royal Caribbean has instituted a $6.95 per-person cover charge for both in-restaurant and take-out dining (and beverages -- including shakes -- are additionally charged).

On the Royal Promenade, the Cafe Promenade features light fare at all times (pastries in the morning, sandwiches at night); try the pizza, it's excellent.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, Continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Only the Continental breakfast is available without a charge; all other orders carry a $7.95 surcharge (regardless of how much you order). 

Out of 1,557 staterooms, 939 of these have an ocean view (765 have balconies). A hallmark on this ship's class is the Royal Promenade-facing staterooms that overlook that engaging thoroughfare -- these are a step up from the usual inside cabin. A warning however: Privacy is at a premium with these cabins because they do not have privacy glass windows. Also, due to the late-night revelling that goes on, all but night owls may find them noisy.

All staterooms come with a twin-that-can-be-converted-to-queen bed, private bathroom, phone, closed-circuit television, mini bar and hair dryers. They're decorated in festive Caribbean-esque colours, from mist-green to buoyant oranges and yellows.

Moving up a notch is the Junior Suite. It's the smallest, coming in at 293 square feet with a 66-square-foot balcony. Just a bit bigger than the standard balcony, the extra perks (beyond space) that come with the Junior Suite include a bathroom with tub and a bigger living room area.

For those wanting concierge access, the remaining suites, definitely moving into the higher-ticket arena, start with the Royal Family Suite. At 533 - 586 square feet, its grand claim is two bedrooms plus a sitting room; the second bedroom has the usual twin to queen bed configuration plus two Pullmans that come down from the ceiling. Balconies are bigger, too. In this suite they range from 139 - 193 square feet.

The Grand Suite is just a larger "junior," but it's quite a bit larger at 358 - 384 square feet, and features a bathroom with tub. The Owner's Suite offers more amenities and features even beyond increased squared footage; passengers booking this category of accommodations get a bathroom with a whirlpool, bidet and separate shower, along with a bedroom and separate living areas (with queen-sized sofa bed). Measurements are 512 square feet for the cabin and 57 square feet for the verandah. And finally? The piece d'resistance is the Royal Suite, which comes with all the Owner's Suite amenities plus a baby grand piano, a balcony that measures 215 square feet (outfitted with better-than-standard furnishings, including a dining table); the stateroom itself is 1,001 square feet.

Tip: Families should book as far in advance as possible -- a year ahead of time if you can -- to have the best choice of family-friendly staterooms (including connecting cabins), particularly if you are travelling during school vacation periods.

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