So our adventure on Adventure of the Seas finally begins and I’ll be live blogging our seven night cruise from Southampton visiting Vigo, Gijon, Bilbao and Le Havre.
For those who haven’t read my blog before, I’m Nicky, a 40 something from a small village called Summerseat in the hills above Manchester and I’m travelling with my husband Andy and our son Finn who’s almost seven. This will be our eleventh holiday afloat and we’ve sailed with most of the major cruise lines but my all time favourite has to be Royal Caribbean so I’m delighted to be boarding RCI’s Adventure of the Seas later today.
We booked this cruise just 10 weeks ago to help me over a severe case of post cruise blues following 14 nights of heaven on the Independence of the Seas. It felt a little indulgent to be booking another trip so soon but as we were offered such a great deal for half term it seemed rude to refuse and after a particularly busy and challenging ten weeks running my own business I’m so ready for a break!
We’ve not sailed on Adventure of the Seas before but there are three new ports for us to visit on the itinerary and even the weather looks promising for the time of year. We’ve booked an aft balcony as I love watching the ship’s wake with a glass of red in hand and you can be sure we’ll be taking full advantage of our drinks package too!
We were planning to board at 11am this morning but we received an email from Royal Caribbean on Thursday saying that due to an outbreak of norovirus on the previous cruises they’ll be delaying boarding so they can give the ship a deep clean. It’s a little disappointing but better to be safe than sorry. Thankfully we’re Platinum Level Crown and Anchor so we can board from 1.30pm rather than the 3.30pm allocated time for our deck so our loyalty has finally paid off. I’m not overly concerned about norovirus but we’ll be using those hand gel pumps at every opportunity to keep us healthy.
The trip from Manchester to Southampton can be a challenging drive particularly with a six year old so we travelled south yesterday and broke the journey by staying overnight an hour or so away from the cruise terminal. We left Manchester around 9.30am and stopped at a National Trust property called Upton House just south of Birmingham for a spot of lunch, an opportunity to stretch our legs and a look into how the other half lived back in the day. The property didn’t disappoint and we spent a very pleasant few hours looking around the house and gardens in the unexpected sunshine. It certainly beats the chaos of the motorway services!
We then drove a further hour to Newbury and arrived at the Chequers Hotel our home for the night. We booked it quite late in the day but it was reasonably priced and well located in the heart of the town with free parking. After checking in we went for an explore and found a lovely canal side pub called Lock, Stock and Barrel where we toasted the beginning of the holiday with a cheeky glass of red or two. We had an early dinner at Strada on the town’s main square, enjoying a great sirloin steak with pepper sauce and a bottle of red. Finally it was back to the hotel for a bit of X Factor and a big sleep before the adventure truly begins…
Adventure of the Seas, France & Spain – Day 1 – Boarding
We woke up ridiculously early in Newbury not helped by the end of British Summer Time and the clocks going back by an hour. If ever there was a day when I didn’t want or need an extra an hour it is the day I’m boarding a cruise ship!
After a very tasty hotel breakfast we needed to find something to do to pass the morning. Andy has been researching the area and realised we were only a few miles from Greenham Common, home to the 1980s peace camp where thousands of women came together to protest against nuclear weapons. We drove to the former air base which is now common land again hoping to see some of the monuments to the peace camp and get a sense of the history of the place. Admittedly it’s probably not your typical pre-cruise excursion but Andy is interested in all things pacifist and it appealed to the feminist in me.
We took a stroll across the common which was busy with joggers and dog walkers and asked a local for directions. As the common is so huge we had to drive around the perimeter to the old main gate and site of the original camp where we spotted the commemorative peace garden sculpture through the trees. We parked up on a car park with just two spaces – clearly not the most popular tourist attraction in the area but still very poignant. A sign explains the history of the camps and the garden contains a stone circle with an iron flame sculpture in the centre. It was a perfect spot to reflect on the amazing achievement of 30,000 women who had joined hands in an 9 mile ring around the base, incredible really.
It was then 11.30 and time to leave behind the memories of cruise missiles and trade them for thoughts of a cruise ship. We drove the 45 minutes to Southampton with hardly any traffic until we came off the motorway and into Southampton where we hit a major traffic jam. Whoever decided to build an IKEA and shopping centre by a port needs sacking, the locals must despair every time they see a ship in port!
As well as the Adventure of the Seas there was also a P&O ship at the terminal and we crawled for the best part of an hour to reach our gate. I’d tried to book ABP parking on the dock by the ship but they were full so I had to book valet parking with Parking4Cruises. I was a little nervous about how it would work but it was so easy. We just phoned an hour ahead of arrival and were met by friendly staff who did a quick check over the car and then took our keys so they could park the vehicle off site. We’d already dropped our cases as we’d entered the port so just had a short stroll from the short stay car park to the terminal. I was impressed with the service and providing the car’s waiting for us on our return, we’ll definitely book them again!
The terminal was extremely busy when we arrived and I was concerned that they weren’t letting anyone in due to the deep clean of the ship however they’d just started priority check in. Thankfully we’re now platinum Crown and Anchor so we qualified and were one of the first into the building, through security and at the check in desk handing over our paperwork. It was the smoothest check in yet. They weren’t quite ready to board so we grabbed a seat in the waiting area where we took advantage of the bar and had the last drink we’ll be paying for for a while!
We were called to board just after 2pm and within 10 minutes were sat outside the Duck and Dog enjoying a glass of red and a slice of pizza from Cafe Promenade. The ship was spotless which you’d hope for after a 5 hour deep clean! It’s very similar to Independence of the Seas with a Royal Promenade through the centre and many of the same amenities but just a little smaller with no flow rider. Not a problem for me as I’ve never had the courage or balance skills to try that anyway!
We had a quick walk across top deck which was distinctly chillier than our summer sailaway but to be expected so late in the year. We had some lunch in the Windjammer then went up to the Viking Crown lounge as the rooms weren’t going to be ready till 4.30pm. Finally they announced they were opening the doors to the staterooms and we made our way to our aft cabin to find our cases waiting. Our room is on deck 6 and is a good size with a big deep balcony with chairs, table and loungers – I just hope the weather gets good enough to use it. Storage in the cabin seemed better than the Indy with ample hangers and plenty of drawers and shelves.
There were still big queues in the terminal as the deep clean had seriously delayed boarding times. Thankfully we weren’t affected but it wasn’t a great start to the cruise for many. I suppose it’s better to be norovirus free and experience a little delay and disruption at the beginning though and the staff were doing their best to try and get everything back on track.
I unpacked and then it was time for a quick muster at 5pm before we got changed for dinner. We could still see people coming on board as we were mustering so I guess there’ll be a second one for them on Monday.
I’d booked my time dining with reservations nightly at 7pm in the Mozart dining room. We were seated at a table for three near the entrance and were served with the usual RCI efficiency by Lynell and Oleksandra who kept our glasses filled and organised strawberries for Finn. Andy and I had lamb broth to start and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as a main, well it was Sunday after all! The food was good but we were beaten after our starters and mains so declined dessert. We then caught the end of the main show which was a comedy juggler (better than it sounds) and finished the night with a glass of red in the lobby bar before getting a much needed early night ahead of a lazy sea day tomorrow…
Adventure of the Seas, France & Spain – Day 2 – Sea Day
After a decent first night’s sleep it was a rocky start to the day as we rounded Brittany. The ship was all over the place and our cupboard doors and drawers were opening and closing at will as we staggered around the cabin. Finn was already feeling queasy when I took him to collect our ice show tickets and I was mortified when he was actually sick on the Royal Promenade of all places. It was purely motion related but I think he wasn’t alone as discretely placed sick bags soon appeared around the ship. We cancelled our plans for an al a carte breakfast and I did an emergency Windjammer takeaway trip rather than risk him being sick again anywhere near the food. Thankfully the seas calmed as we entered the Bay of Biscay and by lunchtime we were ready to explore.
Having missed our planned breakfast we went to deck 3 for the Brasserie 30 al a carte lunch they serve on sea days. Andy went to the salad bar and returned with an amazing concoction of chicken, asparagus, peppers and bacon with dressing. I had a taste and as it was so good I made possibly my first ever visit to a salad bar in my life to get something similar. Following the salad I had chicken sliders and fries and Andy had a strip steak, both of which were fabulous, fresh and incredibly tasty. Hats off to the staff who arranged an off menu item of some plain pasta for Finn which helped no end in settling his stomach.
Miraculously the sun was now shining so we went up to top deck to sample Sprinkles free ice cream and enjoy the sea air. We grabbed a seat at the pool bar, enjoyed a glass of red in the sunshine while Finn wolfed a vanilla cone – happy days and a welcome change from this morning’s misty, windswept seas.
Finn fancied a dip in a hot tub however I wasn’t quite brave enough for that so I persuaded him the mini golf course might be a better option. We enjoyed 9 holes of the wind blowing our balls in every direction other than the one we wanted but it was good fun in the sunshine.
From the mini golf course we spotted the inline skating track, a sort of roller skating at sea with padded walls that most people were clinging to. I’ve not seen that on any ship before and Finn was keen to have a go but after 3 glasses of wine we decided it wasn’t such a great idea so we just signed the disclaimer forms and promised to return tomorrow. Note to self: stay sober till 4.30pm and use the knee and elbow pads provided!
We planned to watch the Strings matinee performance but confusion over the hour time change and another glass of red in the Viking Crown meant we missed it however we did make the Ice Show in Studio B, an art themed show apparently with a Beatles soundtrack which was a lovely distraction on a lazy sea day and all included in the cruise.
We returned to our cabin and Finn made a Team Wake decision to swerve formal dinner and do Johnny Rockets instead. A short siesta later and we went up to deck 11 to the American themed diner which was very quiet as most of our fellow diners were promenading in their finest black tie and cocktail dresses on their way to the main dining room. There is a cover charge of $5.95 each for all you can eat from the menu. They have the most amazing ice cream milkshakes (sadly not included in our drinks package) but we did have a two for one milkshake voucher with crown and anchor so myself and Finn enjoyed one each along with burgers, hot dogs and fries smothered in cheese and bacon. I’ll probably live to regret it when I step on the bathroom scales but it was mouth wateringly good. Sadly we didn’t see any staff dancing while we were in there which just means we’ll have to return later in the week!
We declined desert and went in search of entertainment ending up in the Imperial Lounge for the end of what sounded like the world’s easiest trivia quiz. We then headed back to our room for an early night ahead of a day in our first port of call Vigo.