Ship: Adventure of the Seas Itinerary: 4-night Halifax
So this was my first sailing with Royal Caribbean, and my first time cruising since a family trip in the 90s aboard the StarShip Oceanic as a teenager (4 night, Nassau and Salt Cay). This is something of a joint write-up with sharing my experience and personal notes for myself to refer to when planning future cruises.
Halifax was certainly a once and done. Nice sights, but not much need to return soon.
Should've brought a jacket. That chilly, northerly Atlantic wind.
After my first cruise in 20+ years, putting my two bits in on the “Is a 3/4 night cruise long enough for a first timer?” question even though I don’t have the experience yet to substantiate the answer. Personally, I felt that 4 nights was long enough to know if you’re not going to enjoy cruising, but not long enough to know if you’re going to like it either. Similar to the samples at a grocery store, 4 nights seemed to be a taste of the experience without enough substance to know if you’d want to make a meal of it.
Wows: The live entertainment. The ship’s staff.
Adventure of the Seas
Significantly larger than the last ship I was on (Adventure: 3,807 passengers/1,185 crew to Oceanic: 1,800/565; Wikipedia), but didn’t feel huge. AotS felt like a comfortable size. The ship felt lived in, but well maintained. No complaints about cleanliness either.
Booked an interior guarantee and landed in 6123. The room was compact, well laid out, and mirrors were cleverly used to make the entire thing seem bigger than it actually was. While it was super convenient to have a short walk in the mornings to grab coffee from Café Promenade, the downside is any parties happening in the Royal Promenade were audible from the cabin.
While the ship was relatively easy to navigate (anchor decks, which I base my mental map off of, are 5 for the Promenade and 11 for the Pool Deck / Windjammer; all other public decks are basically one or so decks away) getting to the Lyric Theater (fore) and Studio B (aft) meant remembering which end of the ship had access since deck 3 isn’t publicly continuous.
Biggest Pet Peeve
People chilling and socializing at tables in the Windjammer and Café Promenade when others are hunting for a spot, food in hand. Rarely affected me, one perk of cruising solo, but still. Bonus tip: The pizza plates rest perfectly atop the Coca-Cola Freestyle cup…
Thoughts on various aspects of the experience.
Parking at Cape liberty needs to be much improved. the staff there with parking were good but the entire situation of having to wait in a line for parking and then to be directed to another parking overflow because the first one was filled after about 15-20 minutes and then being redirected back to the garage because they decided to reopen it for parking was quite annoying. So what should have taken five or so minutes ended up taking 30.
Once inside there was quite a bit of ambiguity what we should be doing for those of us who had already checked in through the app. The security screening went exceptionally quickly. Lines were being held up because people who didn’t check in through the app were also in the line (instead of the line for people needing to check in) and instead of redirecting them to go out and join the line for people who need to check in, they were left there with us the slowing down the entire process. Cell signal was minimal inside the terminal, along with connectivity speed, so I was exceptionally glad that I had brought with me printed documents for everything except for my Set Sail pass.
Boarded the ship on deck 4.
• Arrive at terminal at least 30 minutes early.
• Bring printed copies of all required documents even if it's in the app. That includes the Set Sail pass.
This was a noticeable improvement over the way things were being done last time I sailed. Very quick. Very easy. Only thing to note is that the app doesn’t update instantaneously when they scan you in at the muster station. So if the app doesn’t show that you’ve completed the safety drill immediately, don't worry. Just check on it again within half an hour or so to make sure that it is going to.
• Check into the muster station and then go do something else for a while before checking the app to see that you’ve completed all safety steps.
Booked traditional late dining, however once on board, my dining preference was changed to My Time. So I thought I’d save some time. Instead of stopping by the main dining room and getting that changed to where it should be, I booked my time at 8:00 PM. This would turn out to be a mistake.
When I showed up for dinner about 5 minutes early I found the line snaking around the corner and down the hallway for people with dining reservations. There was a similar, yet shorter line, for people who were My Time Dining, but didn’t reserve in advance. From what we observed in the reserved line, the line for walk-ups was moving quicker. After waiting 20 minutes we had only covered about half the distance of the line. The time was now about 8:15, and we’re hearing from people towards the front that even when you got up to the podium, there's still a 20 minute wait. Since it didn’t look like I was getting in for dinner before 9 pm, decided to cut bait and head to the Windjammer for Tastes of the Caribbean.
During dinner I made the call to take my meals in the Windjammer during this cruise since I'll be back aboard later this year and can try the MDR then. Overall, I thought the buffet was decent. No fault with the service. Food was alright. Not the best I've had, and certainly not the worst. The menus in the Windjammer I thought were more interesting than what was being served in the MDR. However, from reviews, menus, and pictures of MDR food, the Windjammer is trading ingredient cost for quantity. Though that should be expected with the self-service.
Pizza in Café Promenade was similarly decent. Best way I can describe it is upgraded CiCi's. Nearly always a line, but the staff kept it moving.
The Coca-Cola Freestyle machines were only out of crème soda and occasionally ice (excluding the one machine I used in the Windjammer which never seemed to have ice). They were self-service.
• Traditional dining for MDR only. I would say skip the My Time reservations and go standby, but this problem is easily fixed by Royal Caribbean. And as sure as standby was best (at least on that night) they fix the problem, then reservations are actually required. Best to avoid this mess with traditional dining.
• Food is solid mid-tier resort at Café Promenade and the Windjammer. Keep expectations in check and you probably won't be disappointed.
• Best to show up early for breakfast and late to lunch and dinner at the Windjammer. They won't run out of food and there's less crowds.
• You can make several sorta mocktails using ginger ale and/or Fanta Lime on the Freestyle machines plus another soda or two (or just mix the two of them together). Ginger ale with lime (from the machine) doesn't have the same bite.
Purchased the surf & stream with classic soda package during a sale as I needed connectivity during the sailing. The connection was fast enough for telephone calls, but web pages would slowly load images and respond at times. Doubt it’d be reliable enough for video conferencing if it's something critical. When testing the connection in Blue Moon/ Viking Crown Lounge I was receiving 1.72Mbps down and 0.67Mbps up.
• Good enough for basic use, but I wouldn't depend on it if you've got something critical happening that you require a high speed connection for.
• Will skip in the future unless have an actual need. (Disclosure: my cost for international data is the same as in the US so nabbing a signal in port isn't cost prohibitive to me.)
I decided to do self-assist carry off and that went really well. The facial recognition system made things even easier clearing immigration control/customs than Global Entry at an airport. Didn’t even need to dig out a passport as long as the light turns green. Will be doing self-assist again in the future.
• Speak with Guest Services to switch to self-assist disembarkation.
• Keep your Sea Pass card handy as they scan it as you’re leaving the ship.
Port of Call: Halifax
We were greeted during debarkation with a bagpiper playing on the pier. Just like with embarkation, we left and reboarded the ship via deck 4.
I designed a self-guided walking tour of several major sights before the cruise. Here's my stops in order I recommend from the pier ( ($) indicates admission fee):
1. Old Burying Ground
2. Public Gardens
3. The Citadel ($)
4. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic ($)
5. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ($)
By heading to the public gardens before the Citadel, you can take a sloping path up to the Citadel instead of climbing the steps, which you'll be taking down here. The other secret with this order is you should be hitting things as they open or are already open so there's less waiting around with the limited time in port. Pier 21 is literally where the ship docked; it's a quick jaunt aboard after the museum.
Do note that the Citadel closes its main entrance for the noon cannon firing. There is a short presentation about the loading and firing of said canon starting around 11:50 am. The quickest path to the canon viewing area is to take the stairs to the right of the main entrance passageway if you’re facing said passageway inside the fort. The guards will ask you to stand behind the rope laid on the ground to either side of the cannon if you’re showing up early and want a good spot.
Total path distance, with the detours below, was 4 miles. However, actual distance was nearly 10 miles with all the additional walking at each site.
The route passes by (in order of appearance):
Between points 1 & 2:
Their unique public library (has a free observation deck), a CIBC branch with inside ATMs, an upscale grocery store (Pete’s Fine Foods, a short walk down the street from the CIBC branch.)
Between points 3 & 4:
The Halifax Town Clock
Detour option: Sicilian Pizza. Local pizza and the city specialty of donair (skyscanner.ca/tips-and-inspiration/halifax-donair). Good quality and reasonable prices.
Detour option: Le French Fixe Patisserie. Local coffee and bake shop. Decent espresso and canelé. Fantastic smells. Limited hours.
St. Paul’s Church and Providence House. Check the directions, but the majority of reasonable routes pass by both.
Between points 4 & 5:
A variety of food stalls serving a range of options including seafood, poutine, and Beavertails (a long Canadian pastry topped with a range of mostly sweet options).
The Halifax waterfront.
Several notable statues. The Emigrant Statue. Statue of Women Volunteers. Cunard.
Overall, Halifax was a once and done for me. I'd choose another itinerary with Halifax if there was other ports of interest. But not raring to visit again. Like, it was interesting to see once, and glad I did, but not so interesting to purposefully return without another reason to.
Rackham Royal Stats (for a little context): Royal Caribbean Sailings: 1 Royal Caribbean Ships: Adventure Ports of Call: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Most of my photos/videos are 360° images. Here's a few taken on this cruise which are not.