If the Adventure of the Seas was our first experience of cruising, our answer would have been simple – ‘not for us’. However, it was our third, with Fred Olsen providing the previous two, so the next one will be a return to his ships.

We rang to reserve our cabin, mentioning that the cruise was to celebrate a special birthday for my wife. Nothing. I rang the public relations department and told them that I write travel articles. Ignored. How rude and arrogant. So many people ring Royal Caribbean to book that it is just another cabin worth so many hundreds or thousands to them. They have not got it into their heads that people on the phone might be actually excited about going on holiday.

Tell Fred Olsen it’s a special occasion, and there is a completely different reaction. They have got it right.

Southampton cruise terminal is excellently and efficiently run, all is smooth, and it didn’t take long before we were in the Windjammer restaurant on the 11th floor of the ship having our self-service lunch. A tip to the wise. Only eat here if you have to. Although there is a good choice, the food is virtually always luke warm, and the number of people eating means at peak times there is a shortage of tables.

You don’t pay cash, but use the pre-arranged identity and credit card. All prices are in US dollars, and don’t expect many on-board bargains. The basic wine and beer drinks package was $45 per day, and if there are two of you in the cabin, you can’t settle for just one. Quite a pressure to drink sufficient to warrant this price, but with the average size glass of wine starting at $8, and the majority in excess of $12, this is soon achieved. Not much of a sign of duty free on this ship.

Our inside cabin was great, a double bed as we requested, more than enough wardrobe and cupboard space, a secure safe, and the shower was very adequate. The ship is so big – more than 3,000 passengers – the walk to the cabin is inevitably long, but what initially causes surprise in the public areas is the sheer scale of everything. Each end of the ship has two banks of lifts, each consisting of four lifts, so you rarely have to wait long and there is usually room.

On the floor as you enter the lift is a strip of carpet showing what day today is. And it changes very soon after midnight. Some of the lifts go to the 14th floor, others stopping at the 12th, but the bar at the top is well worth a visit, if only for the view and relaxation. But don’t expect the bar to be open all the time, and when it is, the choice can be limited.

The 5th floor is the main street, with shops, two bars, and one 24 hour restaurant for snacks. Basic and adequate. The ceiling is high, the area is good to sit and relax, but not for too long as the seating is not that comfortable. The Duck and Dog is well worth a visit, give the waiter an extra tip at the beginning and he will be all over you for the rest of the cruise.

When you book your cabin, you have to decide then what dining arrangements you want. Self service in the Windjammer, any time in one specific restaurant with waiter service and the option to give gratuities at your own discretion, or our choice of second sitting. We were lucky that we shared a table with three other mature couples who were on the same wavelength.

There are two other options, one at Johnny Rockets diner that charges an extra $5 just to have the burger experience, or Portofino Restaurant with fine dining at an extra $20 per person. We saw these two options as another way to gain revenue, not as a good alternative. If the cruise line want to offer these alternatives, then have a menu with extra prices.

Our first port of call was Cherbourg. A bit of a dump, but make sure you walk in, rather than pay $12 for a coach transfer. It only takes ten minutes walking along the harbour to find the town. We saw it all quite quickly and were soon back on board.

The next day was at sea, then we arrived at Vigo, in Spain, just to the north of Portugal. An industrial city, we docked so close that no transfers were necessary. Beggars abound, as do street entertainers. Watch out for the old man in a black hat who plays the same tune all the time on his violin. Don’t ask me what it is, he needs to return for lesson two.

The next port was further along the northern Spanish coast, at Gijon. You have to get a coach transfer at $12, it’s just too far to walk, but we really liked this place, the best of the lot. Lovely lunch in a palaccio with a lot of restaurants, beware of the handbag/jewellery/watch sellers. Be firm and polite, and if you do want to purchase, then haggle. We bought a really good handbag for 25euros, which started off at 45.

The last port was Bilbao, simply vast with 300,000 residents. We weren’t that bothered here, and were happy to pay the $10 per person transfer fee which represented good value.

So, what didn’t we like about the Adventure of the Seas. The food for a start. It never arrived hot, the choice didn’t change much from day to day, and there was always something that could be ordered such as lobster or steak that would cost considerably, and I mean considerably, more. Fred Olsen include these on their extensive menu, and Royal Caribbean could learn a lot.

There was always pressure to spend more. If you wanted a drinks package that included cocktails, then it was $55 per day. The prices in the shops didn’t represent particularly good value for money.

We think that since Royal Caribbean has grown bigger, they are now appealing to the lower common passenger denominator. It was usual to see women with prominent tattoos, and men in track suits wandering around. Of the eight nights on board, there were only two formal nights. The rest were casual, and most didn’t bother to dress up then. Scruffy. Expect a lot of children. And if you have your own, expect queues to deposit your child in the kids clubs.

What was average. The entertainment provided by the ship based staff. The two visiting stars were an excellent lady singer and a very funny comedian. Both first rate. We tried the line dancing one morning, but so did a lot of other passengers, and the floor was completely inadequate. The two ballroom teachers had no idea how to communicate with passengers with little ability, language communication being an obstacle.

The food stations. There were insufficient for a ship this size. If you wanted a cup of proper coffee, such as Americano, then there was only one place to purchase, on the 5th floor.

The relaxation areas. This ship is geared for the American market, which usually sails into warmer waters. If it is not warm, there is hardly anywhere to sit out in the fresh air, let alone lounges. On days at sea, the limited protected lounge seating soon fills.

What was good. The staff. They were unfailingly pleasant, and there was one particularly unpleasant incident created by a boorish passenger that was handled without a ruffle. They are a credit to Royal Caribbean.

Who were outstanding? Our cabin steward. What a delight. And our two restaurant waiters. Nothing was too much trouble. Except for piping hot food.

So, would we sail with them again? No, sorry, too much pressure to spend extra money, when the ship is full, nowhere to sit, and the telephone booking staff and the public relations staff really need to stop thinking that they are better than they are.

Who would we recommend the Adventure of the Seas to? Families with two or three generations enjoying a holiday away together.

Oh, and what was the reaction of the other diners at our table? Two were diamond members, and the others were on their third cruise of this year. All said the same as us. Not this ship again, thank you.

When I wrote this review, as a courtesy I sent a copy to the Royal Caribbean guest relations director. After a week, the reply has come from the same person in the public relations office who had previously ignored me. No apologies, just a patronising attitude that has not improved my impression of this cruise line. So sad, because I really wanted to enjoy the cruise, and write great things about it. I would far rather be positive than negative, as you will see if you look up all my other travel reviews.

About Harry Pope

Very few writers earn more than £10,000 annually. Harry is one of the poorer ones. He is no longer middle-aged, as he knows no-one who is getting on for 140. Literary success has come with an attempt at maturity – failed both – but marital stability with Pam has more than compensated. He is an accomplished speaker, talking on a variety of topics, including how not to run a hotel, buried secrets, and what’s it worth. See Harry The Talker. He has five published books, see Harry The Writer. He is Eastbourne’s only licensed sight-seeing guide see Harry The Walker. He has a daily blog see Harry The Blogger. The only site not purchased is www.harrytheeverything.com but that might come, who knows. He was a London funeral director for many years, then started Cheam Limousines in 1990, selling some thirteen years later. Arriving in Eastbourne in the Summer of 2003, Harry and Pam first bought a small guest house, then a large hotel, which proved to be disastrous because of their business partnership with a moron from California. He now walks, and talks, sometimes both at the same time.