Southern Caribbean Cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas

In March I made my fifth cruise, a trip onboard the old but gold Adventure of the Seas, taking us from San Juan, Puerto Rico and around the South-Eastern Caribbean, including; St. Maarten (airport beach); St. Kitts (cocktails in a 1920s train); Antigua (crazy pretty beach); St. Lucia (pitons and beautiful scenery), and Barbados (soca, rum punch and also crazy beautiful beach[es]. I’ve sorted it under each day, including food and drinks onboard.

Day 1: Boarding in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Boarding

We were e-mailed a day in advance where we were advised that we should board at 2 pm. But since we had to leave our AirBnB rental apartment at 11 am, we took an Uber straight to the port. At the port we left our bags, went through security, took the dedicated gold line (since we have cruised once before with Royal Caribbean), and swoosh, we were onboard.

The ship

The Adventure of the Seas, which was our ride around the Caribbean for the next seven days, is a beautiful if slightly old ship. It was built in 1998, but you really couldn’t tell since she recently was renovated, at least not in the public areas. The cabins felt a little worn, but not too bad either.

Cabin aka stateroom

We stayed in an interior stateroom, as the cabins are called. Since there is no window, it gets really dark when you close the lights for the night. If you feel claustrophobic, maybe leave the bathroom lights on. In the cabin is also an interactive flatscreen tv with a couple of tv channels, access to eg your onboard account and the ship’s own different channels. The ship’s Wi-fi signal reached our cabin (maybe all) on level six too, so we could use internet while in bed. Speaking of the bed, we had s comfy double and slept like babies (could perhaps have something to do with our all-inclusive drinking packages as well).

Deluxe drinking package

We opted for the deluxe drinking package which covers all drinks by the glass, alcoholic and non-alcoholic up to $12. This covered most drinks onboard, and not only the cheapest stuff. There were plenty of wines by the glass to choose from in the main dining room; all beers and cocktails despite the really fancy ones, and sparkling wine in some, but not all restaurants and bars. Also be aware that some drinks are priced differently around the ship. Eg. A certain glass of wine can be priced above $12 in the main dining room, and below in a bar, and vice-verca. Generally though, we drank what we felt like without feeling limited, while still staying below the $12 cap. Top tip though: Bolero Bar has a glass of delicious Vilarnau cava for $12 (and awesome mojitos and caiprinhas).

We definitely felt we got value for money, using our package benefits for sparkling water for dinner, specialty coffee and fresh squeezed juice for breakfast and soft drinks – in addition to alcoholic drinks. Although I am not so sure it was great for my liver. 😅

Dinner in main dining room

We had opted for “My Time Dining” when booking our cruise, meaning we could choose our own time to eat instead of the traditional scheduled ‘seatings’. We talked to the maître d, which told us that either 6.15 or 7.30 pm were the best times, as it would be calmer and more available tables. We consequently booked 7.30 for all our nights onboard right away, which resulted in us having the same table (and waiting staff) for the entire cruise, which was good.

Our first dinner consisted of this perhaps not spectacularly photogenique aged prime rib of beef. It was delicious though, served with crunchy vegetables, pan gravy and baked potatoes. In my mind the food onboard Royal Caribbean is surprisingly good, better than I remember it from cruising with them in 2010. And I’d like to think that my taste has improved since.

I got a little mocked on Instagram for this Caesar salad that my followers apparently did not fully approve of. It was too much lettuce, as can be seen. But despite the rustic serving it was quite delicious.

Day 2: Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

The first port of call during our cruise was the Dutch and French island of St. Maarten. The ship is docked at the quay, and hence there was no need to tender. Actually we walked ashore on all stops which was convenient.

Maho Beach and Princess Juliana Airport

We had opted to visit St. Maarten’s possibly most famous site; Maho beach, situated at the end of the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). We picked the convenient option and joined the ship’s own tour providing transport there. The beach is quite small, chairs and umbrella were $20 (we actually heard staff discuss among themselves that cruise passengers should pay an extra $5 over the listed price in the bar), and while we were there the waves quite high, but those facts weren’t that important given how cool it was to be right in the path of the incoming jets. For each dot appearing on the horizon, growing as it approached, anticipation among the beach crowd grew: “is it a big one?”. While we visited, both Delta and Jetblue touched down and it is really a special feeling standing just a couple of meters below a landing jet.

Read and obey the signs though as someone that left the beach standing on the road even closer to the runway recently died after falling due to the wind.

Dinner in the main dining room

A really, surprisingly, delicious seafood pasta featuring perfectly cooked linguini with bay scallops (so sweet and tasty), mussels and shrimps in a Chardonnay reduction. Great seafood, nice silky tomato sauce and pasta cooked al dente. I wasn’t expecting such a nice pasta onboard a cruise ship. I’d be happy to pay for this in any restaurant.

Beef carpaccio with parmesan, rucola, garlic chips and mayo was very good as well.

Day 3: Basseterre, Saint Kitts

Our third day on the ship we arrived St. Kitts in the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis (pronounced ‘knee-vis’ we learned, I always thought ‘nevvis’).

St. Kitts Scenic Railway

After reading about it, I couldn’t resist to take the old school, 1910s-constructed railway, built for the transportation of sugarcane. In these times though it is used to transport another bunch of sugar-loaded commodities – us.

During the approximately two hour ride we were taken around the island, soaking up some beautiful views of the landscape, villages, mountains and sea, while being served complimentary drinks such as piña coladas, strawberry daiquiris (what I had) as well as water and soft drinks. There was also a choir onboard that went from carriage to carriage, singing local tunes. A very nice and comfortable trip, if pricey, in an old school train.

Harbour lunch in Basseterre

Before heading back to the ship, we took a short stroll around the cobble streets of Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis’ small capital. In the harbour, there was a small foodcourt, which included a small place selling local dishes called Island Thyme. We were hungry as well as had raided the Adventure of the Seas’ lunch buffet for two days straight, and, were keen to try some local food. It should be added though that they ‘forgot’ to return our $2 change on a twenty bill, which I always find annoying. If I’d like to tip I decide so for myself (and this is not a table service place).

Hot, crunchy and spicy ‘calypso wings’.

Delicious, juicy roasted chicken with peas and rice (with peas meaning beans) and plantain (green banana fritters). All washed down with an ice-cold Carib beer.

Dinner in the main dining room

Italian night onboard, and I went for the not so mature, but oh so good, option of spaghetti bolognese with San Marzano tomatoes and pecorino cheese. Really beefy and again surprisingly tasty for being on a ship. The starter burrata were one of the most creamy and delicious burratas I’ve ever had.

Adventure of the Seas’ bolognese wasn’t on the menu all nights, but nearly.

Reaaally good burrata cheese with bacon, rucola, tomatoes and pesto dressing.

Day 4: Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda

Our fourth stop was in St. Johns, the capital city located on the island of Antigua, in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Finally it was time to hit the beach properly (even though Maho Beach was a beach I was mainly there to take cool shots of planes).

Ffryes Beach, Antigua

We had booked Beach Extravaganza or something like that, which included transport, a sun lounger (but not an umbrella – that would’ve been a bit too much extravaganza, hey?), a surprisingly delicious lunch and two drinks (or more if you’d take your cousins’ drink vouchers as well as our nearly passing out-drunk fellow cruiser did). Anyway, after a quick trip through St Johns, we arrived the stunning Ffryes Beach (yes, with two “f”). Having visited Vanuatu in the South Pacific just a few months ago, I was almost dissapointed that Ffryes was even more beautiful. In my mind the South Pacific is unbeatable, but I now realise I might be wrong.

The mentioned lunch, a buffet featuring macaroni salad, falling-of-the-bone-tender beef ribs, grilled chicken, regular salad, rice and beans, garlic bread and various sauces and dressings was served on the beach restaurant and bar; Dennis’. The food was really good and well–cooked. Nothing particularly gourmet, just very tasty. Local Wadadli Beer and Rum Punches were included ‘free drinks’.

Day 5: Castries, Saint Lucia

Our fifth day on the ship we arrived the, in my mind at least, mystical island of Saint Lucia. Green, lush and beautiful, with an active volcano, and the two 250 000 year-old lava domes The Pitons I felt a little bit I had landed in Jurassic Park, or something.

The Pitons and volcano tour

Once again, we took the convenient route and opted for one of Royal Caribbean’s tours. Our tour took us, via a photo and banana ketchup tasting stop in Marigot Bay, to Soufrière, on the Saint Lucian West Coast. After driving through Soufrière we visited the Soufrière volcano, which is still active. From a distance we could ourselves see the action, with the bubbling sulphur springs. We were also treated to a massive rainfall. During the trip we stopped for pictures of the Pitons at a few spots, and we finally visited a restaurant for a complimentary drink, which was a splash of juice in a plastic cup.

Here you could also buy a snack in the shape of grilled jerk chicken and some fried stuff. Tasty enough, but nothing special. There was a tremendous view over, once again, The Pitons, and the city of Soufrière below.

Day 6: Bridgetown, Barbados

Our sixth, and final, tropical island of the cruise to visit, was possibly also the place I looked forward to the most: Barbados. We walked off the ship as in every port and reached our tour outside the terminal.

The Island Style Beach Hopping Tour

Worth noting, is that this tour is like 8 in the morning. Also worth noting is that you will be force-fed (that is an exageration) beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, while listening to thumping Soca-music by a (my guess) aspiring stand up comedian that made you scream” wooo” when the driver honked the Jitney (did I forget to mention you’ll be in a open-sides jeep bus?) . Doesn’t sound too bad? Then this tour is for you. I started off by hating the tour (I was mildly hungover, and it was in the GOD DAMN MORNING), but ended up loving it. The guide was just too much fun, and the sort of friendly competition with the other tour bus and their guide on the same route was hilarious. The beaches, too, were incredible.

Our first stop: Worthing Beach. White sand, turquoise water, palm trees, calm waves, and suddenly a bunch of wild sea turtles swam next to us. Paradise. Free facilities, eg. a restroom available.

Next stop: Accra Beach. Another beautiful beach. Since the time was passed 11 am I joined the drunken haze of my fellow bus mates with an ice-cold Barbadian Banks beer. Note, you had to pay for loungers on all beaches, we only had chairs on Accra Beach, which was $10 for two chairs and an umbrella. Trivia is that the umbrella guy was incredibly cranky and that the chair guy tried to sell us weed. No facilities here (that were obvious anyway).

Last stop of the tour: Pebbles Beach. Another pretty beach with slightly larger waves (poor mom-in-law made a face plant getting attacked from behind). We also saw turtles here out in the waves.

Possibly the best with this beach though was the small shack at the end of the beach called Cuzz’s Fish Shack. Cuzz serves up fish cutters which are pretty much fried fish sandwiches. The cutters are filled with fried crispy flying fish, lettuce and optional cheese (we opted out). You then dress the cutter yourself, we followed the lead of the locals and added Bajan pepper sauce and mayonnaise. At $4,5 it provided a relatively filling, but really delicious snack. Especially with the amazing view over the beach.

Dinner in the main dining room (LOBSTER!)

I wasn’t sure if they’d kept the formal night lobster from our 2010 trip, but fortunately this was the night.

The lobster dinner consisted of a broiled lobster tail (I managed to negotiate two) with lemon saffron rice, seasonal vegetables and a healthy splash of drawn butter. While I did not love the sides, the lobster meat combined with the drawn butter was really delicious, and it worked really well with a glass of buttery and oaky Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.

Day 7: At sea (and dinner at Chops Grille)

Our final day and night onboard honestly started with a visit to the gym, then a fancy a la carte breakfast in the main dining room featuring eggs benedict. This is still included in the price by the way, only gripe is that you might have to wait in line a while for a table.

After breakfast we opted to go for a round of mini golf which also is available, free of charge, outside on the deck. Despite a bunch of feral kids constantly running over the tracks, it was quite fun (probably because I WON).

It should be added that there’s also a surf wave-simulator, a climbing wall, an ice skating rink, water slides and numerous other options for a more active vacation, we were just too lazy to use any of those. Even though we sort of planned to visit the climbing wall at one point during the cruise.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the cocktails onboard are quite good. Definitely on par with a decent bar ashore (not counting the pool bar which’s cocktails were so-so). So before going for our last dinner, we visited the Casino Bar which makes the second best cocktails after Bolero.

Chops Grille steakhouse specialty restaurant on the Adventure of the Seas

I’ve always liked those kind of luxurious, yet not posh, American steakhouses that Chops Grille seems to be. I’ve been on five cruises so far, and I’ve never forked out the extra cash for a specialty restaurant (save for Johnny Rockets, which we, then 20-somethings, actually paid like five bucks for, during our first cruise). Anyway, it was time to see if it was actually worth to pay extra, despite the food we could have for free definitely was nice. We paid around $40 each, and for that we could choose almost what we wanted from the a la carte menu except for lobster and a seafood tower that was extra-extra.

After a first bread serving starring an onion foccacia (really good) with whipped butter, we had charred carpaccio with truffle oil, mayonnaise, rucola and parmesan. It was tasty, but nothing spectacular.

The main however: mm-mm-mm! Perfectly cooked medium-rare filet mignon (beef fillet) with truffle fries, asparagus, mac & cheese and sauce bordelaise (red wine and beef marrow). So good, and washed down with excellent Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, served in fancy Riedel Glasses.

I read somewhere to save space for the red velvet cake, because it was really something. It was quite good, but not extraordinary in any way. I also ordered a cold brew coffee cocktail that wasn’t any good at all in my mind.

Service-wise, all staff on the ship is quite friendly and service minded, meaning you’ll be pretty used to good service. Chops Grille was still a step up though, and staff were, fast, friendly and quite knowledgeable. All in all I was very happy and will definitely book Chops Grille on my next cruise.

And that was that. After Chops Grille, we decided to make a last visit to all of our favourite bars onboard, giving our deluxe beverage package a last spin, before a last sleep before arriving back in San Juan, Puerto Rico the following morning. We departed the ship around 10.30 am, being among the last passengers off the ship.

Four days of eating in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Just got back from a trip to the Caribbean, including four days of eating in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mi Casita

Not the greatest pic, but our first meal was a criolla omelette with Puerto Rican bread at Mi Casita. Basic, but tasty and affordable. Located in Isla Verde.

Website

El Alambique beach bar and restaurant

Excellent dinner right on the beach at El Alambique Beach bar and restaurant. First we tried the Puerto Rican ‘national dish’ mofongo, which are fried and then mashed plantains. In this version it was smothered with garlic butter, coriander, chilli sauce and topped with a couple of delicious prawns.

We also had ceviche with plantain chips as well as a couple of unsweetened (no idea why) but still quite good cocktails.

Prices as you can see above were about $10-20 excluding taxes and tips, as in mainland U.S.

Located in Isla Verde, right by the beach and also close to the airport.

Website

Taste from PR

This place sounds so much like the worst tourist trap, but it wasn’t. Various online sources also states it’s closed, which it’s not (March 2018). Location is relatively good in Isla Verde as in accessible, but it’s located next to the road, so if you sit outside you’ll pretty much be in the middle of traffic. Food was really nice though and we tried 1. Carne frita (fried pork) with tostones (plantain fritters) and 2. Grilled chicken with rice and beans. Washed down with cold local Medalla beer. Rustic, inexpensive and delicious.

Located in Isla Verde.

Website

Playa Papaya

A nice place for a good breakfast is Playa Papaya. Also close to the beach in Isla Verde it serves standard American and Puerto Rican breakfast dishes. The place is quite relaxed and prices were decent. Above is one chicken and one Canadian bacon on buns with corn chips, guacamole and chilli mayo. Priced around $10 excluding taxes and tips.

Located in Isla Verde.

Website

Punto de Vista rooftop restaurant

Our favourite restaurant in San Juan during our visit. Had a fantastic “tender, juicy and messy” pulled pork with guava bbq sauce and red cabbage slaw in Puerto Rican slightly sweet Mallorca bread. Deep-fried plantain fritters – tostones – on the side. And a nice mojito too. Views over San Juan came as an added bonus. Prices $10-20 excluding taxes and tips.

Located in Old San Juan.

Website

Cafe Puerto Rico

We had a quick lunch at Cafe Puerto Rico and really enjoyed their chorizo and beef-stuffed fried “empanadas” as well as chicken soup and fried chicken with beans and rice. Prices $6-20. Lunch beer was $4.

Located in Old San Juan.

Website

Barrachina

The alleged birthplace of Puerto Rico’s national drink, the famous Piña Colada! Alleged because the Caribe Hilton, also in San Juan claims the same. The piña colada is made from a pre-made mix, which at first seems sort of dissapointing, but nevertheless it was the best piña colada I’ve had. Service was very nice too and the little courtyard bar is exactly what you’d like for your tropical cocktail. $7.5 for a standard piña colada (and you can also have them to go).

Located in Old San Juan.

Website

What is a patty melt? (recipe)

Had a really decadent breakfast the other day. Saw this creation fly past on Instagram a couple of times in the last month, and decided i had to try. I mean a burger meets grilled cheese… I couldn’t resist. Behold the patty melt.

What you need (for one patty melt)

1 burger patty (I used store-ground chuck roll)

4 slices of cheddar cheese

2 Slices of toast bread (preferably rye or brown bread)

A couple of pickles

Butter

Salt

How to make the patty melt:

1. Fry the burger patty until cooked, season with salt. Finish with two slices of cheddar and allow to melt on top.

2. Spread butter on the bread slices.

3. Fry bread with butter side down in a frying pan, turn, and let fry on the other side as well.

4. Add one slice of cheddar on the buttered side of each bread slice. Add burger inbetween the two slices. Return to pan for a few seconds to allow the cheese to melt if needed.

5. Cut the patty melt diagonally into two triangular sandwiches. Serve with pickles. Enjoy (and then go out for a walk)!

Update: Next time I’d probably add some mayo, raw onion and possibly pickles on my patty melt.

Philly cheese steak sandwich recipe

The other day I found a piece of Provolone cheese in my next door supermarket. Many years ago (I sound really old now) I tried to make Philly cheese steak sandwiches at home, featuring thin slices of rib-eye steak/entrecôte, fried peppers & onions as well as a thick layer of melted provolone cheese. Needless to say I loved it. Hence, I though it might be time for another round of cheese steak sandwiches last weekend, and I must say they turned out really well. Not to mention it’s really easy to make.

What you need (for two)

About 150 grams of flank steak

One green bellpepper

One red onion

One clove of garlic

2 soft bread rolls (I used brioche hot dog rolls)

Provolone cheese (I also used some leftover burger cheddar)

Vinegar, salt, pepper

Cooking instructions

1. Trim, and then rub the flank steak with salt and pepper. Let rest in room temperature. Also set your oven to 150 degrees celsius or similar.

2. Slice bellpepper and onion in thin slices. Finely chop the garlic clove.

3. Heat a pan until it starts to smoke (eg. is really hot). Sear the meat on both sides until your prefered cooking grade. I go for medium rare. Let the meat rest while you continue with the preparations.

4. Fry bellpepper, onion and garlic in oil on medium heat until soft. Splash over about two teaspoons of vinegar as well as salt and pepper. Take off the heat.

5. Start with the sandwiches. Brush the breads with a thin layer of dijon mustard (skip this if you’re no mustard fan). Slice the breads and put the fried vegetables on top of the bottom part of the bread. Add sliced cheese and put in the oven for about a minute to melt the cheese. Put in the top breads at the same time but separated to get them warm.

6. Slice the flank steak as thinly as you prefer and stack it on top of the cheesy vegetable bottom bread. Add the top bread. Done!


Lillördag at Burger and lobster Stockholm

One of the best lillördag aka Tiny Saturday (which is in fact Wednesday) activities in Stockholm in my mind is to combine restaurant Pocket by Pontus’ champagne Wednesday with lobster dinner at adjoining (you can actually walk between them indoors) Burger and Lobster Stockholm.

On Wednesdays Pocket by Pontus lower their price for a full sized bottle of Henriot champagne from 650 kronor to 450 kronor (priced 400 kronor at Systembolaget, the Swedish liquor monopoly). That means you fork out an extra 50 sek or kronor for an ice-bucket, table service and champagne glasses. That is in my mind quite great, and it is also very convenient for an office ‘after work’.

Yesterday we started off with dinner at Burger and Lobster. I had the always-delicious lobster roll. The fried ‘signature brioche bread’ is really tasty and stuffed to the brim with succulent delicious lobster meat and Japanese kewpie mayo. Included sides are tasty fries and a side salad to add some freshness to the otherwise incredibly rich meal. My last visit they also included a delicious lemony butter sauce, but that seems to have been removed.

For dessert, as mentioned above, we walked the 30 or so steps to Pocket by Pontus and shared a few bottles of Henriot.

Price $$$

The lobster roll is sort of on the pricier side costing 295 sek. On the other hand it is lobster, it’s really delicious and you probably won’t need any starter or dessert. The champagne at Pocket is priced at 450 sek a bottle during the Wednesday champagne-onsdag.

Burger and Lobster Stockholm’s website (With menu)