Back To Line

Royal Caribbean International: Explorer of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Jan 1, 2017

Review of Explorer of the Seas

Maryann slavin Age: 62 Occupation:Retired Number of Cruises: 13 Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean Ship: Explorer of the Seas Sailing Date: 2016-06-4 Itinerary: Seattle to Alaska My husband and I took our first cruise in 2000 on a Royal Carribean cruise out of Galveston, TX. It was magical and the service and food were superb and we got the cruising bug. In the intervening years we have taken several cruises on Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, and Princess. Our

most recent cruise on Royal Carribean was horrible. Check-in was a chaotic free-for-all and we had people trying to reach over and around us to talk to the cruise person helping them. Only one person could approach the counter at one time and we had my 88 year old mother with us, who was being relentlessly jostled by the hordes. The trainee screwed up our photos and so we had to do the whole dog and pony again. The food was average or less, and often arrived cold and late. Our head waiter and team at dinner was great but otherwise it was catch as catch can. All the prices on the ship went up dramatically. The drink packages were difficult to figure out but the company seems to want to push passengers in that direction. My husband ordered a glass of Cabernet at dinner and he was charged $14 and 18% gratuity. A scrap book for the cruise was $30 for a flimsy cover and maybe 7 pages. The ship has lots of rust and needs maintenance and an update. The food was less than average, forget about it being anything above that. The first morning we went to the main dining room and it took one and a half hours to receive our food. Those who had Eggs Benedict complained that the eggs were more hard boiled than poached. Everything was cold. When someone at our table complained, we were told they were really busy. Is that not their job> The stateroom was fine, but on our first RC Cruise we had a full size tub and a nice shower and this time we had a flimsy shower that did not drain well and flooded the tiny bathroom floor. I thought they were focused on selling things on board and directing people to stores at ports who the cruise ship owned or had a kickback arrangement. There were not enough actual activities. I have been on cruises with napkin folding and towel animals and other activities that were fun. This cruise had a lecture series, that I would have enjoyed, but it was scheduled at 9 a.m. And that did not work with breakfast. Do go on the whale watching excursion out of Juneau to Auk Bay. For us, after four trips to Alaska, this was the most disappointing in terms of wildlife, the cruise ship, the failure to go up Tracy Arm Fjord to Sawyer Glacier which was the reason that we booked this particular tour, and a huge disappointment for the three people we took with us who had never been to Alaska and we had told there would be lots of whales and Tracy Arm Fjord Sawyer Glacier. I will never cruise RC again.

Read More
  • New

Jun 4, 2016

Seattle to Alaska

My husband and I took our first cruise in 2000 on a Royal Carribean cruise out of Galveston, TX. It was magical and the service and food were superb and we got the cruising bug. In the intervening years we have taken several cruises on Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, and Princess. Our most recent cruise on Royal Carribean was horrible. Check-in was a chaotic free-for-all and we had people trying to reach over and around us to talk to the cruise person

helping them. Only one person could approach the counter at one time and we had my 88 year old mother with us, who was being relentlessly jostled by the hordes. The trainee screwed up our photos and so we had to do the whole dog and pony again. The food was average or less, and often arrived cold and late. Our head waiter and team at dinner was great but otherwise it was catch as catch can. All the prices on the ship went up dramatically. The drink packages were difficult to figure out but the company seems to want to push passengers in that direction. My husband ordered a glass of Cabernet at dinner and he was charged $14 and 18% gratuity. A scrap book for the cruise was $30 for a flimsy cover and maybe 7 pages. The ship has lots of rust and needs maintenance and an update. The food was less than average, forget about it being anything above that. The first morning we went to the main dining room and it took one and a half hours to receive our food. Those who had Eggs Benedict complained that the eggs were more hard boiled than poached. Everything was cold. When someone at our table complained, we were told they were really busy. Is that not their job> The stateroom was fine, but on our first RC Cruise we had a full size tub and a nice shower and this time we had a flimsy shower that did not drain well and flooded the tiny bathroom floor. I thought they were focused on selling things on board and directing people to stores at ports who the cruise ship owned or had a kickback arrangement. There were not enough actual activities. I have been on cruises with napkin folding and towel animals and other activities that were fun. This cruise had a lecture series, that I would have enjoyed, but it was scheduled at 9 a.m. And that did not work with breakfast. Do go on the whale watching excursion out of Juneau to Auk Bay. For us, after four trips to Alaska, this was the most disappointing in terms of wildlife, the cruise ship, the failure to go up Tracy Arm Fjord to Sawyer Glacier which was the reason that we booked this particular tour, and a huge disappointment for the three people we took with us who had never been to Alaska and we had told there would be lots of whales and Tracy Arm Fjord Sawyer Glacier. I will never cruise RC again.

Read More
  • New

May 4, 2015

Canary Islands adventure cruise

Just out of Cadiz after a refit we thought we were in for a treat,how wrong can anyone be,we managed to get on the ship very easily ,good start ,went to stateroom couldn't get in along with several hundred others all doors had to be reset ,luggage came after a couple of hours we were lucky others waited until after 8 .we had joined with our friends to be on a table of 8 when we arrived only 2 seats left ,the people who had just changed their booking

on embarkation wouldn't move we stood in dining room waiting for 10minutes waiting for someone to find a spare 4seats ,we were shown to a table of 5 ,3 of which were children under 8(thought no youngsters at 2nd sitting) This was just the first 8hours of a 10day cruise things couldn't be worse ???? Could they !,, The breakfasts in wind jammer were hot ,tasty,and plentiful In the main dining room as the servers did not have a very good command of English you didn't always get what you had ordered and when you did it was never hot , the first evening we sat down at 8.30 and we were still waiting for dessert at 11 the dining room was always half empty and the staff couldn't cope apparently all the competent ones have been moved to "Anthem" . Boring menu very samey and didn't always arrive as advertised The room over looking the promenade deck was spacious and tidy ,the attendant was very pleasant ,but classed a request for a sachet of coffee as a special one and she had to ask if she could get one for me ,very odd As we packed for dis embarkation we found ticket stubs from March 2014 on a shelf ,obviously cleaning up wasn't a high priority Everything on board is based on the company making money,drinks packages,endless photographs,extortionate excursions,extra costs in restaurants.Flowrider a waste of space on this route closed due to high winds rough seas Extra costs in Johnnie Rockets for "milkshakes" a staple of a diner surely Hit and miss shows , we are not still in the 1950s Unless you are in an unstable country or need to see a specific site in a short space of time do your own thing it's cheaper A very expensive way of receiving substandard services,by ill trained staff, the share holders must laugh all the way to the bank

Read More

By jo_CR

  • New

May 1, 2014

Bermuda

Ship is in great need of refurbishing. Stains on everything. Royal should spend time removing nasty stains off upholstered furniture. Room attendant tries to make room clean but all those scratches, chips and stains give the appearance of neglect. Food was very good this time. Prime rib was the best I have ever had onboard. Lobster was excellent...not overcooked and very tender. Always love the bread...but server never made it back for

seconds. Clean but beat-up cabin. ok entertainment Bus trip was wonderful...driver was great.

Read More
  • New

May 15, 2013

Caribbean

Frank the tank and Leigh made the cruise soooo much fun. They make an awesome team. Our stateroom attendant, Clayton on the 9th floor, was so perfect. We miss him very much. He did an outstanding job!! The food was o.k. We wanted to eat at Palos but didnt because the food was too fancy for us. An ordinary dish of lasagna or some alfredo would have been great! 9576 was outstanding!! They were so much fun, but a little late

for us. We couldn't stay up for some stuff we wanted to attend. It was our first vaca. in 8 yrs. and it was more than we could have hoped for. We did an excursion on every island. We had so much fun on board and lots of rest too.

Read More
  • New

Apr 1, 2013

Bahamas

It was a Fair Rated cruise, They were extremely understaffed,to the point the staff had bad attitudes and seemed bothered by questions and giving dervice to cruisers. Ship also lacks maintenace as you can see paint chips on various walls throughout the ship. Mty girlfriend is a Diamond memeber and has traveled on 17 cruises and recommended Royal Caribbean highly and was Emabrrased after even she was treated not even at her Diamond memebership Status,

as I had advised her that I have been on Two Carnival Cruises which had better variety of food, and overall service provided, and activities. Food at the Buffet Dining was the same every Breakfast & Lunch didnt offer some different varieties to choose from. Also food was the majority of the time cold, and undercooked. Dinner was better our Waiter and Assistant were Great but the menu was ok, but they even ha an Items which they did nithave on board to offer. and this itmes were on every night lol Amazing.. Guess they cant afford to change menus..again cutting corners... My Stateroom was not what we wanted especially since my Fianace who is a diamond memenber (Crown Memeber) who had contatced them for months on the mistake on her onceanview stateroom which should have been a Balcony Room, Plain & Simple they Didnt care (too Bad), We really dont care how many times you ave cruised with us and spend your money on us yearly, OHH WELLL!! Did I mention my room steward was Deaf & Mute !!, Not that i discriminate, but Hello we could not communicate, and hard to find, because his card he put in our hands stated to call a number for his service, and when we called they were upset we were calling whoever it was, but then would laugh and state oh yea you ave him HA,HA,HA, and no assistance would show up. Bingo, Casino, And shows were good, but not enough again variety and scheduled during dining times and not repeated for those who could possibly wasnt to watch earlier or later show.. Criuse Director I must say is too good for this Ship!!! We went on Dolpin Encounter which was Great !!!, but then you can't enjoy the rest of the park becuase they hold you up and push on purchasing the photos and video taken which were good, but by the time they finish assisting you its time to go back, coldnt see or enjoy the SeaLions... CocoCay was great foos was cold, so eat as soon as thry put it out.. Parasailing was Awesome !!! The trip was Fair , But honestly it was the cruise from Hell !! , I will Definately attempt to go on another Cruise line that treats you like you deserve. Not cutting corners... This is not cheap and Im sure we work ard for our money and Cruisies are suppose to feel like the ultimate vacation,This year I waited all year for nothing, I NEED A Real Vacation...........

Read More
  • New

Feb 5, 2013

eastern caribbean

Wife, 6 kids and I sailed EOTS from Bayonne on an 11 day cruise the 22nd of Jan 2013. I'll be brief but to the point: Leigh and Frank the Tank, Cruise director and activities director, 5 star, super, very high energy. Room steward, great lady, five star, took care of all our needs, even though we had 3 staterooms and are not that fussy. Head waiter and ass't waiter: five star, great people (Jose and Jose). Funny, attention to detail,

very attentive, head waiter really on top of his game. Bartenders: five star: Sky bar, great, remembered names, drinks and very attentive. Same with Casino bartenders. Casino: Two star. Does not pay out enough to my mind. (lol) Dinners in main dining room: 1/4 star. Major disappointment. Quality of food nowhere near to last cruises I have sailed on. Half of the food was warm at best (Not the waiters fault). Lobster tail overcooked and total mush. Steaks from side menu, tough as nails, even though I did have tenderloin from main menu one night and it was very tender. Planning on Oasis next cruise, hope the food is better

Read More

By Matt_CR

  • New

Nov 29, 2012

carribean

Let me start by saying that I'm not a complainer and very rarely do I post negative feedback about anything. Don't make the mistake that we made by choosing Royal Caribbean. You work hard for your money and you spend 6+ months looking forward to a great vacation. You want to be excited and you should be. You want to return and tell your family and friends how great it was and how much fun you had. That will likely not be the case if you choose

to sail with these people. They could care less about their own staff and equally surprising, about the well-being of their guests. On this trip in particular, they will drop you off in Samana, Dominican Republic. Forget the fact that you may wait in a 4 hour line just to exit the ship, when you arrive, the place is downright scary, filthy, and depressing. Children beg you for food and money and it is just a sad sight. When you return to the ship and you engage in conversation with the staff regarding Samana, they will say things like "are you crazy, I've worked on this ship for years and I've never got off on this stop". The cruise director himself will crack jokes about how unpleasant the place is. RCI is obviously aware of this; they just choose to disregard it and continue to put their guest's safety at risk. As for the staff, they are very hard working people. It becomes immediately obvious that many of them don't enjoy their jobs. Sure they are courteous, kind, and they smile at you and say "hi" in the hallway, but you can tell that something isn't right. There is a constant look of concern and discomfort. All of this begins to affect the overall mood after a while. You know that you are supposed to be enjoying yourself and having fun, but trying to do that alongside laborers who are depressed and under appreciated by their employer is easier said than done. Upon returning home, we had a situation in which we needed to reach out to RCI support to correct an issue with the waiters tip (we wanted to leave even more money for them but both ATM's were out of service on the ship). The guest relations desk couldn't do anything to help (charge room card for cash, etc). They asked us to follow up with corporate when we got home and that they could find a way to do it from our credit card. I'll spare the details but reaching out to corporate proved to be pointless. It's a shame. It's possible that this company used to be great to sail with at some point, but as of November 2012, that is simply not the case. Our last cruise (with Carnival) was an entirely different experience. There was a not only a sense of energy, excitement, and genuine happiness in the staff, but you never felt unsafe or depressed (Samana) as a guest. It seems like there is potential here, but something at RCI really needs to change. When it comes time to make a decision on what to do with your vacation money, you have been warned. I hope this review has helped you and good luck in your search

Read More
  • New

Aug 21, 2012

Eastern Caribbean

This was my first cruise with Royal Caribbean. Although fun-wise I think that Carnival is better, this was definitely a great cruise. We decided to do Royal Caribbean so we could leave from the NY/NJ area. The ship was much larger than the Carnival ships we've been on, the food was wonderful, the activities were great (although there should have been more) and the staff was absolutely PHENOMENAL!!!!!! Although the weather wasn't as warm as I wold

have liked (no control over that) the itinerary was fantastic. I definitely recommend this cruise line and itinerary. We loved the choices of food. I was travelling with my mom and my two kids (ages 16 and 12), so we didn't go the formal dining room as much as we went to Windjammer Cafe. There were always numerous options at the buffet. Everyone of us could find something we liked, whether the same old standby's of burgers and fries or new options to try like sushi. One of my favorite places was Cafe Promenade. They had pastries and tea/ coffee available all day. It was a great place to sit and relax. Being that they set it up like an outdoor cafe, you really had the feeling that you were relaxing at a cafe enjoying the scenery. The few times that we did go to the formal dining room, the meals were very nice. They have a Johnny Rockets restaurant on board which the kids absolutely loved! There was an additional surcharge, but it was a very small amount and the food is all you can eat. Our stateroom was a standard small interior cabin : ). We expected as much so not much to complain about. However, our attendants were fantastic. They were always very polite, they kept our room spotless and tended to our every need. The shows were great. Our cruise director Richard Spacey was great. I think everyone that saw him in action wanted to kidnap him : )!!!! He was always spot on with the comedy and he was a little nuts which was great. Can't say too much about him, don't want to spoil his skits. There were trivia games and activities, but they still came up short compared to Carnival. They had the usual, casino, arcade, shows, board games, etc,, but Carnival had way more options. I think if they added more options they would be unbeatable. The Ice Show was great. The on board talent was great. The staff exceeded all expectations. We had four island stops and did excursions on two. We did a beach excursion on both St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Like I mentioned before, the weather wasn't as hot as I would have liked, but the beaches were beautiful. We drove around St. Thomas a bit afterward and it was truly a beautiful island. The people on both islands were so warm and friendly. We only got off the ship briefly in San Juan so we didn't do a shore excursion. The stay in San Juan was too short for me, but it was very beautiful there. We also got off briefly in Bermuda and just walked around a bit. Overall, it was a fantastic trip. I am considering doing it again, since they have slightly different itineraries on the same ship.

Read More
  • New

Feb 9, 2012

Eastern Caribbean

Not bad other than the biohazards. Olde Country Buffet quality. Horrific smell. Fair We also had the misfortune to be prisoners on Deck 10 Aft on the 1/6/12 cruise. Pretty much from departure, the hallways on our deck just smelled bad. We were aware of some passengers having had their cabins moved, and then the vacated cabins having the doors left open. The day we left Puerto Rico the nightmare began. That evening,

there was a sewage smell throughout the aft port side. About 8pm, the sewage began venting directly through the duct in our cabin, conveniently located in the closet. If this should happen in your cabin, like us you might think opening the balcony door would help, but in fact it creates a draft that pulls the methane and aerosolized fecal matter directly into the room at a high velocity. Makes sense when you think about it. I called maintenance and the front desk, no one ever showed up or returned calls. My 4 year old daughter threw up three times that night. I had vertigo problems for the remainder of the trip. The next morning, I again called the desk and "requested" a management representative report to my room. Not only didn't anyone show up, they didn't even have the decency to call me to let me know they didn't care. Now, as everyone who reads this forum knows, this ship has a chronic problem with the septic system. It's WELL documented here. It certainly has been a consistent problem since at least this past spring, and possibly for years. Guess who doesn't read this forum? Royal Caribbean management. Here's where a mechanical problem turned into a Customer Relations bloodbath. You see, corporate management has decided to use the strategy of "lie and deny" to deal with this from a customer service perspective. I went to the desk the next morning, and this is where the whole thing got strange. I spoke to "Roy; the Front Desk Manager" who not only stated "THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!", but thought my request to have RCI wash the aerosolized fecal matter out of my clothing, if and when it stopped flowing through my closet, was unreasonable. If it was his room, he wouldn't even think about doing that. And no, no other guests had made that request. I demanded they send a management representative to my room to discuss the issue, and a couple hours later a rather stern woman came to the room with the intent of intimidating me and being back in her assistant managers meeting before her tea got cold, and proceeded to tell me she was a Housekeeping Assistant Manager, and both too busy AND important to have to be there, but she was told she had to. Fascinating. She also adamantly denied this ship EVER having had this problem before. She also thought a desire to have the aerosolized fecal matter removed from my 4 year old daughters clothing was unreasonable. She did eventually relent, but with as much attitude as she could muster after a thoroughly unexpected dressing down. The direct venting of methane and aerosolized fecal matter went on for 13 hours. Several other managers swore to TheCorporateLie™ about this ever having happened before. The capper was the last evening, in the dining room. The senior officers were doing their dog and pony show in the dining room, and the Chief Engineer had the misfortune to show up at our table. We had a rather heated argument about the existence of TheCorporateLie™. He repeatedly swore this had never happened before. There's clearly two problems here. One mechanical/financial; and one of customer contempt. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I do have a graduate degree in psychology and work in the corporate world. You see, if you have a long-standing mechanical problem that causes methane gas and aerosolized fecal matter to spew randomly throughout sections of cabins of your ship, and the majority of the affected passengers who are being assaulted by this known problem have been reading about it for months, why on earth would your corporate policy be to lie about it? Doesn't make sense. Pretty much the opposite of every evidence-based customer service theory. If your Chief Engineer tells TheCorporateLie™, and according to other posters here the Captain tells TheCorporateLie™, TheCorporateLie™ is your policy from the CEO down. As you can imagine, I've told this sad tale to lots of people in the past weeks. Nobody could make sense of it. Great Psychological Minds were baffled; Clever but obscure "Folie à creux" jokes were made. Many lunches were ruined in the hospital cafeteria. Oaths were sworn at RCI on my family's behalf. Then one day, I was sitting with a Epidemiologist friend at lunch. When I told him I had been on a cruise, by the look on his face you would have thought I'd said I'd been bathing in a swamp. When I told him about TheCorporateLie™, he immediately offered an answer. "If they admit it's a chronic problem, they'd have to take it out of service and fix it." "The CDC would be freaking out". "It would cost them millions, of course they lied." Can't say that's true, but it does make sense...

Read More
  • New

Jan 16, 2012

Bayonne to Nassau

There are many RCCL practices that I dislike (such as charging immediately for anything done in advance, including gratuities, and very overpriced wine), but for the actual cruise the large number of problems were generally minor and the important points mostly good. The ship is very attractive, but with limited space to quietly sit and read, have a drink, talk to friends. It was also a younger crowd than we've normally experienced -- which is either

good or bad, depending on your age and interests. Breakfast was OK, and it is good to know that there are extra choices available in the serving area at the rear of the Windjammer cafe. Lunch was often disappointing, with fewer choices than we’re used to, and not as high a quality as we expected. Dinner was almost always very well done with again somewhat limited but sufficient good choices. Desserts, though, were mostly disappointing. It is also difficult to get much in the way of real food after dinner is over. The room was very attractive, made excellent use of its space, had excellent storage space and very good soundproofing in their Promenade cabin. Onboard activities are especially important on a cruise where half the time was at sea, and there were a large and varied selection of activities throughout the day. As examples, on our first sea day there were 3 different Trivia contests, a music lecture, several dance classes, a champagne art auction, a Pain Management seminar, Royal Poker Tour Texas Hold'em, bridge play, adult jewelry making seminar, and far too much more to list. We also felt the entertainment has improved a lot compared to our earlier cruises, and especially enjoyed the Ice Capades type show. Kennedy Space Center was an excellent place to visit, with not nearly enough time to see even half of what's available. However, RCCL's tour price was $99 for a $68 KSC ticket and all the extra provided was a bus ride from the port to and from the Center. A taxi would have been more convenient and less expensive. We have previously had very good luck using CruiseCompete, but this time found what appeared to be a better alternative, namely Costco Travel. Although the discounted cost of an inside cabin plus the allowed shipboard credit was pretty much the same as from a CruiseCompete agency, for the same price of the least expensive inside cabin we were able to book a cabin overlooking the Promenade, which was originally about a $150 pp upgrade. In addition, travel insurance was offered through an associated company (one we've used on our own before) that was half the cost as our usual package, and with significantly expanded benefits. We also enjoyed leaving on a cruise from our home state: no airline costs, travel hassles, and hotel stays needed!

Read More
  • New

Nov 6, 2011

Bermuda

We traveled on the Explorer of the Seas on October 22, 2011 for five nights to Bermuda. It was a GREAT cruise. This is our second time on the Explorer, we sailed in 2004 also. We traveled with Rich & Michele, who were on their 25th Wedding Anniversary. We had all had honeymooned in Bermuda. This was our third time, and Rich & Michele's second time in Bermuda. The Cruise Director Luke was fun. He seemed to be everywhere getting people involved and

having fun. Michael and Mo, our waiter and assistant waiter were fantastic! They greeted us warmly each evening, had recommendations for meals, spoke knowledgeably about the wine package, and entertained with tricks and stories. We had a great time each evening with them. The food was great, portions were good, and the desserts were delicious. One night, we went to Portofino for dinner. Service was excellent, and so was the food. We went to the Windjammer each morning for breakfast except the last morning. The food was very good, and the omelet bar was exceptional. There was a great selection and the fruit was very fresh. Johnny Rockets, as always was great. Our waiter was quick, friendly, and treated us to a dance to YMCA. Our cabins were on the 10th floor, and we had a great balcony view. The Explorer is 11 years old, but shows its age very little. The carpeting and rooms were clean and new feeling, however, but we did have some paint peeling on our balcony. Rica, our stateroom attendant couldn't have been better! She introduced herself the first day, and greeted us each day with a sunny smile. The Band by the pool played great cruising music, and seemed to play longer than bands on previous cruises. The Promenade, with parades, bars, shops, pizza and snacks was great fun. We stopped to have drinks a couple nights, and often stopped for a mid-day snack at the Café Promenade. The Weekend Warrior bar was great although we were surprised that they were not showing the World Series during the cruise. Rich and I had hoped to SCUBA dive, but the winds were too strong in the morning, so we went shopping with the girls in Hamilton. The ferry was very cool and a fast way to get around. We (of course) stopped at the Swizzle Inn (and Swaggered Out) for lunch, which was excellent. Then we walked over to the Caves for a tour of Crystal Cave, which was fun. We also went on the Glass Bottomed Cocktail Cruise excursion. The staff was great and made this an exceptional excursion; without them, it wouldn't have been as much fun. We have to thank Jerry Rafter ([email protected]) for booking the cruise and making everything easy. Parking and drop off was exceptionally easy at Port Liberty; they do a great job . We dropped our bags, parked the car, toasted our cruise with champagne, and sailed through check-in and stopped on deck 12 for the sail away. We have another cruise reserved with 4 other couples in April to the Eastern Caribbean on the Allure of the Seas, and will provide another update after that cruise.

Read More
  • New

Jun 26, 2011

Bermuda

Hi, Five night cruise out of NJ to Bermuda. Explorer of the Seas in my opinion is just a slightly smaller version of the Freedom class of ships. Everything is the same minus the FlowRider. Cruise was ok with no fault to Royal Caribbean. Weather was awful the first to 2.5 days. Very windy and slight boat rocking. However, the last 2.5 days were great with sun and limited wind. The overnight stay in Bermuda was different and transportation around

the island was very easy.....get the two day bus/ferry pass! We had an interior stateroom for our famliy of four. It was cramped and I did miss our typical balcony. The pullmen bed system worked great for our two young daughters. Food was typical but for some reason not as good as our other cruises...just a little bland. Staff on board were very friendly but for some reason I did not care for the cruise director....a little two tame in my book. He was very professional and it was easy to see the pride he takes in his work. We ate in the dining room every night and I have say the food was so-so. Just not much flavor and the portions this time were a little small. Johnny Rockets was very good and reasonable for the cost. The WindJammer was very good on this cruise with a fine selection of food. The morning omelet station was very quick, not your usual waiting around. No lines in the Windjammer but on the first and last day it was tough to find a seat. Have one person scout out a table while the others get there food so you don't do circles around the seating area. Interior stateroom with two pullman beds. Room steward was very good at setting out the room for night time, and hiding the pullman beds during the day. However, watch your head as I smack it one time. The pullman beds were directly over our king bed. Remember, no clocks in the room but the phone does display the time along with the tv. TV.....older style large square...no flatscreen. Room was clean....but I did find some makeup and clothing behind a nightstand and way up in the closet from a previous cruiser. Explorer has plenty to do for people of all ages. The Adventure Ocean programs for the kids are fantastic. Once again our daughters 12 & 9 wanted to spend all their time there. The staff is very professional and parents do not need to worry. Entertainment shows were great but the ice show stood out as the best. I personally would never go to any type of ice show on land, just not my thing. The skaters are very talented...it is a must see. Quest game show was great - DO NOT MISS....the cruise director did do a very good job at this even though I thought he was lacking at other events. We did self excursions for the first time. Went to Turtle Bay...it was overcast and very windy but we did make the best of it. There is a hill you have to walk down on arrival at Turtle Bay ...what I read prior to going is that there are taxi's that will drive you up and down the hill for a few bucks. Trust me if your younger than 60 and somewhat in shape the hill is no big deal. We walked it without any problems. There is a rock formation and you can climb on. Careful though...not very safe and it good be very easy to fall of if your not careful. The second day we went into Hamilton by bus....about 45 mins or so...crazy fast bus drivers that made the ride fun. However the ferry is faster and that is what we took to return...take the ferry! Hamilton is very pretty but expensive. Once back at the Royal Dock Yards we went to a little private ( $5.00 dollar entry ) beach near the fort. GO there....very fun and they have everything you need for a price, food, drinks, snorkling gear, rafts. beach chairs, etc. We also toured the Fort. Ship was great and leaving out of NJ (NY Harbor) was very cool. We arrived at the port very early and prior to entering the terminal went and visited the free 9-11 memorial park that is right next to the ship. Very worthwhile and you can get great shots of the NY Skyline and ship. If you drive to the 9-11 park there will be a guard that stops you. Just tell him you are visiting the park and he will let you pass. There is a great YouTube video on driving into the port and getting to this park...just search port liberty and you will find it. Ok the bad stuff about our cruise...weather was aweful as mentioned already but on the first night in Bermuda my mother in law and Aunt (who were also with us in a separate cabin) received news from back home of a severe medical emergency. Mother in law and aunt had to fly out of Bermuda the next morning back to Detroit....what a bummer. So this news upset our family and our daughters so the cruise continued but it just wasn't the same. My mother in-law and aunt did have travel insurance that will cover some of their cost but it is the last thing on their mind right now. Ok...sorry about rambling....anyways...the cruise was expensive compared to a 7-night Caribbean but Bermuda is special! Go for it. Royal Caribbean really is a great cruise line...staff was excellent!

Read More
  • New

Jan 7, 2011

Bermuda

This was a 5 night cruise to Bermuda from Port Liberty in Bayonne, NJ. It was somewhat erie sailing from New York Harbor on the anniversary of 9/11. At the same time, it made being able to see the memorial monument donated by Russia (which stands at the tip of the pier from which we departed) more poignant. Fortunately, it was between the two coastal hurricanes of the fall, and we had exceptionally calm seas in both directions. I was impressed

with the quality and tastiness of the food. We only ate in the main dining room and lido buffet, never in the speciality restaurant. Given comments I have heard about main dining room food when there is a specialty restaurant aboard, I was anticipating a real decline in the quality of food in the main dining room. However, this was not the case at all. I was traveling with my 91 year old mother. Both of us have been to Bermuda before (me several times), so the ship was really our destination. Since my mother hs some mobility challgenges and uses a transporter wheelchair for longer distances, we booked a handicapped accessible cabin. Originally we wanted a cabin with a balcony, but all the handicapped accessible ones were booked. So, we had an ocean view cabin. As it turned out this provided better viewing with the floor to ceiling port hole window in comparison with the balcony suites since the outer railing is of steel and not plexiglass. It was near a bank of elevators, which was convenient, but I feared would be noisy. However, we never heard noise in the hallway nor from the adjoining cabins - even on disembarkation morning when there was a crowd gathered outside the cabin waiting to utilize the Express Disembarkation option. These were typical of most cruises. However, with the additional items available on this size of ship, there were some creative opportunities (ice skating, rock wall climbing, miniature golf, in line skating. The entertainment in the show lounge at night, and the ice show was good and held my attention. They made good use of the indoor promenade for various fun parades and parties. We didn't do any of the excursions. However, on one of the two days in port, I took the ferry into Hamilton (the main city) as we were docked at the old naval pier on the westside of the island and wandered around town on my own to see how the city has developed. It was looking much better than my last visit several years ago. It was a very relaxing trip. We especially enjoyed sitting in the Viking Crown Lounge both when at sea and in port. it provided a wonderful panoramic view while we relaxed and read, talked together and/or chatted with other cruisers.

Read More
  • New

Sep 17, 2010

Bermuda

I am a first time cruiser, however I have done enough traveling to know what is good and what is crap.This ship is well maintained,(it is literally going 24/7 dealing with salt water and weather) and the crew is extremely friendly and helpful. I'm not at all in agreement with any bad reviews I have read. Maybe some people want to have a reason to complain or maybe some really have a bad experience. However my wife and I had a wonderful time, and

believe me she would have complained if it were any different. After the lifeboat drill the fun begins. Being a first time cruiser when I went to the Windjammer asking if I could just grab a coffee the attendant said "You can do anything you want" That summed it up for me. Main dining room was great and the food was above average. Our waiter greeted us by name the second day and seemed to give us special attention. Same for stateroom attendant. The third day he asked us if we minded if they worked on our balcony while we were out, instead of just doing it. Pools were emptied and refilled on a regular basis. The only place we smelled smoke was in the casino. Early evening drinks at The" Crown and Kettle" are reasonable and the bar is quiet, with a nice view of the promenade. Rooms were clean and smelled nice. Not many kids on board between the age of toddler and late teen.The fitness center had plenty of selection for a real weight workout or cardio routine. I read a review where someone complained about the ocean between Cape liberty and Bermuda. Really? the ocean? You should have asked the captain to do something about that!!! I guess bad weather makes or breaks a review for a cruisline. Overall unless something goes really wrong or you just have a bad week you will love this ship. Best anniversary yet. Even greeted by a special serenade for the occasion by the dining room staff. Great Clean Plenty to do

Read More
  • New

Sep 9, 2010

Bermuda

For the money, Carnival is a much better deal. Firstly, the initial port stole from my luggage! And customer service would not process my claim. Worse - unless you are dining in the main hall, the buffets are hardly open and the food is horrible. The service people are just OK, nothing great or friendly. Laslty, the activities on the boat, skating and rock wall have a HUGE line. Unless you are willing to wait for hours and hours (and it closes too)

then its not worth it. Unforunately, this was the complete opposite experience on other cruise ship. Needlesstosay, we will NOT be going on another Royal Carribean cruise. I wouldn't care where they went. Better cruises with other providers. Horrible except for dining room Small but nice Not as many as Carnival for families Shore excursions were OK. Not as many choices as others.

Read More
  • New

Jul 22, 2010

Bermuda and Bahamas

Overall, a very well run ship, with an excellent staff. All of the staff is friendly and professional, as well as helpful. I would say that this is an excellent family cruise. Excellent food in Portofino's, and good food in the main dining room. The Windjammer food was adequate, but then again I never set high expectations for buffets. We had a Junior Suite, which was just fine for my family, with excellent closet space. The balcony was

excellent, and offered plenty of extra space when my kids were in the cabin with other kids they had met on the ship. The bathrooms were small, and there was no separate changing area in the suite, which was a little disappointing, especially given the fact that the Junior Suite is a little more expensive than the standard balcony cabin. Overall, the staterooms were immaculate, well attended to, and the flat screen HDTV was a nice extra. The adult activities were geared towards married people in the 30 to 50 age range, or for younger children, which left my children, who are 18 and 20, feeling a little "left out." Too old for camp, too young for the bars and nightclubs. However, there were plenty of people their age on the ship, so they made their own activities, particularly hanging around the pool deck at night with other older teens. I wish that Royal Caribbean would have dedicated one of the night clubs or pubs to have activities themed towards 18 to 21 year olds. The shows were adequate but not great, with the exception of the last night comedian, Miguel Washington, who was excellent. Also, for some reason there was no late night "adult" comedy show, which I found disappointing. Overall, I think that this would be a tough cruise for somebody who is single. The ship docks in Bermuda on Saturday and Sunday, however the city of Hamilton is shut down on Sundays. I wish that I would have known this before I planned my activities in Bermuda. The stop at Coco Cay was excellent, and the Nassau stop was OK. My family and I went to Blackbeard's Cay in Nassau, which was OK, but nothing special. If you do go to Blackbeard's Cay, the beach is small and there is not much to do if you don't swim with Sting Rays.

Read More
  • New

Jul 12, 2010

Bermuda and Bahamas

This was my third cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I was very pleased with everything. I have been on this ship before so we knew exactly what to expect. The service on the ship was excellent. Everyone was very pleasant and eager to please. Love the food, always a great variety. We ate almost all of the time at the Windjammer, mostly because of the relaxed atmosphere. They came around often enough to see if we needed anything else to drink and

clear the table. So many of the staff were very comical and just made it a pleasure to be there. We did have one day that we ate at Portafino's. Cannot say enough about the food and the service. Our stateroom was very clean. We actually had a balcony this time and we really enjoyed the extra space. It was nice to sit out there in the evening before going to sleep and listen to the ocean. Nice in the morning as well to enjoy a cup of coffee . Our stateroom attendant was FANTASTIC. His name was Omelli Sparkes. He made sure everything was perfect and his personality was tops. I gave him the biggest hug when we left. I hope some day we will get to see him again. All the stateroom attendants that we've had before were great, but he was really special!!!! We were kept busy all the time. Something for everyone. We chose to visit the different parts of the islands on our own. We took the ferry and the bus. Some of the excursions were a bit pricey. In Bermuda we had the pleasure of eating lunch and dinner in Hamilton and St. George. Did a lot of shopping. Enjoyed every minute of our trip. Purchased quite a few things on board, especially in the jewelry store. My fiance' purchased a beautiful blue and white diamond ring for me and also for himself. The only thing I noticed was some of the stores were a little "light" in merchandise. In any event we still found gifts we loved. I love traveling with Royal Caribbean. This was a special trip for me as I had just celebrated my 60th birthday. I hope I am given the opportunity to travel again soon with RC. Thank you again for such a great time!!!!!!

Read More
  • New

Jul 6, 2010

Bermuda and Caribbean

Overall experience, excellent, as always. Always something to eat. Buffet not our thing, we stick to fresh. Location excellent. Furniture horrible. Entertainment surpasses other CLs Explorer of the Seas, 9 night, Bermuda and Caribbean 6/24/10. This was our 5th time on Explorer and our 9th or 10th cruise in total and we're Diamond status with RCI. We're in our 40s, the kids are 17.5 and almost 22 yrs old. We had a balcony hump cabin and

a PR cabin. We were welcomed back by familiar faces which makes stepping on Explorer, for us, like Going Home! We don't have a long schlep to get to Cape Liberty and we have a driver drive us and our 12+ pcs of luggage. It is a luxury vacation for us, but we have noticed some changes on board Explorer. First, embarkation and debarkation were wonderful. Our limo driver queued around to the tent to drop our luggage with waiting porters. The line went quickly and within minutes we were pulling into a bay and our luggage was being tagged. No problem at Cape Liberty. Priority check in was the longer of the lines with many repeat cruisers. Still, it went smoothly and before we knew it we were climbing on board the bus to the ship. We immediately stopped at our cabin (this was around 12:30), found a steward and put our gown bag in the closet. Checked our table in the MDR and had it changed. Made our reservations at Portofino, saw Marcelo Arias who immediately remembered us from past cruises. Thank you again Marcelo for sending us cookies and chocolate strawberries, wonderful stuff. We stopped into Weekend Warrior because it was one bar we had never been to in the past. Christopher, the bar tender also remembered us immediately (we'd be hard to forget for Christopher, story need not be told). I put my carry on, on the bar and when we went to leave and I quickly grabbed it, I didn't know DH had put one of our cameras on the bar; the camera flew off the bar onto the floor, there went that camera pretty much as the display was shot. We had our under water camera with us and I had my newer but archaic 35MM. We brushed it off so it didn't ruin the beginning of our Cruise. We ran into folks from our Roll call there too! Muster Drill- no longer do they require you to carry your life vest. We do expect to see a ship somewhat "loved", but there was definite wear and tear that should not exist with proper maintenance. If you're seasoned RCI cruisers, you could tell there was less staff cleaning the ship. The elevators always had grimy fingerprints on the doors which we thought was weird and could obviously lead to health risks. We were on Deck 8 hump cabin and the balcony was in horrible disrepair, peeling in dozens+ of spots and the paint would transfer to your clothing or skin (ewww). The railings are in desperate need of a drink of varnish, I can tell you they haven't been done or maintained in quite some time (years). The furniture in cabin, primarily the couch and chair fabric was imbedded with so much apparent to the eye dirt we covered them with towels just to sit down. Our stateroom attendant never removed them, so she must be aware this is a problem. The buttons on the television remote control and the safe are rubbed off. NOTE: If you are in your cabin and deadbolt the door, if someone [spouse, child] has a seapass to enter the cabin, the seapass card DOES unlock the dead bolted door. The public areas looked fine with the exception of some wear and tear that is expected with 3,500++ pax coming and going 365days a year. Many stools in the casino are blatantly fraying and need to be recovered, but most public areas are 'okay'. The exception is, the top of the smoke stack; and when you are sitting out on the pool deck and look up, the peeling paint is very noticeable. Okay, to a newbie cruiser they might never notice something like this, but to DH and myself, it was right in your face. The Crew and Staff throughout the ship continue to be TOP NOTCH in service. Portofino, as always surpasses all expectations, enough said, it can't get better, although Simeon was not there to serve and entertain us as usual. The new menu is fine, but I think I liked the old one just a tad better. Our MDR wait staff, Rebecca and Shane were exceptional in every way we expect. They knew our names, likes, dislikes; they carried on conversation when appropriate, they were quick to fold a napkin or to push in your chair, eager to approach when they sensed something might not have been perfect with your food, really, kudos to the crew and staff. Our Bar Maid in the MDR was Julie Bravo, personality plus! She was great and made it her business to be there when we walked in empty handed. WJ breakfast food (for us) was the same every day. We stuck to freshly made omelets/eggs, toasted something (bagel, WW, english muffin. Don't attempt the bagel unless you get it toasted). Summer 07 the bacon was unrecognizable, this time it was good. lol. We went to JR's for lunch on the one rainy day- it was JR's, lol, we only eat it on board for fun. It was good, I consider it fast food. The best lunch is in the MDR. If you can find some time to break away from sunning, have a HAPPY SALAD. I love the way the salad station works. You walk up, there are a bunch of servers behind the salad bar. You tell them which lettuce you want and which ingredients you want; they walk around with you putting your likes in the bowl, including your dressing. Then they mix and chop it and serve it back to you on a plate. I called it my Happy Salad and the waiters got so excited! I think it is the greatest thing on board Explorer (food wise) today! The WJ food to me is just okay. I wouldn't write home about it . Same for the WJ dinner. We enjoy the MDR, but night one we stopped into WJ and enjoyed some vidalia onion tart pre-MDR dinner. Subsequent nights we stopped into WJ (to say hello to Marcelo, to have a quick appetizer), there were NO appetizers. We just don't get it ? Also, I recall linens on the tables for dinner in WJ, they seemed to have done away with this as well. DH was very disappointed that during breakfast the staff seemed to be more concerned about turning tables then about offering you coffee or juice in Windjammer. In the MDR we were flanked by some very interesting tables to our left and to our right. We as a family think RCI needs to politely explain to those who wear soccer garb or their farming clothes into the dining room that they need to adhere to a dress policy as others do and to kindly check out the other venues they offer to folks who chose to dress soccer or below casual style for their comfort, “for your convenience, the windjammer is located on deck 12”. The way others dress does not affect my dining experience, but if scattered folks continue to dress like pigs and royal allows it, then that it what this CL will be known for. The coffee; some will love it and there of those of us who do not. It is Seattles Best on board. It is strong coffee, somewhat bitter on the likes of a typical starbucks but more so. The Café on the promenade always had good finger sandwiches and many love the pizza. Room service (have singles for tipping) was great. They typically told us a little longer than it was. We recall everything to be appetizer sized but most of what we ordered was meals, we were surprised. Again, staff is respectful and polite as they ask if they can enter your cabin to set down your room service tray. Entertainment= excellent. Jimmy Rhodes did a good job as CD. Production shows were excellent, Ice Show we saw 2x because we always enjoy it. Love & Marriage game show always delights. We were VERY disappointed that even EXPERIENCED Ice Skaters and skating adults had to wear a HELMET; this is new since we were on Explorer (2 yrs ago). Why sign a waiver if they insist you wear a helmet? My kids did NOT skate and as a parent I was disappointed for them. I guess we wont be toting our ice skates any time soon. Since the May 22nd sail they put NEW carpet in the Game Room and added 3 Skee Ball games (DD was on the 5/22 so she knew what was new). Oh! Here is a Bingo Tip: If you can't get the new fangled electronic ones, its your call. All the winners had the electronic devices that play for you...18 games per card!! (Instead of the 6 games per card on the paper ones) Also, I don't know why, but Jackpots are A LOT smaller than we recall! Are cheaper people cruising these days? LOL Come on folks, in 2007 the jackpot was up to $20K, this time is was $6K. (we didn't play on our 2008 cruise). Laundry, On Day 6 I think it is (on a 9nt) you are offered to fill a plastic bag with socks, underwear, bathing suits and pajamas for $25 (we had a coupon for $10 off). My kids cabin attendant took the marked laundry AND a WRONG bag of laundry that was unmarked. Subsequently they ruined something of my daughters, I was NOT happy, still not happy, but they did give us a token credit to replace it. (we did not tip her cabin steward, but that’s ok because DH tipped everyone else on board that I literally had to stop him when I realized what was going on) They had a Deck Buffet BBQ at noon on the day we were in OSJ, I am not sure if it was in the Compass or not. We didn't even hear about it, but I was told it was announced at one of the shows the night before, and, maybe on the loud speaker? There were hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, corn on the cob, grilled veggies, salad and desserts that I don't recall what they were. There was also a Promenade buffet for Canada Day, not announced in the Cruise Compass, so a word to folks who don't listen to the announcements; if you want to be in the know, listen to them. (we missed quite a few) There were corn dogs, chorizo, fish & chips [ice cold, eww], chicken sandwiches, a huge Canada Day Cake and ice cream and other things I don't remember. We didn't use the Diamond lounge; we don't drink wine and figured why bother? We still love our Aquarium bar for comfort. We're not sure why but we do enjoy sitting at that bar. We didn't go to Schooner this time . I guess it was our 2007 crowd that made sing along at the piano so much fun. Or, it was the piano player! Bermuda: You can purchase your transportation pass for Bermuda on board before you arrive if you know that you want a day pass or 2 day pass (if there longer). If not purchased on board, know that they only take CASH for the ferry/bus pass when you disembark at Kings Wharf. As usual, we took the #7 bus, this time we got off at Jobsons Cove which was BEAUTIFUL and had stairs to walk down to the beach. We stayed 30 minutes then took the bus another stop to Horseshoe (where everyone goes & we have been 4+ times before), it is beautiful and has amenities (bathrooms, drinks and food, chair/umbrella rentals). We dared to attempt to walk the beach further to Warwick Long Bay- whoever tells you that you can, had to climb and walk over 10' boulders and rock formations (one of the life guards came a-looking so I guess it isn’t a good idea), well at least we tried. St Maarten: We took the 3 minute ride on the water taxi in St Maarten to Great Bay and visited with the folks of the Firehouse and Beach Boy jet ski Rentals, Tell them their good friends from NJ with the blow up tubes sent you. They will take very good care of you. 4 chairs 2 umbrellas for $24 for the day. Some got them for $20 at a location closer to where the water taxi docks, where the beach area begins. We rented Jet ski's $55 for 35 minutes paying CASH. If you want to use your CC it is $60 for 35 minutes. They charged us $10 less the second time around. They even blew up our 4 tubes for us! We drank pain killers all day. I stayed shaded under an umbrella since I burned the 2 days before. Dwayne will not let you get up off your lounge chair for anything. They were very, very nice to us and hung out by our lounge chairs chatting when they could. St Thomas: At last minute we changed our plans for St Thomas. I got sun burned day 2 and day 3 (even with sun block), so by St Thomas I was not feeling the beach scene. I also knew we wouldn't be able to do the beach in the AM, then find the oldest Synagogue in the US and then go (& enjoy) lunch and shopping. I eliminated the beach. I never thought I would do this on St Thomas, but knowing in 6 months we'd be back made it easy. We climbed the hill in 95 degrees to the temple and surprisingly really, really enjoyed our time there! Then we strolled through the jewelry shops. I won't get into the cosmic story of walking into a shop unknowing that it was the shop I was referred to by a good friend here in the states that sells watches to them. DH bought me a GORGEOUS diamond bracelet. We had lunch at a place called Gladys, it was very good. [food excellent, cocktails not so much] OSJ: is OSJ, we find nothing great about it. We walked to the outlets, shopped in Burberry and Coach. Be leery of the D&B outlet and just know that their merchandise is "seconds" and something will be wrong with your bag. ie: it can be as insignificant as missing the pockets on the inside to more significant- the bag I was about to purchase, I noticed the leather handles were "off" and of different size. I asked her to take out all her stock of that bag and they were all alike. The D&B zebra patterned stuff all the black parts were discolored. I have Coach Outlets nearby to my home, but still managed to buy there and not in D&B. My daughter bought a beautiful Burberry jacket for half off retail. Don’t be fooled by the native folks in OSJ offering you a "Tour to the shops", you can easily walk it even if it is very hot (bring a washcloth with you if you sweat). We stopped off at Barrachina, where the Pina Colada was invented in 1963- well, census says mine at home are better! haha But, in any event I am glad we finally had a pina colada there. Now I know I'm not missing much! Internet: Hmm, we didn't use it this time. A first for everything. My daughter used it and said it was painstakingly slow. Since we were on Deck 8 near the Internet (known as: Royal Caribbean Online) we often tucked in there to wait for our kids. We noticed a lot of frustration, lol. One lady was entertaining as she went from computer to computer to computer in hopes of one being faster. Boy was she annoyed. I guess this reaffirmed why I chose not to do my Live From this time around. This will sound odd to some seasoned cruisers, but I found the old Cyber Cabin internet set-up to be better for me. I could use it in my cabin and although a slow connection, I could click on post and upload while I was doing something else in my cabin, I prefer being able to multitask. This is what we drank on board and the prices: Grey goose on the rocks $7.00 French martini $8.00 (Ketel one) Mojito $6.00 Malibu Baybreeze $6.00 Mango Mai Tai $6.00 Bahama Mama $8.25 Mango Mojito $5.75 Mimosa $7.75 Malibu $5.50 Pina Colada $6.25 Peach Daiquiri $6.75 Frozen Mojito $7.00 Mocha Berry Coffee $6.00 Bottle Pellegrino $6.75 We are not wine drinkers, so I can't help with that. To close, Explorer is still a wonderful and beautiful ship even though she needs TLC. The Crew and Staff are fabulous and make your cruise experience that much more pleasurable. Passenger demographics are extremely varied. Cape Liberty is a smooth port and no complaints from us that it is lackluster as some note. [It is somewhere that you are just passing through] and ridiculous to think it should be anything but what it is. Sailing out of the northeast this time of year was uneventful, probably one of the smoother sailings we have been on out of Bayonne. Weather in the islands was good as well, although predictions were sketchy. We are very much looking forward to our 14nt. Holiday Cruise on Explorer this year! Cheers, CruiseDivaNJ Enjoy all your future cruises!

Read More

By geri_CR

  • New

May 28, 2010

bermuda

Amazing from the moment we arrived at Cape Liberty. We decided at the last minute to drive there from New York and do the 5 day parking which only cost $95.00. After dropping off our luggage we drove to our parking spot and walked into the Suite Check- In. There was a slight computer problem where our children's keys could not be found, but after that, we boarded the short minute bus trip to the most beautiful ship I had ever seen. It was like

a palace on the water. Everything was so clean, sparkling, and hypnotic to look at. We quickly found our way up to the WIndjammer for a lunch buffet that was delicious. Everyday the food was consistantly good. A wide variety of many delectable choices from the healthy to the not so healthy, but what a spread! We explored the ship and quickly surmised in a family agreement that there not not comparison to Carnival. This ship was in a class by itself. From the Pubs, to the spacious show palaces (maharajah lounge) it was breathtaking. We saw the ICE SHOW twice and the second time was better than the first. Dan Wilson Comedy was the funniest thing I ever seen. We all never laughed so hard. We didn't care that the weather was so bad in bermuda with its 40 mile per hour winds and rain and oh yeah, did I mention all excursions cancelled??? But who noticed with so much to do on this beautiful, spacious, vessell that we all plan to go back on in April 2012. The staff was attentive, the food delicious, the rooms clean and spacious, the shows stupendous, what more can we ask for???? ROYAL CARIBBEAN you are the best and we can never ever think of travelling any other cruise line again. We are your adoring fans forever! DELicious with a wide variety of everything! Clean and spacious SO MUCH TO DO AND EVERYTHING WAS GREAT DUE TO BAD WEATHER ALL EXCURSIONS WERE CANCELLED

Read More

By Barb_CR

  • New

Apr 25, 2010

Bermuda

Ship was loaded with young teens running all over the ship, up and down the elevators, runing into people. There was no control what so ever. When purchasing alcohol to take home. REMEMBER, It's not how many you purchased on the ship and not how many you purchased on the islands but the amount you bring off the ship. The pursers desk told me I could be duty free on 3 bottles from the island and 2 bottles from the ship. (WRONG), I over heard

1 liquor store attendent tell someone that after the allotted amount of bottles, it was 60 cents per bottle for duty. (WRONG) I personally asked another attendant and he told me about .90 cents max. (WRONG). We ended up paying $3.00 per bottle after 1 bottle per person. The food was good, not as great as it used to be, but still good. Stateroom was the same, wonderful service as always, those guys deserve every bit of their tip and more. somewhat poor. We had cold, windy weather on the pool deck and could not enjoy any pool deck activities or even the pool) The days at sea, there were not many interesting activities. The best activities were at night with the shows and games that were held in the lounges. If you want to go on excursions in Nassau, make sure you book on-line before you go. The very first day of the cruise, 2 of the sightseeing excursions that we were interested in were sold out already. (Sea and See tour, and Island tour) This made for a very dissapointing day. Unless you can trust the local taxi's to take you on a tour. Forget most water activites unless you don't mind cold water. Was somewhat dissapointed, weather was too cool for this time of year, cannot enjoy pool area. Too many boring days at sea (cannot enjoy the pool deck due to the wind and cold air) Bermuda - could not enjoy swimming (water too cold) Bahamas, air was warm, water was still too cool. Too many kids running amuck on the ship with no control. THIS CRUISE SHOULD BE LEFT FOR THE SUMMER MONTHS.

Read More
  • New

Aug 17, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

This cruise was really fun! (I'm a 12 year old girl) The ship had so many things to do, our cruise director, Dave, was really funny. We went to all of the shows, all of which were great exept for one singers and dancers show, where there were extremely bad wigs and costumes, and it wasn't very exciting. Besides that, there were funny comedians, talented singers, great dancers, a fantastic and funny juggler, and a really funny impressionest! Also

every day when you got back from dinner there would be a cruise compass on your bed full of the next days activities, and your towels would be folded up into really cute animals! I was never bored on the ship! The food was really good. The menu would change every day so you had a different variety to choose from. In the dining room there were 2 Formal Nights, 1 Smart Casual Night, and 6 Casual Nights. If you didn't want to eat in the dining room you could eat in the Windjammer Cafe which was a huge buffet place. I ate breakfast and lunch every day in the Windjammer, although you have the choice if you wanted to eat in the dining room. I had an interior room which was pretty small but I really didn't care. There were 2 twin beds, a bathroom, a chair, lots of mirrors (everywhere you turned there was a mirror). Tons of shelves for storage, a closet, a desk with dresser drawers, a mini fridge, and a safe. I liked the rooms! They were better than what I was expecting because I had read a bunch of reviews about exremely tiny rooms, but they weren't that bad! I loved the onboard activites! I went ice-skating, inline skating, rock climbing, movie theater, shows, game shows, cash prize bingo, bellyflop competition, mini golfing, ping pong, fuseball, shops, cooking demo, towel animal folding, :) there was that and so much more to do!! There were 3 pools, 5 hot tubs, and a soft serve ice cream machine! Yum! My favorite excursion was snorkeling. In Saint Thomas we took a excursion to Trunk Bay in Saint John, and we went snorkeling there. There were so many pretty fish and corals it was such a great experience my whole family loved it! In Bermuda we went to a beach called Horseshoe Bay which was beautiful, turquiose, warm, water with fun, gentle waves. That was my favorite beach! In Puerto Rico it was extremely hot, I just wanted to get back on the ship. The ship left out of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New Jersey, so we just drove there, and we got on the ship pretty quickly! Explorer of the Seas is a great ship for families. They have kids places called Adventure Ocean. The AO staff hosts activites all the time for kids, it's like a day care or a camp so parents can go off and do whatever they want.

Read More
  • New

Jul 1, 2009

Bermuda

This cruise was very disappointing. For the price we were expecting an updated ship (we stayed in a Junior Suite)and a better class of people. It was myself, husband and 2 daughters, ages 3 years and 7 months. We left from Bayonne, NJ which was not very pretty but was easy to park and get on the ship. As soon as we boarded there was a faint stale cigarette smell covered up by lysol and air fresheners. The ship was very 80's..decorated in gold and

brass with lots of mirrors and stained carpets that I think were one time a blue, which now has faded to a grey. Our "suite" as they call it was roomy for a cruise ship but extremely run down. The carpets were torn and the outside balcony had actual holes in it plugged up with what looked like silly puddy. We had to practically run down our stateroom attendant to get us a pack and play that should have been set up already. I tried to put my daughters baby food in the mini fridge but was told that it was just to "chill" things. So I had to constantly make sure we had a sufficient ice supply so it would not go bad. Again, having to track down the attendant for it. You think with them stressing the "tips" he would have made sure we had it. Please make sure that you are well aware that it is VERY ROUGH SEAS when you leave from NYC. Apparently the people who worked on the ship knew it because they kept telling me that it is never smooth sailing to Bermuda. That night was 15ft waves and gail force winds. I have cruised several times in the Caribbean and have never experienced rocking like that. It was quite scary. We booked a train car ride excursion and could not go because of the rain. They still ran the excursion and when I asked for a refund because I could not bring my 7 month old out in that weather they refused. People are permitted to smoke on board which I found disgusting and the grade of people on this ship ranged from poor to scary. People were actually sitting in the corner with drool coming out of their mouths. In all, terrible experience. It reminded me of a Sheraton and for the price you would think it was the Four Season's. Never again. Next time we will just stay at a Four Season's. At least you know what to expect!

Read More
  • New

Oct 22, 2008

Bermuda

Leaving from Bayonne, NJ is very interesting. If you drive to the port you prepay for parking, very savy. The bus ride to the ship after getting your seapass leaves a bit to be desired. However the sail out from Bayonne through the harbor is stunning with the Statute of Liberty in the foreground and the great city of New York over her shoulder. The ship is large but very nice you don't feel lost. It has a charm once you learn to negotiate the various

floors. The cruise is pretty straight forward 2 days at sea sandwiched with 2 days at Kings Wharf in the island country of Bermuda. Excellent value for the money. We had a great time. The food was a little below par. We have sailed with Royal Caribbean many times and as a group we were mystified as to the lack of effort from the kitchen. There was little or no imagination with the meals. The desserts were abysmal. Don't get me wrong the food was palatable just not what we expected from Royal Caribbean. One example was the Creme Bruele, it came out like vanilla pudding. the Breakfasts and lunches in the main dining room were very good. I went to the Windjammer twice and was pleased with the selections. We had a balcony on the 9th deck very nice and the Stateroom attendant Laura was a sweetheart. She couldn't do enough for you. Bravo! Typical Royal Caribbean fare lots of fun. The ship should be commended for their entertainers especially the singers on the Royal troupe FANTASTIC! We had a comedian/juggler that was out of this world. In Bermuda the excursions are what they are, remember that they pull the sidewalks in at 5pm in Hamilton. Try all the excursions and enjoy the pink sand. Overall the trip was a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. I could sail with the Explorer again only because of convienience (living in the metro area), the food needs attention it is hard to believe that this is the sister ship to the Mariner of the Seas. the food and waitstaff are 100 times better.

Read More
  • New

Oct 16, 2008

Bermuda

This was my 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean, and the last time I cruised with them was in 1999. My last four cruises on large ships were on Holland America, but I wanted a change and Royal Caribbean had the right combination of a cruise on The Explorer of the Seas and Bermuda. I wanted to try one of the mega ships and the ship had good reviews. Bermuda was also a new destination for me. Overall, the food was good. The Windjammer had a large

variety of foods and food stations so even the pickiest eater should be able to find something to eat. They have a good stir fry station in the back of the Windjammer. Finding a table to eat the food at was a bigger problem at peak times. The dining room food was good, but there were areas that could be improved. For example, the shrimp cocktails were served on lettuce and the shrimp were limp. Johnny Rockets is a fun experience, though lines can be long to get in and there is an extra charge. My inside cabin was small, but it was nicely decorated with plenty of storage space. The colors were peach and green. I liked the wraparound plastic shower door which is so much better than a shower curtain. There is a generic liquid soap dispenser in the shower, but small bars of soap are also provided. There are ample towels, including two beach size towels to use on a deck chair. There are many channels on the TV and movies are available for a charge. The only negative is that there was no room to walk on either side of the queen-sized bed, so I had to crawl in and out from the end. The mattress and bedding were very nice and comfortable. There was also a couch and a stocked refrigerator in the cabin. My cabin was on Deck 10 and was very quiet. The entertainment was typical cruise line entertainment. The best show is the ice spectacular which was called Spirits of the Season. Tickets are required and can be picked up the first night of the cruise. The ship docks at the Dockyard which is the old Royal Navy Dockyard built for the British Navy between 1814-1863. It is now a tourist attraction and has a shopping mall and a rum cake store and glassworks. There is a lot to do at the Dockyard if one is not inclined to visit the beaches, Hamilton or St. George. There is also a maritime museum, a craft market, and a small snorkel park and beach. For those who want to go the beaches, Hamilton or St. George, the ship docks close to where buses and ferries leave for these destinations. A day pass can be purchased on board or on the dock. The buses and ferries are a very good way to see this island chain. The cruise itself was very good even though the weather wasn't. We had cold, rain, wind, fog and rough seas. The Explorer of the Seas is an older ship, but it is well-maintained and very beautiful with an Art Deco feel to it. The public rooms are very appealing. Most of the ship is non-smoking which is good with 3500 people onboard. This ship usually sails full so people who don't like crowds should take this under consideration. There were problems getting elevators. Most of the passengers are Americans from Eastern states like New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania who can drive to the port. The only real negatives for me were flying into New Jersey, the delays at the airport waiting for transfers to the ship, and the check-in procedures. Royal Caribbean's transfer service going back to the airport was even worse. I liked this ship, but I would not sail out of New Jersey again. The ship docks at the Dockyard which is the old Royal Navy Dockyard built for the British Navy between 1814-1863. It is now a tourist attraction and has a shopping mall and a rum cake store and glassworks. There is a lot to do at the Dockyard if one is not inclined to visit the beaches, Hamilton or St. George. There is also a maritime museum, a craft market, and a small snorkel park and beach. For those who want to go the the beaches, Hamilton or St. George, the ship docks close to where buses and ferries leave for these destinations. A day pass can be purchased on board or on the dock. The buses and ferries are a very good way to see this island chain. The cruise itself was very good even though the weather wasn't. We had cold, rain, wind, fog and rough seas. The Explorer of the Seas is an older ship, but it is well-maintained and very beautiful with an Art Deco feel to it. The public rooms are very appealing. Most of the ship is non-smoking which is good with 3500 people onboard. This ship usually sails full so people who don't like crowds should take this under consideration. There were problems getting elevators. Most of the passengers are Americans from Eastern states like New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania who can drive to the port. The only real negatives for me were flying into New Jersey, the delays at the airport waiting for transfers to the ship, and the check-in procedures. Royal Caribbean's transfer service going back to the airport was even worse. I liked this ship, but I would not sail out of New Jersey again.

Read More
  • New

Jan 14, 2007

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Western Caribbean Dale Martin Just returned yesterday from 7 days on the Explorer out of Miami to the Western Caribbean itinerary. There were 3 couples, 2 were 1st time cruisers,1 was their 2nd cruise. All of us are mid thirties to early forties age group. We all are what I would call middle class "working Joe" type people with kids. We all work long hard hours.

None of us are the type who regularly dine at 5 star restaurants, go to the opera or take yearly vacations to exotic locations, it simply is not an option at this stage of our lives. At the same time we are not totally uncivilized hicks who think KFC is fine dining. Not trying to step on anyone's toes, just trying to give some background on our perspective. Of course, this being the 1st cruise for my wife and I, we have no personal basis of comparison. I will say that I spent many hours on this and other sites researching and reading reviews before choosing this ship. I have read the good and bad reports on all the major lines. We flew from Philadelphia to Miami the morning of the cruise. Our transfers had been purchased as part of the cruise and went pretty well, I would definitely recommend for a 1'st time cruiser if you are flying to the departure port. One piece of luggage was missing at Miami and after checking with the baggage claim people we were informed that it was still in Philly. They promised us it would get put on the next flight and make it to the ship before departure. I was skeptical but sure enough, it was delivered to our stateroom before the evening meal. I must give kudos to American Airlines and RC for "getting err done". Also this is a good reason to get an early enough flight to allow some "flex" time in case things go wrong. I suppose flying in the night before would be an even better idea but we were trying to keep cost down. Also mom's with young children for some reason don't want to be away from their "babies" an extra night! The whole transfer and boarding process goes smoothly if you follow instructions and have your paperwork in hand. You get your personal Sea Pass card that is used for all purchases on the ship, opens your room door, and serves as your ID for getting on and off the ship at ports. I left my wallet and all it's contents in the stateroom safe all week. We would take only the spending cash we wanted for each day on land. Leave your wallet, purse, credit cards etc on the boat and carry your daily supply of cash in a fanny pack or backpack when you go ashore, most of the shops only want cash anyway. If you are going on an excursion where you will drive a jeep or dune buggy you will need your drivers license. The ship itself is beautiful. Most public areas are stunning. The Royal Promenade down the center of deck 5 is the best way to get from one end of the ship to the other on the lower levels. The atriums at both ends of the Promenade are gorgeous with their spiral staircases and breathtaking vertical views. There are so many neat places to discover on this ship that the last day we were still finding things we had missed. One example is the Peek-a-Boo Bridge on deck eleven I think) Here you can walk to the front of the ship and look down through windows into the main control center of the bridge. They also have monitors that show the current location of the ship, the course it is on, heading, wind speed, knots etc. Another neat area is the bow of the ship. This is on deck 5 but you need to access it from the outside deck on level 4. Go toward the front of the ship and you will need to go up a flight of stairs to access the helipad. You can actually go to the forward tip of the bow and have your "Titanic" moment! This area may not always be open due to the constant wind when the ship is moving, if the winds get too strong they block access to the stairs. I could cover a lot of other areas but these are a few that were hardly mentioned in other reviews I read and I wanted to provide some new insights. I will now give my opinion of the good and bad of each major aspect of the cruise. Keep in mind my background and relative lack of cruise experience. Staterooms We all had the low cost interior rooms at the very front of level 6. They are nicely appointed, The beds are comfortable, the bathroom is big enough for 1 to do what you need to do. The round showers look small but aren't bad at all when using them. If you are over 300 lbs it might be pretty snug. I have 2 complaints 1. To get onto the bed you actually have to crawl onto it from the foot end. There is about 12-14' between the bed and the wall on each side but at the bottom corners of the bed the room furnishings interfere so you have to crawl over the corner of the bed to get out. This is a real pain when you are trying to go the bathroom at 3am it the pitch dark without waking your bedmate. This may be unique to this class of stateroom. #6209 2. Although there was always hot water available, the shower pressure could get pretty low when half the 3200 people on board were trying to shower at the same time. Food I would say the food overall is 8.5 out of 10. For the money spent not bad at all. When you consider the capacity on this ship they do an amazing job in my opinion. If you want 5 star dining 3 meals a day you would be foolish to expect it for $699 for a 7 day cruise. I personally am not a picky eater but I know the difference between average-good-excellent food. Unless your #1 obsession is gourmet food I would think you would be happy with the Explorer's dining. The food presentation for the evening meals in the dining rooms was great. Everything looking tasty goes a long way. The food taste overall was very good. Nothing I had was the best I have ever eaten of that particular dish but everything was very good. The meat always was done as ordered. My wife was the only one to send a meal back all week and that was a chicken dish that was too spicy for her taste, no fault of the chef. The key is they cheerfully exchanged it for something else from the menu.The food on the buffet lines was good too. I would compare it to what you would expect on a $12-$15 buffet line in most parts of the country. Again, you can't expect gourmet on a buffet feeding 3000 people! Unless you are a food snob you will find something you like. Good points 1. Johnny Rockets serves up great cholesterol laden burgers, fries and onion rings if you get tired of the healthy free food on the ship.$3.95 cover charge and shakes are extra. 2.The Promenade Cafe has fresh made pizza, sandwiches and cookies at all hours for free. The chocolate chip cookies were excellent and the pizza is pretty good too. If you bring kids they will love this place and I was shocked We didn't see more kids there. 3. While we are not big drinkers the few drinks we had were good, at least the tropical drinks. They don't know how to make a good mud slide though! Bad 1. We got the soft drink card for my wife. She is a Pepsi drinker but only Coke products on the ship. She got the card anyway because she can drink good fountain Coke. The problem is the quality was very inconsistent throughout the ship and most of the Coke was flat, watered down or syrupy sweet. The dining room had the best and it was only so-so. 2. The coffee is pretty much the same deal. They claim to serve Seattle's Best across the ship but it is very inconsistent, again the best is in the dining room. The best was just good, the worst was fair-poor and I am not a coffee snob by any means. 3.As a whole I wasn't impressed with the deserts. I am basically a pie and ice cream guy and not much for the boo-boo deserts but some of them were tasty enough. This was not a big deal, the desert is at the bottom of my meal priorities list. Service Good 1.As a whole, everyone from the room steward to the waiters and customer service desk people were very friendly and aim to please. We had no major issues and the few we had were dealt with at least competently and courteously. I did overhear 2 middle aged men down the hall complaining to each other, something about the group they were with not being able to find personalized service anywhere on the ship and they would be writing some letters when they got home. I didn't ask them for details on what they were upset about because frankly they didn't remind me of my kind of people anyway. I shared this with the others at dinner that evening and to a person they replied " what cruise are they on?" In my experience in sales and dealing with people on a service level I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain small segment of any class or group of people who want nothing more out of life than to find something to be mad off about and no amount of  kissing up will appease them! If this is you please find a "high class" expensive cruise line and leave Royal Caribbean to us common folk who appreciate good service at a fair price without throwing a "hissy fit" if everything isn't perfect. Enough said! Bad 1.For some strange reason my wife would often get diet coke when ordering regular coke. This happened everywhere but the dining room. As the week progressed we learned to make eye contact with the server, emphatically say "regular coke, not diet", have them repeat it back to you to be sure they got it and then proceed to get her a diet coke anyway about half the time! This was so ridiculous we had to laugh about it and will be a joke among our group for years, I'm sure. Maybe I should write a hot letter to Royal Caribbean!!! Just kidding!! 2. If I wanted to nit pick, the bar steward at the evening meal was a little bit of a vulture. After anyone at your table orders a drink with dinner 1 time he will think you are money in the bank the rest of the week. This was especially true of the after dinner shot-sized "nightly specials". He would come around saying "tonight I have something (nice-nice) for the ladies" and proceed to try to put it in front of you if you showed even the least interest, before even knowing what the drink was. This was slightly over the top in my opinion but you just have to be firm he would move on to greener pastures. Those little after dinner shots were good the one time we tried them but at $5.95 for a drink that was about 1.5 oz of Baileys or Kaluha they were a little steep for our budget. The ship Good 1.The ship was very nice and kept remarkably clean for the amount of people. I never saw a disgusting bathroom, which is usually the first thing to go downhill in any public place. Almost half the time I used a public facility on the ship there was an attendant cleaning it or we passed each other coming or going, impressive! This is my biggest pet peeve. I have been at many a supposedly classy establishment that had serious issues in their lavatories. If they can keep heavily used restrooms in tip-top shape it bodes well for the kitchen and other areas as well. I didn't see anything on the ship that looked in disrepair. Maybe a few scuffs on trim work in the stateroom corridors but who really cares about that? Certainly not anyone with kids in their house! They have hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance to all eating areas and enforce their use, which may offend a few, but I say "bravo". 2.The ship seems well laid out and you soon learn to detour high traffic areas. Even on at sea days you can find areas that are almost deserted if you look a little bit. Try the library, the bow, the peek-a-boo bridge, the outside spaces on deck 4,the sun deck on deck 13. 3.The fitness center "shipshape" is a very well equipped gym with lots of modern equipment and a nice whirlpool. I was sorry I only checked it out thoroughly on our last full day. Bad 1.As others have stated, deck chairs tend to get scarce on at sea days. However I noticed that if you are willing to be away from the pool you can find relative solitude and abundant chairs on higher decks. 2.Disembarking at tender ports can feel a little like a cattle stampede. This was worst at Grand Cayman where the line snaked through the ship to disembark. There were a few line jumpers but overall a little patience went a long way. Once the line moved it went fast. Shore Excursions Good 1. The Dolphin swim and snorkel at Cozumel was the highlight. This is the $144 excursion if booked through Cry's it is expensive but in this case you get what you pay for. If you are not into dolphins or are terrified of water do something else. If you are going to pay for a "dolphin encounter" of which there are several, pay top dollar and do the one where you actually get to swim with a dolphin. Read the description carefully, most don't let you do this, you only get to touch them! The facility where this is done in Cozumel is top notch and professional. It is actually a national park. They video and photograph you with the dolphins and then if you wish you can buy a surprisingly high quality DVD of the whole thing which they let you preview before buying. We split the cost of the DVD between the 3 couples and will make copies to share. There is a nice beach area right next to the dolphins where you can snorkel and use the beach chairs and thatch roof umbrella huts. A waiter will come out and take your order for tasty Mexican food and you can eat it on the beach or go into the restaurant to eat. Very nice! Note, the food is not part of the package. I give it a solid A. 2.In Grand Cayman we did stingray,snorkeling,beach barbeque combo. While not as professional and special as the dolphins it was pretty good. We were a little late tendering in and then the tour was slightly disorganized getting started. Once underway it went well considering the boat was packed to capacity and our time at the rays and the reef was cut a little short due to starting late. The reef was nice with some pretty fish and a tame baby nurse shark that all the boats apparently feed. They then took us to a private hotel beach for the lunch which was burgers, dogs, baked beans and barbeque chicken. Decent but pretty American. You also got 1 free rum punch. The beach was pretty but packed solid almost to waters edge with rows of beach chairs. I give the whole thing a B-. Bad 1.In Belize we did river tubing and Mayan ruins. This was not all bad, just overpriced and not what they advertise. The tubing is OK. Getting to and from the river You walk from the bus through some very nice lush jungle where the guide does show you some interesting plants and trees. Then you ride from a staging area through an orange grove to the river behind a tractor. You can pick and eat oranges right from the tree, which is nice. When you get out of the river from tubing you walk through the "Mayan Ruins" whack is basically a small hill with the remains of a stone wall and another slightly excavated wall. Not much at all to see and definitely not what people were expecting. You ride back to the staging area and get a meal of rice and beans with barbequed chicken which was the best on shore meal we had, very tasty! Also ,they word the description of this excursion to make you believe you will see a waterfall. In fact it only states the river is fed by a waterfall not that you get to see it. This was a nice relaxing 45 minute tube float, all the oranges from the tree you can eat, a nice tasty lunch, a short jungle walk and a 1 hour bus ride each way, and the guide was funny and informative. No waterfall, crappy excuse for Mayan Ruins, not worth more than half what it cost. This is the one thing I may complain to RC about. It is really false advertising on their part! Give it a D for poor value. In Costa Maya we did the jeep excursion and beach lunch. This was basically a 1 hour drive up paved highway till the last 5 miles then a very rough dirt path through the scrub brush to a nice little private beach area. You get there, they serve you chips and salsa,tachos and soda and then you get to "relax" on a nice little secluded beach for about 10 or 15 minutes and then it is time to hop back in the jeeps and drive back to town so they can get their 2nd and 3rd group of suckers in before all the cruise ships sail off! Don't get me wrong we had fun, but 1 more hour at that beach would have made a big difference in my attitude about this tour. Also they advertise that "time permitting" they will show you an old fishing village. Yea right! Maybe if everyone drives 90MPH and you skip your lunch and potty break! Needless to say we didn't have "time" for the fishing village. Not a total bust but not worth the money and a little misleading. I give it a C- I would raise it to a B- if the would lengthen the trip by at least an hour. In summary, shore excursions are generally hit or miss and most are overpriced. Do you homework and read "between the lines" a little. If it sounds like they are trying to show you the 7 wonders of the world in a few hours you are going to be rushed. If you try to see a little bit of everything you end up seeing not much of anything!  Pick 1 or 2 things that you most want to see or do and then pick a tour that will give you enough time to do it right. If I were to cruise again I would look into booking things on my own. Many things can be bought on shore for 1/2 to 2/3 what RC charges and you can bargain directly with the tour operator. Just use common sense like anything else in life. Most of the professional operators are on the web if you do your homework. Well I have gone on too long. Overall this was a great vacation and the cruise itself was great for the money spent. I would try Eastern Caribbean next time to see new ports and probably not waste money on an excursion at every port. A trip is what you make it and a trip with good friends builds memories that will last a lifetime.Dont expect perfection in everything and everyone. Roll with the punches and laugh about the things that will be trivial tomorrow. 10 years from now we will still joke about Diet Coke, Mayan Ruins and our 15 minutes of relaxation at that pretty Mexican beach. At least we can say "been there-done that" instead of looking at somebody else's pictures! In summary, yes I would cruise with Royal Caribbean again and on this ship again. They did nothing to make me want to look elsewhere, especially after reading some other's horror stories. Perfect? Of course not. Would I do a few things different next time? Definitely Satisfied? Without a doubt!      

Read More
  • New

Oct 1, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Bermuda Scott Wuest My wife and I just completed our second cruise. Both have been with Royal Caribbean the first was on the Splendor of the Seas and this one was on Explorer of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has treated us well. This cruise was booked entirely through the Royal Caribbean web site. We arrived in New Jersey on Saturday evening for the Sunday afternoon cruise,

driving from western Ohio. We stayed at the Holland Motor Lodge (low cost, convenient, and safe) in Jersey City (about 5 miles north of Cape Liberty in Bayonne). On Saturday evening we went to the World Trade Center site and Sunday morning to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The weather (one of the most important things) was cloudy and at times rainy throughout the time we were in New Jersey until about the time we got on the ship. It miraculously cleared up and we had sun and 70's for Monday at sea. Tuesday was sunny and 80's for the first day on Bermuda (very pleasant). Wednesday was cloudy and windy, but warm in the 80's. It did not rain, just cloudy. Thursday back at sea was sunny until late in the afternoon and warm again 70's and 80's. Friday on arrival back in New Jersey it was cloudy and cool. I know the weather changes rapidly, but I looked through all of the reviews to find something about the weather and found no mention. On Sunday we arrived at the port at about 1pm. The ship is magnificent. The hardest part was parking the car. Their parking facilities are not the greatest, but seemed to have been safe. We took cash and parked for $75 for the 5 day cruise. The porters were prompt (maybe a little too much, but this has been true at both ports we have used). We were aboard, including the bus ride from the terminal to the ship, within 30 minutes. We dropped our carry-ons in cabin 8336 (superior ocean view) and headed to the Windjammer. The superior ocean view was a D2 at 188 square feet. This cabin was more than big enough for 2. With as little time as we spent in the room it wouldn’t have mattered much. I did enjoy sleeping with the door to the balcony open and listening to the ocean as I tried to get to sleep. During time in the room , if we spent time it was on the balcony. I highly recommend balcony cabins. The cabin was kept very clean with service twice a day and the bedding was very comfortable. They changed all the bedding while we were in Bermuda and I only question white comforters (are they crazy?). Towel animals nightly. We found the Windjammer to have very good food with a good variety. We had all breakfasts and lunches there throughout the cruise and one dinner. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries at lunch and dinner. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for having Crispy Crowns (hash browns) for every breakfast. The remainder of dinners were in the main dining room. The food there was very good as well. After lunch on the first day we explored the public areas of the ship. We were able to visit all of them within a few hours. Some of the other reviews mention that the ship is to big to explore, but we did not find this to be the case. The Peek-a-Boo Bridge was neat as you could see all the navigation equipment. Forward on deck 12 there is a weather station where you could explore. Down near the Aquarium Bar there are interactive displays including the ships position which were neat. In the Windjammer we never waited more than a few minutes for any of the serving stations with the exception of the fried egg and omelet station in the mornings. There was a shortage of window tables at times, but this is to be expected. Always several good desserts at dinner and lunch. Several nights we went there after dinner in the dining room just to sample all of the desserts (the same dessert and entrees were usually served in both). The dining room had a reasonably good selection every night. We were at table 307 with 6 other cruisers and ended up spending most of our evenings with 4 of them. There was not a bad time when we ate at out assigned table in the dining room. The service could be improved. At times it seemed rather disjointed and took a long time to get our food. One comparison to our previous cruise here, the wait staff did not seem as personable. I really feel this was because the first time we had our children and this time it was just the two of us. The kids seemed to improve the personal-ness of all members of the crew, but this is not a complaint. The service was not bad, just not as personal. The sea days were spent walking on the 1/5th of a mile walking track or lying in the sun (we are both avid walkers and did 5 or more miles every day). One of the other couples we met also suggested walking on deck 4 which goes all the way around the ship with some steps thrown in. Also fun for exercise was the in-line skating track The rock climbing wall was fun as well and if there is not a line (there always was) it could be good exercise. I also did the discover scuba at the pool and this proved to be a great deal of fun. We only caught one of the headline shows, a comedian who was funny and interacted well with the crowd (Tony Daro). We went to "adult Karaoke." This means easy listening tunes. It was not horrible, but not what we expected. We were looking for rock and roll Karaoke. This was held on the last night when everyone was tired and ready to relax. We went hot and heavy with the wonderful bar facilities just about every night. There is no shortage of alcohol, but also very few obnoxious drunks. Every one seemed to have a great deal of fun. We actually stayed on the pool deck (we did not do this on our first cruise) for the midnight party and found every one enjoying themselves with no one causing problems. Bermuda would have been better if there was more time. We did one excursion, the Bermuda Triangle Glass Bottom Boat and Snorkel tour. It was much more enjoyable than the snorkel I did at Costa Maya. After looking through the glass bottom at a ship wreck and reef we were allowed to snorkel on our own for over an hour and then enjoyed free Rum Swizzles on the trip back in. The tour boat docks right across from the ship making it easy to get to. On the second day we rented a scooter (not a recommended activity by the cruise line). This turned out to be fun, but it was easy to see why it could get dangerous very quickly. We saw one accident where a tourist slid in the gravel and ended up with a large road rash on his arms and legs. We also had close encounters with a truck when we came a little wide around a corner and at one point I came around a curve and there was a surveyor in the road and I almost hit another truck. I think next time I would take the public transportation which I understand is very good and significantly less expensive. It also would have been much quicker on the ferry. It took almost an hour to get from Royal Naval Dockyard to Hamilton. It is also quite frightening to look up and realize you are on the wrong side of the road (they drive on the left). I could probably ramble on longer, but I will work on wrapping it up. The ship is magnificent. I can't say enough about how cool this ship is. The service from the staff was above average, but was not as good as our first cruise. On the occasions I used the Purser's desk, I was treated well and they took care of the problems (like the refund for the horrible drink at Seattle's Best). Staff all over the ship was energetic and friendly. Even the maintenance workers would wave and smile. The only real complaint I have was the gentleman working at Seattle's Best in the morning had no idea how to make a frappuccino and used powdered hot chocolate to flavor the mocha drink. I didn't hear a lot of complaints from others on the ship either. Getting off was actually pretty quick once our tag was called. It took quite a while before they started calling the color tags. We docked on time at about 0700 and were off at about 0900. We thoroughly enjoyed the ship and the trip and hope everyone else will too.    

Read More
  • New

Sep 3, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Devon Berry This was a great cruise on Explorer of the seas. This was the 5th cruise I have taken, previously sailed on Grand Princess, Carnival Paradise, NCL Star and NCL Dawn. Explorer is an absolutely beautiful ship with an extremely affable and helpful staff. Take this cruise! Everyone I met, or even overheard talking, on this ship loved the cruise.

I am prefacing the main part of my review with this vignette of sorts to establish in the readers mind that I loved the trip. However, my review below will contain the negatives because I want to help other people avoid any possible pitfalls that I may have fallen into. I am not complaining or being overly fussy. Whenever I write reviews, I undoubtedly get e-mails from people saying they are sorry I did not enjoy my cruise when that was not the case. In my reviews I am either trying to be helpful or funny by pointing out some of the most ridiculous things I noticed on the ship. now. I was not impressed with the size of the ship, in fact, I didn’t think it felt that much bigger than the 90,000 ton ships I have been on. Explorer is fantastic because it is beautiful!!! There is so much interesting architecture and design to this ship it truly was amazing. The layout could not be better either. Bathroom locations were easy, all women’s rooms on the starboard and men’s on the port side and always right above or below each other. This is a direct contrast to some other ships where I felt like my bladder would explode by the time I even saw a toilet. The rooms are small and crappy, but if you go on a mega-cruise ship for the room size you really need to take a pill or something. The bathrooms in the rooms were nice enough for you to do your business and get back to the fun, which is what bathrooms are for. I truly do not understand why so many people muck up their reviews with long winded explanations of bathroom design. The dining rooms were very nice, but nothing over the top. NCL’s restaurants are far superior, but again this should not be a deal breaker. Bar service: The bartenders are Jamaican primarily. All bartenders should be Jamaican. These dudes play the best Reggae music behind the bars which you can hear when you just sit and hang out. This is important because the music at the pool area on every cruise line sucks, except the live bands. If you like sitting and sunning yourself to Uncle Cracker mixed in with a little Backstreet Boys feel free, but not for me. Consequently, the live music was excellent. I have a pet peeve with bars, I hate approaching a bar and waiting patiently until the bar staff finishes their conversation in Mandarin Chinese, which is inevitably about me and how stupid I look with my sunburn and fat gut, until I can order my drink. This is usually the case on other cruises, at least at one time or another. On this ship that never happened. Very attentive and entertaining bartenders overall! Dining service: I overheard many people on this cruise claiming that they had the best waiter they have ever experienced on this ship. Sadly, that was not the case for my wife and I. On the first evening we approached our lovely table for two and our waiter appeared. His name tag had 700 letters, only 2 of which were vowels, and supposedly spelled out his name. When he spoke I wondered if we were placed at the English as a second language seating and looked around for the candid camera crew, but to no avail. He asked us to call him boon sac. Boon sac? How could you not laugh at this? At least we though that was what he asked us to call him, so we didn’t ever really address him by name. Our assistant waiter, Max, was terrific. What is it with the cruise lines that the assistant waiters are often better than the waiters anyway? Does anyone else share this feeling? Anyhow, Boon sac was fine and we dined with him almost every night, it was even kind of fun to watch the perplexed look on each other’s face when he attempted to describe the dishes on the menu. Portofino’s was booked by the time the ship docked from the previous cruise evidently, so we were unable to try it, typical NY/NJ crowd. Johnny Rocket’s was cool. Whenever it rains on your days at sea, I suggest running to Johnny Rocket’s when everyone else is racing to the buffets. We were seated in 2 minutes and had pretty good burgers and fries. The only downside is that they only have flat Budweiser on tap there. Dining on deck is really not an option for you on the Explorer. Evidently RCI thinks that since they built the biggest ship in the world that people don’t want to scurry outside with their lunch and eat on deck, well they are wrong. The problem with this is that there is no deck staff to clean up after people if they chose to take their food outside. Also, there is a paucity of tables and chairs outside at which one could eat. In contrast, on NCL ships there are cocktail tables, numerous tables for two on deck and many deckhands to clear away the fallout. To RCI’s credit, their deck does stay much neater and cleaner without 3000 people eating and leaving napkins and forks all about. But it is nice to have the choice, especially on sunny sea days. This is another reason Johnny Rockets is great, outside seating is available for only about 30 people, but they turnover quickly. Bermuda: Buy the Frommer’s guide to Bermuda! That’s the best advice I can give. Its 15 bucks and it will be the only thing even related to Bermuda that you can pick up for 15 bucks. It is somewhat expensive. The best thing to know is that the ship docks on the very end of Bermuda and you have to take a cab or the ferry to actually get anywhere of inertest on Bermuda. The cab is 50 bucks to Hamilton. The ferry is 4 bucks to Hamilton and takes 45 minutes, even shorter than the cab ride if you ask me. Just follow the guide and pick things which suit your taste. My wife and I enjoyed a fabulous beach front lunch at Mickey’s on Elbow Beach, and one of the best meals of my life at Coconuts at the Reefs hotel. The beaches are all beautiful. Get to the beaches early if you want to rent chairs or umbrellas. The cleanliness of the ship: This deserves its own category as it is very important. This ship gets 5 stars on cleanliness. You couldn’t find a mess if the trash-heap from Fraggle Rock checked-in to the room next to yours. The carpets look new and this ship is 6 years old now! We were both truly amazed. No dust, no stains, no nothing anywhere. Very clean. As I said before, the deck is very clean and there were people out and about cleaning and fixing things everyday. This crew takes pride in their ship and it shows! I really cannot say enough about how clean we thought this mega-ship was, but I already have. Going the extra mile: The staff really wants you to have a great cruise. I cant believe I am saying this but its true. If you are not having a great time on this cruise you should either get another drink or go to a friends of Bill W. meeting. The parade on the first night on the promenade is fantastic. The night of the captains dinner is awesome, the captain is a really cool guy who is actually funny! We had a blast. One night we sat next to a table with a special request for the Maitre’d. There was a young girl who wanted chicken parmesan and it was not on the menu. The Maitre’d immediately got on his phone to Portofino’s and ordered it for her. Then they delivered it to her and HE ACTUALLY FED HER! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Special requests on a 3500 person ship? Believe me, they aim to please you. Do not miss the cruise wrap up video at the end of the cruise. My wife and I thought we saw everything on this cruise, then we sat for the video and realized that we missed more than half of the activities. There is a bunch to do for all ages!!! Obviously I can't include everything in this review. Please feel free to e-mail me any questions at [email protected]    

Read More
  • New

Aug 25, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Noreen Chin The Cruise The Explorer Itinerary is as follows: Friday – Leave from Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne New Jersey Saturday – At Sea Sunday – At Sea Monday – St Thomas Tuesday – St Maarten Wednesday – Puerto Rico Thursday - Labadee Friday – At Sea Saturday – At Sea Sunday - Return to Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne New

Jersey Transportation We live Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) so can just drive down to Bayonne for the cruise and park at the pier. Excursions St Thomas – Coral Land and Coral Sea for $52 each for a total of $104. This is through Royal Caribbean and was booked online. We booked the following excursion: St Martin – Island tour for $23 each for a total of $46. This is through Royal Caribbean and was booked online. Once we arrived at the port, we were able to pull in to unload our big pile of luggage. We gave the porter $10. We got through security quickly. The agents were set up to check you in by deck and there was no wait at all. We inquired about upgrades and were told the ship is full. We were handed information about boarding that stated that the luggage might take until 9:30pm for delivery. We went through the line for Sea Pass and Boarding Photos which took about 10 minutes. We were able to get right onto a shuttle, then right onto the ship. The longest wait of the embarkation process was waiting for Paul to go around and park after we dropped off the luggage with the porters. It was probably about 1 ½ hours total from the time we first arrived at the pier. At about 2:30pm we were on board and found our stateroom to drop our tote bag and wheeled carryon that we brought onto the ship. We are in cabin #8224 which is on deck 8, near the front, a D2 Balcony. The balcony is very nice. The safe was locked so we had to call maintenance to get it opened. The room is bigger than the promenade room I had on the Mariner in March. I was a bit worried if we would have room for our entire batch of luggage once it arrives. We went up to the Windjammer for a late lunch around 3pm. There wasn’t much for me to eat. I had some French fries and green beans. Paul found a lot to eat (chicken, meat, etc). I was a bit disappointed that there was not much of the food art on the “Welcome Buffet” centerpiece. The ship is very much like the Mariner. There are small differences here and there but otherwise it’s pretty much the same. We stopped back at our room around 4pm and all of our luggage has arrived. I started unpacking. Our steward (I didn’t catch his name) stopped by to introduce himself and drop off our shore excursion tickets we preordered on the internet. I asked him if he could empty the mini bar/refrigerator when he had a chance, about the locked safe, and also about the metal shelf in the shower that I noticed was dangling (it needed a screw to be fixed). He said he’d call maintenance for the safe, he’d take care of the mini bar, and would call in the shower shelf problem. 4:30pm was the Muster drill in the Maharajas Lounged. It was packed in there. It lasted until about 5pm and was very crowded trying to leave when the Muster Drill ended. We started sailing away while we were in the Muster Drill. 5pm We went back to our room to watch the sail away from our balcony. I finished unpacking. I was shocked because I was able to find space for everything and we both are big over-packers. The suitcases/bags all fit under the bed. Around 5:45pm maintenance came about the safe and fixed it He also looked at the metal shower shelf, tightened the screw a little and said he would tell someone else about that. I was debating whether or not to get the soda card. I don’t really like fountain soda so didn’t know if I would really get much use out of it. I decided against it after all. 6pm we went to dinner. Most of the people were very casually dressed with lots of Tshirts and shorts. Since many people may not have gotten their luggage yet, it’s understandable. Everyone at our table was from the Tri-State area. Our wait staff was very nice but slow. It was our assistant waiters first day. He probably needs a little time to get used to the routine. Our tablemates are very nice. Karen also likes Disney so we chatted about that for a while. 8pm We went to the Welcome Aboard show which was a variety show. It started off with a video that introduced people which I thought was a bit odd. The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers performed. The cruise Director (Ashley) spoke. A dance team (a man and woman) performed. They were very bendy. A comedian came on for a bit. There was only one Welcome Aboard show tonight so it was pretty crowded. 9pm We walked all around the ship. We looked at the excursion brochure for Puerto Rico since we don’t have anything booked there yet. We found out that the tram in St Thomas runs until 8pm so we may be able to do that after the Coral Land and Coral Sea excursion. 10:30pm We stopped at the Promenade café for a little pizza snack. The promenade was getting crowded since the parade was starting at 11:15. We didn’t stay for the parade. It was too crowded and not our thing. I enjoyed watching it when I had the promenade room on the Mariner and watched it from the window. 11pm – We stopped back in our room and hung out on the balcony. We received our Crown and Anchor coupon booklets while we were out. The mini bar has not been emptied yet and the shower shelf still had not been fixed. Saturday 8/26/06 – At Sea 11am was our Informal Cruise Critic get together at the 19th Hole lounge. This was fun and I was able to meet some of the people that I’ve been chatting with on the roll call. It wasn’t a huge turnout but we had about 10 people there. After Bingo around 4:45 we went back to the Casino. We both played Let it Ride at the table. Then I played some slots and Paul played some blackjack. Appetizers – I had the escargot which I didn’t like so gave them to Paul; Paul had the shrimp cocktail Salad – I had a Caesar salad; Paul skipped the salad Entrée – I had the mushroom linguine Alfredo which was very good; Paul had the Sea Bass but he didn’t like it and said it was too dry so he sent it back and had Duck. Dessert – I had the Grand Marnier soufflé; Paul had raspberry sherbet. The Maitre D stopped by and talked up the Cherries Jubilee dessert. A few people at our table ordered it but were disappointed when it came because it was just cherries on a plate with a scoop of ice cream. We stayed in our formal outfits for the evening. We didn’t see many tuxes – maybe one or two. We wanted to take a peek at the dinner offerings in the Windjammer just because we’ve never done dinner there. We wandered through. They had most of the entrees from the dining room available (but no Grand Marnier soufflé). The Jade section had sushi so Paul took a few pieces. 9pm Showtime. There were various songs from different Broadway shows. Paul fell asleep during the show. We went to the Chamber after and there was hardly anyone dancing. They weren’t playing good music. We walked through the promenade. Sunday 8/27/06 – At Sea We had a late breakfast in the Windjammer, and then we headed to the Casino. Paul found a cute 5 cent slot machine called Fortune Cookie. He usually likes playing much higher stakes but this machine was adorable and I liked it too. When you hit a certain combination, you got to choose dishes from a menu and the guy taking the order made funny jokes and you get extra money depending on your choices. We played this for a pretty long time. 1pm We went to the Official Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle in Portofinos. There was a huge turnout. They raffled off dinner for two at Portofinos and a RCCL Aqua Mouse. We were all given little pouches with pads and a pen. They took a group photo. I was able to hang out with several cruise critic members. 1:30 Paul left the Meet & Mingle so he could be in the slot tournament. When the Meet & Mingle wrapped up I went down to the casino to find him. It was good timing, as it was his round when I showed up. He didn’t make it t the finals. There isn’t any skill required for the slot machine tournament; you just keep slapping the button. It’s the luck of the machine. It was packed. We went down to dinner. Appetizers – I had the focaccia; Paul had somasa (a curry puff pastry) Salad – I skipped the salad tonight; Paul had a regular salad Entrée – I had the Farfalle with peas in a cream sauce; Paul had Angus Steak and Thai Shrimp Dessert – I had coconut parfait; Paul had cappuccino layer cake. 9pm Was Showtime. “John Joseph with Johnny B”. This was a very good show. It was a comedian and a sidekick. They also sang and played music. It lasted until about 10pm and the hour went by really quickly. 10:30pm We went to Battle of the Sexes. We entered Studio B and were separated girls against the boys. This was very cute. There were main teams of 6 boys and 6 girls who were already chosen (they must have gotten there early). There were trivia challenges like Family Feud with audience participation. There were also physical challenges like hula hooping, relay running with a balloon in your legs, musical chairs, etc. It was hysterical. There were also dance challenges where the audience danced in their seats for points. The men won. We still haven’t received any towel animals. Monday 8/28/06 – St Thomas We aren’t arriving in St Thomas until 1pm. 10am I went to the Port talk. It was all about buying jewelry. One guy asked a question about beaches. The woman had no clue about beaches so he left. I asked to confirm that the Guavaberry store would deliver purchases to the ship – again she had no clue. These talks would be more informative if they covered more than just shopping and trying to get you to buy their coupon book. 11:15 I went to the Screening Room to see “Hidden Depths”. There were only four people there – me and three other woman. One girl shared with all of us that she was on her honeymoon and was already fighting with her husband over where the Compasses are and other trivial matters. Sounds like a great start (I’m being sarcastic). I didn’t stay for the whole show since I made plans to meet Paul at the dining for lunch at 12. 1pm We got off the ship and walked around Havensight Mall. 1:45pm We met on the pier for our tour “Coral World and Coral Sea”. Two of our dinner mates, Karen and Joe, were on this tour too. We boarded an open air taxi to take us to Coral World. It’s very hot out. One we arrived at Coral World one of the tour guides split us into two groups – either the Nurse Sharks or the Barracudas. We were sharks. We were to go on the submersible first. She spent about 15 minutes counting people and this was not very organized. Then we all walked to this area with an overhang. It was probably 2:40 by now. She told the other group to meet back here at 3:30 and to go enjoy the park. We walked to the submersible. It was not really a submarine that submerged into the water. We were sitting in the bottom of the boat and there were windows. The boat drove around in a big circle. We did see these interesting Velcro Head fish that would attach themselves to the boat. One of the guides went in the water with dog food to get the fish to come near the boat. We didn’t get off the boat part until 3:45 so the other group has been waiting. The bus is scheduled to pick us up at 4:30 to take us back to the ship. We were able to wander the park now on our own. I expected a small version of Sea World. This was really small. The map made things look much bigger than they were. There was a shark area that was relatively big on the map. I asked Paul if he saw where it was and he laughed at me because I had walked right past it several times (it was a small pool with little sharks in it). 4:30 we left and got on the waiting open air bus in the heat. After 10 minutes I asked when we were leaving. I was told we were waiting for others that are still on the boat. Another open air bus said that they had room for about 7 people. I immediately said the 4 of us would go. We got on the other bus as did three other people and we left. It’s about a 20 minute ride back. We got off at Havensight Mall and wandered around some more. We walked back to the ship just before 6pm and saw the bus we got off of at Coral World just pulling in. We didn’t think we could go to dinner in the dining room and we’d end up in the Windjammer. We stopped by the dining room just after 6 (as soon as we got back on the ship) and explained we just got back from St Thomas and were we OK to eat dressed as we were (me in Capris, Paul in shorts). They said yes come on in so we went to our table. We were totally prepared to go have dinner in the Windjammer since we weren’t really dressed for dinner. Appetizers – I had tropical fruit and spring rolls; Paul had seafood salad Salad – I skipped the salad; Paul had Caesar salad Entrée – I had the Vegetarian Bami Goreng; Paul had Veal Parmigiana Dessert – I had Low Fat Mocachino Parfait; Paul had banana cream pie My Bami Goreng was very good – it was a noodle dish with vegetables. 9pm We went to the Ice Show. It was very good. It was even better than the one on the mariner. 10:30 we went to the Love & Marriage show. It started with a car auction. Picking the contestants was rather boring. They just asked who was married the longest and the shortest and these two couples were in. They than asked for people married around 25 years and had them say “Me Tarzan and give a yell”. They stressed that it should be kept PG. Last time we saw this show on a ship, the contestants were getting into all sorts of cheers, dirty dancing, simulated sex acts, etc to compete to get onto the stage. The show itself was pretty funny. We went to the Casino for a little while, and then went back to the room to get ready for bed. We finally had a towel animal – a stringray with the chocolate mints for eyes. However, our floor towel and one washcloth was missing. They were used to make the towel animal which I didn’t want to dismantle. Tuesday 8/29/06 – St Maarten We had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer around 8:30. We had to meet our tour between 8:45 and 9am. We booked the St Maarten Island Tour. We boarded a big air-conditioned bus. The tour guide explained the various things we drove by. We stopped at a lookout point on the Dutch side, then got back on the bus and drove to the French side. We had a 45 minute stop in Marigot. It’s very hot out. There was an air-conditioned mall that we wandered around. The tour guide mentioned the beautiful bathrooms in the mall that they charged you $1 to use – so we used them. They were nice but not as spectacular as she made them seem. We wandered outside through an open air market. We boarded the bus for the ride back. The tour guide continued to explain everything we were seeing. We got off Downtown, stopped at the Guavaberry store, and ordered 6 bottles of Guavaberry liquor to be delivered to the ship for my friend Kim. Then we went to the Belgian Chocolate shop and bought some chocolates. We wandered a little bit but were very hot so got on the water taxi and went back to the ship. We got back to the ship around 1:30 and I took another shower. Our towel animal is gone and the towels are back in the bathroom. Next we headed over to the Solarium Pool It was nice and empty since most people were still on shore. The water in the pool was warm. I expected it to be cooler, but it was very nice. The hot tub was hot. I only stayed in there for about 5 minutes. The fresh water showers by the pool were refreshing. T 6pm We went to dinner. Appetizers: I had the crab cake; Paul had Pate and soup Entrée: I had the vegetable risotto; Paul had pork chops Dessert: I had baked Alaska; Paul had pineapple sherbet. 9pm I went to the Fast Forward show. Paul was playing poker so I went without him. It was good. I met Paul in the casino after the show for a little while. After playing a bit, I went upstairs to get ready for bed. Paul stayed in the casino to continue playing poker. Wednesday 8/30/06 – San Juan Puerto Rico 8am We went down to the dining room to go through Immigration. It took about 10-15 minutes. Then we headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast. We headed off the ship and into San Juan at little after 9. It’s very hot out. It is very convenient that we docked right in Old San Juan and were able to just walk right off and didn’t need a taxi. We wandered up and down a few streets. We stopped in McDonalds (Paul wanted to see if it was different than the ones we have in NY/NJ). We saw an ad for the duck tours, which we originally wanted to do in San Juan. However, the Duck Tour website said they were closed on Wednesdays. However, this little paper ad said they were open. Unfortunately, it was already 10:20am and we would not have time to make it all the way over to the Duck Tour place by 10:30 to get on the 11am Duck Tour. We stopped in the Hard Rock Café but didn’t buy anything. We saw vendors selling imitation bags (Louis Vuitton, Coach, etc) on the street but didn’t buy anything. 6pm We went to dinner Appetizers: I had fried shrimp; Paul had seafood salad Salad: I had Caesar salad; Paul had regular salad Entrée: I had pasta arrabiata; Paul had Osso Buco Dessert: I had Mocachino Parfait; Paul had sherbet. After dinner we went back to the casino for a little while. Paul got himself settled at the poker table so may be staying there for the night. 9pm Showtime was a juggling Comedian. Paul stayed at the Hold Em Table. 10:30 Was the Quest. It wasn’t as funny as it’s been in the past. I think it was the cruise director – she’s rather dull. Paul stayed at the Hold Em table and missed the Quest. IDessert – I had the Sampler Trio which consisted of Chocolate cake, rum cake, and cheesecake. Paul had rainbow sherbet. After dinner Paul and I went back to the Casino. I played Let it Ride at the table. Paul played poker. I was having fun so didn’t go to the 9pm Vibeology Show. I found out that the later show is at 10:45. 10:30 I went up to the cabin to change out of my formal clothes. 10:45 I watched the Vibeology show. It was OK. 11:30 I went to take pictures of the gala buffet. From 11:30-12:15 it was for picture taking only. It was a madhouse. I didn’t bother going back when it opened to eat. 12:30 I got a slice of pizza at the promenade and went upstairs. Paul came up to change out of his suit. We had pizza together. We played a game of mini golf. The course was pretty beat up. I did a little packing. We ordered a snack from room service – cheese & crackers, fruit, pizza, and cookies. We gave the guy who delivered it a $5 tip. After our snack Paul headed down to the casino. 3pm We went to watch the Karaoke finals. The woman that won was fantastic. She was a better singer than some of the performers in the shows. 3:45 was the Final Bingo. While we were playing the ship started rocking a lot. Many people were getting sick. The Bingo machine (with the balls in it) slid across the stage. I started feeling a little off and have never had that happen on a cruise before. I went up to the cabin and took Bonine for the first time and laid down. That Bonine wiped me out – I fell asleep. Paul came up a little before 6 so we went down to dinner. I was feeling better and the ship seemed a bit calmer. We had the following: Appetizers – I had the chips with spinach dip. The chips were very greasy. Paul had the hummas with pita Salad – We both had Caesar salad Entrée – I ordered the sweet and sour mahi mahi which I didn’t like. So ended up getting macaroni and cheese and French fries from the kid’s menu. Paul had the NY Strip steak. Dessert – I had the banana parfait; Paul had orange sherbet FINAL THOUGHTS Cruising out of Bayonne was great. It was so easy to just drive to the pier and not have to worry about flying. It also allowed us to over pack to our heart’s content and not worry about having to pay airline surcharges for overweight bags. The guarantee cabin worked out very well – we would definitely do that again.    

Read More
  • New

Jul 26, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean J and L May All in all we had a wonderful cruise with Royal Caribbean. This is our second trip to the same islands except for the Bahamas (a trip interruption but a good one). The Explorer is a clean, friendly ship. Some of the women’s bathrooms were messy at times before and after shows so the staff has to be more on top of the bathrooms. Except

for one incident of a couple who gave the attendants a hard time at the muster, people on the ship were nice to talk to and well mannered. There were more children than I expected to see (mainly teens) but they all seemed to be controlled and happily entertained. The ship and Captain and staff made an effort to keep in touch with everyone about tropical storm Chris that was tailing us at every turn. (I say effort) but it would have been nice to see a map tracking our voyage. That was disappointing because we really never knew too much about where we were in terms of the mainland USA or any of the islands. The pools were refreshing but crowded and it took some serious trying to get a lounge chair. More effort needs to be made with people hording chairs with there towels and disappearing hours at a time while some of us had to go top deck and bake in the heat. I hate the idea of policing but it needs to be done. There are never enough pools on the ships but we managed to get in them. At one time there was a “wave pool” we were in for an hour in the beginning of our cruise but then I was disappointed because it never happened again on any other day. I surmise something went wrong with that, but no announcement about it that I know of. There were enough hot tubs to go round and the Gym was fantastic. The food was good to excellent as far as I am concerned. There was plenty to choose from. The café promenade came in handy. We did not go to Rockets or the other restaurants that had cover charges to eat there. We didn’t spend extra on ice cream that only cost more dollars. I think all food should be free once on the ship; hidden costs just take away from the ship’s experience. Spending more money is not fun. The excursions cost money and that is enough. The main dinner should not have fried chicken on it. The main dinner should be reserved for fine dining. But I have to say that most nights, I was very pleased with the dinner entrees. Our waiter was terrific and let us order whatever we wanted and went out of his way for us. He was fun and personalized our experience. Give him a raise! Our room steward was also terrific. We had great fun with him. Our room was attended to perfectly. At one point, my safe got stuck and wouldn’t open, but someone appeared within minutes to open it for me. Room service was great, too. We loved having a balcony this time, a little extra but worth it. At peak times, the Casino was crowded but we had fun there too. One roulette table had a number sign that was not working. Not good. We played bingo even though it was expensive at $35 and up bingo cards. But I understand it builds up to a great bingo jackpot by the end of the cruise. Perhaps those who can’t afford the big bingo can have a little bingo going on for them as well. Just a thought to please the crowd. We played only twice because of the expense. The ship had a smooth ride most days and I felt very comfortable day and night. One of the highlights of the cruise were the shows and I was happy that most of the entertainment was devoid of objectionable material from a family standpoint. We did not go to the one exception billed as mature “adult” only late night comedy; just not interested. Again the entertainment, including the wonderful ice-show, was terrific. My husband was very happy to just be able to wear his sports jacket and tie on special nights. I was very happy to get dressier and so I am glad the ship was able to accommodate us. The shopping guru lady did a marvelous job selling her $20.00 book to those of us who grabbed the bait about a free charm bracelet when in fact the bracelet after listening for over an hour was only if you go to a certain store on the island, and of course you needed the book to get all the freebie offers. I was out $20.00 for that and didn’t appreciate what I considered a scam. I wouldn’t do that again. Some of the stores where we were promised something for free ran out the “free gifts”. A positive was the free on-board the ship raffles of jewelry. The $10.00 store was great and I bought loads of gifts for family and friends there. Final, Boarding the ship at Bayonne was fast and convenient. Debarkation at Bayonne, NJ was difficult and long. More guidance needs to be given to those who were being picked up. Trying to coordinate with your ride with police chasing your pick up away because they cannot find a place to park was rough. It took three hours to disembark and my ride had to keep circling because he had to keep moving. Something has to be done about this; maybe more parking areas. Would I cruise again. You bet. Overall, we had a terrific time! Kudos to the Captain, and his crew and all the staff including the musicians and chefs and workers. Everyone worked hard. Thank you.    

Read More
  • New

Jun 28, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Simon Lack We cruise every year, I think this is our tenth cruise so I’ll mainly focus on what was better or worse than our expectations. Cruising is a great family vacation. On this trip my wife and I took our three children (daughters 18 and 5, son 16), our nephew (17), our daughter’s boyfriend (18, separate cabin!), some good friend of ours and

her son (15). We had a great time. Leaving from Bayonne, NJ was very convenient since we live 30 minutes away. The ship was still in good shape as we’d sailed on Explorer of the Seas some years before. Food – this was better than our last Royal Caribbean cruise two years ago. I think they had let the standard drop, and after enjoying great dining with Celebrity last year we were expecting to be disappointed. The standard on this ship in the dining room was consistently good, not just on the first night but all through the trip. The Windjammer is always good but we particularly enjoyed it this time. There was plenty of variety. The Japanese corner for early dinner (6pm) was a nice new touch too. Entertainment – this was OK. The best was a comedian on the first night who impersonated Elvis, “You know who I am…Michael Jackson’s father-in-law.” At one point he leapt off the stage to confront a less than enthusiastic and startled audience member. Gym – given how many people use this to offset the multiple meals, I think the equipment could be in better shape. Of three stationary bicycles, two were inoperable the entire trip. Some of the weights were loose as well. My wife was frustrated because they had no step classes, and the aerobics was cancelled because the instructor was injured! The Gym needs a management overhaul. The spa by contrast was very good – try a hot stone massage! Excursions – all good. Snorkeling in St. Thomas and seeing the snapping turtles was a first. Teen Disco (15-17) was a big hit with our son. Our daughter really enjoyed the 3-5 year old program too. They do a great job with the kids, especially the young ones. They never fail to make sure they were having a good time. My wife and I enjoyed the 70s disco one night. The “Royal Caribbean Village People” showed up. Very funny. Anyway, we had a great time as usual. Feel free to contact me with questions.    

Read More
  • New

Jun 28, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Bermuda Simon Lack We cruise every year, I think this is our tenth cruise so I’ll mainly focus on what was better or worse than our expectations. Cruising is a great family vacation. On this trip my wife and I took our three children (daughters 18 and 5, son 16), our nephew (17), our daughter’s boyfriend (18, separate cabin!), some good friend of ours and her son

(15). We had a great time. Leaving from Bayonne, NJ was very convenient since we live 30 minutes away. The ship was still in good shape as we’d sailed on Explorer of the Seas some years before. Food – this was better than our last Royal Caribbean cruise two years ago. I think they had let the standard drop, and after enjoying great dining with Celebrity last year we were expecting to be disappointed. The standard on this ship in the dining room was consistently good, not just on the first night but all through the trip. The Windjammer is always good but we particularly enjoyed it this time. There was plenty of variety. The Japanese corner for early dinner (6pm) was a nice new touch too. Entertainment – this was OK. The best was a comedian on the first night who impersonated Elvis, “You know who I am…Michael Jackson’s father-in-law.” At one point he leapt off the stage to confront a less than enthusiastic and startled audience member. Gym – given how many people use this to offset the multiple meals, I think the equipment could be in better shape. Of three stationary bicycles, two were inoperable the entire trip. Some of the weights were loose as well. My wife was frustrated because they had no step classes, and the aerobics was cancelled because the instructor was injured! The Gym needs a management overhaul. The spa by contrast was very good – try a hot stone massage! Excursions – all good. Snorkeling in St. Thomas and seeing the snapping turtles was a first. Teen Disco (15-17) was a big hit with our son. Our daughter really enjoyed the 3-5 year old program too. They do a great job with the kids, especially the young ones. They never fail to make sure they were having a good time. My wife and I enjoyed the 70s disco one night. The “Royal Caribbean Village People” showed up. Very funny. Anyway, we had a great time as usual. Feel free to contact me with questions.    

Read More
  • New

Jun 25, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Bermuda Cindy Rouse We just returned from an excellent cruise on the Explorer of the Seas to Bermuda. This will not be a true review, but I will include impressions and tips for future cruisers on the Explorer out of Bayonne. I will also make comparisons to Princess, since questions about how the two lines are similar/different seem to come up quite frequently. After

sailing on the Grand in March and the Explorer in June, I feel that the two lines are more similar than different, with each doing some things better than the other. I would happily sail on either cruise line! They both have their strong points, and both are far better than being at work! We were a group of eleven family members…7 adults and 4 children. In order to accommodate all of us getting to the pier, we hired a mini-bus through Empire International. They provided excellent service and were very prompt on both ends of the trip. We arrived at Cape Liberty about 11:00, and were able to find a porter to take our luggage immediately. We were surprised to find that there were still many passengers disembarking from the previous cruise, but once we checked in we found that the Cape Liberty cruise port is different from others we have sailed from. The ship isn’t docked right by the terminal, and to board or disembark passengers have to take a shuttle bus to/from the ship. This slows down the boarding process, as well as disembarkation. We checked in right away, and then went to a very roomy lounge to wait for our shuttle bus to the ship. Shuttle numbers are handed out as you check in, and they are given in the order you arrive. Several wedding parties boarded first, and then general boarding began at 12:30. We were on shuttle number 7, which went to the ship at 12:45. I didn’t think the wait was bad at all, especially given the number of people to embark (our sailing had 3,500 passengers). We were able to go straight to our cabins, since it was 1:00 by the time we were shuttled to the ship to board. Our family had 4 cabins on Deck 9. Our stateroom attendant for 9302 was Sophia. She was pleasant and efficient. I took one look at the sagging mattress and asked for an egg crate topper, which she got us with no problem. Everybody went up to the Windjammer except me and Jim. We were in charge of Portofino’s reservations, and I wanted to make a salon appointment for Monday afternoon (formal night). We had no problems with either reservation, but unfortunately we made our reservation for Portofino’s for Wednesday night, which means we missed lobster/prime rib night in the dining room. If that’s important to you, pick a different night. Even though there’s only one formal dinner on the 5-night cruise, they do still serve lobster in the dining room on the night you leave Bermuda. The Explorer is a beautiful ship. It’s very dramatic without being gaudy or overdone. Even though there were 3,500 passengers on board, I only felt like it was crowded a few times…in the photo gallery, at the pools in the afternoon on sea days, and leaving the theatre after a show. Those are places where it can seem crowded on any ship, and the Explorer was no different. I thought the layout of the ship made sense, and even though it’s so big it was easy for me to find my way around. For example, the public restrooms were located in roughly the same place on each deck. That sounds like a trivial thing, but it does make it easy to know instinctively whether you should be looking for something on the port or starboard side of the ship. I was impressed with the stability of the ship. For most of the trip I felt very little motion. The Atlantic was unbelievably calm, and we never had more than 4 foot swells all week. Because of her large interior spaces, I didn’t feel a strong connection to the sea when I was in many of the public areas. I ended up spending more time on my balcony than I have on some other ships just so I could have a quiet place to read and gaze at the water. There were several things on the ship that I thought were a “don’t miss.” The ice show was spectacular! The skaters were all very talented and I was amazed at the things they were able to do on a fairly small rink. The parade down the Grand Promenade on the first night is fun and energetic. The parade is at 10:45, but passengers start lining up much earlier. The singers and dancers wear very elaborate costumes, and the parade has a Mardi Gras feel to it – minus the beads and debauchery! We watched from a little balcony near an elevator bank and had a great view of the festivities. If you’ve always wanted to see the ship’s bridge, visit the “Peek-a-Boo” deck to watch the staff in action. There are several windows where you can see into the bridge, which looks like something out of Star Trek. Finally, all the way forward on Deck 5 (but accessible only from the outside stairs on Deck 4), you can walk all the way to the bow of the ship. Think about the “king of the world” scene from Titanic, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I thought that was neat just because on so many ships that area is off-limits to passengers. Of course, I don’t think a re-creation of the movie scene would be looked upon favorably, but it’s still a neat place to go and watch the ocean! Bermuda is lovely, but very expensive. We did the “Wildcat Around the Island” high-speed boat excursion the day we arrived, and thought it was outstanding. It was a great way to get an overview of the entire island in a short amount of time. The second day we were in Bermuda we went to Hamilton and walked around/shopped, but we thought prices were very high and we didn’t buy too much. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken another excursion. Other family members did a boat/beach/lunch tour that they said was very good, and a glass-bottomed boat trip that was just O.K. Now for the inevitable comparisons between the Explorer and the Grand, and between RCI and Princess. I was a bit apprehensive about this cruise for several reasons. The first was the size of the ship, which I found wasn’t a problem at all, and the second was that our cruise in March was so outstanding that I thought this one would fall far short, and I was surprised and pleased to find that it didn’t. Finally, we usually cruise as a couple, and this time we were with my whole family, which meant an early dinner seating (we adjusted) and more time in the buffet (I still like eating in the dining room better). The two lines really are more alike than different, with each doing some things better than the other. For me, decisions about future cruises would come down to what I was looking for itinerary-wise, whether we’re traveling alone or with a group, and pricing. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION – Both lines seem to have this down to a science. My last three cruises before this have all been out of Galveston. Embarkation in Galveston is much faster than it was in Bayonne, but I think that is because of the way the port is set up. The shuttle bus also slows down disembarkation in Bayonne, but once you reach the terminal the luggage is the most organized I’ve ever see. ADVANTAGE: TIE CABINS – This is a hard comparison, because our last 2 Princess cruises have been in a mini-suite and on this trip we had a D-2 balcony. The D level cabins on Royal Caribbean are definitely bigger than the balcony cabins on Princess, but they’re nowhere near as large as a Grand class mini-suite. I like that non-suite cabins on Royal Caribbean have a couch, and I think the round shower doors are a huge improvement over the body-snatching shower curtains on Princess. Storage space was ample for at least a week. There were shelves in the closet and good sized drawers in the vanity. My mom had a junior suite, which appeared to have about the same amount of space as a mini-suite on a Grand class ship, but configured completely differently. The mini-suites on most Princess ships are longer than a regular cabin but still quite narrow, while a JS is no longer than a regular cabin, but twice as wide. A Princess mini-suite is divided into a living section and a bedroom section, while the junior suite on RC is one large room. The extra amenities for mini-suites/junior suites are very different. On Princess you get upgraded bedding and linens, champagne on boarding, luxury towels, and upgraded toiletries. On Royal Caribbean you get priority (suite) embarkation and access to the Concierge Club, which Princess doesn’t have. For right now the upgraded bedding in suites and mini-suites on Princess is a big deal, but since Royal Caribbean is replacing ALL their bedding you will soon be able to get a quality mattress in any cabin. ADVANTAGE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN FOR NON-SUITE CABINS TIE FOR MINI-SUITES/JUNIOR SUITES DINING ROOM FOOD – I was disappointed with the dining room food on the Explorer. It tasted a lot more “banquety” to me than the food on the Grand. I thought most of the meats weren’t a high-quality cut, and the New York Strip was inedible. Five of us ordered the NY Strip, and we all left most of it on our plates. Hot food wasn’t as hot as it should have been, and I missed the little extras like fresh-ground pepper and parmesan cheese to taste. We prefer to eat most of our meals in the dining room, so I was disappointed to find that Royal Caribbean has gone with a set menu for lunch with only a soup and one entrée that change. Princess has a delicious pasta dish and several entrees that change each day for lunch, and a few “always available” items. I also found the availability of the dining room for lunch on the Explorer to be very limited. The dining room was only open for lunch on Monday and Thursday, our sea days. It was also closed on embarkation day. We spent a lot more time in the buffet on this trip than we usually do. ADVANTAGE: PRINCESS BUFFET FOOD – The Windjammer on Royal Caribbean has a wider selection of hot and cold foods than the Horizon Court on Princess. In the back part of the Windjammer is the International Café where Mexican, Chinese, and other ethnic foods are available in addition to the regular buffet selections. For breakfast there is a made-to-order omelet station in the International Café. The dessert choices are also more varied on RC than on Princess. What’s the nicest thing about the Windjammer on the Explorer of the Seas? The layout makes sense compared to the chaotic buffet set up on Princess. There were no traffic jams, and there weren’t people darting all over the place to fill their plates. The buffets on both cruise lines use the same oversized oval plates instead of trays, so you have to be seated and put your tray down before you get a drink. The drink servers in the Windjammer were readily available and we never had to wait long for service. About the only area where I thought the Windjammer fell short was hamburgers and pizza. They’re just not as fresh when they sit in warming trays as they are when you get them fresh from the grill or oven. ADVANTAGE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN SERVICE – Here’s where things get a little ugly. Our service in the dining room on the Explorer was quite poor. Out of seven adults in our group, five of us had cruised before on Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival. We all agreed that the service on previous cruises far surpassed the service we received on the Explorer. Our waiter and assistant waiter were slow and seemed unable to serve the food in a proper sequence. Often two things would arrive at once, and we’d have to make a decision about which item we wanted to let get cold before we got to it. They never asked our names, never seemed comfortable with serving the children, never figured out what we liked to drink, and just really did nothing to enhance the dining experience. If we hadn’t been a large table on a completely full ship we would have requested a change after the first dinner, but since it was a short cruise and it would have been difficult to accommodate us, we let it go. Here’s the little incident that still amazes me: On the last night when we got to dinner, there was margarine on the table but no butter. This was a problem, because we’re mostly a butter family. When we asked for butter we were told there was none on the ship, because they had run out. We found this puzzling because we could see people at other tables eating butter. Our assistant waiter insisted there was no butter anywhere on the ship. Because we were a bit frustrated with our dining experience by this time, my brother-in-law went up to the Windjammer, where what did he find but hundreds of pats of butter! He loaded up his pockets and brought it down to the dining room. About the time he returned the assistant waiter decided he’d better find us some butter. He got to the table with it the same time my brother-in-law returned and put the butter from the Windjammer on the table. At least Alan (the asst. waiter) had the grace to look embarrassed and he steered clear of our table the rest of the evening. That’s just an example, but it seems like that’s how it went for us in the dining room all week. ADVANTAGE: PRINCESS SPECIALTY DINING – We enjoyed meals at Sabatini’s on the Grand and Portofino’s on the Explorer. They’re both excellent, but provide a very different experience. At Sabatini’s, you get to taste many small appetizers and pastas, and only order your main course and dessert. At Portofino’s you order everything off a menu like you would in the dining room. Although I enjoyed both experiences, I found Portofino’s more to my liking than Sabatini’s. ADVANTAGE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN FUN FOR KIDS/FAMILIES/LARGE GROUPS – This is also a hard comparison for me because we’ve never been on a ship and had children in our party before. I think a Voyager-class ship is an excellent choice for families and large groups. There are TONS of things to do, so everyone can find something that’s to their liking. Somebody in our group tried just about everything. We enjoyed the gym, rock climbing, art auctions, skating, the spa, the children’s club, golfing, and so many other things it would be impossible to list them all. All four children enjoyed their time in Adventure Ocean, and both of my sisters felt comfortable leaving their kids there. I did hear a few complaints on the Grand last March that people felt there weren’t enough organized activities in the Children’s Club to keep their children interested and involved. ADVANTAGE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN GOOD FOR COUPLES WHO WANT TO RELAX AND UNWIND – I found more nooks and crannies and quiet places to get away from it all on the Grand than the Explorer. I really missed the aft Terrace pool area that’s reserved for adults on the Grand class ships. Since the Explorer is so big and there’s only one adults-only pool (the Solarium) it was usually quite crowded and not very quiet. I spent more time on my balcony on the Explorer than I do on the Grand, just because that was a quiet place to read and watch the ocean go by. I usually catch some fantastic naps on the padded loungers by the Terrace pool on the Grand! ADVANTAGE: PRINCESS ENTERTAINMENT – I only saw one of the production shows on the Explorer, and it was just average. There were three production shows on the Grand in March, and they were all very entertaining. Even though I didn’t think the production show on the Explorer was very good, the ice show just blew me away. It was the most entertaining show I’ve ever seen on any ship. Both lines have the standard magicians, comedians, and lounge acts. I didn’t make it to “Quest” this time, but I went on the Rhapsody and thought it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Princess used to have “Pub Night,” but I wonder if that’s been discontinued since they didn’t have it on the Grand in March. There wasn’t a major entertainment option on the Explorer the night we were docked in Bermuda. Everyone was encouraged to attend the street festival at the pier put on in conjunction with Royal Caribbean. ADVANTAGE: TIE PRICING – I found cruise prices to be higher on Royal Caribbean than on Princess. We paid about the same price for a balcony cabin on the Explorer for five days as we paid for a mini-suite on the Grand for seven days. I think part of that has to do with Bermuda cruises being expensive, and part of it has to do with RC being able to get top dollar for their Voyager class ships. I don’t have a problem with that because they are offering a unique product on those ships. I do have a problem with many of the amenities being shut down on port days, so a lot of the things you are paying for are taken out of the equation. The pools and most of the hot tubs were open, but the rock-climbing wall, the ice skating rink, and the dining room (at lunch) were closed. I thought drink prices on Royal Caribbean were higher than on Princess, and wine cost considerably more. Prices in the shops seemed to be about the same. Ladies, that includes the “Bijoux Ternier” stuff that all cruise ships seem to sell for $10.00 an item. After all, a cruising girl can never have too many fake pashminas, can she? ADVANTAGE: PRINCESS COFFEE – I included this category for all of us that love Princess but also love a cup of good coffee. Hmm…a cup of coffee made from syrup, or a cup of fresh Seattle’s Best? No contest here. ADVANTAGE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN I’ve probably gone on too long. There were other little things I noticed during the week, some that I thought Princess does better, and some that I thought Royal Caribbean does better. The food and poor service could have been a deal breaker for me if we were traveling alone, but wait staff is the luck of the draw, and I didn’t go hungry, even if I thought the food could have been better. Those negatives were overshadowed by what a great choice the Explorer was for a large group of cruisers of mixed ages. We all had a great time, and we’ve already booked the Mariner of the Seas out of Port Canaveral for the end of June next year. The bottom line is I wouldn’t hesitate to travel on either line at any time, and we’ll continue to sail both, making our decision based on the itinerary, cost, and the ship that best meets our needs at the time.    

Read More
  • New

Jun 23, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Bermuda K. VonBehren We just returned from our 5 day cruise on the Explorer of the Seas to Bermuda. Unfortunately this cruise was not all I had hoped for. Too many inconsiderate passengers, mediocre food, and a general lack of interesting activities kept the vacation a bit "ho-hum." Embarkation was fine. It moved swiftly and efficiently. Our rooms were ready

when we got there ( 1pm ) and bags arrived later that afternoon. The ship itself is beautiful and well-equipped and fortunately our room was very accessible to the things we needed. We traveled with 2 adults (in a outside balcony cabin) and three teenagers (in an adjacent inside cabin). Room size was adequate and well appointed, with the exception of the beds which were very much like a cot. Food on the ship, both in the dining room and in the Windjammer Cafe was OK. Not great--as we have experienced on other ships of different lines. The variety is a bit lacking as well. The Windjammer Cafe is not open all the time (or some of the time we needed it to be open ) like on other ships. It closes periodically throughout the day and then in the evening after dinner. If someone wants the freebee ice tea or lemonade to drink, it is not available. For someone like me who does not drink carbonated beverages it was either the Windjammer tea/lemonade or nothing but water. There were some minor annoying things that could be fixed such as the smell of smoking coming from the service area on our hallway of the ship near our room. In addition, several times with several different keys, they did not work and had to be replaced over the course of the cruise. Many children ages 10 and up went unsupervised and annoyed all of us including our children and I am sure many other passengers. They were rude, obnoxious, and vulgar. The policies of the ship were not enforced and this is something that should be. The entertainment on board for the big crowds was mainly dancing production shows. This is something we do not care for all that much so it did not appeal to us. The comedian was good but only performed twice one of which we could not make due to the show being so late. The ice show as great! Not something I thought I would like but I enjoyed it a lot. Other events included the standard "couples and battle of sexes" shows, name that tune, scavenger quest, bingo, and a parade on the promenade (Ok but a little hokey). Many events are presented as "seminars" but are in reality just sales pitches for things to be purchased on board (acupuncture, weight loss detox). Yoga and Pilates had fees attached. By the way, the fitness center and spa were beautiful. The pool areas were nice and we never had to search long for a chair. Hot tubs were plentiful and the ones by the fitness center and solarium were great. Bermuda was wonderful...even if we experienced the absolute worst thunderstorm ever. The transportation system (both bus and ferries) were great! They ran efficiently and were a pleasure to use. Bermuda itself is one of the most engaging and beautiful islands anywhere. It is clean and green and has spectacular beaches. The people were quite pleasurable. Disembarkation was not as quick as getting on but it was not a nightmare either. Our ship docked at 7 am and we were off the ship and headed home by 10 am even with having one of the last colors to be called.    

Read More
  • New

Jun 16, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Todd De Haven The Set Up This was our first cruise and as is the case with everyone else who has been so classified, we had nothing with which to compare our experience. Having said that, I shall state that I have spent the last year reading literally hundreds of reviews of the various ships, lines, etc., my favorites being of course by Tom and Mary Milano.

I have also spent untold hours on a personal website that is an absolute must for anyone who either already has or intends sailing upon an Eagle (or Voyager) Class ship; Voyager-Class.com. As the late Justin Wilson from Baton Rouge, Louisiana used to say, "I gaurrronteee" that once you visit that site you will be as completely bowled over as was I, especially if you take into account that it was constructed by a Parisian, Romaine Moisescot, who was only fourteen when he started building the site five years ago. We initially left our home in upper East Tennessee and drove to Staten Island, New York the place of my wife’s birth and checked into the Hilton Garden Inn. I remember it wasn’t all that many years ago when Staten Island didn’t even have a viable hotel or motel. That is certainly no longer the case. The Hilton is excellent albeit doesn’t fall into the "budget" category. I understand there are more hotels either in the process of being built or in the planning stages for Staten Island, so the situation will improve still further. The next morning we, along with my wife’s two nieces and a grand niece all gathered at the home of one and departed together for Bayonne. Embarkation Our first view as we crossed the Bayonne Bridge of the gorgeous 142,000 ton Explorer of the Seas sitting majestically at her pier, brought forth exclamations from us all. Even though over the past year I’ve seen countless pictures of this vessel and her sisters, I can only say that I’m glad I wasn’t driving for I couldn’t take my eyes from her. Only at that moment was I convinced that finally my dream was reality, I was actually going to board the Explorer. Coming back to earth, I hoped my apprehension at checking-in wouldn’t be confirmed. As a retired law enforcement officer and police firearms instructor for the State of New York, I can well relate as to how governmental agencies can drown you in paper work. I expected to be so inundated when it came to being processed onto the Explorer. Hardly the case at all. We all were aboard within fifteen minutes of arriving at check in. Stateroom Immediately upon boarding the vessel we, as requested at reception, immediately took the elevator up to deck 11 to do the "Windjammer" buffet lunch. The offerings were excellent in all categories (taste, appearance, etc.). I know one can probably get to their stateroom early to drop off their carry-ons but I happen to believe that rules are made for a reason so, we waited until the appointed 1:00pm before visiting our staterooms. Ours was 9202 located directly beneath the Bridge and is classified as a large ocean view. It is unusual in that it is one of only a relative handful of staterooms that over look the bow of the ship. I have heard how small cruise ship staterooms are etc., but again I was most pleasantly surprised. At 211 Sq Ft. the room was far more than ample in size for two people. The bed is listed as two singles configured as a queen, however we found it to be far larger than our queen sized bed in our guest bedroom and at least as wide if not as long as our own king sized bed. My wife brought along probably enough outfits to last her until Christmas (six pieces of checked luggage plus a large carry-on and my notebook). My initial thought was, "Well, we’ll be living out of suitcases for ten days ‘cause there ain’t gonna’ be anywhere near enough room to properly stow all of the stuff." Wrong again! Yes the closet was pretty full but not completely and there were plenty of drawers, cabinets and shelving for folded items, etc. Although we took the advice and brought along a shoe hanger with pockets in which to put toiletries, etc., we personally found it unnecessary as there was ample storage for all of our things in the medicine cabinet on the right side of the bathroom sink mirror or on the sink itself. All of our luggage (which admittedly included four pieces that "nested") disappeared completely beneath the bed. The television offered far more selections than I ever would have imagined, including satellite news channels, etc. I kind of liked the "personal touch" of being greeted by name when turning on the TV. The bathroom was also quite sufficient with the shower being much larger than I anticipated. At 6'4" and 270 lbs, I had plenty of space. I believe why most folks feel the shower is so "tiny" is because one gets used to that to which one is usually accustomed and the average home shower arrangement is far larger than the one on Explorer. But having had a shower in our 2nd bathroom when we lived in New York that was even smaller than that on the ship, I found the one in stateroom 9202 to be sufficiently roomy.Our Steward, Gregory Downs was of course professional, kept our stateroom in impeccable order and always took the time to exchange extended pleasantries as we passed in the hall. Internet Access As Tom Ogg has stated in his marvelous recent review of the Explorer, the vessel offers wi-fi internet access in several packages. The one I purchased was 150 minutes for $50.00 which turns out to be 30 cents per minute. Not bad at all. My only complaint was that disconnecting took an inordinate amount of time to complete (and remember, the clock is rolling if you do not purposefully disconnect, whether or not you are using the service). In any event, the one time it took me forever to disconnect, Guest relations immediately credited my account a commensurate amount of time. I discovered following three days of initially using the Crown and Kettle pub, that the Café Promenade is another "hot spot". My typing improved tremendously following my move to the Café – probably due to the fact that Bass Ale was unavailable at that venue. Royal Promenade “Fantastic,” “unbelievable,” “absolutely gorgeous,” “breathtaking” are but only a handful of comments I heard from fellow passengers upon first seeing the Royal Promenade. If anything, most are understatements. Being a very early riser, as I would gaze out into the empty Promenade sipping my morning coffee, I just couldn’t force myself to believe I was anywhere other than in a unique and very upscale mall somewhere as opposed to being aboard a vessel doing 22 knots as it passed over the surface of the Atlantic. That extremely pleasurable while very calming experience alone, is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Should you worry about motion sickness? Having never been to sea on anything larger than a 65 foot fishing boat, neither my wife nor I initially intended to take any chances. The morning prior to boarding, my wife put the old patch behind her ear. I on the other hand, decided to try without one. As it turned out I never did find it necessary to take anything for seasickness. But that’s me. Everyone is different. My wife was fairly confident that had she not taken anything, she may well have experienced nausea. We were after all, high up and over the bow. If you’re going to experience motion, you’re going to experience it there and yes we did. But I found the soft usually barely perceptible rocking and swaying to be even cathartic, allowing me to sleep more soundly than I have in months. Bear in mind, however, that seas never exceeded 1.5 to four feet for the entire voyage of around 3,600 miles. I’m sure things would be mighty different in a storm or if one were crossing the North Atlantic in winter time, albeit the ship does have stabilizers. I doubt though, that they were ever deployed during our cruise. Nevertheless, some folks did become ill so it’s best to plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised. Dining, Etc. We were assigned the Magellan Dining Room on Deck 3 and our party of 13 were divided between tables 333 and 334. Our Waiter Richard Blasko hails from Slovakia and his assistant, Themilla Ramsen from India. Our efficient and friendly headwaiter, Vinod Poovathingal also called India home. Right here and now, I would like to make myself perfectly clear on one thing. I may not be an epicurean when it comes to food but I will admit to being a gourmand. I have certainly dined in some of the finest restaurants in New York City and Miami and I lived for years just up Route 9 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Suffice it to say that I do have some fairly decent credentials when it comes to judging cuisine, if for no other reason (and I assure you that there are) than my ample physique. I don’t know about other ships, other cruise lines or even other cruises on this particular vessel. I can only state that the cuisine on the Explorer on this cruise was nothing less than exceptional. While it may not truly be five star, it has been my personal experience that absent a trained professional, those who often insist they are familiar with such levels were truth be told and under controlled conditions utilizing all applicable factors, to be unable to differentiate among upper culinary levels. In any event, such things are subjective. Suffice it to say that if one is disappointed with the quality of dining and level of service that we personally experienced while claiming they know better, then I might be forced to conclude that individual to be a tad pretentious. Of course, such comments would be understandable were they to be proffered by the "Nouveau riche." The table service that we received from Richard was nothing short of impeccable. His professionalism far exceeded that I’ve ever experienced anywhere else and that includes several four star and one five star restaurant to which I previously alluded (kinda’ like pulling the rug from under the vaunted Michelin ranking, huh?). Richard’s most outstanding asset was that he was so very personable yet without ever becoming too familiar. Of course he remembered each of our likes and dislikes but what I found most intriguing was his innate ability to anticipate and fulfill desires before they were even requested. Now try equaling that! Most importantly, he cared! His dry wit was absolutely marvelous and his interaction with each of us was most entertaining. As my wife remarked, it also didn’t hurt that all the women in the group found Richard to be........well, let’s just say they all but one wished they were 30 years younger, and that exception, an extremely attractive young lady of 21, was nothing less than crushed when she learned that Richard is engaged to Georgiana Ciobanu, an adorable young woman from Romania who works in the ship’s Casino. To be quite honest with all things considered, everyone at our table felt that Richard Blasko was the greatest single item when it came to making our cruise the best vacation any of us had ever taken. When one thinks about it, that’s a major accolade for any individual. The Coffee Now, something about what may well be the currently most argued facet on all the cruise boards ... the coffee. My gosh with everything I’d read I was expecting to drink a beverage ranging from slightly improved liquid tar to something approximating black water swill. Well I’m here to tell you that my benchmark when it comes to coffee is that served by Dunkin’ Donuts. I don’t go for "designer" coffees and were I to some day even become "well heeled," would nevertheless never pay that amount for a cup of coffee anyway. Suffice it to say that by what some of you may conclude are rather pedestrian standards, I found the coffee on the Explorer to be just fine, thank-you. And yeah, while they’re not as good as my wife’s, those chocolate chip cookies at the Promenade Café are the best commercially produced cookies I’ve ever eaten – and I definitely am a certified PCCC (Professor of Chocolate Chip Cookies). The Incomparable Staff To an individual, I found no crew member aboard the Explorer of the Seas who was not at all times the epitome of both kindness and professionalism. Whether it be Aurora Martins helping to keep the Royal Promenade spic and span or Gabrial Fernandez, who while on duty in the Promenade Café would stop right in the middle of whatever he was doing just to ask me if he could get me another cup of coffee or a danish; they were to an individual, outstanding. We in the United States have to a huge degree, lost what I refer to as "friendly civility," especially in the service related professions and industries. To some degree it still exists in the South but even there it’s rapidly disappearing. Not only is this a loss to our culture, it can also result in a severe economic loss. Of all the cruise reviews I’ve read, there is one cruise line out there that I won’t identify that were I to be it’s Chief Executive Officer, I’d be apoplectic. One outfit simply cannot have as many negative reviews as this particular line and not have major problems. Why? Simply because that many people can’t be wrong. And isn’t it interesting that the one ship of this company that is the hands down winner for the most negative comments relative to rude, insolent and uncaring staff, is crewed primarily by American young people. To my way of thinking, we are truly missing the boat (pun definitely intended). Passengers About the only questionable conduct I observed (and that was minor), originated with the passengers. While the behavior of most was impeccable, there were a few boorish exceptions. What bothered me the most was observing young children (below the age of ten) being allowed to climb all over the stage prior to the evening shows and attending late night barbecues and climbing up on railings with nothing on the opposite side except an eleven story drop to the black waters of a late night Atlantic. There didn’t seem to be a parent in the vicinity (or if there were, they obviously didn’t care) and were it not for very concerned crew as well as unrelated passengers, a tragedy could well have occurred. I witnessed relatively few cases involving those who imbibed to such a degree as to visit various stages of intoxication commonly referred to (depending upon which part of the country one hails) as, "Blitzed, "Plastered," "Plowed," "Snockered" and of course let us not forget, "All Fired Up!" Nonetheless those who did, behaved themselves rather well and a good time appeared to be had – that is at least until the following morning at which time the innocuously melodious ring of the telephone, probably for them approximated a Klaxon sounding a call to battle stations aboard a U.S. Navy warship. Entertainment and Activities As for entertainment, the Explorer of the Seas certainly deserves the moniker "Destination ship." If you’re bored while aboard this vessel, you’re a hopeless case. This ship offers structured activities for virtually every minute of the day and if nothing in that category strikes your fancy, there’s about a thousand and one other more personalized activities available and this isn’t even including ports of call. The Planet Ice show in the Studio B arena deserves every accolade that everyone before me has written and is indeed far more moving than any Holiday on Ice review I remember seeing. The performances are flawless in their execution. It came as no surprise to learn that a majority of the skaters are Russian. Additionally the choreography is magnificent. Just as talented, are the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. In fact they’re so good that following their Sunday night performance they were off to the airport at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Virgin Islands to catch a flight to Las Vegas to perform out there! The group was scheduled to return to the ship when it concluded this voyage at Bayonne. Due to the absence of the Royal Caribbean troupe, four "special" performers had been scheduled. In order of the nights of their appearance they were; from Venezuela, Oscar Silvera aka "El Gaucho” who is both a heck of a musician and a magician with what we in this country call “bolos”; Greg Bonham, a world class trumpeter and entertainer from Australia; Billy Fellows out of New York by way of Vegas and who remains at age 70, a wonderful entertainer and the Knutsen brothers who are simply unreal. The Knutsen’s "schtik" is that they verbally reproduce the sounds of whatever instruments are necessary for the song they are performing. One would swear there are musical instruments or sound tracks involved but they’re not. A very high energy act, it is one not to be missed whether you be on the Explorer or out in Las Vegas. Ports of Call Of the Ports of Call, at only one, Charlotte Amali, did I personally really get "out and about". There, my wife and I took a tour of the island conducted by Shane Benjamin ([email protected]),who owns his own tour company in addition to being a full time fireman at the island’s airport. Shane was quite affable, a wealth of knowledge and very accommodating, especially to the shoppers on the tour. I highly recommend him. Disembarkation Finally we come to disembarkation. I love the Explorer and it’s staff, dining, attractions, etc. However.....I uhhhhhh......think that maybe we need just a weeeee bit more "tweaking" in the disembarking procedures department. Are you reading this, Mr. Fain? That’s something only corporate can correct by maybe having a meeting with Customs officials. Two Customs officers to process over 3000 persons in two hours is a bit much to ask of those overworked and underpaid professionals. If corporate seriously wishes to effectively address even that problem, my suggestion would be to merely leave it up to the ship’s staff for obviously they, along with the Customs Officers would probably quickly figure out how to "Git er done!" to everyone’s satisfaction. Summary To summarize: the ship was a marvel, the dining experience at all levels was unsurpassed, the entertainment was all first class and most importantly, the diligence of the entire crew, regardless of age or ranking, was absolutely awe inspiring. On your next cruise, make it a point to as often as possible approach a crew member, any crew member and as Glen Campbell used to sing, "Try a little kindness." Let these people know how much you appreciate what they do for you. I "guarrronteeee!" that in return, your own cruise experience will be much the better for it. If you should require any further information, feel free to contact me at [email protected]  

Read More
  • New

May 28, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Bermuda Pat Lingwall I searched for a review on this cruise before I left, and did not find any. So, in case anyone else desires information regarding cruising to Bermuda on RCCL Explorer of the Seas, here goes. My friend and I booked our cruise to Bermuda one month in advance and received a great price. We were excited looking online at the Royal Caribbean website,

which was very informative, regarding stateroom and the layout of the ship. Due to viewing this website, we felt more at ease at finding our way around this huge ship. This cruise was my friend's 1st cruise and my 5th. I have always heard good things about RCCL, and was looking forward to my own experience. We sailed out of Cape Liberty in Newark. We flew into Newark Liberty Airport around 11:00am on Sunday morning. After we picked up our baggage, we got a taxi to take us to the Port. The cost was $40 + tolls and tip. There was a $1.00 per bag, over 2 per person, also. The drive to the Port took about 10 minutes, but the Port itself was a traffic jam. The ship was still disembarking when we arrived there around 11:30am. This concerned us, regarding our future disembarkation plans on June 2. (Will tell you how we conquered this later in this review). Our cabbie was very antsie about the time it was taking to drop us off. We felt like he would have liked us to suggest that he let us out and we would walk! There was very little communication or signage by the port to tell the drivers where to go if dropping off, to pickup or to park. Even though the cabbie gave us a bit of grief, we tipped him $5 just to be done with it. Once we made it to the porters, everything moved much better. Since we were a bit early, the porters were not busy. We tagged our luggage and tipped the porters $1 per bag. I think that is the common going rate. However, we probably should have consider the weight and several of our bags and tipped more. ( When you check your bags with the porters, you probably won't see them till dinner time. So, pack a change of clothing and makeup in a bag for you to carry on to the ship. Especially if you are early, you won't be able to get to your stateroom right away. We saw people who had packed their swimming suits and were enjoying the sun and water even before getting to their stateroom!) After checking the bags, we went through the check-in process, which was a breeze. We had checked-in online and had printed out our "sign and sail" document. All we had to do was show our passports and/or birth certificate, give them our credit card for the on-board purchases, ( they made an imprint) and we were through the check-out process. Again, we were early and I am sure that the lines increased during the busy hours later in the day. After we checked-in, we were given a number for the shuttle. This port does not have a walkway directly from the building to the ship, so they shuttle you by bus to the gangway. We were shuttle 4 and we were on the ship by 12:30pm. We looked around a bit - in awe of all the beautiful artwork and sculptures. The ship was very clean and the way the Royal Promenade is in the center of the ship, made going from aft to forward a breeze. We ate lunch at the Windjammer -- the food was standard cruise fare - but on the whole it was good. We accessed our cabin about 2:30pm. Some of our luggage was already there. (The rest came throughout the afternoon, with 1 bag delivered after dinner.) The inside stateroom was smallish, but as soon as we had the beds split for two separate beds, the room seemed to gain space. The couch in the room was a nice touch - we didn't have to always sit on the bed. The bathroom accommodations were small, but very clean with no water damage. We always had hot water and the drain were operating efficiently. At first, I was a little disappointed in the beds - they look like cots! But they were fairly comfortable. We were able to put all our luggage under them to keep the closet clear for clothes (tip - nest your luggage if possible - to save space.) The closet seemed bigger than the Carnival and Holland America closets (my previous experiences). Our stateroom had enough hangers for both of us to hang the necessities. There are six shelves in the closet and drawers on both sides of the desk. There really was plenty of space for two women who packed way too much stuff! We went up on the upper deck by the main pool (which is huge with several hot tubs) to watch the sailing. We knew we would see the Statue of Liberty and did not want to miss it. About 20 minutes after departure, we went under the Verescono bridge, which was awesome. As the ship approaches it, the bridge looks too low. When you pass under it and look up, it really seems like a close fit. While we were on board we ate at Johnny Rockets. There is a $4 cover charge and then you can order what you like for that amount. They did charge extra for the shakes, but they were yummy, We did not go to Portifino's, the specialty restaurant with the $20 cover per person, but we heard it was a good choice for an intimate dinner. We ate in the dining room every night and were pleased with the service. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. (A cruise is such a feeding frenzy, that I am not sure what good food would taste like!) It is always fun to know that you can try any and as many of the appetizers and entrees and desserts you like. (Be brave and try new things -- If you don't like it, your waiter will bring something else!) We had the late dining and enjoyed it, however, I can see why most people want the early dining. We headed to the spa to book some pampering. We chose the Seaweed Wrap and Massage. By booking for the day of sailing, we paid at port charges which was $156. It was an hour and a half of sheer heaven. We felt like our bones melted  by the time we left. The employees of the spa are geared to sell you product - but don't feel pressured unless you love the product. The products are pricey. We spent most of our time at the Solarium. This was a pool just off from the Ship Shape center on Deck 11 forward. There was plenty of sun and plenty of chaises in the shade. Also, the whirlpool, sauna and steam room in the Ship Shape center were very convenient. The workout area was always busy. Loads of different exercise equipment and a great running/walking track. The entertainment was good. The ice show, which you need to get tickets for, was great. In room offerings of movies on demand was a nice touch -- however -- there was no mention of a charge - $11.95 per movie -- that will be added to your bill. So beware! The ship has a really nice library with many books. Also, the internet access area looked well furnished with computers. The Explorer has one whole floor devoted to a conference center. We didn't see it, but noticed it on the ship diagram. The casino was larger than other ships I have been on. Also, the Palace Theater was a nice size with good seating all around. On the Royal Promenade, there is a small cafe where you can get pizza, snacks and specialty coffees. Also, Ben and Jerry's was available for an extra charge. The shops on the Promenade were ok -- nothing out of the ordinary. BERMUDA I have been to Bermuda before, so I had an idea of what we wanted to do. We bought a 2 day bus pass for $20 each, but probably would have saved money just buying tokens, since we only used the bus once and the ferry once. Bermuda is not the most exciting port, but taking the ferry to Hamilton is fun to see all the pastel colored houses and the beautiful water. Shopping is pretty much the norm, but you can get some good buys on jewelry. We went to Horseshoe Bay beach. It was beautiful, but crowded with 5 cruise shipped docked around the island. We rented beach chairs for $10 each with a $5 deposit (cash) and and umbrella for $10 + deposit. It is quite a hike down hill, with uphill option of a $1 shuttle. Best dollar I ever spent. We talked to some people from our ship who went to Shark Bay beach (no restroom facilities) and they said it was less crowded, a shorter walk, and you could see the fish in the water. It was just of the bus-line. The bus drivers are very helpful in making sure you get off where you want to be. Just ask. Disembarkation on a cruise ship is always the least best part of cruising. If you can arrange it - have an early afternoon flight so you won't panic when things don't move as fast as you want them too. Unfortunately, my friend was trying to get to the west coast and we had late morning flight times. We ended up changing them, but probably could have made them after we did the following. If you book your cruise and flights through a travel agent, this step is probably already taken care of for you. But since we booked online we were given a later boarding number. We went to customer service and explained our situation. We were given the earliest boarding number. When disembarking, customs can take awhile. We hung out in the library after clearing out of our stateroom. The gang way is on the aft end of the ship and so is the library. When they called our number, we were fortunate to get an empty elevator and made our way to the exit. We got on the second shuttle and we were in a cab (standing at the ready) and on our way to the airport by 9:00am. I hope that this review will help you in planning your cruise. It is the best way to take a vacation. Enjoy.  

Read More
  • New

May 19, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean "Bubbles" Hi folks - hope you like this one - its very long - but it was the only way to give a true review! Well, because this was our first time in the USA, we decided to stop over in New York for a few days prior to cruise. Was worth every penny!! Had a ball!! Loved the ‘City that never sleeps’ and wished we had longer to explore it.

Would definitely not want to live there, far too big!!!!! But it was brilliant for a short stay and the prices are fabulous compared to ours in little old Northern Ireland. Left New York on a very wet morning (actually had to buy a brolly!) and headed to the port of Bayonne. Was pretty dismal, not much happening there, and there was certainly no brass bands playing! However – who cares – we couldn’t wait to get on the ship! First impressions – as has been said loads of times before – AWESOME!! The size of the ship is amazing, and it does pose the question – how the heck does it float?? We got to the port at about 11.30am but because of the weather situation there was a delay in boarding. Our tickets told us not to be at the port before 2pm, but we were glad we got there early as there were loads of other people doing the same thing! We were given a number when checking in, and were on board the ship by 1pm – very straight forward and easy to do. Once on the ship we didn’t know where to go first as there was so much to see. Because of the delay the rooms weren’t ready to go to, but you could only access decks 5 and 11 – 5 is the Promenade deck and 11 was the pool deck. We had previously been chatting to folk on the cruise critic website and had arranged to meet them at the pool bar at 3pm. However – my nerves set in and we couldn’t find the courage to go!! We sat at the side lines till there was a generous amount of folks there before we said our hellos!! Oh what cowards we are!!! When we met the cruise critic brigade our party really started. We went to deck 12 for sail off and had the pleasure of meeting George from Brooklyn (Sorry if I got that wrong George) who enlightened us with information regarding the sights we could see. Full of info he was! It was fabulous sailing past the Statue of Liberty – and if you go to New York pre sail – don’t worry if you don’t see it – you get a great view from the ship. 5 weeks before our cruise I checked the prices online and discovered that the balcony rooms were cheaper than the inside cabin we had booked. Naturally we changed to a balcony and can honestly say we will never go to an inside room. To be able to see where you are going and smell the sea air is amazing! THE SHIP We were in balcony room 8378 – which was the very last cabin at the back of the ship. We loved it! There was never any noise from anything! The cabin had all necessary amenities, shower, hair dryer, storage, fridge etc. ( When we went for dinner on the first evening we were quite nervous as we had chosen a large table and discovered there were 9 people in total at ours. The others all knew each other – so at first we felt out of place. This didn’t last long! They were all brilliant and made us feel like part of their group. They were all New Yorkers (not they would tell you that as they said they were from New Jersey or Brooklyn or Manhattan etc etc etc!) Anywhere but New York! I have to say each evening was great, entertaining fun and we had a ball! The dining hall was amazing – great chandeliers and fantastic table settings. Our waiter was called Wendell and he was superb – could sing any reggae song you named! Give him a great big hello if you meet him! FOOD Food was out of this world – we never had a poor meal. Two evenings we tried something different from what we would normally eat and we weren’t that keen on it – but Wendell had it changed for us immediately. If you want to try something different – order two or three selections! Honestly, this is never a problem. DRINK We drank mostly at the Aquarium bar or Schooners. We had the unfortunate experience of meeting like minded folk who take a few bevy’s!! Have to say – none of us ever refused a drink! Oops forgot about one – he was a complete lightweight and could only drink every other night! The price of drink was around $4.00 (£2.40) and $5.50 (£3.00) dollars for a vodka and coke – but remember! These drinks are not measured and are very strong drinks! Bartenders appear all day long with cocktails and I have to admit they are pretty tasty! Try some of them – but beware – the Cosmos are lethal!! They should be named Physco’s! SHOWS We saw a number of shows and the best has to be the Ice Show – it was amazing! Can’t believe they perform that show on such a small piece of ice! DON’T miss it! We saw a couple of comedians and they were great too – but the magician was not worth going to unless you were under 10 years old. Bearing in mind that these shows all come under the price of your ticket – its amazing the acts they can get on board! PORTS OF CALL St Thomas Beautiful – wonderful – amazing! Words can’t describe what you see at St Thomas. It is picture paradise. We went shopping first and found the prices to be brilliant. (Remember we are from Northern Ireland) We then asked a taxi driver to take us to Megan’s Bay. He Refused! BUT he said he would take us to a more beautiful beach than we would ever see. Against our better judgment we agreed – best decision we made on holiday. We were taken to Lindberg Beach. There was the total sum of 14 people there and a fantastic beach hut for a bar with a dozen palm trees along a stretch of white sand and turquoise sea! It was heaven! Our taxi driver turned out to be a real find. He called back for us 15 minutes before the arranged time and gave us an informative, guided, knowledgeable tour of the island! I got his number for those interested in meeting him – it’s definitely worth it if you are going there! (I will give it to those who want to go there) St Marteen Again – beautiful – but shopping was a nightmare! We found that the staff stood over our shoulder when we went into a shop. The island itself is gorgeous – but do your shopping for St Thomas. San Juan The stop over here was so short we didn’t bother getting off. But that might have something to do with them nutters from Liverpool who kept us drinking till the early hours! Labadee This part of Haiti is beautiful. It is worth getting off to see what Royal Caribbean have achieved on a small part of this island. There was a fire eating show where a man walked through fire then put it in his mouth. Then there was a barbeque with an unlimited amount of fabulous food. The beaches are beautiful – but if you do not have children – go straight from the tender to the other side of the island and you will find a sanctuary. Much as I love my own kids – they were not with me on holiday so I didn’t really want to listen to other people's. OVERALL Value for money – exceptional – we spent £2600 for 12 days – 2 nights in New York and 9 nights on the ship – the only other money we spent was on drink and a few pressie – this amounted to about £300 If you haven’t cruised before – you will again after your first one. We can’t wait to go back. For all those people we met – loved your company and it was a pleasure to meet you – hope we meet again sometime! For that mad Liverpool couple – can we see you again soon? It was brilliant – thank you – you made it fantastic!!!  

Read More
  • New

May 7, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Western Caribbean blueboro We were on the May 7th, 2006 5-day W. Caribbean sailing of Explorer. This was the last Explorer cruise leaving from Miami for some time and a “transition” cruise before repositioning to New Jersey. Arrived at the port at 11:00AM and had checked in by 11:30. However, we did not get on board until 12:45 due to the fact that passengers from

the prior cruise were still going through customs until 12:30. The problem with this was that since no one could board until 12:30, there was a mass assault on the Windjammer and was VERY crowded and tables were non-existent. There were 4 in our party and we had forward Cabins 6218 (balcony) and 6217 (inside). Cabins were in good shape. The balcony on the early Voyager class ships are not as open as later versions and less glass but still better than nothing. While we were on the ship they were replacing couches and headboards with newly upholstered ones. The inside cabin was sufficient. The only complaint was that we were right above Maharaja’s Lounge and could hear the thumping bass on several evenings. One note. The showers are so small on this ship that if you drop the soap you have to open the door and practically stick your head in the sink to bend over far enough to pick it up. SHIP: This was our first cruise on the Voyager class and we were very impressed. While it did not have the abundance of glass and sea views as the Radiance class, it was beautiful and in great shape. It did not look like a 5-year old ship. You had to look hard to find things that were worn. In comparison, we were on HAL’s Zuiderdam in October 2005 and, even though it was 2-3 years newer than Explorer, it looked like it had been sailing for 10 years with no maintenance. We loved the Promenade. We spent a lot of time just people watching and in the shops and café. This is a great feature on a cruise ship. The Palace Theatre was huge and had the best sightlines of any venue we have experienced. The 3-level dining room was beautiful. All public rooms on the ship are very classy and decorated in soft tones that are much more subdued than Carnival. RCCL does a great job in decorating their ships. The Solarium was a very nice place to spend a sea day. They had 2 large hot tubs that rarely were crowded. The main pool usually had Vibes, the Caribbean band playing. DINING: We ate each evening in the main dining room. All meals were good to very good. Nothing bad which is amazing considering the number of meals they prepare. It seemed the selection was less than normal but they did have alternatives such as steak and salmon you could select any evening. The Windjammer food was okay…nothing special but it is hard to make a buffet special in my opinion. They did not have a deli station like most of the ships we have been on recently. At times the Windjammer was very crowded and seems it may not be large enough to handle the number of passengers on this class of ship. It did not seem much larger than the Brilliance Windjammer. They also have good small sandwiches in the Promenade Café along with desserts, fruit, pizza and cookies 24-hours a day. Everything is free in the Café except for the specialty coffees and soft drinks. We ate one day in Johnny Rockets using our Crown & Anchor coupon which meant we did not have to pay the $3.95 cover charge. Excellent fries and rings and burgers. If you want shakes and soft drinks, you pay extra for those. Room service menu was fairly large but it took on average 45 -55 minutes late night after ordering to receive. We did not eat in Portofino’s. SERVICE: Service was, as usual, excellent. Horace from Jamaica was our waiter and Antonio our assistant. They were always there to fill water, tea and soft drink glasses. On several evenings, I ordered an extra entrée to split with my son. Horace said his job was to make us happy and he did. Gerald was our headwaiter and very attentive. Shermin was our cabin steward and while efficient, she was not as visible as previous stewards. She did make towel animals on several evenings. ENTERTAINMENT: The RCCL Singers and Dancers show was one of the better ones we have seen. Most seem to be the same old stuff but they had a good selection of songs and sets. The Ice Show was very good and impressive on such a small surface. We had 3 comedians that were okay but nothing special and a couple called Majestic that did some amazing physical routines. I think the entertainment was not quite as good as other RCCL cruises but it could have been because it was a transitional cruise. FELLOW PASSENGERS: A good mix of ages. I heard there were only about 3,100 on board which is about 500 less than maximum capacity. Other than the Windjammer on embarkation day and a couple of other times, there were hardly any crowds since this ship has such a large space ratio per passenger. We were surprised at the dress of many passengers. Even on formal nights jeans and t-shirt were seen in the dining room. On casual nights shorts, flip flops and almost anything seemed fair game. I made the comment that some people just don’t seem to know the difference between casual and yard clothes. OVERALL: Would definitely sail on the Voyager class again. We were unsure how we would react with such a large ship with so many people but RCCL has done an excellent job designing the ship to disburse the crowds. The ship is good for families since there is so much to do.

Read More
  • New

Apr 30, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer Of The Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Pete Poplawski I’ll try not to repeat what you’ve already read on previous reviews. Yes, the ship is amazing, it was one of our best vacations ever, the dining rooms are beautiful, you will gain a few pounds, you will have a great time etc. I’ll try to give you some fresh info. THE ROOM. We had the deluxe balcony room and my wife and I were both

amazed with the amount of storage space. Two full suitcases and a garment bag all got put away with no problem. 40 coat hangers in the closet easily handled all our folded up clothes from the suitcases. Note: No irons on the ship so consider this when picking the type of clothes you bring. We ironed everything first, folded it carefully and it all came out pretty well. Incidentally, those travel steamers are almost useless. We brought one and used it only once. My only complaint is that the balconies on this ship do not have a glass front. One side of your balcony will be steel, the other will be a very private frosted glass. The front side facing the ocean is steel up to about three feet. Most other cruise ships we saw in other ports had glass fronts affording you a better view of the ocean. I have a feeling the steel makes for a more structurally stable ship though. All in all we had no complaints about the room. PICKING YOUR ROOM. Put some thought into this when checking out the floor plan. Remember, center ship you’ll feel the least ocean movement. Pick one by the rear elevator. Then you go down to the dining rooms and up to the pool decks. Port side rooms give you great sunsets coming back from the Caribbean. Isn’t that when you really need it? HAND SANITIZING. You cannot enter the ship or any dining room without using the hand sanitizers. We were really glad to see this and so was everyone else. After all, no one wants to get sick on a cruise. DINING. There were many bad reviews about the food on this ship. Most were reviews from a few years ago. Forget them, you will get a lot of great meals, appetizers, main dishes etc. and you may also get a few that the quality was less than expected. You will enjoy most of the food and you will certainly not leave this ship thinking that you didn’t eat well. Review the menu for the Windjammer (buffet) and compare it to the main dining room menu before you decide where to eat. Sometimes you may actually find a few more exciting things in the windjammer. The plus is that the cooks are from many different countries so you get some really interesting dishes and spices. The tandoori chicken in the Windjammer (WJ) was better that that at our local Indian restaurant. It was a shame that it only appeared on the menu one night. Something as mundane as meatloaf was also very delicious. In the main dining room each night there are usually 4-5 entrees to pick from. Then they also list four more alternative items. Most of these are usually avoided. Beware of the tempting sounding black angus steak usually offered every day. You will not rave about it. Of course on lobster night they will bring you as many as you like. That pretty much goes with everything all week. Like two appetizers? Get them both! Also, why go (and pay extra) to go to Johnny Rockets when there is Burgermania in the Windjammer? It’s also very o.k. to bring food back from the WJ to the pool area. Incidentally, The WJ and the Island Grill are basically the same place with the same buffet menu. DINNER SEATING. We chose the 8:30 seating. Be forewarned that on two of the nights on a 7 night cruise the time usually gets pushed back to 9:00. Don’t figure this out after the Windjammer has closed for the afternoon break usually around 3:30 or you will wind up running down to the Promenade Café for Pizza to keep you going till dinner. THE COFFEE. Wow, it is strong, everywhere on the ship!!!!!!!! They use a European dark roast and brew it strong. By the second day I learned that the trick was to fill your cup ¼ full with hot water and then fill it with coffee. That worked for me. SERVICE. This bears repeating. The service everywhere was exceptional. This ship had the friendliest most helpful staff that you could imagine. So many times we would ask where a place was on the ship and the staff would just take us there instead of just giving us directions. We had a bulb flickering in our room. We called before dinner and we came back it was fixed. The same thing with calls for more pillows or towels. THE COKE/JUCE DEAL. $6.00 a day gets you all the Coke or juice you can drink. The good thing is that they give you a insulated travel type mug in the beginning for the Coke that holds 16-20 oz. or so. This is handy for the people that bring their own bottle of liquor on board to mix their own drinks from time to time. FYI- Liquor in your checked on suitcase gets onboard without a problem. We bought one Coke pass for the cruise and the two of us did just fine with it. This may not work if two people constantly both order Coke with every meal. Iced tea is free. HIGH SEAS. As luck would have it our first night out had 15 foot + seas. Even on a ship this size you will feel it but it’s still not nauseating. It can keep you up at night though with all the rocking and rolling. It rocks some to sleep. Opening your balcony door helps. The sound of the surf drowns out the moans, creaks and vibrations of the ship. Anything below 10 foot seas you will probably not even feel. THE POOL DECK. Get your chairs by 10:30 or you will not get a choice spot. The pool temps vary in temperature from day to day and even from pool to pool. It seems like the Solarium pool was heated nicely while the other was not. Bring one of those clips to hold your hat (if you every wear one) to your shirt. The upper deck can get very windy. RAIN. Pack a folding umbrella big enough for two. If it rains when you are on an island you will thank yourself a hundred times for doing so. All the umbrellas you can buy on the islands are small and almost worthless. ISLAND PHOTO TIPS. You will probably be taking many pictures of people in bright sunshine. Take your flash off “auto” and make sure it is on “on” The flash fills in all the shadows. Many people don’t know this. Also remember to keep your horizon straight in your ocean pictures. You often don’t notice this when using a LED screen with a digital camera and it’s hard to see the horizon on the screen in bright sunlight.. Then you see the picture later and cringe. Using the viewfinder instead helps a lot. Don’t forget to use your cameras beach setting (if it has one). It lets the color of the water really come through. PUERTO RICO. Our plan was to take a cab to El Morro and walk back to town. It was raining so we did the shops on the main streets and then found our way to Senior Frogs. This place will make you forget it is raining out. What a lot of fun. Also, on the right side of town near the other fort you will find a lot of tents set up and street vendors selling food. Try Some! I had some local dish that started with the letter “P” . It was a kind of deep fried pastry filled with pork and plantains. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!!! There is also a very old church in town near the square with all the pigeons. Go inside and take some pictures of the stained glass windows. SAINT MAARTEN. The rain again changed our plans. We really wanted to go to Orient Beach but the weather did not cooperate. We did all the shops and then later ate and had some cocktails at The Greenhouse. St. Maarten has the most organized cab system I’ve ever seen. They have posted signs based on location, get in line and you’re off. Sure wish we could have gone to Orient. Now you see why I mentioned to pack the big umbrella. ST THOMAS. Finally a beautiful day. To die For!! The best of St Thomas tour is the best for photo opportunities from high altitude locations. We took this same tour a few years ago and it was still great. Then did the Megan’s Beach Getaway tour. I could have stayed there for a week. Yes, it’s very crowded if you are dead center on the beach but I was in the water most of the time and didn’t care. Someone we met on the ship went there in the morning and said it was empty. Maybe that’s the secret. If you don’t want to rent a chair you can walk to the far left or right and be more secluded. But then again the bar is in the crowded part. Get a painkiller or two at the bar, they are extremely tasty. This beach was our favorite part of the entire trip. Sandy bottom beach not good snorkeling, where I was, nothing to see. IMPORTANT: On a previous cruise I went to Trunk Bay which was incredible. Highly recommended. But, what they don’t tell you is that the shop at Trunk Bay closes early (3:00?). If you don’t bring your own snorkel gear you can get screwed on an afternoon trip. Luckily I had my own. They should really tell you that. NASSAU. Be sue to get a picture of the tiny lighthouse on the left when you are pulling into the harbor, the water is so blue on a sunny day. We heard many crappy reviews on Atlantis (not a guest, you lose) so we skipped that. Went to Cabbage Beach for the first part of the day and then went to the shops. We should have stayed at the beach all day. The shops and straw market sucked big time. A note on the cabs, you need to know this. There is no such thing as a cab as you know it, they are all vans. They will not go anywhere until they fill up the van, That’s the way it is. You may have to wait 5-10 minutes. We the people are the commodity to the cab drivers, they will fight over us. Most “cab” drivers go to Atlantis and the second stop is Cabbage beach. Be sure that this is their plan before you get on. $4.00 a person. All and all, no problem. This beach has the coolest water color you’ve ever seen. It is very crowded. Chair rental price $10, umbrella $20. I mentioned that this was robbery and the guy said, “hey, tell my boss” Drink all day on the beach for $10.00 though. Lot’s of drinks in coconuts. A very crazy place but very cool. The water drop off is very steep. You can walk out 20 feet and be in water 8 feet deep. I actually saw waves tossing 200 lb. women up onto the sand. I am not kidding. No problem if you are a decent swimmer. This beach was very cool. So there you have it. We had a great time. Other than a trip to Hawaii we rate this as our next best vacation. Have fun!!!

Read More
  • New

Apr 30, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review 7-Day Eastern Caribbean Tom Ogg The setup: I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 39 travel professionals on an Eastern Caribbean sailing of the Explorer of the Seas. I purchased a ticket on Continental Airlines flying from San Diego through Houston, Texas to Miami, Florida and had a flawless flight arriving right on schedule. My luggage even made

it too. I grabbed a taxi to the Embassy Suites at Miami Airport and slept great. After a quick breakfast I grabbed a taxi to the Port of Miami arriving about 11:30. After checking my luggage, I breezed through check-in and waited in the Chairman's Room with the other Diamond members for pre-boarding. I believe I was the seventh passenger to actually board the ship and I was up in the Windjammer by 12:15 pm. The Explorer of the Seas Docked in St. Thomas Summary in Advance This review is more of a pictorial of the Explorer of the Seas than a thorough review of the cruise itself. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Explorer of the Seas and never get off the ship (as I almost did on this cruise) and have the best cruise of your life. The Explorer of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto themselves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison-shopping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Explorer of the Seas is, without question, the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles. Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such an assorted amount of activities and entertainment on the Explorer of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions. Honeymooners and Destination Weddings: There were 50 some honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships. For small destination weddings, the Voyager class ships cannot be beat. Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team-building opportunities on the Explorer that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel or resort) and the idea that many of the usually variable costs are controlled, makes the Explorer of the Seas an incredible meeting venue. Groups and Friends Traveling Together:  If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Explorer of the Seas offers enough different opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes, makes for a happy cruise. About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Explorer of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering single's events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact. One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time. The The Explorer of the Seas is one of five of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships. At 142,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved, as every detail in her construction and décor is simply beautiful. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship. Cabin 6504, All the Way Forward Cabin 6504: I was located in cabin 6504 that was all the way forward and the porthole looked directly forward. I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands with individual reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 1 110v outlets (European). This proved to be an excellent feature. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items. There was a refrigerator directly under the television, but unlike other Voyager class ships, the shelves were not removable. This made it impossible to cool a bottle of wine. A closet lines the cabin entrance way and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes, as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the left hand side.  The Shower in Cabin 6504 The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the curved sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable. Exploring the Explorer of the Seas The best way to explore the Explorer is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin.   The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15 Up the stairway from the Viking Crown Lounge, one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. This is a gorgeous chapel and would be a great place for a small wedding or vow renewal.   Tizzy's in the Viking Crown Lounge Deck 14 The main venue here is Tizzy's in Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail.  We met here one night for a computer session and it was not at all crowded and proved to be an excellent place for an impromptu meeting that could easily accommodate all of us. The Diamond Member's meeting also took place here and I believe that everyone was impressed with the event, as it was enhanced by the Viking Crown Lounge location. The view of the pool area forward of Tizzy's is something not to be missed.   The 19th Hole To the rear on the starboard side behind Tizzy's lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole. The Card Room On the port side of the Viking Crown Lounge is the card room. I never saw it busy at all. The Miniature Golf Course Deck 13 When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of the Explorers deck 13, as to why everyone would love this deck. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Explorer offers a wonderful miniature golf course). You can simply grab a putter and a golf ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course.   The Explorer's Inline Skating Track   On the port side of the golf course is the inline skating track where one can race around the Le Mans type track, as much as they would like. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it. The Explorer's Skate Shop There is no need to bring your own skates as the Explorer has a fully stocked skate shop. The Basket Ball Court and Royal Caribbean's Signature Rock Wall Standing in front of the golf simulator you can hear the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used). The Explorer of the Sea's Basketball Court   Surrounding the area is a number of ping pong tables. I noticed a good number of families that were using them and having the time of their lives. Just One of the Many Table Tennis Areas This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship.    One of the Shuffle Board Courts   Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship. Deck 12 Johnny Rockets Main Entrance   Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining at Johnny Rockets.   Johnny Rockets Interior, Look Familiar? There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kid’s clubs. Adventure Ocean Kid's Club The Adventure Ocean kid's club is made up of several rooms specifically designed for various age groups. Each of the five age groups enjoy clubs that are planned and staffed for the kid's enjoyment. Adventure Ocean's Video Zone This video arcade had a ton of video games. There are several other rooms that make up the Adventure Ocean complex. There is a really cool disco that teens can relate to. It is only used by certain age groups at a time, so you don't have to worry about your young teen hanging around with older teens. The Adventure Ocean Water Slides and Pools The Adventure Ocean Tyke's Slide and Pool Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program. The Explorer's Walking and/or Jogging Track Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track that is heavily used. The Sky Bar The Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors. Looking over the pool area, it is also a great place to watch the pool games and other pool-side activities. The Entrance to the ShipShape Spa The Explorer's “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section The ShipShape Spa Beauty Salon  The ShipShape Spa offers a full beauty salon and complete spa services. Deck 11 Deck 11 is the first ship-length deck on the Explorer and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Bridge Overlook”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship.  The Stairway Leading to the Fitness Center (From the ShipShape Spa, deck 12) By taking the stairwell down from deck 12 in the ShipShapre Spa, we can access the fitness center. ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “ShipShape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and offers an excellent collection of free weights and Cybex machines. The Free Weight Area If you like working with free weights rather than machines, you will find enough weight and benches to keep you happy. Explorer of the Seas Cardiovascular Machines There is also an excellent collection of cardio machines with excellent views of the ocean. The Aerobics Room of the ShipShape Fitness Center The Explorer of the Seas had a very good aerobics program and the classes were heavily attended. The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet. Solarium Jacuzzis and Pool Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun.   The Solarium Bar   There are two large (I mean LARGE) Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well. The Explorer of the Sea's Pool Area The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Explorer has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the result is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge. There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by everyone. The Entrance to the Windjammer Cafe Aft of the pool area is one of the main dining venues on the Explorer of the Seas, the Windjammer Cafe. One enters the area through the main entrance to the Windjammer Cafe, but will be presented with the entrance to the alternative restaurant on board the Explorer, the Portofino Restaurant on the starboard side of the entrance to the Windjammer. Portofino Restaurant Portofino's Elegant Dining Area The Portofino Restaurant requires a reservation and there is a nominal $20.00 service fee associated with dining in the intimate and luxurious surroundings. The Windjammer Cafe The Windjammer Café is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet. This is the main buffet area of the Navigator. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous selections. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. In the aft section of the Windjammer buffet is an omelet station that then becomes a pasta station for lunch. There are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine. Deck 10 Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins.   Deck 9 With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats. The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the morning and the evening, it turns into a lounge where breakfast or cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members.   Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8 With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Explorer of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. Royal Caribbean has made great strides in improving their Internet Cafe services and operating speed. What was once a major negative for Royal Caribbean, their Internet access is a huge positive and reason to select Royal Caribbean should you need to have reasonably price fast access while on a cruise. The Explorer of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. The price is $100 for the cruise and you are able to go on-line 24 hours a day with unlimited access. It is truly a great deal and a reason to select the Voyager class ships of Royal Caribbean if you are a heavy user. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. If you want to get access, visit the Guest Relations Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service. I opted for a prepaid package of 150 minutes for $50.00. This brought the per-minute price for access down to $.33 per minute and I could use both the desktop sets in the Internet Cafe offered by Royal Caribbean or wi-fi access at one of the many hot spots on the ship. Connection speeds varied somewhat but were always acceptable to downright fast. I would give the overall Internet access service on the Explorer an 8 or a 9 based on the value proposition that was offered. It is now far superior to other mass-market lines. Congratulations Royal Caribbean! The Explorer of the Seas Library Deck 7 With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size.   Deck 6 The Loyalty Ambassador's Office Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up, as the benefits are excellent. The Explorer of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well. The Royal Promenade   Deck 5 Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship. Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants Starting with the Columbus Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room complex carries a different name for each restaurant on every deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply breath-taking and while large, because of the way it is partitioned into small areas, is quite intimate. The Champagne Bar Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. The Lounge Area of the Champagne Bar This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small and intimate areas for casual conversation.   Guest Relations Desk On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk. The Explorations Tour Desk The Tour Desk was always busy and while I did not personally use their services, those that did felt the staff was professional and courteous. The Crown and Kettle Pub There are several shops and bars along the Royal Promenade and they are is the center of much activity. On of my favorites was the Crown and Kettle Pub. It was fun and intimate and always popular, best of all it was one of the wi-fi hot spots on the Explorer of the Seas. The Cafe Promenade On the Starboard side of the Explorer forward yet (under the bridge), is the Café Promenade. This is a great spot. There is coffee and tea set up all day and a bakery serving freshly baked coffee cakes, and such in the morning, and then the offerings turn to fresh cookies and sandwiches  during the day. Several other dessert treats are offered during the evening. The Cafe Promenade There is no charge for the bakery goods. Fresh sandwiches are made right next to the bakery and are available all day long. The adjoining bar features specialty coffee drinks, as well as a full assortment of cocktails, beer and wine. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade. The Beautiful Entrance to the Maharajas Lounge Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Maharajas Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active. The Maharajas Lounge The Crown and Anchor Club met here for the members that have sailed on Royal Caribbean before. The Bar in Maharajas Lounge The bar in Maharajas Lounge was a great place to take in the action. The Connoisseur Club The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Maharajas Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar. The Palace Theater Deck 4 Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Palace Theater. This is the main showroom on the Explorer and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Palace Theater is the Schooner Bar. The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bar is the signature bar for the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner. The Chamber's Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “The Chamber”. I didn’t explore it until later in the cruise, but you should walk into it the second you see it, as it leads you into the ship’s 2-story disco area, which is surreal.   The Casino Royale Entrance Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale. This is a major casino that offers much gaming opportunities and I heard a number of people say that the slots were somewhat loose. The entry way is wonderful, as you walk across plate glass enclosing many treasures. The Stairway From Deck 5 into the Casino Royal Another way to enter the Casino Royal is to descend the stairway from the Royal Promenade's center. It is clearly marked and you won't miss it. The Casino Royal Slots There are a ton of slot machines and other games that were always quite busy. Many folks actually walked off the ship with a positive cash flow from gambling. The Casino Royal Gaming Tables The tables were also quite busy every time I walked through the casino. Aquarium Bar If you like tropical fish and aquariums, you will love the Aquarium Bar. There is music here every night and enjoying the fish as they make their way around the aquariums is fun to watch.  Aft of the Aquarium Bar is the second level of the dinning room, the Da Gama Dining Room. Deck 3   The lower level of the restaurant, the Magellan Dining Room resides on deck 3 aft. The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes their presentation logical. Studio B Ice Arena The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. I would definitely give the Ice Shows presented on the Explorer of the Seas a "Don't Miss" rating. Even if you think you don't like ice skating, don't miss this show! It is so much more than ice skating it is unbelievable. Everyone that sees the show thinks it is one of the most memorable experiences of the cruise. The Chamber In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Chamber, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance (pictured above). Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Chamber. This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service.  Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Palace Theater. Deck 2 Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the the Conference Center. We held our meetings in one of the break-out rooms of the Conference center  Entrance to the Conference Center The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3 to 40. One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting. The Conference Center's Screening Room They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings. The Cruise Sunday, April 30th, 2006; Miami, Florida, Casual As mentioned above, I was on the ship quite early and after enjoying a quick lunch made my way to the Royal Promenade to work on my computer while I was awaiting 2 pm when the decks to the cabins were to open. I ran into some of our group members and had a ton of fun catching up on their recent experiences before making my way to my cabin on deck 6. I spent the afternoon working and finalizing the group's cocktail party, seminars and dining tables. Before I knew it, it was time for our "Welcome Aboard" cocktail party. We met in the Chamber on deck 4 and while it wasn't the best venue for socializing (there were only small sitting areas partitioned off making socializing difficult) everyone had a great time. I jumped from alcove to alcove and met most of the group members before it was time to head for dinner. I always enjoy the first cocktail party because you can meet the people before they start bonding and they are on their most conservative behavior. It is such a rewarding process to experience. Dinner unfolded as a wonderful event. It was a very compatible group and everyone soon fell into conversation and laughter. I had an excellent dinner and thoroughly enjoyed the company. Monday, May 1st, 2006; Day at Sea, Formal We had our first seminar this morning in the Conference Center and everyone was there. After introductions, the group agreed to experience a new seminar that I had been working on so I began (with much trepidation, I must admit) and the group was receptive to the content even though it was quite controversial. We finished the session and I was exhausted. A couple of the members and I moved on to the restaurant to enjoy the day's lunch and lingered until we were asked to leave to make room for the wine tasting that was going to take place where we were sitting. I rarely take lunch in the restaurant, but this was an exceptional experience. I so enjoyed it that I made a mental note to do it more often. I found myself working again in the afternoon until it was time to get ready for the evening's formal events. We had agreed to meet in the Schooner Bar to build websites and most of the group appeared. The gal that took on the challenge took right to it and she spent the next hour showing the other group members how to do it. We missed the gala Welcome Aboard Reception altogether. At 8:30 we moved into the dining room and experienced another wonderful dining experience. I must say, in my opinion, Royal Caribbean's food is improving quite a bit. It has always been enjoyable, but the current menu, presentation and overall quality is excellent. We lingered until we were the last ones to leave the restaurant. While I went to bed, the balance of the group went to the Late Night Adult Comedy Show and thought that the comedian, Eric Lyden was terrific. I was sorry to have missed his performance. Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Casual We were due to arrive in San Juan at 2pm for a five hour stay departing at 7:30pm so I made the decision to simply treat the entire day as a work day. It proved to be a good choice, as it was drizzling and downright raining at moments. I enjoyed breakfast in the Windjammer, lunch there too and then work work until I got tired in the afternoon and then take a Jacuzzi in the Solarium. There was virtually no one on the ship and I found it delightful. I worked until it was time to get ready for the evening, so I dressed and made my way to the Concierge Lounge on deck 10. Being able to use the Concierge Lounge as a Diamond Member (10 completed cruises on Royal Caribbean) is one of the main benefits. There is an open bar from 5pm until 9pm and one can serve themselves wine, beer or mixed drinks and there are also a good amount of hot and cold appetizers. It is a great way to start the evening. There were also a good number of the members in our group that were also Diamond members, which made it that much more enjoyable. We made our way to the restaurant and I enjoyed being able to jump from table to table, getting to know everyone. This is one of the main advantages of traveling in a group. Dinner was excellent and we lingered again until the late seating show was about to start. I normally do not go to the shows, but the table that I was sitting with insisted that I go. I am so glad that I did. The show featured the talented group that performed "A Salute to the Temptations". They were awesome. They had us standing, dancing, clapping and left with a standing ovation from the entire theater. They were so much fun that I ended up hitting the Schooner bar for a nightcap before turning in. Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006; St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, casual We were not due to arrive at St. Maarten until 8am and when I awoke, I noticed it was very cloudy and threatening rain. I had arranged to go to a restaurant on Orient beach that had been recommended as excellent, but when it started raining in earnest around 11am, I called off the luncheon. Those that went however had a great time and said it wasn't raining that hard on the other side of the island. I worked all day and then made my way to the Concierge Lounge to meet some of the other group members for an early cocktail. The Concierge had arranged for tickets to the Ice show for our group and at 7:30pm we made our way to Studio "B". I have to tell you; if you cruise on a Voyager class ship and do not attend the ice show, you are missing one of the main reasons to cruise on these ships. Even if you do not like ice skating, you will love this show, I guarantee it. After the Ice show, we made our way back to the Concierge Lounge until it was time to head for the restaurant and another great dinning experience. Thursday, May 4th, 2006; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., casual Having been to St. Thomas a good number of times, I was more interested in getting some exercise than in seeing the sights. After breakfast and after most of the passengers had left on their tours, I debarked the ship for the first time on this cruise and walked into town from the Havensight Cruise Terminal. I was surprised at how many stores are now located in and around the port itself. It really isn't even necessary to go into town to shop, as there are numerous shops selling everything under the sun right at the Havensight Mall at the cruise terminal. I walked the mile or so into town and was reminded at just how commercial the Caribbean had become in places. After walking around town taking pictures for PortReviews.com, I made my way back to the ship. It turned out that the weather was improving, so I spent the late afternoon enjoying the sunshine before we departed at 6pm. This is one of my main reasons for preferring late seating. After my nightly visit to the Concierge Lounge and an excellent dining experience with our group, I turned in early bushed from the exercise, sunshine and day's events. Friday, May 5th, 2006; Day at Sea, formal The morning started with our second seminar in the Conference Center and moved on to the Diamond member's party in the Viking Crown Lounge at 11:30. I always enjoy these events, as it gives everyone an opportunity to meet and mingle with the executive staff aboard the ship. This meeting was no different. There was much talk about the Freedom of the Seas at the meeting and the anticipation for the vessel is overwhelming. A small group of us lingered after the meeting talking about various topics and then I enjoyed lunch with one of our group members that was also in attendance at the meeting. All in all, it was a good day. The sun was out in force, but I ended up working instead of enjoying it. I had made so much progress on the work that I had brought with me I was dumbfounded. People always think I am nuts to be working on a cruise ship, but I am telling you that I can get more done on a one-week cruise than I can at home in a month. I had arranged for our group photo to be taken at 7:15pm, so was dressed and ready to go in the Schooner Bar at 7pm. Most of our group made it to the photo and it was taken right on time by an excellent photographer. After a cocktail at the Schooner Bar, we made our way back up to the Concierge Lounge for some chardonnay and appetizers before dinner. I was really getting used to the routine. Dinner was capped off by a birthday party for one of our group members. He was a retired nuclear submarine captain, so we felt it necessary to bestow such desirable gifts upon him as a kid's captain's hat, a grass skirt, a kid's telescope, a sailing ship in a bottle; that sort of thing. He was a great sport and enjoyed the party. Following dinner a group of us went to the Maharaja's lounge for the salsa dance contest, but missed most of it. We then made our way to the Chamber, the Explorer's Disco. I stopped going to the disco years ago, as I am happily married and many people don't understand that a married man can still have a wonderful time dancing and having fun, without any sexual overtones. Out of respect for my wife, I just gave up going. Since it was a festive birthday and there were a good number of our group members there, I felt safe to simply relax and have a good time. Big mistake. This lady (not a part of our group) attached herself to me (literally) and would not leave me alone. Finally one of the ladies in our group came to my rescue and shortly thereafter, I left for my cabin to turn in for the night. I seriously doubt  that I will ever set foot in a disco again. Saturday, May 6th, 2006; Nassau, Bahamas; casual We were due to arrive in Nassau at noon, so after my normal breakfast, work, lunch, work, Jacuzzi and then more work, I spent some time in the sunny day by the pool. Most folks got off the ship to visit Nassau, but I found the solitude welcoming and soothing. The day went by so quickly, I couldn't believe it. The ship had turned half of the conference area into a furniture manufacturing facility and the crew was busy reupholstering all of the chairs and sofas on the ship. At about 11:30am I got a knock on my door and it was now my turn. I had to vacate my cabin while the crew took my sofa and chair to reupholster them. I was duly impressed. So I spent the afternoon in the Solarium enjoying the solitude and it was a great day. I packed late in the day and then made my way to take care of the final details of the cruise. I was in the Concierge Lounge right on time and enjoyed the camaraderie that had evolved during the cruise. After dinner I enjoyed a cocktail with new made friends in the Schooner Bar before turning in for the evening. Sunday, May 7th, 2006; Miami, Florida We arrived right on time and I was all packed and ready to go. After breakfast, a shower and finishing packing, I made my way down to deck 4 and the debarkation line. Now, I should tell you my options. I am a Diamond member and I could have gone to deck 3, enjoyed a continental breakfast, coffee and priority disembarkation, but because I had a later flight, I left that option for those with earlier departure times. I stood in line for almost an hour and the line was moving at a snail's pace. I later found out that here was a bunch of international passengers and that the immigrations process was taking an especially long time since there were only two immigration agents processing U.S. citizens. I was close to the point of checking off the ship when I saw a group of Diamond members being led to the front of the line. Since the line was not moving at all, the Loyalty Ambassador left them as she went back to deck three to help other Diamond members. I recognized the group as being from a college as they were also in the Chairman's Lounge waiting for priority embarkation at the same time I was there at the beginning of the cruise. There was about a ten minute period before the line started to move again and the Diamond members moved to join the line. At this point someone further back from me started shouting "the line is over there!" to the Diamond members. They obviously thought that the people were trying to butt into the line. It went from bad to worse. A young man right behind me shouted obscenities at the women and that is when one of the women confronted the young man asking him to watch his language. I let the ladies in front of me and they checked off the ship and gathered on the gangway somewhat flustered. When I got into the terminal where the line was quite long, the three people that had been vocal were right behind me followed by the Diamond members (6 ladies and a gentleman). The young man that had used the profanity was now becoming vocal again and quite agitated. He was making statements that were downright hurtful and mean. I intervened to try and explain what had happened and that the people had every right to be in the line where they were, but the young man did not want to hear it. He kept on insulting the people making racial statements. One of the ladies sought out a security guard to complain about the young man's actions who came by to talk with him. When she left, he started again. About five minutes later, the security guard came back with an officer and detained the young man and his two traveling companions while the security guard interviewed the group of Diamond members who had also been pulled from the line. I couldn't help but come to their defense and explained exactly what had happened. The Diamond members were then expedited through immigration and customs while the young man was detained and I suspect went to jail. That is as it should have been. Californians are oblivious to racism simply because of the wide diversity in our state. It mystifies me that there are still people who see differences between themselves and other people. How sad. My flight home was uneventful and I was glad to be back in my home state.

Read More
  • New

Apr 30, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Reviews Eastern Caribbean Tom McDonald I booked a non smoking room. The Guest relations manager educated me that every guest is welcomed to smoke where ever/whenever they want including the cabins. Wife had a live bug in her salad. Toilets smelled like sewage do to maintenance. Ship was run down. Five years old and looked really rough. The ports of call were why we booked the

cruise. I would only recommend this cruise if you are a smoker and get a great deal. 1 star out of 5.

Read More
  • New

Apr 23, 2006

Western Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Sail Dates: 4-23-06 thru 4-30-06 Cabin: 6225, Interior Stateroom Airport: We arrived in Miami shortly after noon, and easily found RCCL representatives displaying their signs around the luggage carousels. Once all of our luggage was pulled together, we began to drag it toward the exit to the bus when a RCCL representative stopped a man with a large luggage cart and told us to give our

luggage to him, and queued me to “take care of him”, which I assume was my hint to tip him, which I did. Having only our carry-on luggage now, we were quickly directed to our bus transfer (included in our cruise-air package), which was a filthy Greyhound bus. Not that I’m above taking a Greyhound, but this one was nasty, and to think it cost me more for this bus than it would have for cab fare…not cool. Cruise Terminal: Once off the bus, we tipped the driver and we were off through security and into the terminal. Like most cruises, we had to show our I.D. to several different people along our journey, a security measure for which I am grateful. We were directed to the appropriate line to stand in based on our deck number (deck 6). The line took roughly half an hour, and we were up the ramp to the ship. Cabin: No formal welcoming committee, just a couple attendants directing lost people to their cabins. We quickly found our cabins, and our Cabin Steward promptly greeted us, I’m guessing she was from Jamaica by her accent. After a quick inspection of our room, I found that the closet door was broken, and I informed our Cabin Stewrard. She assured me that she’d inform maintenance immediately. The door remained broken for the endurance of our cruise. Our last piece of luggage arrived by 8pm, allowing us plenty of time to get changed before our Second Seating Dinner, which is 9pm on the first night, and 8:30 every night thereafter. The shower floor is about 30” x 30”, the only smaller shower we’ve had was on Princess Cruise Line. Ladies, you’ll have to stand in the shower and prop your leg up on the sink to shave your legs. Careful not to slip! We had to put the bath mat down before getting in the shower because the rounded shower doors don’t make a good seal when closed, and water leaks onto the floor. The only bathroom amenities were lower quality bar soap, and a dispenser labeled “conditioning shampoo” in the shower. Do bring your own shampoo and conditioner, as this stuff is junk and will dry your hair out. Take note, the hair dryer is in the top drawer of the vanity in the stateroom, not in the bathroom, and is permanently attached by its cord. A little challenging to use, but you get used to it. The bed was two singles pulled together to make a queen, as is common with most inside cabins, forming a stiff “ridge” in the middle that makes sleeping close to your spouse a “no go” (honeymooner’s take note). The mattress was about 4 inches thick, and about medium hardness. The sheets were some of the softest we’ve ever had, and the comforter was thin, but felt as if were made of lead, very heavy & warm material. The thermostat was easy to set, but took several days of tweaking to get set just the way we wanted it. We did notice that the walls on our cabin were less insulated than those of the other cruise ships we’d been on. We could hear the music from the dance club, as well as our neighbors and our very vocal cabin steward who would start yelling (loudly conversing) at other cabin stewards at 7am every morning. Dining: We headed to the main dining rooms, and discovered that there are three of them, on levels 3,4, and 5. There is no information to tell you which one is yours. After waiting in line with about 200 other people, on level 4, we were directed to level 3 and had to push through a flood of people entering to get back to the stairwell to go down one level. Hint: your table number is on your room card. We were table 388, the number 3 represents level 3, and we were table 88. They could have put that information on a sign outside the dining rooms for the first couple of nights and saved a lot of tired, irritable, and hungry people some trouble. (Not just us.) Once we were seated, we introduced ourselves to our tablemates, and our waiter came around promptly to introduce himself and his assistant waiter. The service was excellent throughout our voyage, and they were quick to remember our preferences. The Head Waiter came around once a night to chat for 3 minutes and ensure his tip at the end of the cruise. This is customary with all cruise lines, and I feel that the Head Waiter should be salaried, as you’re unable to directly see what his job is, making it difficult to rationalize tipping him. We tipped him anyway (as is customary), but this is just one of those things I wish cruise lines would change. The food in the main dining room ranked #2 of the 4 cruises we’ve been on. The only exception was the veal on the Veal Parmesan, which was so tough it was almost inedible, but most everything else was wonderful. The butter-herb steak, available every night on the menu was exceptional! The menu selection left something to be desired. Being on other cruise ships where you have 5 different appetizers, 4 different salads, 4 different soups, 5 different entrees, and 5 different desserts, RCCL is lacking on selection. They also seemed to blend the appetizers, soups and salad (notice I didn’t say salads) into one category on the menu. It almost seems that throughout our whole cruise that RCCL is trying to not only control food options, but quantities as well. Overall, our main dining room experience was a good one, and our Waiter and Assistant Waiter were professional and personable. Buffet: The only buffet, The Windjammer Café, which is the main option for breakfast & lunch, left much to be desired. There were over 3,200 passengers on this ship, and it seems that RCCL does their best to keep everyone herded into one area, rather than keeping you spread out so you don’t step on each other like the other cruise lines. At certain times during lunch hours, they’d have areas blocked off and only one food line going, offering only hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, and a couple other little things. If you’ve only sailed RCCL you may think this is normal and acceptable, but ALL other cruise lines we’ve been on have had a huge selection on the lunch buffet. Norwegian for example had at least 20 entrees representing a dozen different ethnicities at any given time, and has “no charge” mini-restaurants (similar to but surpassing the Café Promenade) all over their ship, catering to half the number of passengers of this ship. Once again, it seems that RCCL is watching their budget closely in the food section. The quality and selection of RCCL’s buffet food, in comparison with the 3 other cruise lines we’ve been on, ranks the lowest. One other thing, good luck making one trip before sitting down to eat. Want salt and pepper? Go find it. How about catsup? Better ask someone; it’s in individually wrapped packages somewhere (in an unmarked container) totally different from the rest of the condiments. The buffet did not “flow” properly and is not very linear in comparison with other cruise lines. Entertainment: Over the period of 7 days, we caught 2 different comedians, a dance show, and 2 different performances by “Majestic” (a couple of awesome acrobats/contortionist), all lounges/nightclubs, and several outdoor activities. Overall, I would rank their entertainment #2, only barely being outranked by Norwegian due to their dancers & stage performances. We didn’t get to see NCCL’s ice show, but heard they were spectacular. The Cruise Director was excellent, but was not at the forefront of all major activities like other cruise lines. When he was visible, he was stupendous. The only major downfall (and many other cruises aboard agreed with this) is that most onboard activities lasted no more than an hour. As soon as you started to unwind and have fun “nnnnnnnnnt!” time’s up! Activities: Yes, this mammoth ship does have a rock climbing wall, and a golf course, and an ice rink, etc., but everything has very limited hours and occupancy, and 3,200 passengers trying to do the same things at once. Once again, crowd control. “Got to herd the cattle where we want them.” After 10pm, it’s pretty much the bars, clubs, or casino. RCCL has decided that free entertainment time is over; it’s time to buy their booze. I realize that most of the ship’s revenue comes from booze, but they don’t even try to create the illusion that you have an option. You can go drink, or you can go to bed. Shopping is over at 11pm. The average age of a cruiser on this ship is probably 45, RCCL is shooting themselves in the foot here, and a lot of young and old non-partiers shop at night when the crowds are low. Princess Cruise Lines had midnight sales on jewelry, and people stayed up late just to buy the stuff! Pools, Jacuzzis and Chairs: Two pools, 4 (I think) Jacuzzis, and plenty of chairs. Though I have been spoiled with being able to use a nice fluffy chair-towel for 30 minutes and then throw it in a bin and get another clean one an hour lately if I desire, I will say, RCCL has got something good going with their towel/chair policy. Because you are responsible for your towel for the endurance of the cruise, you don’t see a lot of “chair hogging”, which means you can frequently get a good seat in any area you like. Other cruise ships I’ve been on, people get out of bed at 6am just to throw a towel and book on a chair and go back to bed, and then claim that as “their chair” for the rest of the day. You’d see 200 chairs, covered in “stuff” around the pool, with no one using them. So yes, due to the un-thoughtful people out there, this is a more effective way of doing business. The Jacuzzis never seemed to be packed full, and the pools were easily assessable most of the time too. The adult pool was too cold for my taste, but if you can’t tell by now, I’m picky. Shopping: RCCL doesn’t seem to put a lot of focus in this area. It almost seems that they have an “…oh, and we have shopping on the ship too...” attitude. No exceptional merchandise, clearance sales, or any real encouragement/incentive to go shopping onboard. I didn’t see any place to buy clothing or formal attire (though you can rent it). Most cruise ships have a good selection of everything from formal dresses to neckties to swimwear. One noteworthy thing here is their alcohol prices, they were about 40% lower than in the States if you took advantage of their “buy two bottles for $xx.xx” prices. Conclusion: If this is your first cruise, forget everything I’ve said, and go have fun. Just remember, it only gets better with the other cruise lines (except Carnival). Most people that frequent Carnival think that Royal Caribbean is luxury. For the refined cruiser that has high expectations and wants to be pampered and feel special, stick with Celebrity, HAL, or NCL.

Read More
  • New

Mar 26, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Western Caribbean Richard I hated this cruise. Too many people. Too many children. Too many rules. I was isolated in my cabin because I was nauseated and could not go ashore in Cozumel. I will never cruise again and I will never say a good word about Royal Caribbean. The food was edible. Not great or delicious. I would not recommend this cruise line to anyone. The doctors,

nurses, and guest relations personnel were callous and smug. Worst vacation experience ever.

Read More
  • New

Mar 12, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Western Caribbean Cathie I will start my saying that this was our first extended family cruise with 11 in our party. Grandparents, Kids and Grandchildren. The wonderful thing about this ship is that there is something for everyone. This was our second cruise with the first being on the Carnival Victory last summer. I will start with embarkment. This went smoothly

- pleasant surprise - 11 in our party were on board within 20-30 minutes. Our Ports were Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I have to say that I was not very impressed with this itinerary with the exception of Grand Cayman. In Belize we went cave tubing booking on line instead of through RCI for $ 49.00 vrs $ 90.00 on the ship - definitely worth it - check out www.regtours.com - they were great, on time and lots of fun. The only thing with this was that it was cold in the caves and it seemed a little too long with your backside in the water. It seems that there is not too much to do in Belize. Costa Maya was pretty much a cruise port area with shopping. We felt that this was probally the best place to buy jewellery out of all. Cozumel was very damaged from the huricanes and was not as I expected. We went to Paradise Beach and went Jet Skiing - $ 55.00 per 1/2 hour. Next to Caymen where we went swimming with the String Rays - brilliant and the best of all. The ship was very beautiful overall. There were alot of extra charges everywhere so expect to spend more than anticipated. The shows were great and the food was good as well. The overall service was good - I found that the level changed at the end of the week once they were tipped they all forgot to [email protected]! Disenbarkment was a long wait to go through customs. They start the roll calls at 6:00 am to get off the ship so don't expect much sleep on the last night. The one other thing to take into account on this itineray is that 3 out of 4 ports are tenders which takes much time out of your day and becomes tedious. The ship is beautiful!

Read More
  • New

Mar 12, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Western Caribbean Cathie I will start my saying that this was our first extended family cruise with 11 in our party. Grandparents, Kids and Grandchildren. The wonderful thing about this ship is that there is something for everyone. This was our second cruise with the first being on the Carnival Victory last summer. I will start with embarkment. This went smoothly

- pleasant surprise - 11 in our party were on board within 20-30 minutes. Our Ports were Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I have to say that I was not very impressed with this itinerary with the exception of Grand Cayman. In Belize we went cave tubing booking on line instead of through RCI for $ 49.00 vrs $ 90.00 on the ship - definitely worth it - check out www.regtours.com - they were great, on time and lots of fun. The only thing with this was that it was cold in the caves and it seemed a little too long with your backside in the water. It seems that there is not too much to do in Belize. Costa Maya was pretty much a cruise port area with shopping. We felt that this was probally the best place to buy jewellery out of all. Cozumel was very damaged from the huricanes and was not as I expected. We went to Paradise Beach and went Jet Skiing - $ 55.00 per 1/2 hour. Next to Caymen where we went swimming with the String Rays - brilliant and the best of all. The ship was very beautiful overall. There were alot of extra charges everywhere so expect to spend more than anticipated. The shows were great and the food was good as well. The overall service was good - I found that the level changed at the end of the week once they were tipped they all forgot to [email protected]! Disenbarkment was a long wait to go through customs. They start the roll calls at 6:00 am to get off the ship so don't expect much sleep on the last night. The one other thing to take into account on this itineray is that 3 out of 4 ports are tenders which takes much time out of your day and becomes tedious. The ship is beautiful!

Read More
  • New

Jan 22, 2006

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer of The Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Sheri O. My husband and I had mixed reviews about this cruise. The ports were great. We had a great time in San Juan, sightseeing and shopping. Pan America Pier is too far of a drive in my opinion considering most people go to Old Town San Juan for shopping. Another pier with walking distance would have been much better. St. Martin was very fun and full

of shopping as well. Typical tourist town shopping, music was a little too much after 4 hours. St. Thomas was very fun, parasailing and screaming eagle ride is highly recommended! Nassau was my husband's favorite port for cleanliness. Our shore excursion was Breezes all inclusive. This resort was filthy.....if you like to booze it up then you'd love it. The food was fair. It was hard to enjoy eating because the floors, tables and chairs were just soooo dirty. Only one pool and the brochure read three pools or so. Not the case. The ship advertised cutting this one short or longer is no problem, catch a cab for $12.00 one way. Not the case at ALL! We were snubbed by three cab drivers (chose to miss the bus and take a cab) who didn't seem to want to drive to Breezes, which is located at cable beach. Finally we found a cab driver who admitted it was not worth the price...we said name your price and he said $20.00. We were fine with that. According to this cab driver, the advertised price of a cab to cable beach on the cruise ship is misleading and not a fair price for the cost of the drive. We wasted almost an hour finding this cab driver so needless to say we really picked his brain about this and he bent our ear about the cab fee being too low. About the room, it was a suite, no complaints except on the second day I went to use the Jacuzzi bath tub when I couldn't figure out how turn on the shower head hose. I needed to obviously rinse myself and the tub out. Well, after two phone calls where everyone talked to us like we were mentally challenged, finally our stateroom attendant informed us that the previous tenants broke the knob that turns on the shower head hose......so we were out of luck. I was very angry about this. The ship should have fixed this problem before we boarded or at some point during the cruise when we were off the ship for several hours. They advertised this amenity in the description of the room, the least they could do is fix the problem. Also may light bulbs were out?? What's up with that, don't they have a maintenance crew? Change the gosh darn light bulb HELLOO! Finally, room service for breakfast on a 7-day cruise, got it right only ONCE! That's right, they screwed it up every day...one morning they forgot all together. And we had an excursion that day. What a nightmare that was! We also could have used a clock in the room, besides the one on the phone...which could not be seen at night. That was very surprising to me. The crew was friendly, but didn't enforce the rules of the ship, i.e. no caps and swim suits in the dining areas. And on several nights there were kids playing in the elevators and running around completely unsupervised. That was very annoying. Disembarking was a holy nightmare as well. Although everyone had color coded luggage tags and were supposed to leave the ship upon their color being called, no one abided by this system. It was a mad dash to exit the ship....people standing in front of the doorways, making it impossible for those of us whose color had been called to exit. Everyone was so rude....When we got to the door, the cruise personnel didn't ask to see your color tags.....they just let you off. What good is the system if they don't enforce it? I think I'll stick to Holland America! They got it right!

Read More
  • New

Dec 11, 2005

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Janet K. Matthews I will be writing this from a different perspective than the normal cruise critique due to my physical limitations at the present. I recently had complete knee replacement surgery and have a bad back so didn’t know quite what to expect on this cruise. Our travel agent, Bill, (Above and Beyond Travel) told us RCCL was one of the best

cruise lines afloat for the physically challenged. We also wanted to take our daughter, Jennifer, on a happy birthday cruise. We decided that we would arrive in Miami the day before the cruise so we wouldn’t be tired. We also wanted to use airline points so we could fly first class since it was a special occasion. Kudos to American Airlines! There were wheelchairs waiting from start to finish. We stayed at the Marriott and requested a handicapped room in advance and we met several Carnival cruisers. This Marriot had a wonderful breakfast buffet. Please be very wary of the cab drivers, get a quote in advance, we got one price going to a restaurant and another coming back to the Marriott The ship itself is lovely. We arrived at 1:30 pm and the RCCL people had a large wheelchair for me (short wait) and the staff wheeled me on board as John and Jennifer were carrying luggage. Needless to say, he received a very good tip! RCCL bent over backwards to make us happy. He wheeled me all the way to the room. The room we reserved was on deck 10, #1244 Junior Suite very close to the elevators. My electric scooter was waiting for me in the room just as Care Vacations said it would. We had requested a large electric scooter and we were not disappointed. Bill (travel agent) made all the arrangements for us with the scooter. Our room was large, with 2 chairs, a couch (hide-a-bed), desk and a huge walk-in closet. The one bed had a real soft mattress and upon request our room steward, Cesar, changed the mattress to a firmer one. Our bathroom was functional and roomy, the bathroom had handrails, and the shower had a seat to sit on. I dried my hair at the desk, as there is only an outlet for electric shavers in the bathroom. We enjoyed our balcony. If the budget will allow always go for the balcony. Someone brought bronchitis on board plus a cough and shared it with everyone. We noticed after the 2nd day on board there were “dry” hand washers everywhere. People at our table were ill as well. Our room steward, Cesar, was great and so was the room service. Room service was prompt, hot and courteous. We enjoyed the Windjammer restaurant and the omelet station in the back of the restaurant is great! We found that it was easier to go to the back of the restaurant with the electric scooter for parking. Ace (steward) seemed to be always available for help and did a wonderful job in finding us a table. These young people always have a smile on their face. The main dining room was decorated for the holidays. Since we have cruised on Celebrity, Princess and Carnival we were looking forward to the food on RCCL. We are from Austin, TX and when beef is served we expect a decent portion. I received the thinnest piece of prime rib of beef I’ve ever seen. The menu gave very few choices as well. We were not the only cruisers that were disappointed. The Chef definitely needs to change things in the kitchen. We did not go to the specialty restaurant but several people from our table did and said it was wonderful. Studio B We really enjoyed the ice skating show at Studio B. There were places for someone that had a wheelchair or an electric scooter all over the arena. This was nicely done. It was a fun show and the skaters did a beautiful job. Make sure you get your tickets early for the show you want to attend as they only have a certain number available for each show. Bingo, and excursion information is also held in Studio B. We found the shopping talks very informative and helpful. San Juan: This is not an electric scooter friendly port. We docked at the Pan American terminal. Since there was no shopping and no way to get to town I spent my time in port on the ship. That was okay as there was a lot to see and do on board. St. Maarten: Is very wheelchair friendly and scooter accessible at the dock. The security people will help getting on and off the ship if asked and I did. There is limited shopping at the dock but very nice shops as Jennifer and I purchased jewelry at Kay’s. Since our last cruise here the port has changed a great deal and six ships were in the day we were there. The Carnival Glory, Carnival Legend, Carnival Victory, Caribbean Princess, and a Costa ship plus Explorer of the Seas. I was very happy just to go in and out of the stores with my scooter but John and Jennie booked a tour and had a ball. St. Thomas: There is very good shopping off the pier BUT the best prices are in town. There is a lot to do in this port but it is not electric scooter friendly except by the pier (Havensight Mall). Since I am not able to do walking any distance I was limited in my choices. Nassau: Nassau is much cleaner since the last time we were here. There is no begging in the street and it is much safer. There are wheelchair friendly scooter shops you just have to find them. I was very pleased to find a Hard Rock Café shop in the area and purchased a hatpin for John as he collects these along with a shirt. I had wanted a Torguga rum cake (as they bake them there) but the shop wasn’t electric scooter accessible so one of the sales people came out to help me. I found the sales people very friendly and courteous. Reminder: If you go shopping and come back by the port authority you must have your ship pass and a recent driver’s license with picture or a credit card with a picture id to enter to get to your ship. Fun days at sea are just that and we enjoy them as well. The Seattle coffee was good. We found a little Café that had sandwiches, coffee, tea and ice cream. We enjoyed this little Promenade Café for people watching, sharing the day and etc. I did want to make a point that RCCL does not have any electric scooter choices on shore excursions available. Embarkation took longer than usual due to the number of people needing wheelchair assistance. Everyone was courteous and the people helping did a great job. Kudos to them! All I can say about the Miami airport is it needs help. It is huge. Would I go on this cruise again? You bet! We are going on an anniversary cruise in February on Navigator of the Seas with the same itinerary. Happy Cruising! Jan [email protected]   

Read More
  • New

Oct 2, 2005

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Kelly Madgyesy My fiancé (boyfriend at the time) and I cruised along with 2 other couples. This was my 2nd cruise (although my first with RCCL) and my fiancé’s first cruise. Although it rained almost every day, we still had a blast! Our Room: We booked 3 balcony rooms next to each other. The room size was very impressive and very roomy. There was

a hairdryer in the room, so you don’t need to waste space in your suitcases by bringing one. Our cabin Steward was extremely nice and friendly. He was always so cheerful. My fiancé and I loved coming back to our rooms each night to see which towel animal he made for us, or what kind of design he made with the pillows. Food/Dining: All of us ate breakfast and lunch each day in the Windjammer Café. The food was OK. Food was not always hot. For dinner on the first night, we ate in the Windjammer Café, and we all decided that eating there for breakfast and lunch was enough. The rest of the nights we ate in the Main Dining room and Johnny Rockets. The Main Dining was absolutely beautiful. We went to both Formal Nights. Our Head Waitress was so nice. Most nights, we were her only table, so she would visit with us while we waited for our food and that was always enjoyable. The food was superb!! As were the desserts! One night, they served Lobster and Shrimp, and my fiancé finished his rather quickly and joked that he could eat another one. Next thing you know, the waitress brought out another plate of the lobster and shrimp for him. He finished that plate and was asked if he wanted another, so a 3rd plate was brought out!! We ate in Johnny Rockets two nights. There was a very small cover charge ($3-$4) and you do have to pay for drinks. But all of the food was free. We enjoyed coming here because the staff was always so funny. They have things like burgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs and chicken along with fries and onion rings. You can have as much of it as you want! Entertainment: Every night except for one, we went to the shows in the Theatre. There were comedians who were very enjoyable and the RCCL dancers and singers. Don’t miss the Ice Show, which you do need tickets for, but are free. There is limited seating. This show is shown more than once throughout the week. Also, one of the nights, they cover up the ice rink for a game show called the Quest, which is something you should not miss. Volunteers from the audience participate in a game where they are instructed to find certain items with the help of the audience. One time they had to find a partner to do the Can-Can Dance with, so I went out on the floor with one of the players doing the Can-Can dance! One of my favorite shows of the cruise was the Love and Marriage Game Show. It is just like the Newlyweds Game. Again, everybody was laughing hysterically during this game. But towards the end of the show, all of a sudden, my fiancé (then boyfriend) got up and walked towards the stage. The cruise director (who was in on this and knew exactly what was going on-because he and one of our friends we were with planned the whole thing ahead of time) handed him the microphone and he called me up on stage. He then got down on one knee and proposed to me!! Everyone was cheering and the contestants in the game show were congratulating us. The cruise director gave us a bottle of champagne. It was an amazing moment. To top that all off, the show was video taped that night so we received a free DVD of the Proposal. Throughout the whole week we were recognized as the couple who got engaged on stage!! Miscellaneous/Tips: I definitely recommend the Rock Climbing Wall. That was a lot of fun. I also recommend swimming in the Adults Only pool to avoid a lot of screaming and splashing children. We found a sports bar in the beginning of the cruise and spend a lot of nights playing fuse-ball there. Also, we normally had the same bartender each night and we all thought he was the best bartender around!! He was always making us laugh and remembered every single one of our names each night! He is not one you have to tip at the end of the cruise, but we put a tip in an envelope anyway, and gave it to him. Also I recommend waiting until the last night to purchase any photos. Also, be sure to pack some things for cooler weather. I had an assumption that the weather was going to be in the 90’s and that the sun would be shining the whole time. But at night, when it is windy, or especially if it rains, you will need warmer clothes then shorts and a tank top. Ports of Call: Puerto Rico: It was raining when we arrived. My fiancé and I went on the Old San Juan Walking Tour. Since it was raining, our tour guide arranged for a bus to take us part of the way and he had ponchos for us. At the end of the tour we were able to walk around the shops for some shopping. St. Maarten: This is the best island for shopping! Definitely the cheapest! When you depart the ship there are water taxis you can take over to the shopping/beach area for a very small charge. However, the beach is quite small, you have to pay for the lounge chairs, and there are people trying to get you to buy items that they are selling. St. Thomas: All of us booked a snorkeling/speed boat excursion. This was the only day it was sunny and beautiful the whole day. So of course we all got sunburned! Make sure to wear plenty of sun block, even if you don’t burn easily. I didn’t enjoy the “speed boat” part of the excursion. There was way too much salt water in my face. But I did enjoy the snorkeling. Nassau: None of us were overly impressed with this island. The shopping was much more costly than even the US. The people on the island tried too hard to get you to buy their items. Overall, even with all of the rain, all of us had the time of our lives. Everything from the service, the entertainment and especially the staff were above average. My fiancé and I booked another RCCL cruise as soon as soon as we got home, for our honeymoon. This time we will be cruising on the Mariner of the Seas and traveling to the Western Caribbean and we cannot wait to experience another RCCL cruise!!

Read More
  • New

Sep 4, 2005

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas Eastern Caribbean Dave O'Brien My wife and I were first-time cruisers and did a significant amount of research (including reading 50+ reviews on this site) before finally deciding on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. We selected the Eastern Caribbean itinerary becuase we really wanted to visit St.Maarten and Nassau. We went to Miami a day early so that we would not be rushed, I would strongly

recommend doing this if you can, it made a big difference on embarkation day. We did the internet pre-registration check-in and printed out our "set sail" pass which gave us priority boarding. I would recommend that you do this if you can, you easily save 2 hours waiting in line before getting on the ship. Our booklet said to arrive for boarding at 2:00pm. We read that they often let people on early, so we showed up at 11:30 and were on the ship by 12:15 (includes luggage drop off, security clearance and seapass registration). This gave us about 4 hours to explore the ship before the hoards of people arrived. The ship is absolutely gorgeous, with plenty of amenities and activites to keep everyone busy. High Points: - The ship's interior was first rate, with no signs of use or wear. The interior was really beautiful. - The signature Rock Wall is an absolute must, I would suggest going early to avoid crowds and the heat. - Everything else...this was a great ship and had gorgeous ports of call! Low Points: - Lines at the WinJammer and Island Grill were very long and there was rarely a place to sit at peak periods. I would suggest eating later if you can wait. - The main pool area was filled with kids splashing despite the no diving signs. I suggest using the Adult pool in the solarium area. - Many of the staff had difficulty understanding English, so be sure to repeat your request if you suspect that they didn't catch it the first time around. In summary this was an absolutely fantastic vacation, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a cruise versus a resort all-inclusive style vacation. Crusing for my wife and I is the only kind of vacation we will do going forward! Enjoy. Dave and Kristy O'Brien St-Eustache, Quebec, Canada

Read More
  • New

Aug 14, 2005

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean Cruise Review Explorer Of The Seas Cruise Review 7 Day Western Caribbean C.J. Kausch Spending a week of my summer on one of the "floating cities" of the world was a week that would change my entire outlook on the ultimate vacation. If you've ever desired to take up a cruise, you are in for quite a treat because it is a temporary life of pure luxury. Everything from the food, service, and activities were intriguing

and extremely motivated myself as a person to push out and have fun. It all started with the arrival in Florida. My family and I lodged in Ft. Lauderdale for an evening and managed to take a shuttle to the Port Of Miami the next day. One vital suggestion: Always arrive in the city of departure one day prior to the ship's departure. If flight delays or some other emergency occurs, there is still a multi-hour allotted time frame. This proved successful as our check-in at the Port of Miami was unstressful and efficient. My family and I, we arrived at 10:30 a.m. and were on board by noon since all of the travel documents were organized. At first glance, the ship seemed colossal and impossible to navigate. By the next day, however, it felt like exploring my new home, places were easy to locate and I rarely had to ask for assistances in finding my way around. One aspect I did notice was that the stewards provided little assistance in finding people to their staterooms although I helped my family locate ours using my orienteering skills. We booked an interior family suite and found it quite comfortable for the duration of the trip. Many experienced cruisers informed us that the quarters would be claustrophobic, but that didn't bother me at all since the majority of my time was spent around the ship and at the ports. It was very relaxing to hear the ships engines at night while lying in bed and my younger sister Elizabeth found the towel art pleasing and gave a few laughs with it. Dining on the cruise ship was an experience better than eating out at a ritzy restaurant in the city. The Windjammer Café offered quite a variety of selections from entrées, desserts, and side courses for breakfast and lunch. My family and I were assigned to the Mageallan Dining Room and anticipated on a marvelous time each evening. It was there where we met the Sloan family from Chantilly, VA. Our families were a perfect match as their daughter Wendy and her little brother Robby clicked with myself and Elizabeth. It was so cute to see Elizabeth and Robby together and every evening, they shared a dish of ice cream. As for Wendy and I, we spent the next week doing everything together including rock climbing, roller blading, ice skating, and eating at the Pâtisserie. Our servers added to the delight of dining. Our main server was Cetin, from Turkey and our serveuse was Svitlana, fom Ukraine. Mike was our main host and served alcohol too. The food was phenomenal and out of this world. I motivated myself into trying new plates such as escargots with pesto sauce, eggplant/aubergine soup with ginger and garlic, and best of all: lobster. Later that evening, I decided to meet some of the other teenagers at Optix, a teen disco with a circular lounge and diner-style bar, even complete with a computer lab and a music video screen. I felt a bit shy at first but I soon felt like the life of the party and quickly established a clique, introducing myself and met who would become my new "best friends" for the week. Aside from myself, the teens I became closest with were Wendy, from Chantilly, VA; Dave from London, UK;Wesley and Eric from Ontario, CA;Jena from Geneva, IL, Jannina from Mannheim, Germany; Julian from Salem,MA; and Rachel. We did everything as a group on board, from playing foosball to eating cookies and pizza at the Pâtisserie, watching flims in the screening room, to playing cards at cloud nine. It was difficult to say goodbye after knowing each other for only six days, but I've managed to keep in touch with some of them since, via email and letters. So if you have teens or younger children. encourage them to do the activities and meet other people as this will be a life-lasting benefit. In fact, I spent practically little time watching television in my room as there were plenty of other things to do. The service on the ship was outlandish as I didn't have to worry about making my own bed, cooking my own meals, and cleaning/vacuuming the room. One factor that impressed me even more was the cleanliness. Yes! Even the men's toilets and restrooms were spick and span with the scent of potpourri, herbs, and spices. Our room attendant, Antonio was very pleased to serve my family and I whether it was answering cruise questions, tidying the stateroom, or creating towel art. The activities and entertainment couldn't have been any better. I took advantage of activities like daily trivia, rock climbing, ice skating, miniature golf, roller blading, and of course the games they had at Optix. One thing I disliked about the contests were the prizes (key chains, squeakers, stickers, etc.) although I was proud of my excursion bag, which was won in a raffle, and my RCI medallion, which I won in a swimming relay. The entertainment was nice whether it was in Studio B or the Palace Theater. The Planet Ice show left me breathless. The skaters worked really hard and their incredible talent earned a minute of applause. The photograph shop was nice as each night, something new was available. My only complaint was that they were too expensive and we couldn't afford as many as I wanted to buy. My major bother was the Muster drill as I found it the most trivial of matters. Even though it was mandated, I wasn't a happy camper, dedicating a half hour to sweating like a dog in a line of people, wearing a bulky lifejacket, not quite the emergency scenario I had in mind. Perhaps, I would recommend a more interactive drill with volunteers to man the lifeboats etc. The pools were refreshing. However, they were too crowded during the day and I couldn't spend extended periods of time underwater since the saltwater went through my nose and dehydrated me. It was very beneficial to have the Soda Package on my card, eliminating any worries about carrying money on me in case I wanted to buy a drink. The ports were of outstanding choice and earned a lot out of them. Even though I didn't participate in any ship-organized excursions, I still managed to do some of those things for a cheaper price. For example, in Cozumel, I snorkeled for two hours for $8.50 a person unlimited, compared to $50.00 a person for three hours in a ship excursion. An added bonus was the sight of a barracuda within 10 meters of me. Beat that! My advice to you:explore the orts freely on your own, you never know what deals or bargains await you, along with some cultural interaction with the natives. Yes, I met Marcel in Belize, City, and gained an outlook on life in Belize, with the hostility, corruption, and poverty seen by my own eyes. In addition, taking up a cruise may be a wonderful opportunity to practice linguistics outside of the classroom. In Costa Maya, I ordered my lunch in Spanish and Victor, my server was flattered at my willingness to respect the Mexican culture, even though he spoke fluent English. My language abilities even earn me a girlfriend. As mentioned earlier, I met Jannina, a blonde beauty from Mannheim, Germany. On the first night, she and I met at Optix. I overheard her grandmother address her in German and I figured that I could impress her with the little German that I knew. I asked her a couple questions in German about her life and she was flabbergasted. She in turn didn't speak much English, but we taught each other parts of the language and that really brought us together. You never know what could happen on a cruise ship, could you? Overall, my stay on the cruise was phenomenal and unforgettable. Everything that I did, everyone I met, everywhere I went, they are nothing but memories now and all I have are several dozen photos and a few souvenirs to remember. Another tip of advice: take photos no matter how random it is, and make sure you photograph yourself, your friends, family, and places/monuments as these are the most important aspects of cruise photography. Do everything, even if it sound lame. You will have the feeling like it was worth the money and created a better person in you. One constant problem I face is "Post-Cruise Blues" and I deeply miss everything about my cruise even though it was months ago. I feel better when i talk about with my friends and share my stories with others. In fact, I inspired a couple friends to take up cruising and had a very different experience. So if you feel blue about all of your vacations, tak a cruise! It will change your life forever.  

Read More
  • New

Apr 17, 2005

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International Explorer Of The Seas Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Audrey Embarkation Very smooth took less than 30 minutes and we went with two other couples. Our cabin was ready when we boarded the ship and it was great. We had a balcony and it was well worth the money. We went straight to lunch and our bags we waiting for us when we returned from lunch. The Ship This was our first cruise, so we didn’t know what

to expect, but the ship was beautiful. The Explorer is so big that I feel like I missed some things on the ship. It was a little difficult for me to find my way, but like I said it was my first cruise. The lounges were beautiful, we especially liked the lounge with the aquariums. We met there every night before dinner for a drink. The dining room was gorgeous, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was three levels and just looked magnificent. I was a little disappointed with the pools on the boat. I guess I’m just used to all inclusive resorts with huge pools and swim up bars, but I found the pools to be very small. There was an adult only pool and hot tubs or at least they were supposed to be. Children were always in them, so we didn’t get much swimming done on the ship. I felt that if there were going to be adult only areas that someone should enforce the policy. The ship was very clean and impressive. Food We ate in the dining room every night. The food was fabulous. We had a table for just the six in our group, so that was great. We had the best wait staff. They were so polite and helpful. They brought us every appetizer and dessert on the menu for us to try. The guys in our group always got two entrees, steak and something else. On lobster night I had Three lobster tails!!!! I was so stuffed and the waiter was trying to get me to try all the desserts!!! Oh well, I guess you can splurge on vacation. The food at the windjammer was alright. It was typical of a breakfast or lunch buffet that you can get anywhere. We did have a tough time finding a table at the Windjammer everyday. We did order breakfast in the room one morning. It was good, but FYI, tip the room service guy when he brings it to you because he is not included in the gratuities. The Cabin Like I said our balcony cabin was great. The bed was comfortable and the view from the balcony is always spectacular. If this is your first cruise the size of the room may startle you, but you will get used to it. The bathrooms are small and the showers are defiantly one person. We did have a problem with our room steward. He took our towels and told us that we could get more on the pool deck. When we tried to get more, we were told that they were out. They did not have towels all day and we had to run back to our room soaking wet and freezing. I complained three times and finally got towels. I would recommend bringing at least one per person, so this does not happen to you. The Entertainment We went to a couple of the shows. The comedian was great and he posed for pictures with us. The dance show was cool and they even pulled a guy in my group up on stage. The newlywed game was hysterical. But by far the ice show was the best. The tickets are free, but in high demand and there are only two shows. The art auctions were great. We bought several things and now go to every Park West auction that comes to our town. Two guys in my group entered a dodge ball tournament and had a great time. Another friend did the wine tasting class and had fun at that too. There were lots of things to do on the boat. The Excursions We went on a guided bus tour in San Juan. We just found a tour guide at the port and paid him there. It was great. We went to Old and New San Juan and to the shopping district for a couple of hours. It was about half the price of the one offered by the cruise line. We did the land and Sea tour in St. Marteen. It was o.k., but we all agreed that we should have just spent the day shopping. They have great stores. I bought a tanzanite ring for about half of what it is worth. In St. Thomas, we did the Catamaran sail and snorkel and the parasailing. The Catamaran was the Castaway Girl and I can’t say enough about it. Free rum punch and shipwreck snorkel. It was the highlight of our trip. The parasailing was also great and well worth the money. In Nassau we did the stingray swim. The stingrays were cool, but they take you to another island where you spend the day. There is no way to get back to port. When they finally take you back, you have less than an hour. We were pretty disappointed with that one. Especially since I asked the lady at the excursion desk if we could come back when we wanted to and if we would have time to shop. She told me yes, so we booked it. I would not do that again. Disembarkation It was a breeze, we were the first people off the boat and it took less than 10 minutes. Summary All in All we had a great time. Cruising is defiantly different than resort vacations. I felt that I got nickel and dimed for everything, but I didn’t let it ruin my vacation. There is nothing like standing on a ship in the middle of the ocean and seeing nothing but water on all sides. My husband and I are going on another cruise in May 2006, but this time we thought we would try Carnival.

Read More
  • New

Apr 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

Boomer The Explorer of the Seas Group Beginnings I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 40 travel professionals on a Western Caribbean sailing of the Explorer of the Seas. I had been attending a Travel Industry Trade Conference in Miami along with many of the travel professionals who were part of our seminar at sea. I took a cab from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami which cost about $8 with tip. The Hyatt

is a hotel often used by the cruise lines for pre and post overnight hotel stays for their guests who purchase that option. As a result there is a desk set up and manned by Royal Caribbean right in the lobby of the hotel. I was able to pick up some bag tags there for my luggage since I was traveling without documents and was to pick them up at the pier. This made the check in process at the pier a piece of cake. My luggage was already tagged with my cabin number and name so I simply checked it with a porter and proceeded to check in for the cruise. The process was very simple and extremely well organized and efficiently handled. With more than 3000 people to board that day I was pleasantly surprised a short lines moving quickly and I was on the ship in less than 30 minutes. My congratulations to the staff at the pier! Summary in Advance This review is more of a pictorial of the Explorer of the Seas than a thorough review of the ship. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Explorer of the Seas and never get off the ship and have the best cruise of your life. The Explorer of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto themselves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison shopping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Explorer of the Seas is without question the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles. Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such a diverse amount of activities and entertainment on the Explorer of the Seas, that there is a lot to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions. Honeymooners: There were a good number of honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships. Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team building opportunities on the Explorer that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel) and the idea that costs are controlled makes the Explorer of the Seas an incredible meeting venue. Our group of travel agents was very impressed with this area of the ship and felt it would be a great offering to their business focused group business. Groups and Friends Traveling Together: If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Explorer of the Seas offers enough diverse opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings, meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes always makes for an enjoyable cruise for all. About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Explorer of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering singles events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact. One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time .. The The Explorer of the Seas is 138,000 gross tons and has a passenger capacity of 3,114. The godmother of the ship is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The ship is also well evolved as every detail in her manufacture and décor is simply beautiful. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship. Cabin 2600 I was located in cabin 2600 located on deck 2 aft. I enjoyed a window and had and was located so perfectly that reaching the elevators and disembarkation deck was very easy. I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands and two reading lights that were quite effective and had both a bright and dimmer settings for reading or just a bit of light. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 2 110v outlets (European). The blow dryer is located in the top drawer and does not need an outlet as it is already connected internally. This allows the use of both outlets if you need them to charge batteries or keep your laptop and printer hooked up as I do. The Explorer offered “in cabin” Internet access for only $100 with unlimited access for the entire cruise. Of course, I immediately took advantage of the offer and the good news was that the telephone used to gain access came equipped with European sockets that worked perfectly. Tip! If this is something you want to access you must get on board early and head straight for the Reception Desk to put down your deposit and pick up the equipment. It is in high demand and they only have about 15 of these units so you must get one early on or you might miss out. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items. A closet lines the cabin entranceway and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the right hand side. I over packed as is typical for me and I had more than enough space to facilitate my wide wardrobe selection! The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable and the chance for water to end up on the floor is minimal if at all. Exploring the Explorer of the Seas The best way to explore the Explorer is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin. The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15 Up the stairway from Dizzy’s Jazz Lounge one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. Dizzy's Jazz Lounge Deck 14 The main lounge here is named Dizzy’s and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. Dizzy’s is just part of the Viking Crown Lounge. Our group met here several evenings for a pre-dinner get together and talks about the day’s events. It was large enough to accommodate the group and offered us a great view as well! The 19th Hole Deck 14 To the rear on the starboard side lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole. On the port side of Dizzy’s is a very intimate room with a piano bar named Cloud Nine that is used for receptions and is a popular place for a post wedding reception. It is very private. Seven Hearts Card & Game Room Just aft of Cloud Nine is the “Seven Hearts” card room. The Explorer of the Seas Miniature Golf Course Deck 13 The Explorer offers a wonderful miniature golf course. You can simply grab a putter and a ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course. A gentleman in our group spent a day on the ship instead of visiting the port and had great fun playing golf with some teenagers who beat him every game! There is also inline skating available which was a very popular place for the teenagers. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it. The Basket Ball Court and one of RCCL’s Famous Rock Climbing Walls Deck 13 Standing in front of the golf simulator you can here the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used). This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship. Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship. Kid’s Personal Heaven Rear of Deck 12 This is my name for the area of the Explorer that is dedicated to the enjoyment of youth cruising on this beautiful vessel. A private pool area with slides and mini lounge chairs make it their own personal heaven away for the adult world. The Pool at Kid’s Heaven Johnny Rockets on the Explorer Deck 12 Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining. The onion rings are to die for! If you are a Diamond Member of RCCL you will receive a coupon for one complimentary meal in Johnny Rockets in your Coupon Book. Inside Johnny Rockets There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kids’ clubs. The Challenger Video Arcade Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program. The Walking and/or Jogging Track Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track. During the sea days however a runner or walker will have a hard time dodging the deck chairs during prime sun tanning time. Sky Bar Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a cocktail or refreshment out of doors. Several singles get togethers were scheduled at this bar over the period of the week. The Explorer's ShipShape Spa The Explorer’s “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section offering a full beauty salon and spa services as well as a Tanning Booth. "Peek-a-Boo Bridge" Deck 11 Deck 11 is the first ship length deck on the Explorer and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Peek-a-Boo Bridge”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship. Weight Machines ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “Ship Shape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and can be accessed either here or from the “Ship Shape Day Spa” on deck 12. There are a great selection of machines and free weights allowing even the avid gym rat to enjoy a great workout. There is a large bank of treadmills, bikes both high and low styles and plenty of elliptical machines. I enjoyed this gym a great deal and never found it to be overly crowded even on the sea days. Cardio Equipment at The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet. The Exercise and Class Area in the Fitness Center There is a very large room where classes are offered during the week such as Pilates, Yoga, Step, Stretch and Spinning. There is a $10.00 fee per class for some of the offerings. If you are a class junkie you may want to visit the spa upon boarding the ship to put you name down on the class lists as they fill very fast. Be aware though if you put down you name and cabin number they will charge you a $5.00 fee if you no-show the class without crossing your name of the list in advance. Solarium Pool and Jacuzzis Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun. The lounge chairs in this area are padded as well which makes it a great place to relax. There are two large Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well. This is an adults only area and is strictly enforced which makes it a quite spot to enjoy. The Solarium Bar The Solarium Bar is always busy and well located within Solarium area. Aft of the Solarium is the main swimming pool/sunning area of the ship. Again this whole area is Adults Only. The Explorer of the Sea's Pool Area The Explorer has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the byproduct is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge. Be aware of reserving deck chairs! They are in great demand on sea days and if you leave anything on a chair to hold it for several hours unattended, you better be prepared to lose not only your spot but perhaps your items. I broke the rule and tried to hold a chair while I was teaching a seminar on a sea day and low and behold upon my return to the pool deck both my towel, book and sunscreen had disappeared. I did as the pool attendant if they put things in a special spot for folks to claim. He said not on the deck but if something was turned in it would be at reception on Deck 5. The book and sunscreen were never recovered and I learned my lesson…. Another View of the Pool Area from Deck 12 There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by both children and adults. Adults may want to use the Solarium Jacuzzi’s for a quieter time. The Pool Bar The pool area is always served by the bar staff and you never have to wait long if you want to order a drink. I must say that I was very impressed with the wait staff at the pool bar. On many ships you feel as if you are being constantly asked whether or not you want a cocktail but these folks were very available if you did want something but never pushy. Congrats to the staff on this one. The Portofino Restaurant Upon entering the Windjammer Café, you will see the Portofino Restaurant on the starboard side of the ship. This is the Specialty Restaurant on the Explorer and reservations are required. Some of the other Voyager class ships do have another option called Chops which would be of value on the Explorer. It was difficult to get reservations for and I did not have the chance to experience this venue but heard it was great. There is a $20 per person fee to dine there. Windjammer Cafe Aft on Deck 11 is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet, the Windjammer Café. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous choices. At 3:00pm it offers a selection of snacks, salads, a taco bar and other treats for the late eater or one who wishes to enjoy a second lunch. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. The Bar serves the entire area and there are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine. Deck 10 Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins. Deck 9 With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of all passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats. The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the evening, it turns into a lounge where cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members. Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8 With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Explorer of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. The Internet Café itself is slow and cumbersome, but The Explorer of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. I paid $100 for the 7-day access. It was down a fair amount due to some satellite issues. I have used this on other ships and not found this to be the case so I am hoping it was just weather issues that caused the outages. It is truly a great deal. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. The Explorer has a total of 50 available. If you want to get access, visit the Registration Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service. While access is still slow, it doesn’t matter because you enjoy unlimited access for one low rate. Additionally there are now Hot Spots on the ship for those who wish to access that option. The rates for these options can vary from ship to ship so it is best to check into this right upon boarding by asking the staff at Reception. The Explorer of the Seas Library Deck 7 With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size. It is unattended so you can just drop by anytime and choose a book without having to wait for someone to check it out for you. This is a very nice feature not offered on all lines. Deck 6 Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up as the benefits are excellent. The Explorer of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well. The Royal Promenade Deck 5 When you first see it you will feel you have entered the something not too unlike “The Emerald City” in the famed Wizard of Oz film. Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants Starting with the Columbus Dining Room on Deck 5, De Gama on Deck 4 and Magellan on Deck 3 there are three full stories of dining. It is an exquisite area of the ship and offers great ocean view tables as well as others that are place strategically throughout the dining areas to as to afford the best views of entire area. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room carries a different name on each deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply beautiful and while large, is quite intimate. Guest Relations and the Tour Desk Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small intimate areas for casual conversation. On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk. A new feature is the Port Shopping Desk that offers personalized shopping tips and maps for the various ports of call. Moving forward, you pass a variety of shopping options. There is a jewelry store, a clothing store, a shop offering perfume and some cosmetics. So many shops made it quite the shopping experience. Shopping is one of my strengths so I enjoyed this area a great deal! This was a very popular area throughout the entire cruise. On the Royal Promenade you also have the Café Promenade which offers sandwiches, great cookies, some pastries and pizza daily. You can also get coffee and tea here or if you wish to indulge in a Specialty Coffee such as a Latte or Mocha these are available at a per drink price. All the other offerings are complimentary. They feature Seattle’s Best Coffee here in the Café Promenade. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade. Crown and Kettle Pub Deck 5 A popular bar on the Royal Promenade is the Crown and Kettle Pub that was a very lively spot at night with a one man band and Karaoke. A very busy spot at night with very reasonably priced specialty pub type cocktails. Across from this venue is the Weekend Warrior which is the Explorer’s Sports Bar. Maharajas Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter Maharaja’s. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active. Karaoke and specialty shows are often in this lounge. The Repeaters Party also took place in this lounge. The Connoisseur Club The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Maharaja’s Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar. The Palace Theater Deck 4 Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Palace Theater. This is the main showroom on the Explorer and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Palace Theater is the Schooner Bar. The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bars are the signature bars of the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner. The Chamber Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “The Chamber”. This door leads to the two-story disco. In this lounge which is decorated with Suits of Amour and other great décor one will find a lively disco and a great dance floor. The Casino Royale Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale, which as one can expect is a very popular night spot and popular as well on the day’s at sea. The Aquarium If you like Latin music, song and refreshments, then you will love this lounge. This lounge is lots of fun and filled with salsa atmosphere. Aft of Boleros is the second level of the dining room De Gama. The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes them logical. Studio B Ice Arena The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. I had the opportunity to attend one of the shows and I was simply overwhelmed with the talent and showmanship of these wonderful skaters. All professionals from all over the world they put on a show that is truly a work of art. I enjoyed this more than any other show I experienced on the ship. There is also skating available during certain times on the sailing and folks really enjoyed it. The Chamber's Dance Floor This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service. Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Palace Theater. Deck 2 Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the Conference Center. Entrance to the Conference Center The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3- to 40. This is where we held our meetings and the rooms were very comfortable and offered all the necessary features of a meeting facility. One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting. The Conference Center's Screening Room They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings. The Boardroom The Boardroom is on the starboard side and seats about 16 people comfortably for more formal meetings and negotiations. All in all, if you are looking for a ship to have a meeting on, this is the one! Day 1, Miami, Florida This NACTA Seminar at Sea followed the 2005 ASTA and NACTA Cruisefest which took place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami. This four day event ended on Sunday so it was the perfect entrée to our group’s cruise on the Exlporer of the Seas. I checked out at about 12:00noon from the hotel expecting that I would likely get to the pier far ahead of embarkation time but I felt it best to head on over there. It is only about a 5 minute cab ride to the pier from they Hyatt Regency downtown so it makes a good choice for pre-cruise or post-cruise passengers. Arrival at the pier and check in of my very heavy luggage was a snap and I was able to begin the boarding process right away. This involved going through a check of your documents or passport and then cruise check in for your boarding card and a last security check before you board the ship. With a ship the size of the Explorer I expected long lines and a very long wait. I was pleasantly surprised with the efficiency and speed at which the process was handled and was on the ship by 1pm. Some cabins were not yet available since we really did board prior to the actual embarkation time. However I was lucky and mine was ready and I settled in right away. I headed to the Reception Desk on Deck 5 to arrange for the Cybercabin service and then headed back to my cabin to hook up the device. I was online checking my emails in about 30 minutes. As I am always working while our seminars at sea it is always a great feeling to know I will be able to communicate daily with my office and of course my family at home. I proceeded to deliver the flyers to our participant’s cabins to advise them of the cocktail function that evening. My luggage arrived at about 4pm and later headed to our cocktail reception that was hosted by Royal Caribbean and NACTA in the Maharaja’s Lounge. We had the lounge and wait staff all to ourselves and the cocktail reception was a huge success and a wonderful way to meet everyone and begin our voyage together. After the reception our group headed to dinner in the Magellan Dining room and enjoyed a lovely meal and great conversation. Some of the group headed on to enjoy the ships many nightlife options. Day Two, At Sea Today is a sea day and our first seminar took place from 9am to 12noon in the Conference Center on Deck 2. The conference facilities are simply fantastic on these Voyager class vessels. Having had to make do with bars and lounges as meeting places on smaller vessels, these meeting rooms on Royal Caribbean are always a treat. They are fully equipped with all the needs one might have for a presentation. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the beautiful Solarium and gymnasium on the Explorer. Tonight was the Captain’s Welcome Reception and our first formal night. We had assigned tables at second seating and dined together as a group most evenings. Another wonderful meal and then the show began at 10:45pm. The evening show was entitled “History Repeating” and was performed by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. I heard great things about the show but I decided to go watch the Adult Karaoke in the Maharaja’s Lounge. If I did not know better I would have thought these so called amateur performers were shills planted by RCI to be sure you come back the next time. Of course I know better than that but I honestly was amazed at the talented passengers on this cruise. It was great fun to watch and wish I had some talent but don’t worry I don’t go there. Day Three, Belize City, Belize Today we awoke to a beautiful sunny day and looked forward to a great day in Belize. I have been to Belize a number of times and always have enjoyed touring the island and enjoying all there is to see. Today a few of us had pre-scheduled a trip to the Caves to go Tubing. Our guide was Reggie and there are more detailed reviews of his services at www.portreviews.com. It was a great day and I have not laughed that hard in a long time. I highly recommend this trip for just about anyone! It is not strenuous but not for those who just like to sit back and tour. You do have to do some work with your arms and have to be able to maneuver yourself and your tube with some coordination. However, the guides are always there to help and really it is just a wonderful time. I cannot wait to take Tom with me and our son Andy as I know they will love this excursion. We ended with lunch as you can see by our picture below all in great spirits. I must say we were all pretty tired from it but it was a great tired. I returned to the ship and forced myself to work out in the gym as if the tubing had not been enough. I am a glutton for punishment. Dinner was great once again and I was really looking forward to tonight’s entertainment “The Rain”. I had seen them perform before and knew it was a great show. I was not about to miss it. A group of us girls headed to the show while the guys went gambling and it was great. Rain is the #1 Beatles Tribute band in the World and it is a show you do not want to miss. We were of course standing, singing and dancing along with our favorite tunes. If you did not tap your feet you were not listening! Day Four, Costa Maya, Mexico We are in Costa Maya today and this is my first time at this port so I am looking forward to getting off the ship to explore the port area. It was a beautiful day and a few of us ventured off the ship to walk around the shops at the port and to grab some chips, salsa and margaritas. I had some shopping to do so choose this as the time and place to pick up a few things for our last seminar. I was really impressed with this port. Seems to me they have improved on the ideas and areas that exist at other Mexican ports and made this just great for visitors. As you get off the shop there is a pretty long walk to the shopping area but they had shuttles available for those who did not wish to walk it. The water at the pier was so very blue and some of the cleanest water I have seen. Hundreds of beautiful little fish swimming around right there at the pier. At the pier there is a saltwater swimming pool with a sandy beach and another pool just for volleyball play at the Oceanside. There are several restaurants and bars and shopping throughout the area. It is all open for the publics use so all the folks on the ships were enjoying this area tremendously. There were four larger ships in port so there was quite a crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. There was live music and folks were dancing and just enjoying the flavor of Mexico in this safe and relaxed setting. Outside of this area there is an area to pick up cabs and to venture beyond. However, our group decided to simply enjoy all that this port had to offer. A great stop! We went to the show “Planet Ice” before dinner and it was just fantastic. This was the first time I had been able to make it to one of the ice shows featured on the Voyager Class ships. I was so very impressed with the entire performance. Do not miss the opportunity to see these performances. It was a highlight of the trip for me. After dinner there was a late night Dancing Under the Stars Pool Party and Buffet but I did not make it. However, several of the members did and really enjoyed it! Day Five, Cozumel, Mexico Today we arrived in Cozumel about 7:00am. We docked and most folks were able to disembark by 8:00am and begin their day exploring a day in Cozumel. I however decided it was a day to work so I stayed on the ship, worked on the review as well as communicating most of the day with my office and getting a great deal of work done. I had been to this port a number of times and decided that I would stay and enjoy a huge ship with not many people on it. The day turned out to be a beautiful one and thanks to my new laptop that has a screen that allows one to work out of doors, I enjoyed time on the deck working. Tonight we had a nice dinner and this was the famed 50’s. 60’s, 70’s theme night so many folks were dressed for the dancing occasion. A good number of our party people in the group had enjoyed a wild time in Carlos and Charlie’s and well they did not last to long after dinner. They had already had a full day of frolic and fun. The show was a pre-dinner show for second seating guests so I sadly missed it as I was getting some work accomplished. I heard it was great though which is what was the general theme about all of the production shows put on by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. They are certainly a talented group of young people. Rockin’ Thru the Cayman Today is April 15 and while other poor souls are mailing their taxes and stressing over the day, we enjoyed a day in Grand Cayman. Of course not at the banks depositing in our off-shore accounts but instead spending hard earned money on jewels and other fun things in beautiful Grand Cayman. Today was a bit of a cloudy day and Grand Cayman is a port that uses tenders. Most of our group had plans for the day to visit hotels and other sites in Grand Cayman. I decided to again stay on the ship and work. I must say that working on the Explorer is pretty fantastic. The views are astounding from my cabin and just being on such a splendid ship makes it pretty easy to work. Tonight was a formal night and we had scheduled our group picture prior to dinner. We all met a bit early in the Schooner Bar and then had our group photo taken prior to dinner. Thanks to Bert and Kathy Wallin for the Dirty Martini! What a treat that was for the teacher. Tonight’s dinner was delicious with wonderful and special choices for the formal night extravaganza. Desert was Baked Alaska that was served with great flourish by our great wait staff. The evening show was Roger Behr who is both a singer and impressionist. I opted for a good nights sleep since our next seminar was early in the morning. Day Seven, at Sea Today we were at sea and began the day with our seminar at 9:00am. I had arranged with the very capable and lovely group coordinator to have some staff come in to talk about their various departments. I always try to arrange this for our agents as it is a great opportunity to showcase the very important aspects of the various departments on the ship and allows everyone to better understand and appreciate their wonderful efforts on behalf of the passengers. We had someone from guest relations, the kids program, the hotel director as well as the chief purser. It was a great exchange and we all felt very informed about things we need to know for our clients. The second half of the seminar was pretty exciting. We were having a contest for the best marketing idea and the prize was to be a cruise on RCI. So needless to say the competition was high and the agents went all out to show their stuff. They had a full week to work out their marketing and sales plans in order to present and have a chance to win the cruise. Everyone did a tremendous job and it was very difficult for our judges (four spouses of agents) to choose. However, they did award the prize for a tremendously well thought out presentation on branding and image. It was great fun for all and everyone walked away with some great ideas to take home and try themselves. After the seminar I headed to the cabin to pack and to do some work. The day was a bit cold and windy but there were still some dye hard sunbathers out on the deck trying for that last bit of tan before going home. We had our final cocktail get together and business card exchange up in Dizzy’s Jazz Lounge and enjoyed our final dinner together after that. Conclusion From my personal point of view, this ship, itinerary and overall experience was simply tremendous. The staff of the ship was warm, friendly and always accommodating. I had the best room steward whose name was Calvin. For a ship this size to offer any sort of personalization is an amazing feat but honestly I sensed it. Waiters remembered you in the Café as did many of the bar staff with your favorite cocktail. I was astounded with their attention to the details especially knowing how many people were on that ship. The ship is comfortable and sailed very smooth. I do not think I felt any movement to speak of the entire week. The only are that I can say needs improvement is in the flow of traffic in the elevator areas but what can one expect with that many passengers. It was certainly not something that was a problem but simply a bit inconvenient at times. So my rating of this ship and experience is 10+. Whatever small flaws one might of experienced with crowds or lines was diminished by the personal service and constant attention to needs and those wonderful smiles that the crew and officers share so willingly.

Read More
  • New

Apr 3, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I recently sailed on the RCL Explorer of the Seas. We enjoy cruising and have tried several lines and a variety of itineraries. The following are personal observations using our previous cruise vacations as a baseline. Everyone has a unique opinion; if you have booked this ship then do not second-guess your decision, you will do doubt enjoy it. If you are contemplating this ship, then recognize that you should not let other

people’s opinion make up your mind. I will forego comments on the ports of San Juan, St. Martin, St. Thomas (a great port) and Nassau since this has been covered many times; if you have a specific question however, feel free to E-mail me and I will do my best to answer it. We always book our own excursions in ports where safety is not a concern and usually save about 50% off the ship’s excursion prices. Embarkation: We arrived at 11:30 AM and were onboard and in our cabin within 45 minutes. RCL states 1PM for cabin availability but seems very flexible on this point. We brought liquor onboard without any problem. A TSA approved lock was broken off and I do not believe that the cruise ships have the master key to this type of lock. Cabin and attendant: The balcony cabin interior is similar to most of the ships we have sailed on, but our cabin was showing it’s age and was pretty worn. The accommodations offer great utilization of space and there were a few storage areas we never even noticed until we were packing to depart. The balconies on the Voyager class ships seem too enclosed and lack the openness of some other ships. The new Princess vessels for example have great balconies and do not feel like a white iron capsule overlooking the ocean. The cabin attendant is luck of the draw and this time we were assigned one that did a fairly poor job. He did the bare minimum despite an extra $25 tip upfront. Dinning and Drinks: We did not believe that the Windjammer food was very good and the place simply wasn’t clean. We stopped eating there by Tuesday after noticing some unpleasant things and also reacting to an ingredient in the food that gave us both cramps. The formal dinning room food was mediocre; mind you, we have realistic expectations and do not anticipate gourmet food with 3,000 passengers to feed. However the meals were not very good, usually presented at room temperature and were loaded with salt. Desert was the exception and we enjoyed the variety and quality. Service was excellent and the staff tries hard and does a terrific job. The dinning at Portofinos on the other hand was incredible. The menu does not change but the quality and the service are absolutely wonderful. Pizza in the Promenade Café is very good, as are the burgers and fries at Johnny Rockets. Wine selection and prices are good; bartenders are attentive and the drink quality is good and prices are reasonable. Liquor purchased in port is diligently confiscated by the security staff and returned at the end of the cruise. Entertainment: With a doubt the entertainment on the Explorer is the best we have experienced on any previous cruise. The production shows are well choreographed and produced; the dancers and singers are lively, well rehearsed, and very, very good. We were fortunate to experience a performance by Rain, a group who does an incredible “Beatles” review. It truly felt like a Beatles performance; the sound, costumes, appearance and even the vintage instruments all combined to provide memorable entertainment. The ice show is not to be missed and all the other venues on the ship offered wonderful singers and instrumentalists. The casino staff is very friendly but like all other ship casino staff, a little lacking in training and experience. If you play craps, pay very close attention to your bets and pay-offs. My wife won $500 on a slot machine the first night; I gave all that and more back at the tables. However the casino is lively, great fun and not very smoky. Disembarkation: Explorer does a great job of getting the people off the ship, however the luggage is a different matter. We were off the ship by 7:30 and didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee, but our luggage did not arrive on the conveyers until almost 9:30. This is a creative way to prepare the ship for arriving passengers, so in some ways, the trade off when boarding is worth the long wait at the end. Summation: Our opinion is that perhaps to remain competitive, RCL is being forced to economize and it is very apparent. Still, the Explorer has much to offer and remains a wonderful vacation experience.

Read More
  • New

Feb 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was a VERY disappointing cruise. As 5 of us were traveling, it was quite costly....and not worth the money spent. Embarkation went very smoothly. We had a junior suite and an interior cabin. The suite was nice, spacious, and clean. The interior cabin was very small. The Windjammer Cafe was worse than cafeteria food. After a few attempts, we stopped dining there. We were astonished at the poor quality of food and the non-existant

service. The dining room food quality and service was good. The cabin steward was not nearly as attentive as past cruises and the interior cabin did not get turned down in the evening several nights. Debarkation was a nightmare! We had the earliest of exit colors as we had very early flights and it took us about 2 hrs to debark due to incredible confusion and miscommunication. This was one of the worst cruises we have sailed... We were credited between $150 and $200 ea for our complaints...NOT WORTH IT! This cruise was very obviously bigger than they can at all handle! We will never again sail on a ship that large.

Read More
  • New

Jan 30, 2005

Western Caribbean

I am glad that I did not check the reviews of this cruise before I booked it. So many complaints about the quality of the food posted here! I brought my family of 4 little children, my wife, and my parents. It was their 40th anniversary, and late January was a great time to get out of snowy NJ! I will address the food specifically, since that was a concern for us after doing some review research. We had lunch the first day in teh Windjammer.

It is all buffet style, and it was OK. I had no great expectation for lunch, and I was not blown away. Simply OK. We had lunches on shore the port days, as we did excursions each time. I thought Breakfast was good. We ordered room service as soon as we awoke, so we could have coffee for us, and bagels for the kids. Service was more prompt than they promised. The windjammer gets pretty crowded for breakfast, so I suggest going to the dining rooms for breakfast. You get waited on at the table, and the service is great. As for dinner, I thought everything was very nice. My wife and I go out to the best restaurants in the area about 2 to 3 times a year, and the cruise food is not at that level, but I did not have that expectation. I found it all to be good, and plenty of it. The service was very, very good. They bend over backwards to provide excellent service. In fact, on some nights I could not decide between entrees, so they brought me both! So unless you are looking for some culinary experience, don't worry about the food. As for the excursions, we did the river tour and zoo in Belize. It was very nice. If I did not my kids, I would have gone for the cave tubing. The zoo was interesting. Screaming monkeys and all. We all did the day at the beach at Costa Maya, and we booked it ourselves online. It was the last bar/ beach all the way to the left after getting ashore. Take a taxi. Cheap for open bar all day, beach chair, table, and lunch was plentiful and cheap too. Great beach. This was the best day. My wife and I went to Tulum ruins/ Xel-Ha and I would recommend this to anyone. Just a great trip here. On the Cayman day we did the 1/2 submersible sub tour. Interesting and the kids liked it. We did not go to the beach. Cayman was the least exciting day. For entertainment in the evening, I thought the singers were talented, but the first show was pretty bad. It was supposed to be a history of the world, but somehow James Bond was in the mix? I didn't get that. Mark Preston was a singer one night. He was great. We did the Quest game when that was playing, came in 3rd. The other nights we just walked around and had a few drinks. Oh, one more thing, they offer in room babysitting, in which housekeeping women make a little extra money watching the kids. I paid Brenda $10 per hour, and my kids loved her. There were activites for the two older kids on board, and we all had a good time. Some tips: If you like to have a bottle of beer or wine on board, bring it with you from shore. I heard this was a no-no, but no one gave us a second look. Our room attendant even kept them cold by changing the ice.

Read More
  • New

Dec 19, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our 6th Cruise with RCI and our second on Explorer of the Seas. I am not going to describe the public room and cabins in detail as this has been done very well already but rather give you my impression on returning to EOS after just over 3 years. We arrived at check in early around 11.30 and was asked to sit in a small waiting area as the main check in area was still full from the first batch of passengers. We sat here for

around 15 minutes before being allowed to go and check in. This worked well as the desks were nearly all free and we could check in in right away. We were then told to join a line that wound its way around the hall for non US citizens to go through immigration our hearts sank on seeing this line but RCI had enough of the automated machines available and the line moved quickly so the whole check in and immigration process took no more than 30 mins which is very acceptable when you consider how long the lines can be at an airport. Our first feeling on boarding EOS was one of comfortable familiarity she feel welcoming and familiar so we where quickly able to move pass the people who had boarded for the first time and where obviously awe struck by her scale and beauty. We found the Adventure Ocean Desk which again was located in its usual position on the embarkation deck for my 7 year old daughter to get her YEP (Youth Evacuation Program. This program means that if there was a real emergency on the ship the kids in the youth program would be brought straight to their muster station by member of the adventure ocean staff) wrist band. We chatted briefly to the team member manning the desk but felt she was reading from a script which said this is embarkation day, this is what I say and did not appear to be really interested in my daughter. After this we found our cabins and dropped our bags. The cabin was clean but not sparkling as there were some dust balls left on the carpets and it was obvious the carpets had seen a bit of life with the stains and marks on them. We had 2 inside cabins near the stern on deck 6 from choice as I have found that because of the design limitations set by the promenade deck which means there are only 2 banks of elevators either ends of it the midship cabins get a lot of passing traffic and noise and the ones beyond these elevator banks either in the bow or stern are a lot quieter. We had requested that the beds in one of the cabins were made up as singles but they had been left as a queen but a quick call to our cabin stewards voice mail was all that was needed to resolve this as by the time we returned to collect our life jackets for muster they had been separated. This set the standard for the excellent efficient and unobtrusive service we received through out the cruise from the cabin steward. We left our cabins to reacquaint ourselves with the ship and was quickly reminder of the quality of beauty of the art work around the ship and quickly found our selves remarking how well she had withstood the effects of having near 3000 people per week for the last 3 years walking through her halls and rooms, I know she is due to be dry docked for a refit soon but it is obvious that a lot of time has been put into the routing maintenance of the ship. The rest of the afternoon passed in a pleasant hazy of lunch at the windjammer café which was the usual buffet food you expect from the café style restaurants on these ships Okay nothing to complain about but nothing to rave about either. After muster drill we made our way to the pool deck for the sail away and to grab our first cocktail and listen to the music. Boy what a mistake the band Tsunami (which has considering the events of a week later an unfortunate name) was absolutely awful the key board player constantly played off key to the extent that my daughter who has only recently started piano lessons asked why he was playing out of tune. They had the effect of clearing the pool deck in a very short time as people moved to distance locations on the ship to watch us leave Miami. We quickly escaped to the Viking crown lounge with is eagle eye view to see Miami and Miami beach slide pass in the setting sun. The quality of the band set the tone for the music in general on ship I must say out of all our cruises the music was consistently the worst and we had experienced. Both my wife and myself attended the Adventure Ocean induction in studio B where the Adventure Ocean team members introduce themselves and highlight some of the things happening during the week. Having attended these in the past they have always been a fun way for the kids to see what is on offer in the program. This event happened but lacked the zip and pace of previous ones we had been to again we were left with the feeling that the script was being read and the motions gone through but nothing more was being put into the event. We missed the main welcome aboard program in the theatre but seeing the show on the ships TV the comedian sounded very good and funny which from experience maintain our RCI experience of having good comedians during a Cruise again his late night show was very funny. The highlight of the entertainment was Charo she had a cabin near us and we had seen her with the crew sing and chatting to them when she came onto stage she was a bundle of high energy and humor never afraid to use herself and her accent as the butt of the humor, It was went she started to play the guitar though that she changed from being another entertainer to someone who was very talented I won’t forget her version of Revels Bolero played on the Spanish guitar. The route was not too important to us and after a relaxing day at sea we arrived in Belize a country I had last visited around 12 years ago. It was very pleasant walking a mile before breakfast watching us and a Carnival ship slowly wind our way through the narrow channels to our anchor point about 2 miles off shore from Belize city. Having travelled extensively in this region before we had decided that none of the excursions interested us much so we would make the day another sea day and enjoy the ship facilities. That night we left for the short trip to Costa Maya and boy what a waste of time this port was we were there with Star Princess and Carnival Miracle, the port area was so cramped you could hardly move, with long slow moving lines for every thing we quickly returned to the ship to relax in the solarium and enjoy a few peaceful drinks and the hot tubs. The 3rd stop was Good old Cozumel I really don’t think I need to describe this fun busy port which offers so many options of things to do again being lazy we spent the day doing some shopping and just enjoying being on vacation. Next day Christmas eve we stopped a Grand Cayman and like everyone we took the opportunity for some last minute shopping. Christmas day was spent at sea on our way back to Miami a fun way to spend the day father Christmas managed with great skill and advanced flying to land his sledge on the pool deck and proceeded to studio B where he had gifts for every child. All too quickly we were back in the theatre listening to the usual cruise directors jokes about the sea air shrinking clothes etc. Next morning the disembarkation was efficient and painless we hang around the ship sitting in Studio B watching with increasing disbelieve and sorrow at the news breaking from the Indian Ocean remembering it was only 3 month before we had stood on some of those glorious beaches watching the wave crash ashore. Food aboard was good but not outstanding we eat mainly in the Windjammer alternative evening dinning and found the choice limited but acceptable as we both have jobs were we spend our days talking to people it nice to be able to grab a table by ourselves and just talk to each other. My mother in law who was with us still enjoys the more traditional aspect of cruising and went to the main restaurant every evening. We joined her one evening and were totally appalled and surprised by the sleazy and creepy service, it was not fun watching a Turkish waiter and an Italian head waiter slim over her. The service was rushed so they had time to get everyone to stand up to do the Macarena, this just made sure we never set foot back in the restaurant again. I do feel this area of the ship and its service really does need to be sorted out and lets down the whole ship. We had always enjoyed eating in Johnny Rockets but the quality has gone down hill so much it was not worth the cover charge. There is a lot of difference between a well done burger and a dry greasy one placed on a dry stale bun. A major disappointment was that in 3 and a bit years the production shows had not changed and were the same ones we had seen before. The ice show was also the same but I must say the quality of performance was much better. Clodagh our cruise director worked very hard but we felt she had always to be the centre of attention, and never gave credit to other members of her team and again we feel it was all too scripted and lacked a sense of spontaneity. Also being a holiday cruise the ship was full of families with children there were sign on the whirlpool etc indicating which hot tub where for kids and families or adults only, RCI deck staff did nothing to enforce these sign so you had to question why have them in the first place. Overall we had a good cruise which gave us what we were looking for from this vacation RCI management and staff all work very hard to produce a Quality product that is efficient and seamlessly delivered, so why do I feel a little short changed ? Having got home and thought about it I feel it is just this attention to detail that has left the experienced being rather bland and formulaic with very little room left for the personality of the staff and crew to come through. I feel the dining room is the one area that would benefit from more attention to the script and less to letting personalities shine though. Where were the warm Caribbean smile from the crew the hellos etc. Personally we though the Kids program was unwelcoming and the counselors uninspired it’s the only time they have not greeted my daughter by name regardless of how busy they have been and the only time at collection they have resorted to sitting on their chairs and using a megaphone to call her. But out daughter loved every minute of it so perhaps that says they had the program right for a 7 year old if not their parents.

Read More
  • New

Dec 5, 2004

Western Caribbean

My friends & I, a group that amounted to over 200, had a wonderful time on the Explorer. The crew was very helpful, hospitable, and skillful at their assigned tasks. I would especially like to ask that if anyone knows how to contact a crew member, via email or otherwise, to let me know by sending a message to my email here listed. It would be greatly appeciated so that a message of importance may be sent to them. We found the

ship to be very well designed to keep one happily busy with activities ranging from onboard tours of the science lab to theater shows/comedians. And, as I mentioned, the crew knows how to treat you like royality and does so with sincerity. A huge thank you to our great waiters, Ercan (pronounced Er-john) and Xavier, from Turkey & India respectively. Then also our stateroom attendant, Ophelia from Jamaica. Each of them did their part very well to make it a voyage of happy memories. Our ports of call did not satisfy us, however. We found the sellers in the shops to be too pushy and greedy with high prices. Grand Cayman was the only one we all seemed to like best. I especially liked visiting the Turtle Farm there. All in all, I truly recommend the Explorer for a fabulos experience at sea. It made going home quite the disappointment as a vacation should.  

Read More
  • New

Dec 5, 2004

NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Explorer of the Seas 7 Day Western Caribbean "Sea Dawg" Holcomb I recommend and urge you to read and compare reviews of RCI's Radiance, Mariner or Navigator Western Caribbean itineraries over Explorer's Western Caribbean itinerary (see Ports of Call below). Explorer of the Seas is a huge ship loaded with amenities. This was our first cruise on a "Voyager class" ship. We sensed very

few bumps or rolls while the ship was underway, though there were some spots aboard more prone to vibrate and noisier than others. It took us about two days to familiarize ourselves with the locations of things without studying the conveniently located deck plans. You will need to be mindful whether you are forward or aft when you are inside. Most places are easily accessible, but we needed help finding Studio B and Maharaja's (though we were on the right deck we learned we couldn't get there from where we were). The ship has a spectacular Royal Promenade designed to look like a narrow street lined with shops. Several parades and numerous street market sales happen here. As you can imagine, it often gets crowded. With a 3114 passenger capacity you will learn to anticipate long lines. I honestly feel some lines could have been avoided if more crew had been assigned to help guests. Many fellow cruisers agree that there are too few elevators. At peak usage times we found the stairs a quicker alternative. Though the interiors are kept polished and clean, this ship is beginning to show her age: stained/worn carpet, frayed furniture upholstery, and rust are evident. Staterooms: Ours was an ocean view with balcony. It was quite efficient and compact though it took consideration for two people to move about in it simultaneously. The balcony proved to be a blessing many times. Oddly, our toilet (and as we discovered many on our deck) sometimes would not flush. Our minibar refrigerator did not keep contents cool nor were there controls to lower the temperature. Our outstanding steward kept us supplied with ice. If you dropped the soap in our narrow little round shower you would be challenged to pick it up. We learned to have our camera ready for the thoughtful surprise when we returned to our stateroom in the evening. We had friends who booked a Promenade Stateroom with a bay window view of the Royal Promenade. The view is spectacular and they had a ringside seat for the parades and events. But they also had to be mindful to close the curtains because people can see into their stateroom. This stateroom would not make a good choice for those desiring to retire before midnight because you can hear the music and chatter coming from the "street" below. Dining: Our assigned table was on the third floor of the main dining hall, furthest back in a dark little corner next to the drink station with a porthole view of a lifeboat. What on earth had we done to Royal Caribbean to merit this? We were later told that we booked early and got our table assignment early - RCI assigns from poor seating to best seating. Go figure. We could have requested a change of table from the Food and Beverage Manager but we preferred to stay with our outstanding and friendly waiter and assistant waiter. We learned that some guests stayed away from the two formal dinners because they did not bring a formal gown or a tux. Please don't do this! On formal nights most ladies were wearing pantsuits or "Sunday ensembles" and most gentlemen wore coat and tie. The most outstanding meals are served on formal nights. I'd recommend the duck and the lobster. The meals served on other nights are very good. If you prefer a different side dish from another entree than the one shown for your entrée your waiter can usually bring that to you. Vegetarian and "lite" meals are also available. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer. There is a buffet often with fewer people in line out of sight in the very back. There you will find "Egg Harbor" where your chef will cook your personal omelet, including a shrimp omelet. The aft seating has a panoramic view. We observed that table service remarkably improved when the manager or an officer was present. Oddly, tomato juice, grape juice, V8 juice, prune juice and chocolate milk are not available. We ate in the main dining room for lunch twice. We do not recommend this. They try to herd guests to a table where other guests are already eating. You can request a different table, but half way through your meal new guests will be herded to your table. The menu is quite limited and the quality of the food is not as good as the dinner meals. We recommend going to the buffet lunch in the Windjammer. The Windjammer also offers a snack service mid-afternoon. Many guests take these poolside or to their rooms. This is probably better for those who have second seating dining. The are several "Arctic Zone" free soft serve ice-cream stations on board. Soft and hard drinks are available for a price. We packed beverages in our suitcases. Had our colas and rum been discovered they would have been confiscated. Café Promenade has 24-hour food and coffee service. For a $20.00 per person charge you may make reservations for a table at Portofino's where exceptional Italian cuisine is prepared and served. For a $3.95 per person cover charge you may eat at Johnny Rockets - but their shakes are an additional charge. Their burger and fries were about the same as in Windjammer's but the onion rings are special. The jukebox was fun. We consider the food very good overall and plentiful. Those wanting consistent 5-star dining may be disappointed on this moderately priced cruise, but we found the food to be better than expected. Shows: We recommend seeing most of the (free) shows. Our cruise's celebrity headliners were Herb Reed and the Platters who gave a thrilling performance. We strongly recommend the Ice Planet (ice-skating) show. These talented skaters do amazing things on that little ice rink. (Yes, this ship has an ice rink.) Sit up close and they're "in your face." BRAVO! The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers "Everything Old is New Again" show was excellent. If you are looking for a Las Vegas style showgirl presentation you won't find it on this cruise. The comics were funny but we offer one word of caution, some of the comedian's material is not suitable for children. The show we recommend skipping is their "Fast Forward" tribute to dance musicals. We guess the director assumes a naïve audience who has forgotten what disco sounded like. (One example: they performed "Disco Inferno" - a hard driving classic with a dominating bass line. They performed it with the bass barely audible and with a rock drum beat, not disco. They didn't attempt "Stayin' Alive" or "Night Fever.") The band was positioned in a "Hollywood Squares" like set…and the music was just that: "square." Our band is stuck on the "Entertainment Tonight" theme. Our cruise director was generally entertaining but sometimes her verbosity bordered on abuse of a captive audience. One of the funniest shows on our voyage was the "Love and Marriage" Show. This has a "Newlywed Game" format but features one newlywed couple, one couple married very many years, and one couple in between. The success of this show is dependent upon the couples selected from the audience, but we believe yours will be as hilarious as our show." Dancing: Really, we just desired one romantic slow dance with our beloved - not a chance. The music was either background listening or megawatt. Advertised "ballroom" dancing was all 1940's. Dancing was controlled line dancing or forced theme. We observed that the music on this ship is all about party and selling drinks. There is not much romantic atmosphere or slow-dance music in the clubs on this ship. Sadly, this is the one area we found most disappointing. Our feelings were amplified by the fact we were celebrating our anniversary. (FYI - we let RCI know we were celebrating our anniversary. We received nothing at all - not even a card from guest relations.) Ports of Call: General Information: We found the time at ports of call too limited. We believe time at sea is unrealistically long probably in hopes that you will spend more money aboard. You'll enjoy an all night "cruise to nowhere" from Belize City to Costa Maya and again between Costa Maya and Cozumel. Even the sail from Cozumel to Grand Cayman was slow. Seven Seas Voyager was docked at Cozumel when we left, she was already docked when we arrived in Grand Cayman. You will receive brochures in your stateroom directing you to shops and businesses that are probably partners with the cruise line or who have paid for an endorsement. The cruise line seems to discourage you from leaving the tourist village. I foresee a trend that cruise lines will continue to develop controlled tourist enclaves at their ports of call to increase their profit margins. Belize This is shore excursion day and there are several highly recommended ones: Xunantunich w/Marimba lunch, Lamanai & New River Safari, Barrier Reef and Beach, and SNUBA. You will need to bring insect repellent if you go ashore. In December it was over 90 degrees F ashore. Our tour guide told us in the summer it can get to 120 degrees F. Xunantunich is a spectacular mountain Mayan ruin with a tall pyramid. Select this tour if you want to climb the pyramid but you will need to know this: the way up has steep, narrow, uneven steps along a sheer rock facing without handrails. I felt like Indiana Jones when I reached the top. The view is worth the effort, but for some, not worth the risk. Most of this all day tour is spent on a bus or in a tender. The marimba lunch is a gastronomic adventure. Our marimba players were in need of practice and their instruments were in need of repair. The Lamanai & New River Safari will get you close to jungle nature. My tour did not encounter a lot of wildlife - except bugs. A friend who took the Barrier Reef and Beach was thrilled at having seen so many fish snorkeling - and having consumed so much beer at the beach party. Reports from friends who took the SNUBA tour sounded different and exciting. Costa Maya: This is "beach day" or "stay aboard ship" day. This is the tourist village the cruise lines built. The stores are extensions of the shops on the ships. Go ashore and you're still in the cruise line's enclave. It's a gated enclosure that keeps locals out and tourists in. There's a nice little beach park right next door, but you are not permitted to go to it. There are shore excursions here, but none highly recommended. If you really must shop, take a bus into the village about 5 minutes away. They sell Mexican crafts for less there. We strongly recommend saving shopping for Cozumel and Grand Cayman. There is a large saltwater pool here worth swimming in and hammocks on the beach to lounge in. Cozumel: This is a "get out there" day. I chose the Tulum Express excursion. You will enjoy a 50-minute tender ride to Playa de Carmen. Then you have a 1-hour bus ride to Tulum, a beautiful Mayan ruin set on the seashore. The ruins are incredible but are roped off to keep you from going inside or climbing them. We were served a box lunch on the bus. We returned in time to shop. This is the place to shop for silver, leather and gemstones. Prices in Playa de Carmen are lower than in Cozumel, but the selection is not as great and your time is limited. The tender drops you off in Cozumel, not at the ship. There you rent a taxi back to the ship. We had learned of the normal taxi fare before leaving ship. Good thing, our taxi driver tried to stiff us. Also be alert for the "double swiping" credit card scam in Cozumel. It happened to our friends who discovered it when they got home. The other excursion I recommend highly is the Dolphin Swim in Chakanaab National Park. You might save money booking directly with Dolphin Discovery and hiring your own taxi. It was fascinating listening to people at our table talk about all their excursions and experiences. We also recommend that you hire a cab to Playa Mia Beach where chairs, tables, umbrellas, mats, etc., are available free. Grand Cayman: Grand Cayman Island is gradually recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Ivan. We highly recommend Seven Mile Beach. You can get there by turning left at the pier and walking the road a little ways until you come to the beach park. We walked down the beach and met some Explorer guests who booked the Seven Mile Beach Break excursion. What they got for their money was a rickety lounge chair (umbrella extra) and a watered down drink at a tumble down motel. Their taxi fare was extra. You can also take a bus to Cemetery Reef for free snorkeling. Grand Cayman is the place to purchase alcohol. You aren't permitted to take your alcohol purchase aboard yourself. The ship keeps your alcohol purchases to be delivered to your stateroom on the last day (RCI doesn't want to discourage any bar sales aboard ship). Miscellaneous Embarkation: Avoid the madhouse and check-in at 11:00 a.m. In my opinion, RCI should learn lessons about handling masses of people from sports arenas and airports. We saw people languishing in long, slow lines just to have someone look at their documentation and swipe a credit card to get a SeaPass. (It is possible to give credit card information via internet.) This is an area RCI really needs to improve on. You will need to keep some personal items and any medications handy. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom at about 6:30 p.m. Life Onboard: "Control without Organization". Passengers are constantly being herded into slow moving cue lines for most everything. Ever been to a major theme park? We waited 40 minutes in a line of hundreds of people to get aboard a tender. Yet there was only one crew member checking SeaPasses. Worse, inconsiderate people constantly break into lines. Crew members do not want to enforce rules for fear of getting a negative comment from a passenger. It is difficult to go anywhere without a crew member trying to sell you a drink or take your picture. The photographers intruded upon our dinners and often set up equipment in such a way that passageways were blocked or severely constricted (where's the safety officer?) Drinks and photos have to be great sources of income for cruise lines. A new twist on this theme came in the form of art auctions. Here it's the art expert versus you the art novice. Lured by the promises of "free champagne, free raffles, free art" we made the mistake of attending an art auction. We were quoted one price for the opening bid for a print, but the actual opening bid was $100 higher. Add to any winning bid price a steep "auctioneer's fee" and shipping charges. Needless to say, we didn't bid. We found the same print available at Art.com for much less when we arrived home. We did not receive any "free art" and the free raffle would be drawn at the end of the cruise. We had to run down the waiter serving just a little glass of champagne. We strongly caution Buyer Beware and know your art and its real value before you buy. If nothing else, we urge you to check the value of art prints on the internet before you bid or buy art aboard Explorer. Speaking of internet, RCI charges a lot to use their internet services. I wanted to talk to someone about joining the Crown and Anchor Club. I was directed to Business Services. No one was there. I did this several times and each time no one was there. I finally reached a person who refused to talk to me and passed me off to another person who was already speaking to a couple wanting to book a cruise. She said she wouldn't be available the rest of the day. I finally went to Guest Relations and got the information I wanted. If you want to talk to someone in Business Services you will need to be scheduled in their appointment book. Know what you are getting into. U.S. law does not apply on the high seas. Besides, Explorer is registered in Nassau, Bahamas. Given the recent bad press RCCL has received regarding poor security and crime coverup, we thought we might see more security patrolling the decks and enforcing the rules during the cruise. Not so. Know what you are getting into. You are taking certain risks on a cruise. U.S. law does not apply on the high seas. Maritime law does, or if in territorial waters, Bahamian law applies. Besides, Sovereign of the Seas is registered in Nassau, Bahamas. From what I have experienced, RCCL security is all about minimizing RCCL liabilities and protecting their interests (and casino profits) and not protecting passengers or their belongings. The Casino "house odds" aboard ship are much greater than at Las Vegas or Atlantic City. The old saw, gamble only what you can afford to lose is advice to remember. Consider the loss the price for entertainment. You may be enticed to cruise by the value fare but believe me, the prices of everything else quickly add up and can exceed original fare. A $12 wine in your store is $33 onboard. Bring your own bottle to the table and you'll pay a $12 "corking" fee. A soft drink is $1.50. Beer is $3.00 or more. In spite of the hype, cruises have seldom been "all inclusive." If you can be content with a stateroom and free meals then your cruise will be a bargain. If your idea of vacation is partying and drinking then cruises are an expensive way to do it. Should You Take This Cruise? Cruise lines would have you believe cruising is for everyone. It's not! Are you willing to… …eat and converse with people you have never met? …tolerate long, slow lines to most everything? Line-breakers? …listen to loud music and noisy, rude, often drunk people? …tolerate unsupervised teens all over the ship? …be herded like cattle here and there? …accept you're getting ripped off paying high prices for sodas and alcohol? …be comfortable in cramped quarters? …tolerate people who smoke anywhere they please? Do you like seeing new places and doing new things? Do you function well in crowds? If so, then cruising may be for you. If not, then it wouldn't take much to ruin your vacation. As for us, we are ready to go again. If you are seriously considering taking RCI's Explorer Western Caribbean cruise my recommendation is to take a Western Caribbean on RCI "Voyager class" ships Mariner or Navigator. Their itineraries are better.

Read More
  • New

Nov 21, 2004

Western Caribbean

My boyfriend and I and our two daughters (ages 9 and 10) took our first cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas. All in all we had a wonderful time, but we also probably would not do it again. The positives The ship, Explorer of the Seas, was absolutely beautiful. It was always extremely clean and the staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful. Our children thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful pools, hot tubs, and endless free ice

cream. The hot tubs were very nice I took advantage of those! We also enjoyed the miniature golf, roller blading area, ping pong tables, 24 hour coffee, and beautiful views from the deck at sunrise and sunset. Our stateroom (an inside cabin with no windows) was acceptable, and the beds were surprisingly comfortable. We loved the ice show on the ship’s ice rink, and we enjoyed several of the ship’s other shows in the Palace. We enjoyed the tour of the science lab on board too (probably because we are both Biologists). I recommend everyone takes a tour of the science lab. The ports of call were also nice. We had wonderful weather the entire trip which definitely helps! There was plenty of shopping to be done. We are not shoppers, but there was plenty available if you are into that. Our first stop in Belize was my least favorite. We went cave tubing with a hike through the jungle. It was a very pretty place, if you like the jungle, but I was not impressed. Next, was Costa Maya. Here we got our first taste of the beautiful turquoise waters that I was dying to see. We spent the day on the beach in the small port. The girls got to go horseback riding up and down the street next to the beach. The water and palm trees were beautiful. The beach was small with many plants. Dancers putting on a show in the main port area were fun to watch while we ate a Mexican lunch. We ate some fresh coconuts here too, fresh picked from the trees. Next was Cozumel. Again, there was beautiful water. Here was a larger “town” in port than Costa Maya, but still not very big. We did not explore port much here, instead we went on our first snorkeling shore excursion. I had a great time snorkeling, and saw a few fish, not very many. They took us to a safe place that had a smaller variety of life since we had young children with us. It was fun for me since it was my first time, but several people said they have seen nicer reefs. Last was Grand Cayman. The beach here was closed due to damage from recent hurricanes, but I have heard that the 7 mile beach there is usually really nice. We went snorkeling again at Grand Cayman. This island is bigger than it looks and we did only minimal exploring in town. I would have explored more if we had more time, but at the same time I do not think we missed much. The snorkeling here was even better than Cozumel. The reef was prettier and we saw more fish. We saw a school of blue tangs, a huge tarpon, and moray eel. Snorkeling was my favorite part of the whole trip. Finally, on the day we returned from the cruise, we spent the day in South Beach Miami. South Beach Miami is really nice. The beach is beautiful, the art deco district is really pretty to walk around and see. We stayed in the Royal Palms hotel on South Beach which was also absolutely beautiful. It is also extremely expensive. The only reason we could stay there was due to the free points my boyfriend got from traveling. We got to stay there for free. Definitely worth checking out if you can. The negatives The entire vacation was unexpectedly very expensive for us. We are what I would call a middle class working family. We are far from struggling, but not very well off either. I will be honest and let you know that we paid ~$2800.00 for the cruise tickets for 4 of us (again that was an inside stateroom, nothing fancy). I was ok with this. I am sure some people have gotten better deals, but this was reasonable to me when I thought that the rest of the vacation would not cost us much. We did not have to pay for plane tickets to and from Miami because my boyfriend had frequent flier miles. The biggest disappointment was the cost of everything on the ship and at the ports. Soda was $4.00 a drink or $20 per person for the week. Alcoholic drinks were ridiculously expensive at $4-$5 for a draft beer and $7-$9 for a fru-fru drink as I call them (pina colada, mango tango, etc). The average excursion for 4 people costs $200-$400. Nothing at the spa on the ship cost under $100. Dinner at Johnny Rockets cost us ~$20, and we didn’t even go to Portifino’s. That would have cost us ~$80 for dinner for the 4 of us. It cost $8.00 per minute to make a phone call from the ship and the cell phone did not work well (and we do have an international plan). The internet costs 0.50cents per minute, which adds up fast believe me. Lemonade, ice tea, coffee, and water were all you can drink on the ship, but anything else had a price tag. We were probably unprepared as first time cruisers, but I never found info on the Royal Caribbean website that detailed costs like these. Oh, and they are always taking your picture. Which is great, but they charge you ~$10-$20 per photo. We did not do much shopping at the ports, but even the food on shore was expensive. At Costa Maya, it cost us $55 for a simple Mexican taco lunch for the four of us. We tried to be very conservative on the trip since we did not have a lot of extra money, but we still wound up spending around and extra $800.00! This included 3 off shore excursions for the 4 of us and any extras on the ship. That was way more than I planned on spending. Then finally, we were requested to tip about 5 different service people on the ship ~$3-$4 per person (4 of us) per day. I am usually a good tipper, but at this point we were broke. If we had followed their guidelines it would have cost us another $400!! There was no way! We tipped our stateroom attendant who we felt did an ok job, and one server in the Windjammer café that we saw everyday. We only went to the formal dining room once. We also were not prepared for that. We thought there was going to be one formal dinner night. We decided ahead of time that we were not going to participate in that; it’s just not our thing. But we were surprised to find out there were actually 2 formal dinner nights, several dress up theme nights, and even the normal dinner was much more formal than we were prepared for. We brought shorts and T shirts. Pants or skirts were required in the main dining rooms. I was disappointed that we were not better informed. I could have researched more, but I also think that Royal Caribbean should have been more informative. At the same time, we had fun anyway. We made friends with several of the servers in the Windjammer café and in general the food was the same in the Windjammer as in the main dining room. The food was another disappointment. We were expecting fantastically fabulous food that we have heard about from our friends who took other cruises. There was plenty of food, but we thought the quality was pretty low. They were good at making fancy looking deserts and displays. Everything was very pretty looking. The midnight buffet looked fantastic. Taste on the other hand was not very good. Don’t misunderstand me, the food was not horrible or even bad necessarily, it was just not really great either. I may be spoiled because my boyfriend is an excellent cook, but when I bite into a luscious looking piece of prime rib or decadent chocolate cake I expect to be wowed wooed and standing in line for seconds. We did not find that to be true. Our kids didn’t seem to mind the food, but they were mostly happy as long as they had access to the endless free ice cream! Even the ice cream I will say was not very good. It was like soft serve ice milk instead of creamy normal soft serve. I was told it was 100% fat free. Well, I would have taken one cone of wonderful fat filled creamy ice cream over 20 cones of the fat free stuff. My boyfriend was disappointed in particular with the fresh fruit selection. He thought that being a Caribbean cruise we would get some good fresh tropical fruit. Not the case. They had a daily supply of apples, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, canned peaches, and canned pineapples. There was nothing tropical; no fresh coconut, papaya, mango or pineapple. One more disappointment would be a lack of information about the excursion options. We received a book in the mail from Royal Caribbean outlining the excursion options through Royal Caribbean but the descriptions were brief and not very information filled. Of the three excursions we took, two of them were through Royal Caribbean. We had no complaints about them in particular. It seemed like most of the advertising was for shopping which we were not interested in. We were not given much information about things we could do onshore outside of shopping and expensive RC excursions. Wait, one more thing…the hot tubs were not open 24 hours a day like the signs say! Conclusion As you can see my negative comments are more numerous than the positive ones. As I said in the beginning, all in all we had a good time. We are adventurers at heart, and it was a good experience. We probably would not cruise like this again though. Someday I would like to visit the Caribbean again, but I think we would prefer to try to plan a cheaper vacation at one place in the Caribbean. $2800.00 alone is a lot of money to spend on a floating hotel if you are not going to utilize all of the possibilities. There was a lot of night life on the boat that we did not experience (with 2 young kids). Our kids did not want to participate in the Adventure Ocean program on board either. It looked interesting from my perspective, but they wanted nothing to do with it. So we paid for a lot of stuff that we did not use. It’s a learning experience. Many people loved it. These are my opinions.

Read More

By Pat_CR

  • New

Sep 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

Beautiful ship and immaculately clean. Service was excellent. Cabin Steward was accommodating and yet never visible. Entertainment was ok. Food in the main dining room was lacking something and I can't exactly put my finger on it. ( I WAS SEATED WITH A MAN WHO TOOK THE CRUISE ON THE "SISTER" SHIP( I think he said it was The MARINER), and he agreed with my comment about the food . He thought the food was better on The Mariner.

I guess it was a combination of quality, selection and seasoning. Food in the Cafeteria was more than adequate, taste was good with a large selection. Most disappointing thing was the fact that due to Hurricane Ivan our port stays were cut short and the main attraction of Puerto Rico Port was totally skipped. Now I realize that it was for our safety as well as the ship's and I have read the policy of the Cruise line, but it was a big disappointment for my family. ( We booked 3 suites.) I had heard from some friends and also read about Royal Caribbean giving concessions ,such as discounts on next cruise or ship merchandize credits for other inconveniences to their passengers and yet even after we asked , we were told that there were none offered to the passengers on our cruise. IE: My doctor's cruise schedule with RCI was changed due to a hurricane and he was offered a discount on his next cruise. Seems to me that they have no rhyme or reason to their customer service policies.

Read More
  • New

Aug 8, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This eastern Caribbean cruise was an anniversary trip for my wife and me. I had never been on a cruise before but this was my wife’s third. When my wife suggested we take a cruise I did not know what to think. My first reaction was what are we going to do on a ship for one week. Since I had only been married less than a year I thought why not. She went on a fishing trip with me the least I could do is go on a cruise with her and more

importantly it was our first anniversary. Let me say, I love my wife’s ideas. We both fell in love with this ship and the experience. Day One We booked our flight through Royal Caribbean and the service we received was great. We arrived in Miami around 3:00 a little later than we wanted to but we were not late. We met Royal Caribbean personnel at the baggage claim and they told us to leave our luggage with them and to board the bus right outside the doors. This was a nice start to our honeymoon. We boarded the bus for a short trip to the ship. Our driver was very nice and courteous. We arrived at the ship around 4:10. I thought I was in heaven, this ship was humongous. Needless to say, the adrenaline was pumping. We were dropped off in front of the terminal and were told to walk right in. No lines since we were one of the last ones on the ship. We walked on board after an identity check and began the greatest week of our lives. After we found our room we had to attend the muster drill no big deal. After this we began our tour of the ship. We ended up on deck 12 for our leave of Miami. This is something not to be missed. Everybody honks and waves and takes pictures. After we left Miami we returned to our room to get ready for dinner. Our appetizers were salmon spread, spinach salad and tomato soup. My wife and I had ribeye with vegetables and steak fries. We both had the chocolate mousse with berries for dessert. We then proceeded to The Palace Theater for the Welcome Aboard Show. Let me just say this now. Every show we saw was great. After the show we walked around the ship for about an hour and then headed to bed. Day Two at sea We started off with breakfast at the windjammer cafe. This was quick and very good. When then played a round of putt-putt with 42 knot winds. This was crazy fun. The ball would not stay still. This is my excuse for not beating my wife. The next activity we did was the golf simulator. I believe this was 25 dollars for one hour. About this time I was getting hungry. I was always hungry since we already paid for all the food up front. We ate lunch in the dinning room with a family from our home state of Indiana. What a small world. For lunch I ate grilled steak with herb butter, fries and cheesecake with strawberries plus tons of bread. My wife had the turkey wrap and side salad with a mocha éclair. Yummy she says. After some more exploring and a few drinks we then proceeded to the Planet Ice Show. You have got to see this to believe. Incredible is all I will say. Since tonight was the first formal night we quickly headed to our room and prepared for our first formal dinner since our wedding night. My wife looked so beautiful in her dress. For dinner I had filet mignon with asparagus, mashed potatoes and green peppercorn sauce and for dessert I had sugar free chocolate cake. My wife had the same for dinner and for dessert she had cherries jubilee. After dinner we changed our clothes and headed for the comedy show featuring the singing impressionist Martin Dube. He was awesome. After the show we went top side and relaxed in the warm, dark ocean air. We also attended adult karaoke in the Maharaja Lounge. At 12 in the morning we then headed to the late night adult comedy show with Bernie McGrenaghan. He was very adult and humorous. Day three San Juan, Puerto Rico We woke up, worked out in the fitness center and had breakfast at the Windjammer. We left the ship and went on our shore excursion Bacardi Rum tour and San Cristobal Fort. There is plenty of alcohol if you want and also a very nice look at the history of San Juan. Great place to take beautiful pictures. After the tour and many drinks we boarded the ship and headed to the promenade and had pizza and éclairs for lunch. During the first dinner seating we went to the hot tub for a nice relaxing soak. Tip. If you eat the late seating this is a great time to hit the pool or hot tub since there is hardly any body there. Tonight’s dinner theme was Italian. I had oxtail soup, roasted lamb with green beans and mixed vegetables along with garlic rolls and focaccia bread. My wife had tomato pesto provolone with balsamic vinegar, minestrone soup, rigatoni with Italian sausage. She had angel food cake with strawberries and I had ice cream. For tonight’s entertainment we saw History Repeating. After the show we went to the country and western night in the Maharaja lounge. When this was over we hit the sack. Day four St. Maarten We started off with breakfast at the windjammer and then proceeded off the ship for our excursion. Rhino Rider Excursion/Snorkeling is a must if you like to drive/ride little boats or wave runners. Beware of this there is a nude beach right where you snorkel. They did not tell us but we still would have booked this excursion. We did see a couple in there 60’s whew. Not pretty. There was not a lot of fish but the 30 minute boat ride there and back was worth the money. After we got back to the ship we ate in the promenade and then took a little nap. We then walked around the ship, still had not seen it all and prepared ourselves for dinner. I had shee crab and shrimp bisque, blackened tilapia with vegetables and rainforest chocolate fudge cake. My wife had spinach and sweet potato dip with tortilla chips, Ocho Rios Pepperpot soup, Caribbean jerk chicken and crème brulee. After dinner we burned off some calories walking around the ship and visited more areas we had not seen yet. Then at midnight it was time to eat again. Midnight buffet tropical style. There was tons of fruit and it was done very well. One a.m. time for bed. Day 5 St. Thomas We had to wake up at seven for immigration. Not nice. However, this went quickly. Again, the lady checking my ID was from my hometown in Indiana. What a small world. We had not booked any excursions and decided to do some shopping. This was my beautiful wife’s idea. I was still learning this compromise thing. I got the boat excursion she gets the shopping. There are a variety of shops here. Taxis are plentiful. All in all, this is a good place to buy anything. When we boarded the ship we took a look from top deck and noticed three sea turtles, 2 barracuda and a shark right next to the ship. We ate lunch in the promenade and relaxed in the hot tub again. I do not remember what we had for dinner. We then proceeded to the evening entertainment of Ralph Harris. Day 6 at sea We awoke early and had breakfast in the windjammer. We then played putt-putt again, less windy coming back to U.S. I saw my first sexy legs contest at the pool. This was a group of men of course and this was very hilarious. The next item on the day was bingo. We were two numbers away from winning nine thousand dollars. We decided to eat in the dinning room for lunch. I had pot roast, carrots, potatoes and lots of bread with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. My wife had a hamburger, fries and cheesecake for dessert. We finished off the afternoon with some shopping on board and more walking. Tonight was the last formal night. Again, my wife looked beautiful. We both ate prime rib, lyonnaise potatoes, vegetables and rolls. I had chocolate cake with shavings for dessert and my wife had apple pie a la mode. We did not see the show tonight, too tired. Day 7 Nassau We awoke to room service for breakfast. We wanted a change. We left the ship for our excursion to Rainbow Reef. On the way we saw Mick Jagger’s house, Michael Jordan and the former house of Mary Kay. This is a must for seeing fish. I would guess there were 20-30 different kinds of fish and they were everywhere. Well worth the money. After the excursion was over we visited Atlantis. This is a very beautiful place. You can see almost the entire place without the excursion. I recommend you do this on your own. For lunch we ate the buffet. For dinner I had grilled pork chops, green beans and rolls. I ate vanilla ice cream for dessert. My wife had steak, potatoes and vegetables with sun dried tomato rolls. She had angel food cake with strawberries. The dinning staff put on a little show for us while we ate. This was a very nice touch. After dinner we attended the farewell show. Very sad since it was our last. Day 8 departure. We awoke early for breakfast and then waited for our color to be called. Depending on when your flight is you are given a color to let you know when you can leave the ship. This is somewhat lengthy but not a major problem. Positives for this ship. Everything is great. Food is very good. I did not hear of one person complain about the food. The good thing is if you do not like something you can get something else. This is a great time to expand your taste buds. Staff is very friendly. Dinning staff new our drinks and that I loved bread by the third night. Cleanliness was beyond belief. Sea pass card is great. It works like a charge card on the ship so you do not have to carry money. Every show we saw was great and I am not a show person. There is something for everyone to do. Guest relations was very helpful and the cruise director Clodagh O’Connor was the best. I do not think she ever sleeps. We had an interior room, it was pitch black at night and you felt no ship motion. The last positive was there were no surprises. If you explore the web site you will find all the answers to every question possible. Negatives for this ship. Getting luggage after you leave the ship. It took us 50 minutes to get our luggage off the carousal. Don’t buy a coke card unless you drink a lot of coke. $102 for the two of us for the week with gratuity included. I drink a lot of coke. If not it is $2 per drink. Ship pictures are expensive and where very dark. Alcohol is expensive also but hey you are on vacation and they put plenty in it. We did have an extra $200 added to our account but a quick call to GR and they said it would be taken care of. The next day it was done. I do recommend you look at your account throughout the week to make sure your account is correct. Overall this cruise is worth its money. The food is not 5star quality but they are cooking for 3000 people every night. If you like to spend one hundred dollars or more on dinner for two at home then you should not be eating on a cruise. As for the activities, there is no way you can do all of what we did in the eastern Caribbean for cheaper. I would recommend this cruise to anyone who loves to be active but not to the ones who like to be in one place and sit or read. I would also tell you that if you plan shore excursions eat the late seating, we did hear some people say they felt rushed to get back to the ship for the early dinner. We will be back. Ratings Food 4 out of 5 stars (I consider myself a picky eater) Staff 5 out of 5 stars Appearance 5 out of 5 Activities on and off the ship 5 out of 5  

Read More
  • New

Jul 18, 2004

Western Caribbean

Hello everyone. We just returned yesterday from our First Royal Caribbean Cruise on Explorer of the Seas. (Western Caribbean Itinerary). I’ll write my observations and helpful tips on saving money by “doing it on your own in each port” (We kept our final bill to 295.00) When commenting on this cruise, I’m keeping in mind our past cruising experience, Celebrity Horizon, Carnival Paradise, Disney Wonder (two weeks ago for 4th

of July), and now the Explorer. The Boat Itself: Beautiful, kept clean, although I did not see that presence of people frequently disinfecting elevator buttons, handrails, like on other cruises I had been on. Disney keeps trays of free hand sanitizer packets in front of all their dining rooms, I think all cruise lines should do this. We saw two people throw up on the ship (one small child by the elevators, and another person a few days later on the deck). It must have been because they were sick because we felt very little movement on this ship (the seas were calm). I have always wanted to sail on a mega-ship, and the Explorer did not disappoint me, she is a beautifully designed ship. The Food: Here is the only area where Royal Caribbean disappointed me, the food on this boat was terrible! The worst food on any vacation we have ever been on (land or sea). I actually lost 2 pounds on this cruise, my husband called it “the diet cruise.” In terms of the lines we have been on, here is (in our opinion), a “report card” of the dining: Celebrity A Disney A- Carnival B+ Royal Caribbean D- When I read some reviews about this boat, I expected average to so-so food, but we couldn’t believe just how bad the food was on this cruise. The Windjammer Buffet was so terrible that we ate all of our meals in the main dining room! We have never had lunch or breakfast in the main dining room on any of our other cruises, but after 2 awful meals in Windjammer, we knew we were in trouble. Here are some examples: breakfast would have hot orange juice and apple juice (it was like drinking hot cider in the mornings), awful scrambled eggs, Lunch NO variety, the same buffet meals every day, mashed potatoes every day. We would go to Johnny Rockets, which was good, but who wants to eat hamburgers every day on a cruise? Even in the dining room, you would get occasional good dishes (some of the soups were good, some salads were good, the turkey dish on the last night was good, but we never had one great meal the entire cruise.) The lobster was disgusting, it tasted like a not fully defrosted tiny lobster tail I bought in my local A&P freezer. The chicken marsala was inedible; my local Italian Deli makes one that puts the cruise one to shame. Our servers were charming, they were the only pleasure we got going to the dining room because (and this is a first for us) we never looked forward to eating in the dining room. My local diner serves food much better than this ship did. We were truly amazed at how bad the food was, it was such a disappointment. The deserts, even in the dining room the deserts were awful! We had sherbet or ice cream every night! We talked to a lot of fellow passengers who expressed how terrible they also thought the food was. One man said, if this dining room were a restaurant at home, I’d never eat there again! Also, we cruised the week before on Disney, and the cuisine was exceptional. We did not know exactly what type of food to expect on RCCL, but we never expected such poor food on a pretty expensive cruise! (For example I paid ½ of what I did on Carnival last year when I did the exact same itinerary on the Paradise, and Carnival’s food was far superior to the Explorer’s). We talked to quite a few first time cruisers who said comments like “we though the food is really good on a cruise.” Others we talked to were pissed that the food was so bad considering the price they paid. A lot of people were talking about it. On my survey sheet I basically wrote that RCCL has a lot of nerve charging what they do if this is the type of food they serve. Now we had a great time on the cruise, we loved the staff and the boat was gorgeous, but a great dining experience is something we expect on a cruise and this was the first time we ever had such awful food. I always love going to the dining room at night, but there was no joy in it this time. Are all RCCL boats like this? What RCCL boats have better food? I’d hate to write off RCCL entirely, but I want to make sure I never have to eat like this again on a cruise. Helpful Hints: The ice show, see it! Johnny Rockets did not charge a cover charge, just for sodas & shakes. The shakes are excellent! (Disney now gives free sodas on all their cruises. We thought this is a nice touch that hopefully catches on to all the other lines.) We saved loads of money by doing each island on our own! Here is what you can do: Costa Maya: Go into the shopping area, there are booths set up for various excursions. We did a 20.00 per person snorkeling by boat which was great. (1/2 the price the boat wants). You will be completely safe, the guides were wonderful and we had a great time. (The company’s name starts with an O, I forget the name. There is one big booth, you will see it. You take a 3 minute cab ride to the Tequila Hotel where the guide is waiting for you. Other explorer passengers did this tour as well. It’s a nice group, 12 at a time. You snorkel for an hour or so, a nice canopied boat, I highly recommend it. Grand Cayman (free snorkeling): Take the public bus, there are loads of them (2.50 US dollars per person) to “Cemetery Reef”. There is no cover charge, it’s on a public access section of 7 mile beach (next to a cemetery, of course). The beach is gorgeous, and the snorkeling is great, no cover charge. Cozumel: (free snorkeling) Take a cab (about 6.00 for your entire party) to Dzul Ha, there is no cover charge, great snorkeling. Belize: We just did shopping this time & enjoyed the pretty empty boat. We snorkeled last year when we were on the Paradise, but there are plenty of tour operators at the town. A lot of cruise passengers used them. By the way, I got the white tags & had no problem making our 11:40 flight. We were off the boat by 7:20 and at the airport by 8:00. We could have even been on standby for an earlier flight home, but hubby does not like to change flights. Hope this info helps, Marina

Read More
  • New

Jul 11, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

I shall begin with a brief overview of how we came to choosing Royal Caribbean cruises and to be more specific the Explorer of the Seas ship. My family and I were looking in the travel arrangements for a holiday that was different from our usual trip to Florida, and had the intention of going somewhere such as L.A but I came across the Royal Caribbean International brochure and the information and photos looked amazing. It was then that

an employee at the travel agents came over and said that she had been on the ship and highly recommended it, her account sounded so amazing that we had to try it for ourselves and so we did. The cruise we decided to go for was the Eastern Caribbean cruise which departed from the port of Miami and visited places such as ST. Maarten, ST. Thomas, Nassau in the Bahamas and San Juan in Puerto Rico Embarkation – The day before the ship was due to leave the port of Miami we arrived from England at Miami and were taken to the hotel Intercontinental where Royal Caribbean had placed us for that night. This hotel was stunning, a 32 story high building with a large foyer area with porters to carry all your luggage to your room. I have never stayed in such a beautiful hotel before and we were lucky enough to have a room over looking the harbour. The only disappointing things about the hotel were that all the snacks and beverages that were in the room had to be paid for and were very pricy but the room itself was wonderful. The next morning we woke up early due to jet lag but were able to see the ship pulling into the dock which was an added bonus and something you should try and watch if you are awake and staying in this hotel (it starts to come into view at about half past five in the morning onwards). As we were awake so early and wouldn’t be boarding the coach, that would take us to the ship, until 12 o’clock we went for a walk around a shopping area on the waterfront (about a 5-10 minute walk from our hotel). The shops were the same as the regular ones you get at most precincts with some lovely restaurants as well. When it was time to get on the coach they said it would be about a 10 minute journey to the ship so we thought we would arrive nice and early to have a look around and eat, sadly that was not the case as we were stuck on the coach for an hour and a half before we even left the hotel and this was due to problems with loading the cases and waiting for all the coaches to be ready and this was a great disappointment. When we finally got to the ship there was a short delay due to signing forms and getting boarding cards but then we were able to board and look around in our own time. Don’t be put off about all these delays as some members of my family booked differently to me and the rest of my family and so had to make their own way to the ship, they caught a taxi, which they tell me was quite cheap, and were on the ship in no time. Important advice – If possible pack a larger bag or small suitcase with items such as a bathing suit, sunscreen, some clothes for the evening and anything else you may require that day as there are so many bags that need to be loaded onto the ship that it does take a while for them to arrive at your room. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring some of the ship, having something to eat in the Windjammer Café and later on in the main dining room, we also went to watch the evening show which was very enjoyable, however after this we felt so tired that we had to go to bed which was a great disappointment. Day at sea- This day was spent fully exploring the ship and trying out some of the many activities that they had onboard, some of which included ice skating at Studio B, rock climbing, inline skating, miniature golf and some organised entertainment activities around the pool deck including the men’s belly flop competition which is very amusing. At this point I would like to thank my wonderful parents for volunteering myself into the men versus women pool games where I had to be part of a relay team and paddle across to the other side of the pool as fast as I could on a giant inflatable killer whale! Studio B- This is an ice rink where the planet ice show takes place on several occasions during the cruise (see the ships compass for details). It is also where you can learn to ice skate yourselves and you are provided with ice skates but be warned if you want to use this facility bring full length trousers/pants otherwise you will not be allowed to skate. This is something that is not mentioned in the brochure and I feel it should be as this meant that I had to either wear my evening meal trousers or miss out. Tonight was the first formal night where there was a captain’s reception party and formal portraits being taken all over the ship. Although it suggests formal attire I found that people’s interpretations of the word formal were different and so there were many dress styles. I can not comment on tonight’s evening entertainment as I felt fairly ill and so retreated to bed fairly early. San Juan, Puerto Rico – Today was spent having half a day on board sailing and half the day stopping at port. My family did not choose to do a shore excursion today, instead opting for exploring the shops ourselves. San Juan is a beautiful place with some quaint little shops, selling mainly hand made items, as well as large jewellery shops. If you want something other than shopping I would advise you to take a taxi up to the fort where you can explore at your leisure. Evening entertainment and dining – Tonight we ate in the main dining room, as did we on all the nights. Before we went on the cruise I had heard some reports that the food wasn’t brilliant but I think otherwise. The food was really nice and had a wide selection for everyone to chose from and if you didn’t like what was on the main menu they had alternatives which were similar every night. The waiter at our table was very nice and extremely helpful and was happy to change a meal if we didn’t like it or didn’t want sauce on top of something. The evening entertainment was amazing that night it was the first of two productions, this one was titled “History Repeating” and I don’t want to give it away but the set and costume changes were so fast and amazing that it left you wondering how did they do that so fast? I would also like to commend the dancers and singers as they appeared to work so hard and were going non-stop throughout the performance. My only advice is if you want a really good seat where you can see the whole thing clearly and fairly close up then arrive about 20 minutes early as you can get good seats plus they have entertainment from the cruise comics whilst you are waiting and this is a funny mini show. ST. Maarten – Again my family opted for exploring ourselves and so we spent half the day looking around some of the jewellery shops and novelty shops and then returned to the ship to eat at the Windjammer café. We spent the second half of the day on the beach although we left things a little too late and had to have a really quick shower as to not miss dinner- the only problem with being main seating. I really enjoyed visiting ST. Maartin as there was so many things that could be done both on and off the beach also you could take as many trips back and forth as you wanted as we used a water taxi. The water taxi is a really good idea as for $5 you get a band and have unlimited use of the water taxi (otherwise it is $3 each way!) Entertainment – Tonight there was no main show in the Palace theatre instead there was the second weekly showing of Planet Ice which is the most fantastic ice show I have seen in a long time. I am a great fan of ice shows and was amazed at how many stunts they did in such a small area and at the speed they picked up but say no more I don’t want to spoil things. St Thomas – This was the port I was most looking forward to visiting as it seamed so beautiful and with plenty of things to do. My family opted to go on a shore excursion where we got to board the Atlantis submarine which took you to the bottom of the ocean so that you could see coral and many different marine animals, it was truly fascinating and well worth doing. My only criticism of ST. Thomas was that there was so many excursions that I wanted to do but all of them seamed to be at this port and so I had to choose only one, which was a very tough decision. Tonight the entertainment was from a band called “Tribute” and paid homage to the Temptations. I didn’t really enjoy this as it was not my kind of music and I don’t know who the temptations are but it was alright. Back at Sea – Today we spent the day around the pool relaxing and didn’t do many of the activities going on through the day (partly because we fell asleep to the sound of the ocean!) but me and my sister did have a chance to go to the challenger arcade which is for the children and teenagers. We had fun having a mini tournament but parents beware as lots of money can be spent very easily here. It was the second formal night tonight and another chance to have formal portraits taken, again the dinner was very nice and we were treated to a little show from all the waiters. This evening’s entertainment was “Fast Forward” which was the second production from the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers and didn’t disappoint as it was about all the movies such as Flashdance, Footloose and Saturday night fever. I really enjoyed this production as I knew all the songs and have all the videos my only problem was trying to stop myself from singing along! Casino – I went in the casino most nights and as the cruise progressed so did the money each night (being lost that is) I did have some winning streaks on the slot machines but then couldn’t stop there and lost it all again. This casino is huge with lots of different tables for blackjack and roulette but also lots of slot machines ranging in prices. If you visit the casino you must look at the entrance where you walk over a glass covering and beneath you are lots of gold bars and roulette chips and the centrepiece being a jewel encrusted roulette wheel complete with spinning light! Nassau, Bahamas – We opted for another shore excursion, this time to Pearl Island. On this shore excursion you got to snorkel around looking for pearls or conch shells and whichever one you found you got to keep. It was a very good excursion and I would do it again if I had the chance to. Shopping on board (Royal promenade) – I spent the last night looking in the shops seeing if there was anything I wanted to buy as a memento of the cruise and boy was there a lot of shops to choose from. The royal promenade is where the shops are and is set out as if you were in a shopping area in France with imitation cobbled pebbles and side cafes where you could go and eat ice cream and other things. The promenade runs the length of the ship and is full of entertainment including bars and even a parade on some nights. This royal promenade is fantastic and words do not do it justice you just have to see it to give it credit. Farwell show – The Farwell show was a variety show which included the royal Caribbean singers and dancers and comedians but also there was a fantastic surprise as all the crew from the ship got on stage and said goodbye it really finished off the holiday nicely. Cruise Director – Our cruise director was Clodagh O’Connor was amazing and added that extra special touch to the cruise, she was incredibly funny and very hardworking. Disembarkation – The night before you disembark your entire luggage needs to be put outside your room but I would advise you to keep all the essentials out and the mornings clothes and put them into a bag in the morning. Depending upon the time of your flight home, or whatever arrangements you are doing when you leave the ship, you are given a coloured tag for you luggage. When your tag colour is called you are free to leave the ship. Our colour was orange and we were meant to leave the ship at 10am however we were not called till 12pm 2 hours later and this really annoyed me as it meant that we had to sit around for ages waiting to be called when we could have been having a nice breakfast or doing something else. The immigration when you leave the ship also took a long time to complete so take something to do or read whilst waiting. Overview – We have now cruised on 3 different ships, all with different tour operators, and this is our favourite by far, we really didn’t want to leave. We loved the friendly atmosphere that the ship had and the great ports that there were. We also loved the fact that there was so many things our only regret was that we didn’t get to experience everything due to there being too much to see and do with not enough time in the day or that we missed evening entertainment due to jet lag.

Read More
  • New

May 9, 2004

Western Caribbean

Just got back from 8 glorious days on the Explorer of the Seas, with unforgettable excursions to Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Turned out that this past week was unsurpassed for weather, with all 8 days providing a majority of sunshine, with a hint of tropical rain for no more than a half hour on day 6, prior to anchoring in GC. This was our second cruise experience, and our first as a couple. We had a great family

crusie on the RCCL Soverign of the Seas last year out of Port Canaveral, and that experience convinced us to take a cruise with our friends this year. 5 couples, mid-40's, with a great deal of fun and good natured personalities to share the week. It was truly a great trip. Some highlights: The Explorer of the Seas - Magnificent, beautiful, massive, spectacular, all appropriate adjectives for this boat and the amenities/activities and entertainment. We were so happy to be together, we did not sweat any of the small stuff, we just "went with the flow" when it came to boarding (about an hour wait), to the sheer size and distance to get anywhere (the ship is the length of 3 1/2 football fields), to the food lines at the buffet (varies by time) and finally the pools (hard to get 10 deck chairs together anywhere in the world). The staff were always polite and available to assist. I was particularly impressed with the commitment to keep the ship "clean". I was very pleased to walk around after a full day and see virtually no trash, dirty tables, etc. Only on rare occasions did we see a table available that was dirty, but within seconds someone would arrive to straighten up and wipe off. The rooms - We had inside cabins at the extreme aft, just in front of the aft suites. Since we are the crowd that spends as much time as possible doing things, we would rather spend $$ on activities and a bar tab vs. a room with a view or a suite. We were simply amazed by the space. The bed was at least a queen, with enough access on each side, but we always just hopped on from the foot of the bed (fun). Plenty of lights, storage, room to stretch out, etc. The bathroom was well designed, but only allows one person to work at a time. The public areas - I am partial to this ship because it was large enough to have several experiences on multiple decks, but not feel at any time that we were onboard with over 3000 guests and over 1000 crew. There were times when my wife and I were the only ones out on the bow of the ship, doing the Titanic movie couples thing, without a person in sight! There were also times where we could be strolling along the promenade with just a few, and wondering where everyone was hiding! Busiest places were always the main pool area and the elevator lobbies. We made a point to never use the elevators so that we could burn calories as fast as we put them on, since there is something to eat or drink almost everywhere you roam on the ship. We enjoyed the Seattle's Best Bakery shop on the promonade, which always had sanwiches and assorted pastries at any time of the day or night. The dining - There were several reviews that commented on the lack of great food experiences furing the evening sittings. I really tried hard to be positive about the food. I have to admit that this was the only disappointment I experienced on almost a nightly basis. Nothing about the menu, or the service, which were fine and appreciated. The problem was that the taste of the entrees never lived up to their billing on the menu. By the fourth evening, we almost expected it, so the salt and pepper were passed around even before we began to eat! Same story with the desserts (although the Baked Alaska was a guest favorite) My suggestion is to try to go to the alternative upscale Portofino's restaurant as much as you can afford to ($20 per person extra per evening) I took my wife there on the evening of Mother's Day, and we had a incredible italian meal, fantastic wine, wonderful service, and a dinner we will never forget. Entertainment - Great shows, comedians, and music. All of us commented on how "hip" Royal Caribbean is becasue they make the shows very palatable for all ages, especially 18-24 year olds. There was literally something for everyone, and the Planet Ice show is not to be missed. Our Cruise director James Andrews, was probably about 30 and extremely engaging and fun to be around. This was his last cruise on the Explorer (he was moving over to the Voyager to be with his fiance) and you could tell that he would be missed by the crew. His energy and commitment to all onboard having a great time was infectious. We may take a Voyager of the Seas cruise just to enjoy him again. Besides the incredible time on the ship itself, which will be my favorite for some time, I will relay two distinct experiences that this cruise gave me that I will never forget. Travelling with our party of 10 good friends, we booked an online Belize cave tubing tour. Our guide was a young Belizian who appeared to have Mayan descent, who grew up in the area and knew the cave/river system by heart. He could have easily taken the group through the forest blindfolded, but he took the time to point out several flora and fauna that one could "survive" on during in a pinch. At one point, he walked over to a tree that had a huge termite nest encased on the trunk. After a small punch on the nest with the back of his small fist, he reached in and grabbed a handful of termites, and began to eat! "Great protein, and the finish tastes like peppermint" he said, and invited us to try, which we were wild enough to oblige. They were truly a delight, and yes, they do have a minty fresh taste! Follow this with a spectacular river float trip through the limestone caves, and we were convinced that this was a one of a kind event that you will not have at any other port of call. The other fantastic voyage was to stingray city in Grand Cayman. After a rainy morning, we were again blessed with a gorgeous day for us to take a charter out of Grand Cayman Yacht club, and then out to the area just before the reef where there is a sandbar that the fisherman used to dump their bait before heading in to port. The stingrays, varying in size from 2 to 4 feet in width, would glide up to you and almost beg for food, which consisted of a small squid held in your fist. They would literally suck te food from your hand. You can hold them and even "kiss" them if you wish. My wife even wanted to take one home as a pet. I highly recommend this excursion, no matter the cost. In summary- To have a awesome time, have a attitude that appreciates being tremendously blessed to be on a luxurious cruise to tropical destinations. Use the stairs whenever you can. They burn calories. Eat at least once in the Portofino restaurant. You will not be disappointed. Kids are well taken care of and have wonderful Adventure Club programs. If you are an adult, enjoy the Adults only Solarium pool and hot tubs. Book your excursions with local operators at the port to save time and money. Go cave tubing in Belize with Action Belize tours. GO to the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya. Don't be afraid to deal with the vendors at the pier. Rent a Jeep in Cozumel and drive to the Southeast side, the windward side of the island. Go to Chen Rio beach Palapa. You will never forget it. The most perfect beach beer spot in the western Caribbean. Do not miss Stingray city in Grand Cayman.

Read More
  • New

Apr 24, 2004

Western Caribbean

***PRE-REVIEW EDITORIAL COMMENT Part of my reason in writing this review is to pass along my experience. I have extensively reviewed the other reviews posted on this ship and most of the other ships in the RCCL fleet. I can honestly say that on my two RCCL cruises and my one Carnival cruise I have yet to encounter a single crew member that was the slightest bit rude or didn’t seem to care about his or her job. When I read the overly-negative

reviews that I see here, I am compelled to conclude that the reviewer, while possibly having a valid reason for making the complaint(s), must have approached the situation in a negative way…Here is an example – On the Royal Promenade our first day there was a table advertising Explorer’s soft drink card ($42 bucks for the week for unlimited soft drinks). For some strange reason, however, the table had many cans of beer on it as well. A passenger approached the table and asked if alcohol was included. The crew member politely said that the card only covered soft drinks. Following this, the passenger rudely and loudly yelled at the crew member for having the beer cans on the table – valid complaint? Yes. Correct approach to the situation? No. It’s all in the way you approach the situation. If your attitude is that the crew members are there to be your humble servants and must heed your beck and call and make everything absolutely perfect, then you will have a disappointing experience. Throughout this review I will point out passengers who I thought crossed the line as opposed to slamming the crew members. I think that this will give a better perspective to some of the negative reviews. Thus endeth the sermon…On to the review! This cruise was my third cruise and my wife’s fifth. Each time seems to get better. This was our first time on a Voyager-class ship and its going to be difficult to downsize after our experience! I’ll start from the beginning… We flew out of rainy Cleveland on 4/23 with our 2 year old son, who was going to be spending the week with my parents in Miami. Upon arrival in sunny Florida we spent the day lounging around and getting psyched up for the trip. Went out to the beach in Hollywood and saw the line of ships offshore awaiting a morning port call. EMBARKATION/CABIN Absolutely flawless! We arrived at the port at about 10:50 and we were in our cabin by 11:20. Security was a breeze and we even spent time hunting for an upgrade (none available). Cabin was not ready at that early hour, so we dropped our carry-ons in the closet and set out to explore the Explorer. To digress for a second, we had one of the famous Promenade-View rooms. Although it was of more than acceptable size and the bay window had a large sitting area, I would not book this cabin again. We had a balcony on Grandeur of the Seas and this, in my opinion, was a HUGE step down. Just don’t like not being able to look outside and see what is going on…Had no idea if the ship was in port or had sunk while we were sleeping. THE SHIP WOW! That is all I can say about this ship. It is frigging huge! The Promenade is such a unique feature and we spent a great deal of time there drinking coffee and people watching. There is a 24 hour café that serves pizza, cookies, small sandwiches and (for and extra fee) Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. There is also an English-style pub and a sports bar (only shows ESPN International, meaning LOTS of soccer). This area is where the shopping is as well and the standard on-board shops are present. MONEY SAVING TIP: We did not take advantage of this, but on the first night the booze store had a 4 for 1 charge for instant pick-up, meaning that the $9.50 charge for being able to open the bottle immediately applied to four bottles instead of the usual one bottle. Here’s a shot of the Royal Promenade:\ The Pool Decks are, like everything else, HUGE. Until common courtesy becomes commonplace, there will always be a problem with saving chairs. Being unfailingly polite, I am not the type to throw someone’s towel and/or book on the ground, but when you see the same chair with the same towel and book for five hours, it is very tempting. There is tiered seating for the sun deck and there are chairs on the upper-level Sports Deck as well. An area that we found to be less crowded is the stern, but it is also directly in front of the children’s play area, so it can get very noisy with screaming children. As to the pools, they are large and never quite busy. For once there were ample hot tubs in the main area, as well as a couple big ones in the adults-only Solarium and another in the fitness center. I was told that the solarium hot tubs were on average much warmer than the pool tubs, but the only night that I used a pool tub I also had pretty bad sunburn, so it seemed pretty darn hot to me. The fitness center is huge and I was able to immediately get onto a machine without waiting on the three mornings that I got up the motivation to actually go. It was a little weird at first – The center is above the bow of the ship. As we were pulling into Jamaica the ship was making a hard port (left) turn. My usual view at my rec center is either of the person in front of me or of the woods behind the center. Being on the elliptical machine and sensing and viewing the ship’s movement made me feel slightly out-of-whack for a couple minutes, but I adjusted quickly. Keep this in mind if you are prone to motion sickness. I did not utilize the sauna nor the weight area. The Sports Deck is great – Contains the mini-golf, basketball area, in-line skating, and, looming above it all, the mighty rock wall. We played mini-golf the first night out – It was pretty cool, but the wind on the deck, coupled with the ship’s movement, made it challenging at times to get the ball in the hole. One gripe…the “rock” walls in the course are actually composite materials that have no bounce to them – one major strategy in mini-golf is to ricochet your ball off of the walls to get to where you are going. When the ball hits these walls, it just sits there and dies. No ricochet whatsoever. Keep that in mind! Due to our inability to properly plan, we did not use the in-line skating area. My wife did climb the rock wall and had a blast – it is harder than it looks (overhangs) and requires decent upper and lower body strength. You are harnessed in and given safety equipment and have a one-on-one with a crew member, so you are not left unsupervised during the climb. One thing I did wonder about but neglected to ask…The rock wall is located on the ship’s funnel, which is also (I believe) where the ship’s horns are located. I wonder how frigging loud it would be if the horns went off while someone was near the top of the wall… I utilized the running/walking track on a few mornings. Big enough and not too crowded. One piece of advice…get in your running in the morning before the decks fill up with sunbathers. Due to the layout, there are deck chairs all near the track – I saw people running in the afternoon and trying to dodge people laying out or walking around looking for a place to lay out. Use a little common sense and do not attempt to work out during the afternoon hours if the area is crowded – You are not going to get in a quality workout and will probably end up torking off a lot of people in the process. This class of ship is really neat in that the bow of the ship is open to passenger access. You can walk up nearly to the very tip of the ship (and if you are quick can do the “King of the World” thing before security is dispatched to remove you – remember the Bridge is directly above you here). It is VERY windy up here, so keep that in mind if you have a cap or lightweight family member that you don’t want to lose. The Casino was very generous to me! I am usually the King of Breaking Even, but this time the slot machines gave me back around $400 over the week. One negative here – I love video poker, but the only machines they had were crappy progressive multi-game machines with bad payout schedules. I only played twice during the week. I am a nervous gambler and did not play any table games during the week. I was doing well enough on the slots that I did not have the desire to go elsewhere to gamble. One thing the casino crew needs to work on – throughout the week there were a LOT of teenagers playing the slots. Although I did hear them being told to leave, there was no follow-up enforcement of the rules. I frankly could care less, but in one instance I kept getting bugged by a group of kids to help them cash out a small jackpot that they had won. The internet center is very large and has easy-to-follow instructions so that you can sign on. READ CAREFULLY – The cost is very high, so unless you absolutely need to communicate with the outside world, I’d suggest not partaking. I’ll cover other areas of the ship as I go through the day-to-day activities that we partook in… DAY ONE (Saturday, April 24th) Following embarkation, we just walked around the ship checking things out. Around 3:00 we met up with fellow members of our Cruise-Critic board at the Sports Bar. I have never done the CC thing before, but I would strongly recommend it. It was great having a group of people that you have a basic relationship with before you even board. We traded shore excursion ideas amongst each other beforehand and ended up on many of the same trips throughout the week. There was a welcome-aboard show in the evening that provided a sneak peek at the rest of the week’s shows. There was also a gymnastics duet from Poland that was downright freaky and exciting and a comedian who was so-so. We just kind of relaxed this night and got into the groove of having a week of doing everything yet nothing ahead of us. Dinner was a half-hour later than normal (we had second seating) and was typical RCCL – This will go for the whole week – It was very good food. Nothing exceptional, but nothing exceptionally bad. For a kitchen tasked with serving 3000 people in a three-hour time frame they do a hell of a job. If you want to be waited on like a king and have gourmet everything, give Crystal or Seabourne a call. You get what you pay for (and a lot more, in my opinion). Our waitstaff, Fernanda and Carmella, did a great job at taking care of us throughout the week. As for the Windjammer, the food was more than adequate, and quite good, all week. Its pretty much "safe" food, so enjoy! DAY TWO This was a stop in Nassau, which was a substitute for Labadee. Being a lover of history, it absolutely amazes me that the suits at RCCL did not do a little research into the violent history of Haiti before they laid down a chunk of cash to buy and develop the Labadee property. It appears that this stop will be down for quite a while, if not permanently, due to the inability of Haiti to maintain a stable government for more than two weeks. Oh well… We did not do an organized excursion at Nassau. We slept in a little then walked (yes walked) to the Atlantis. It took us about a ½ hour to walk there and was a little nerve-wracking at times…Being a Sunday, many of the shops were closed and the streets on the way to the bridge to Paradise Island were pretty deserted. A couple of times I had to keep an extra eye out as we walked near certain areas. I think I was over-reacting, but keep that in mind if you want to walk over there. The Atlantis is beautiful and VERY EXPENSIVE…A chocolate chip cookie and two pops ran us $9.00. We managed to walk out of there up $1.00 after hitting on a slot machine…WOO HOO!! ***Negative Review digression…I have seen many negative comments regarding beach access at Atlantis and the resort’s rules limiting such access to guests only. After having been there, I am in total agreement with Atlantis’ policy. This place is huge and extremely expensive. It was filled with cruise ship passengers milling about the public areas. If everyone were to be given access to the beach/waterslide area, it would be ridiculously crowded there as well. The guests who pay the grossly expensive rates at Atlantis deserve an area or two that they can enjoy without too much crowding. Back to the review…Following our victorious exit from Atlantis, we walked next door to Cabbage Beach…It is beautiful here and is open to the public. We made it back to the ship and had lunch at Johnny Rockets, which is very popular and faithful to the menu back home. Later on we went to dinner and then experienced adult karaoke night in the Maharaja’s Lounge. It was above-average…the best was truly Frankie from Hawaii who did a dead-on rendition of Colin Raye’s “I’m already there.” After that, we went to the Chamber nightclub, which is a two-level affair reminding me of a dungeon. Typical house/dance music that I enjoyed in college. We were up pretty darn late. DAY THREE Due to being up pretty darn late the night before, we slept in, as this was our first day at sea. I did go down to the ice rink to get our tickets to the Ice Show, which I would strongly suggest going to see. We really just kind of bummed around this whole day, laying around in the sun and not doing much of anything. This is the beauty of cruising – there was plenty to do if you want to do it. We chose to lay around, but there were plenty of planned activities as well. The belly-flop contest was a big draw and there was great calypso music all afternoon on the pool deck. The Art Auctions are interesting as well…We did not think this is something that we would enjoy, but ended up going to a couple and buying some nice works at cut-rate prices. I’d suggest at least checking one out during the cruise. DAY FOUR This was Jamaica day. We did not utilize any of RCCL’s official excursions at any point during this cruise. They are expensive and very crowded. We heard good buzz about Phil Lafayette online and booked a tour with him. For $50 a head, we and about ten others boarded his air-conditioned bus and toured the Ocho Rios area, stopped at Fern Gully (rain forest) to view some out-of-the-way small markets, saw a spice garden with a very large marijuana plant growing off to the side and watched a road-side “fireman” dance with fire-sticks. Phil is great – he loves his country, is very-well spoken and goes out of his way to show you a good time. He took us to a small waterfall area off the beaten path and then it was off to the White River for tubing. This was like the “lazy river” rides at theme parks around the country. Guides were posted along the way to make sure you didn’t get tangled up in the brush on the banks and there were some cool rapids to liven things up. Definitely a great stop – the ride lasted about 45 minutes and then it was off to Dunns River Falls. DRF is a 600 foot waterfall that cascades its way into the sea at an angle that allows it to be climbed without too much difficulty. There are guides available to assist the climb, which is done in a human-chain method. Watch out for the underwater rocks…my shin hit one that almost ended my climb (I now have a scar as a permanent reminder of the trip). There are certain portions that I would deem to be a little difficult, but nothing unmanageable. I would definitely recommend this stop, but with the following proviso: AVOID AT ALL COSTS THE SHOPPING AREA AT THE TOP OF THE FALLS…This is the Jamaica that we have heard about. The vendors were aggressive *()&*(s who accused us of being racist for not buying anything and who literally got into your face if you did not make a purchase…My suggestion is to keep walking – do not stop, do not look at anything…There is a way to bypass this area, but we screwed up…Make sure you ask your tour guide how to avoid the area. Our tour lasted about six hours and was well worth the money. I would strongly recommend Phil. This, however, was the Explorer’s last stop in Jamaica for the foreseeable future – the new itinerary includes Belize instead. The grapevine said that part of the reason was due to ongoing customer complaints about aggressive vendors, but I do not know for sure what RCCL’s official reasons were for changing the intinerary. One more suggestion…Our day was cut short when the one credit card that we took with us that day was rejected in several stores. We had to tramp back to the ship. Turns out that a business we’d used that card at several weeks earlier had been burglarized and a lot of credit card info had been stolen. Thus, our card was on a fraud watch. When Fleet saw a charge in Jamaica pop up, alarms sounded and they shut the card down. It was nice that they did this, but it also would have been nice if they’d told us they were watching our card. The suggestion is to call all of your credit companies and inform them that you are leaving the country – even without the fraud watch on our card, we learned that many companies will automatically reject foreign charges without prior authorization from the customer (my American Express card was fine, however). We heard that Margaritaville, which is Jimmy Buffett’s bar, was a blast, but by the time we got done dealing with the credit card it was too late to head back to the shopping area near the ship to experience it for ourselves. We went to Portofinos this night, which is Explorer’s $20 a head Italian restaurant. Excellent service, terrific food and well-worth the money. We lucked out and managed to get an 8:30 reservation at about 5:30 that afternoon, but I’d suggest booking as soon as possible. We did experience our MORON OF THE WEEK here, however. Upon arrival, we noticed a table of four very loud (and drunk) women who looked like they had just walked out of an 80’s photo shoot (big hair, big earrings…). One of them had a walkie-talkie (great idea that I’ll touch on later) and was using it in the restaurant to communicate with her son Joshua. Now, first off, the mere use of this radio inside of the restaurant was rude, but she was screaming at her son, who was screaming back at her, and between the two of them the tables surrounding them were getting very upset. With an accent that had Long Island all over it, she would bellow JOSHUUUAA into the radio…”JOSHUUA…GET DOWN TO THE ICE RINK FOR THE SHOW…GET IN LINE AND WAIT FOR US JOSHUUUUUA.” Joshua, who sounded like he was equally obnoxious, would scream back at her but we could not make out what he was saying. Luckily, they were getting ready to leave, so we knew it would soon be over. Being a luxury-type establishment, the staff lets you relax during the course of the dinner. These classy ladies, however, wanted their check so they could go join JOSHUUUA and the remainder of their group at Studio B (Ice Skating). One of the other “ladies” in the group called over a member of the staff, who I believe was Filipino. The woman proceeded to loudly tell the staff member, with hand gestures, that they needed their check “because they had to go bye-bye,” because obviously the crew member did not speak a word of English nor, being a foreigner was she able to understand English. The manner in which this communication was made was absolutely insulting to me and almost caused me to get up and smack some common sense into the side of this woman’s big-haired head. I restrained myself and the group left to polite applause. I hope that a member of that group reads this review and, in reflection, is embarrassed about their behavior, but my guess is that the word “class” is not in their vocabulary and that this behavior is absolutely normal for them. If by chance one of them writes a review, I can see them complaining that the staff was rude and that they could not speak English and that they took forever to get them a check…Other than that, we had a great experience! DAY FIVE Today we stopped in Grand Cayman, the oft-cancelled tender stop and my favorite port of the trip. This place is spotless and everyone drives BMWs, Lexuses (Lexi?) and Mercedes. There is plenty of money here due to the off-shore banking that is putting GC above Switzerland for such purposes. We booked online with Soto Cruises for snorkeling and took a three-stop trip for $25 bucks a head. There were two boats in our group and our boat only had about 20 people on it. The guides were very friendly and the areas that we visited were excellent – great visibility, no crowds and plenty of snorkeling time. You could pick out the ships with official excursions – they had about 100 people each on them and those people probably paid a lot more than we did! The stingray experience was one of the more interesting things that I’ve ever done…the animals are very friendly and our guides were very helpful in “capturing” one and allowing us to feed, pet and even kiss the ray. They look really cool coming in from the open sea– almost like a group of stealth fighters streaking towards their target. There were only two other ships in port the day we were there, so things were not that crowded. I have read reviews where eight ships were tendering in passengers, so I can’t say my experience would match up to what someone else might experience with bigger crowds. DAY SIX This was our final port – Cozumel. Upon being escorted into the harbor by a Mexican patrol boat (with its .50 cal machine gun pointed AT the ship), we docked at the International Pier, which is about a five-minute cab ride to San Miguel, where another major dock and all of the main shopping exists. We chose to go on our own to Chankanaab, which is a national park about five minutes by cab the other way down the road. There is also a bike/scooter path that takes you there as well. Admission to the park is $12 a head and it is beautiful. There are FREE lounge chairs and thatch umbrellas lining the beach and the snorkeling is very good here. There are plenty of fish and they are not shy. I also came within a few feet of a barracuda, which kind of freaked me out. There are dive/snorkel shops here and it costs about $9 per person for full snorkel gear. Chankanaab also has in-water experiences with Dolphins and/or Sea Lions. We did not do these, but heard rave reviews from people that did. There are a few restaurants here as well as a walk-through botanical garden and replica Mayan artifacts arranged in a “dig” area. A beautiful lagoon is on the property with some temples across the water that provide for great pictures. We did not manage our time well and so we did not see all that Chankanaab has to offer. We would, however, recommend it. Its close to the pier and has everything you could want for a fun day in Mexico. Following Chankanaab we went to San Miguel and did a little shopping, then wrapped up the stop in Carlo’s & Charlies, a legendary bar that serves “yard high” drinks. A couple of Long Island Iced Teas later I was ready to party! Later that night we assisted in helping a couple of our Cruise Critic compadres avoid paying duty on the booze that they bought by sitting in one of the hot tubs until 5:00 in the morning…It was a wonderful and relaxing night and I had by that point completely forgotten that I had a busy law practice that was probably going down the tubes as I bobbed around in the middle of the ocean. DAY SEVEN The last day of our cruise consisted of sleeping in until about 11:00 in the morning. We chilled out for most of the day and slowly began packing for our return to reality in the morning. We had more lunch at Johnny Rockets and checked out the onboard pictures that we’d had taken throughout the week. The dinner was the usual farewell and tips were given to all of our service providers. We turned in early out of sheer exhaustion. DEBARKATION Pretty flawless. Unlike past cruises, you aren’t assigned to a particular area of the ship. One tip, however. We spent time on the pool deck. For whatever reason, the announcements regarding tag colors were not being made out there and we did not realize that our color had been called about a ½ hour earlier. If you don’t hear an announcement for a while, make sure you ask someone! The luggage area is like an airport. There are belts for your luggage – it is not like the warehouse that we have experienced in the past where everyone’s luggage is just sitting in a huge room. TIPS/SUGGESTIONS 1. We brought some Motorola walkie-talkies with us. These were great for communicating and we did not have any reception problems anywhere in the ship. 2. Be nice to the crew members. They work very hard for their money and deserve respect…They are not peasants there for your pleasure. If you truly do have a negative experience, report it. Just remember, the way you approach a situation will affect the way that the situation is handled. You are not the only passenger on the ship! 3. Do some research on-line and consider visiting Cruisecritic.com or AOL’s message boards. The tips that we received were great and we also formed a little pre-cruise community. Going onto the ship we already knew about 15 people and had our excursions booked for a much cheaper rate than what RCCL was offering . 4. Book spa treatments/Porotfinos right away…They tend to fill up quickly. Also, check out the shops on the first and last night…They run specials on items at those times. 5. Carry a change of clothes in your carryon, including a bathing suit. Despite their best efforts, it still sometimes takes a while for your luggage to get to your cabin on the first day. Also, put unique markers on your luggage. We bought some neon handle covers from Brookstone that made our luggage very visible. 6. RELAX…Do as much as you want to do, but don’t think that you can get everything done – Its not possible! I hope this review is helpful to you. If you have any additional questions, or if you need a criminal defense attorney in the Cleveland area (need to pay for the cruise, after all), please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]!

Read More
  • New

Mar 27, 2004

Western Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has raised the bar with its Voyager Class of ships and especially with Explorer of the Seas. This magnificent vessel is not just a ship; it's a destination in itself! We left a cold and snowy Michigan behind on March 26th and flew from Saginaw to Miami. After spending the night in Miami, we took a shuttle to the Port of Miami. It was a feast for the eyes when we pulled up to our ship. It loomed large and beautiful before

us. Check-in was a breeze, fast and methodical. As we took our customary boarding photograph, the excitement mounted. It is not enough to say this ship is beautiful. It far surpasses any other ship and cruise line I've taken. The sheer beauty, layout and grandeur of the ship is amazing. We decided to book a promenade stateroom. It was smaller than it looked in the photographs, but we loved being able to people watch from our perch high above the promenade. Speaking of the promenade - I cannot imagine cruising without one! It was the epicenter of the ship-fun, food & frivolity central! But I'm getting off track. Our room was completely perfect for our needs. The longer we were on the ship, the larger the room seemed. The ships designers thought of every storage possibility and for that I thank them! We took off for a quick trip around the ship, to the dining room to find our table, etc. We then donned our swimsuits and headed up the stairs to Deck 12, or HEAVEN. It was a sun-worshipers dream. It had a beautiful breeze and overlooked the pools and all the action. Our wonderfully waiter waiter, Bling-Bling, kept the Mango Tango's coming. Explorer of the Seas has one thing going for it than other cruise lines I've encountered and it is her staff. The staff is the heart and soul of this ship. James Andrews, our cruise director, could NOT have been more gracious, humorous, or infectious. His staff was at the ready to entertain the troops. We loved them. Our dining room team was superb. We had been placed at a table for 4. Somehow we were moved to a table for two which was perfect. Our waiter, Rana, could not have lavished more attention on us. Alina, his assistant was bubbly, efficient and so sweet. They really did make our cruise, we always looked forward to dinner! I also want to mention, Jo-Jo our headwaiter. He was an important part of the team and very personable. The food was always top notch! Every recommendation given to us was perfect, even when we didn't particularly like the dish. We were never disappointed - thanks Rana! On area that could have used improvement was the Island Grille/Windjammer Cafe. The food was passable, but not the highest quality. HOWEVER, they feed a ton of people over a few hours, so that has to cut the quality. Johnny Rockets, also, was passable. Not as good as other JR's I've been too. Shakes and cherry cokes were sublime though. Getting back to the promenade, this three story atrium was home to staterooms, shops, bars and also doubled as a stage for performing. At almost any time of the day or night you would see people shopping, strolling, enjoying a bite to eat, a drink or just relaxing. We loved to see the Explorer Singers & Dancers put on mini-shows at the promenade. Beyond the promenade was the Palace Theater. We saw professional quality Vegas style review, games, comedians so funny that we almost wet our pants! Karaoke at the Maharajas lounge was an absolute must. Thanks to the wonderful family from Kentucky and their rendition of She Bangs, She Bangs. The great thing about this ship was that you could find entertainment wherever you went. And the dancing! The Chamber disco was a two-story mecca for someone like myself who could dance 24 hours a day! And if dancing isn't your "thing" you could enjoy the gaming at Casino Royale! Needless to say, we were never bored. We loved the destinations: Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman & Cozumel. However, this ship is the ultimate destination. How they can pack 3200 cruisers and 1200 staff aboard this vessel and never be crowded is a testiment to its design! We would have been happy to just stay on the ship and never set foot on the gangway to disembark. Since this getting a little wordy, let me just say that this was the most fabulous cruise, and yes! VACATION that we've ever taken. Royal Caribbean - you have a fan for life. I'm already planning my next cruise - and it will be onboard the Explorer of the Seas.

Read More
  • New

Feb 14, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

While my tan is still dark, my waistline still swelled, and my memories clear I will endeavor to return the kind favors of the many that have gone before me, by passing on my impressions of my 2/14 sail aboard the Explorer of the Seas. To set a base line, we set out with a total of 32 old and a few new friends, with most relationships going back 25 years. There is no greater joy than vacationing with friends who know you well enough

to tell you your breath stinks. Rather than being a vacation, it always is more of a seven day party, that moves around the globe. It is important to note that due to our schedules we only travel as peak week touristos, at a time when virtually the entire United States (except for New Hampshire-go figure) is off from school for February break. This was our third group cruise together, and my personal forth cruise. It was our first experience with Royal Caribbean, having sailed NCL and Princess previously. Depending on when you sail, your mileage may vary. ********************************** The Ship Perhaps the most disheartening words I ever read in a cruise review are “enough is written about this ship, so I won’t bother you with that”. If you’re like me when anticipating a cruise or researching a ship, you voraciously seek every description of the ship you can find. You care not if someone’s assistant waiter’s name was Julio, or that they sat next to a flatulent man on the plane to Miami. You want to know about the ship. It is important to note, our gang could have a great time floating at sea in a leaky row boat, albeit a big leaky rowboat. I am happy to report Explorer of the Sea’s is far from being a big leaky rowboat. She is in fact beautiful. She towers above the port of Miami, nose to nose with her sister, Navigator. They gleam bright white in the embarkation day early sun. The vocal excitement level of our group of 32 became absolutely electric as our bus drove into the port and the massive size of these ships filled our entire field of vision. Seeing her for the first time is definitely a “holy wee-wee” moment. Upon boarding Explorer, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very tastefully done vessel. The twin atriums soar in breathtaking a splendor of brass and glass with nary a bit of neon glitz to detract from them. Her interior public spaces are not only covered with works of art, but are pieces of art themselves. A graceful marble, glass and brass grand staircase makes it way down to the Palace Theater in the bow of the ship. This huge state of the art theater (this from someone who makes their livelihood in the theater) houses one of the ships most remarkable works of art. A shimmering Main curtain, painted with elongated, symmetrical people. The curtain absolutely bursts to life with color, when the front of house theater lighting comes on. Also located in the bow are a number of other wonderfully designed public rooms. The Schooner Bar, is a wood toned nautically themed space. There are ships models in cases. The room is lined on the starboard side with enormous portholes topped by whimsical sail shaped faux hatch covers that are done in rich woods. The same shapes are mimicked as open arches protruding from the walls above tables on the opposite side of the room. Rigging surrounds a masthead near the bar. A cannon guards the entrance way. It a great place to have a drink, some easy conversation and soak in the piano bar atmosphere. Just off the Schooner Bar is the ships disco, the Chamber. Most pictures don’t do this medieval setting justice. This room is meant to be best seen, in its own light, rather than a camera’s flash. Stained glass windows line the entrance corridor. High backed arched “kings chairs” are throughout. There are suits of armor, torches, and faux stone finishes. It is a very impressive space. I would love to say I spent many a night dancing here. Surely my entire group meant to. Sadly, however, it fell under the category of “we’ll go tomorrow night”, and never made it back. The ship is huge, the week is short, and many things fell into that category. One deck up you’ll find the “Connoisseur Club”, a richly wood paneled room where cigar aficionados can enjoy a smoke, a cognac, and a chat. The room is one of the ships most intimate spaces and easily leads to quick conversation with newly discovered friends. On both occasions that I enjoyed this space, I was immediately welcomed by those sitting there, and invited to join into the conversation. If the room had leather furniture it would have been a perfect men’s club setting. Then again, I am far from the perfect man, (just ask “She who must be obeyed”) so why quibble over small points. The Royal Promenade is a breathtaking space, and most do consider this the heart of the ship. Its lighting design is done well, warmly lit in the evenings in cool blues and reds and brightly lit in the day. With the promenade view cabin windows above it, it does achieve very successfully, the effect of being on a street. It is definitely unique as a gathering space and makes transits across the ship easy. For myself, my ventures there were only to get to my daily 5pm slice of Pizza and a chocolate chip cookie at the Café Promenade, or to get to one of the aft or forward cocktail lounges. While I did enjoy a fine martini in the Crown and Kettle Pub, with its dark wood paneling and pub feel, I prefer to be constantly reminded I’m on a ship. I’m frequently on a street. I’m only on a ship once every other year. I need windows to the sea. These windows were once again found aft in the Aquarium bar. The lounge is split by the aft atrium and the main restaurant entrance. It is a GREAT space done in warm blues and greens, surrounded once again by six foot porthole windows, and rather large, though a tad murky, fish tanks teeming with tropical fish. It featured ice cold martinis in properly chilled glasses, served up to ever present live music, ranging from an unusual trio made up of an oboe, a violin and a piano to a jazz quartet. Often overlooked, or perhaps better phrased overstepped, are the floors. Throughout the promenade area they range from highly polished inlaid wood parquets fore and aft featuring the Explorer’s “compass” logo, to cobblestone-esque tile on the “street”. Do occasionally look down when you walk. It not only helps you navigate after a long evening of “cocktailing”, but is full of visual surprises. The Casino is a big, glitzy casino. There are ample slots and tables and more than enough ways to rid yourself of the extra vacation dollars you may be burdened with. It was however, the first casino afloat that myself and “she who must be obeyed” ever ended up ahead in. Granted it was just a few hundred bucks which we applied to knocking the tip of the iceberg off our week’s bill, but we won all the same. I therefore loved the Casino. Out the doors on deck four, (four deck for you true old salts) is the exterior promenade. A very, very broad space running completely around the ship with the added bonus of being able to walk to the very tip of the bow. On a daily basis when weather permitted, “She who must be obeyed” and I took 8 lap strolls around it to fight off the ever present tide of drinks, chocolate chip cookies, pounds of bacon, multiple meals and the other endless evils that one suddenly deems “okay” when on a cruise. The more you eat, the less a cruise costs right? To me personally, on any ship, there is no greater place to feel at sea, than on an exterior promenade. It links the cruise industry, with the time when ships were transportation rather than a vacation. Sadly, there is almost no wood apparent, except for a small swath of teak, on its narrowest part, as you pass the main restaurant. The deck is fully carpeted, and except for the railings and an occasional crew door, lacks the seafaring “charm” of a true promenade. Even “teak look” floor padding would have added the more warmth and traditional color to the area. Still a full wrap around carpeted promenade is preferable to two short dead end promenades. Any promenade is preferable to a sidewalk full of snow, in front of your house. The pool deck is a vast tiered area. The main pool is the center for sea day activities with teak deck areas, two large hot tubs, showers and misting stations, two over flowing FRESH WATER POOLS ( a surprise to me, for all reviews state these are salt water pools-perhaps it was just my week of travel), a pool bar, a skybar and a bandstand for the mandatory island music. It is where our group spent the bulk of the week. Being poolside on a cruise ship, during a sea day, is heaven. It is also the most controversial area of the ship. Everywhere I went during the week (from restaurants to guest services) it was overheard to be a hot topic of conversation. Having been on four cruises I have been lucky enough to never have been bothered by “chair saving”. Arriving around 9AM on other ships, we have always been able to find ample deck chairs together. The deck chair situation on Explorer was deplorable. Though our group was always able to procure at least 8 chairs together using commando tactics, it was at Herculean effort. Our early risers (before 8AM) would go to pool deck and “hold until relieved, hold until relieved”. Little was done by the chair police to clear the hundreds of chairs which sat for hours with towels, rather with bodies. The pool deck chair situation is compounded by the running track on the upper pool level. It is an approximately 7 foot wide area, running around the entire top deck, which is “verboten” to deck chairs. It is a very, poor concept. We actually saw several unfortunate confrontations between joggers, walkers and sunbathers throughout the sea days. If I “ruled the waves”, I would have closed the running track after 9:30 am (opening the deck four Promenade at the same time to runners) and laid out an extra row of deck chairs around the entire top of the ship. It would have added extra 200-300 chairs for people to lay towels on and then not sit in. Mind you, our eight chairs, for our group of 32 meant we were all able to enjoy the music, warmth, sun, and sea days in shifts, but I am aware many weren’t. I felt sorry for them, at least until the Skybar staff made me forget. A wonderful area of the pool deck is the adult’s only solarium. With jets of water criss-crossing the small FRESH water pool and padded pool chairs, the columned finely tiled area is filled with objects d’art and has the wonderful feel of a Spanish courtyard. It has a large almost always empty hot tub. It is where I ventured to every time I needed to cool off from the Caribbean sun. My only question is why it didn’t have a retractable roof for foul weather days? I have to look up the meaning of solarium. While I never used the health center of the ship, many of my group did. I lead a very healthy life in the real world. I do everything I can to counter that on vacation. I did walk through it once and was very impressed. It is FILLED with a wide variety of equipment, has a large aerobics room, and a large hot tub. It is lined with floor to ceiling windows that look out on the bow. Those who did use it, did say it was the BEST “resort” health club they have ever seen. I have saved my favorite space for last. Dizzy’s in the Viking Crown on the top of the ship. This room is as nice a room as I have ever seen on a ship, and right up there with the Norway’s “International Café”. There are small glittering fiber optic star accents throughout. An Art deco bandstand, with a keyboard painted stagefront and a fiber optic star curtain stands in the center of the room. The space is surrounded with floor to ceiling windows, a wonderful “WPA type” jazz mural and pictures of Jazz greats line the walls. The furniture is arranged in great conversational settings of chairs and sofas. The lighting at night is indirect and very warm. On both formal nights our group met there for cocktails. Standing in a tux in this marvelous room was the height of the cruise experience. We also used the space for card playing during our foul weather day, and went there for any other reason we could find an excuse for. Going to the Jazz Club, the one night there actually was Jazz (most nights its Latin music-go figure) was as good a cruise night as I ever had.. Previous Explorer cruisers will note I have never mentioned the Champagne bar, The Maharaja Lounge, or the sports bar. I saw them, looked in them, but never actually made it to them. Like I said, It was a big ship, and even with two bonus sea days, there was so much else to do. ********************************** The Cabins- I find it almost laughable about the amount of concern on message boards and newgroups over what a particular cabin on a ship looks like. Unless you're sailing on an old converted ocean liner (cough-Norway-cough) with the exception of category they're all the same right? Well mostly right. There were some slight differences. Our group had a boatload (excuse the pun) of cabins. Fourteen cabins to be exact. They all fell into the categories of D9, DA and a few scattered inside N's for the kiddies, and for the most part were located toward the aft. Four of us, including myself, had the much talked about cabins; 8390, 8690, 8692, and 7688. The D9's and DA's (which the above four rooms are) are indeed to be considered Cabins, rather than Staterooms. At 177 square feet, they are tight, but not uncomfortable for 2. Our Cabin was corner aft, 8390. It was, as they all were, very nicely appointed in kind of pastel colors with light wood appointments at the closet and the desk/make up table, with a thankfully round cornered queen bed, and a two seat sofa with a small coffee table in front of it. The entire cabin springs up on you as you open the scalloped cabin door. That's because it's all RIGHT THERE, two steps in front of you. The two steps you take are the length of what is a very cozy but workable bathroom featuring a "star trek transporter tube" shower. For all but two of us, it was the smallest cabin we've ever had on a ship. That didn't make it bad; it was, after all, a cabin on a ship. What could be bad about having a cabin on a ship! It was just, smaller than we were used too. After some ingenious work by the "unpacking fairy", all our suitcases were put away, the charm of the room took over, and size was forgotten. There were plenty of drawers and hangers. The closet was large enough to hold our "25 pound overweight big as a frigging house suitcase", all our carry-on bags, and a weeks worth of hanging clothes. Make that more than a weeks worth. "She who must be obeyed" brought home four untouched outfits. Our Garment Bag stowed nicely under the bed, as did the Emelda Marcos collection of shoes we brought on. The room had a mini bar, with enough room to store our bottles of water and a bottle of champagne. Contrary to all newsgroup and message board reports, we fondled and examined the items in the mini-bar and were never charged. They are NOT touch sensitive. There was a hair dryer in each cabin, though "She Who Must be obeyed" feels it is important to note that you must hold the button down to operate it. RCTV is a great innovation. You're able to watch your bar tab grow daily, rather than being shocked by it all at once. There seemed to be plenty of movies, for those who wish to watch them. I wasn't one of them. I would have loved to see a daily weather report, the ships location, and a line-up of activities on the tube, but settled for my growing bartab. Our cabin, as well as 8690 had a single outwardly opening door to the deck. Also contrary to other Voyager glass ships, this door was FULL GLASS not half glass as has been reported. The door allowed plenty of daylight in, and the room was always bright and cheery. The deck is what moved these rooms up from average, to spectacular. While the decks on the side DA's and D9's hold a comfortably a small cocktail table and two chairs, the aft cabin decks are very large. Ours held two lounge chairs at an angle, plus two chairs and two cocktail tables. All this plus ample room to move about, it was our best deck to date. Explorer has no place on it to sit and watch the hypnotic wake go off in the distance. It is a design flaw in the ship to be sure. Having my own private wake facing deck made me overlook the flaw. We ordered breakfast five of seven days and had it on the deck. We had night caps on the deck. The stars above were clearly visible without the glow of the ship surrounding us. Passing ships twinkled in the night. We watched the wake turn bright blue green as we approached the Caymens. Schools of dolphins danced behind the ship. I could easily look to the side, and have a completely unobstructed view aft. I am now doomed to always have an aft cabin, the view was glorious. For those that will ask, 8390 & 8690 were identical cabins. 8692 had a slightly larger deck, but lacked the overhang that the corners have, to give privacy and half sun/half shade. 7688, had an even larger deck (boarding on enormous) with a side six foot (at least) port hole opening and a double sliding glass door. However the aft design superstructure (you have to see it to understand what I'm talking about) begins to become part of the view. I imagine from the center aft cabins on deck 7 down, it would absolutely impede the view, making these cabins less desirable to those who wish to watch the wake. I would have hated a center aft on deck 6, even though it was a pricier cabin. A word of warning about the aft decks. From time to time, the ship "belches". When you're beside the pool and this happens, it usually results in someone joking and saying "sorry, I had the Ranch Steak". The belching is from my best guess, the ships engines purging itself of "gunk" (to use the nautical term). The "Gunk" exhaust pipes seem to be visible on the ceiling of the aft exterior promenade on deck four. The gunk expels itself as a huge, thick cloud of black soot. I was on my deck at one of the rare times it happened, and went back into my cabin looking like I was about to participate in a minstrel show. I kid you not. I laughed when I looked in the mirror. While it only affected my deck once, my friends in 8690 & 8692 awoke to find their decks, towels, and deck laundry covered in black soot. Course, speed, and wind spared the starboard decks. While I found it laughable, my friends were less amused. The ship offered them an upgrade to a minisuite, and gratis laundry service. Rather than packing up and moving they settled on a thorough cleaning of the deck. Also for those who will ask, both those cabins were occupied by two adults and a child in the pull down Pullman. They said they found it a little TOO close, and they will next time opt for more space. The D9's were only marginally larger at 188 square feet. The bed was further from the door, and the couch sat three, instead of two. A design flaw in all of these cabins is what I call the "heart attack closet door". Quite simply if someone had the closet door open, and was at the closet, when someone opened the cabin door, the two smashed into each other with a large bang scaring the bejeepers out of all involved parties. By far the cabin find in our group was 9676 (a D9 balcony) which had an adjoining door to 9681, a category N, inside. The kids were placed in the inside, the adults on the outside. It was kind of a two bedroom suite, without the cost of a two bedroom suite. ********************************** The Food and The restaurants On a previous cruise review I wrote in regard to a balcony, had I never had one, I never would have wanted one. Now I can’t cruise without one. To turn that around, if I had not had spectacular meals on three previous cruises, I never would have missed them on this cruise and this ship. I have been known to eat meat on a stick in New York City and enjoy it. I used to gobble up airline food, when there used to be airline food, and enjoy it. That is not to say that the dining experience is akin to airline food or meat on a stick. In those instances, I knew what to expect, and enjoyed them for what they were. I had expected dining to at least approach the level of my past experiences. It didn’t Food is not a strong suit of this megaship. Perhaps it was the week. Perhaps it was just this ship. Maybe the head chef had a 7 day hangover. Maybe my taste buds had a seven day hangover. I had after all been soaking them in gin all week. The three tiered main restaurant on Explorer, adds to the list of truly spectacular spaces on the ship. There was always dinner music being played on the balcony. The room is done in lavish red black and gold. There are elegant soaring golden cloths mimicking columns, a grand staircase, wonderful furnishings and the gold “compass” logo set against a blue starlit ceiling, the room is breathtaking. The meals weren’t. They weren’t bad. Heck I’ve eaten much worse stuff (see above). They were just average. A few items were excellent, but for the most part no meal as a whole was a stand out. It was the same opinion of my 21 of fellow adult cruisers, 4 of which who had never been on a cruise. 3 thought the food was downright awful. I don’t agree with them. The 8 kids thought all the *free* food everywhere great!!! No one went hungry or died from anything they ate, and we all indeed gained the proper amount of weight in seven days. Not having great dining experiences, however, was a blemish on the ship, though not on our fun. The bartenders on deck made sure of that. In addition, the service at all four of our tables, each being served by different wait staff, was very spotty. It was not at all what we had seen in the past. Some from our group did however, on the third night, speak to guest services, and the service and timing of the meals improved considerably. It still didn’t come near our previous cruises, but it was much better than the first two days. Our headwaiter came up and apologized and told us we should have spoken to him directly on the first night. He was right. We learned a lesson. Remember, it’s always better to speak up while ON a vacation, than to speak up afterwards on the internet. The former holds a better chance it will improve your vacation, than the latter. I actually think the dining room is understaffed and overworked. This is the first ship I’ve been on that didn’t have wine stewards, and the task had to be handled by the waiter and assistant waiter. The result always ended up with those who ordered wine having to wait. On one evening it took 20 minutes to get a bottle of wine uncorked. Nothing gets scarier than a woman having to wait for her wine. It’s like a tiger having to stare 20 minutes a piece of meat outside of a cage. The tiger can get very angry and its handler has a good chance of getting bit. My tiger was angry and the bites I have are still healing. I must point out, I never had that problem. I ordered Martini’s from the Beverage hostess. She was there in a flash when I arrived, and on several occasions had my drink in my hand before I ordered it. All those who ordered from the beverage hostess had the same service. She only had one job and did it well. It is also important to note, that we had late seating. Children were PROMPTLY served, lest they start wining and pass out in their chicken fingers, which was a plus for parents. Young “Joey” who sat at my table always had a large platter of French fries put in front of him immediately after sitting down. Johnny Rockets on deck twelve is however a good thing. The space is a stylized 50’s dinner tucked aft on the starboard side, with indoor and outdoor vinyl booths. There is a takeout window which makes for quick poolside snacks. Its burgers were great. Its onion rings pleasantly greasy and its shakes thick enough to burst a blood vessel while attempting to suck them through a straw. The burgers are indeed the thing here, everything else is just average. It is also the ONLY venue on the ship with outside dining. No outside dining is definitely a large design flaw of the ship. It is the first ship I’ve been on with no readily accessible way to eat outdoors. Another good thing was the Promenade Café on the Royal Promenade. It is brightly appointed traditional café full of intimate groupings of tables and chairs. Fresh flowers are clustered around the room in vases. There are once again large portholes to the sea. There is also an “al fresco” area on the Royal Promenade that is perfect for people watching. The Seattle’s Best coffee was the best coffee on the ship. The variety of snack sandwiches were very good, the daily specialty pizza (number three on the daily pizza list) was great. The chocolate chip cookies were scrumptious. The Windjammer and the Island grill are two more delightful spaces. They are done in bright yellows and greens with wicker seats, plenty of live plants and spectacular ocean views throughout. They offer a very wide variety of foods for lunch, though breakfast was always the same. Once again the food was average. A few things at lunch were good. The desserts at lunch were EXCELLENT, but most of the food was just average. The breakfast buffet DOES have an omelet and egg station in the Island grill. Being able to get eggs over easy and fresh made omelets is a big, big, plus. One of our group didn’t realize this was there until the last day, and was sorry he missed it. A standout on the ship, is the extra charge Portofino restaurant. We initially weren’t going to eat there, but caught up in the embarkation excitement, booked a dinner for adults only there. We are glad we did. The food and service was as good as we have ever had on a ship. The room is a small setting, second only in intimacy to the Connoisseurs Club. There are wonderful floral bouquets throughout, and more table attendants that you can shake a stick at. Salads are prepared table side. Food is cooked to perfection. Everything is flavorful. There were no senseless injuries due to wine waiting. I could not however order two entres in this space. You can do so in the main dining rooms. There were also two midnight buffets. One on deck, and one in the main dining room. Having just finished dinner at 10:30pm, it would have been suicide to attend one. Once again, the less than great experience may come from sailing a peak week, but then again all of our “great dining experiences” were all on peak weeks. I tend to think 3600 passengers is just too much to handle in two seatings. Royal Caribbean should certainly consider the free style dining of NCL or the personal choice dining of Princess for this size vessel. It seems to fare well for the food quality of other lines. ********************************** The entertainment & Activities My background training in college was musical theater, and my instrument was French horn. Before making the switch to a life in theater, I spent 8 years as a High School Band director. I have in the past 10 years, been involved in over 500 productions. I know when things are bad and know when they are good, and can at times be a real performance snob. It is possibly the only thing I am capable of being a snob about. I am certainly not a slave to fashion (99 percent of my wardrobe is Hawaiian shirts and the remaining 1 percent is formal wear). I relish the thought of a day of eating carny food and as previously mentioned happily munch on meat on a stick from push cart vendors. I am fully capable of spending a day with breakfast stains on my shirt, missing large parts of my face when I shave or having soap from my morning shower in my ear. Just ask my wife. One area in which Explorer absolutely shines, is entertainment. The ship is brilliant at it. This is part in parcel to the incredibly large stable of musicians on the ship, and the astounding technical prowess of the ships two large performing venues. There was live music everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It's what made the Palace Theater Main Stage productions unique. On my previous cruises, main stage productions have always used a mix of canned (pre-recorded) orchestrations with a live rhythm section. Not on Explorer. There was at each Main Stage show, a 10 piece band backing up the singers and dancers. They were either on stage in a "Hollywood squares" type set up, or the pit, which rose up from the floor via hydraulics. Coupled with marvelous lighting design, fantastic stage effects and a visually stunning background star drop, this made the main stage productions a treat. A most unusual combination of a violinist an oboist and a pianist frequently played in the Aquarium Lounge or on the main dining room balcony. The lush timbre of this trio always soothed the party animal in me and caused me the pause, sit down, and listen to at least one number, before running off in search of my next libation. The poolside reggae/Island band was the perfect excuse to bop my head, order a drink, and forget the deck chair situation. There were pianists in Dizzy's in the early evening, the Schooner Bar, The balcony of the Main Dining room and at the Aquarium Bar. The Aquarium bar also featured a jazz quartet from time to time. There was a vocalist who played guitar and led sing-a-longs in the crown and kettle pub. Dizzy's featured a Latin band most nights, although it really sparkled the one night they had an 8 piece Jazz band and two marvelous vocalists performing all the great Jazz standards. It was also the only night Dizzys was really packed. Considering the hour of performance was 12:00am to 1:00am, and the place was full, RCCL should really consider changing this venue to full time Jazz. It is what this space screams for. Had it been there nightly, I'm sure the club would have been packed nightly. At the very least, we would have been there nightly. I suppose that would have meant there were that many people less in the Casino on a regular basis, so bookkeeping may play a hand in this. The vocalists in the mainstage shows were all beyond reproach. While the dancing was on the light end ("She who must be obeyed" is a choreographer) the live orchestration and butt kicking vocal work made up for it. The comedians were funny. Especially since one was an almost spitting image of one of our group of 32. People all week came up to our friend Tom and congratulated him for the great performance. We all did our best to keep a straight face he explained the rigors of shipboard comedy, or why he had red hair on stage and black hair on deck. ("If I didn't use some sort of disguise, I would have to spend my Caribbean days on the bottom of the ship. I have a very small room") The Drifters headlined the last night of the cruise backed up by the House band. Now that was a rip. The whole theater sang along with "under the boardwalk" and "on broadway". Krews Komic jugglers popped up from time to time, including once in an elevator to the surprise and delight of those who used the lifts. The Quest Game in Studio B was absolutely hilarious. Finally, to chime in what everyone has said about Studio B's Planet Ice Show, DON'T MISS IT. The effects, the costumes, the choice of music ( a lot of The Doors), and the skating that is performed in this tiny rink are astounding. It is the only shipboard performance I have ever seen, that left me feeling as though I had "paid" for my ticket, rather than sat down for free. Abso-freakin-loutely brilliant. As far as things to do on board ship, once again Explorer excels. "She who must be obeyed" and others in our group literally "got out there" and did what the RCCL commercial suggested. They rock climbed ( a real hoot), they roller bladed, they worked out in the gym, they had spa treatments and they played mini-golf. One afternoon, all the womenfolk and kids went Ice skating. The result was not exactly "The Planet Ice Show" but was just as entertaining to watch. Four of us sat in the seats and acted as Olympic judges shouting out scores. It was hilarious. WE all played bingo the last day. There was a 16,000 dollar cash prize for the final game which went to one very, very, very, happy player. Had I won it, I would not be writing this. I would be drunk rolling naked on the floor in the wad of CASH they gave him. In addition there were the standard pool games, Karaoke nights, trivia contests, art auctions, sporting events and a plethora of things for kids to do. Entertainment and activities is a very strong suit of the ship. They took some of the edge off, of having two additional days at sea, the missed port of Labadee and the missed port of Grand Caymen. Although even for me, who loves days at sea, four days was A LOT. Especially since the Grand Caymen skip was not a day to be topside. 40 knot winds, 16 foot seas and a ship rolling like a naked man with 16,000 dollars in bingo cash. Even in THAT weather, there were still hundreds of towels on the deck chairs by the pools just in case. ********************************** What the kids thought "What I liked most about the ship was the free stuff. And also the Freedom. Anything with the word free in it" Adam-age 8 We had a gaggle of kids in our party and they all loved the ship. In fact, truth be known, they liked it considerably more than the adults in our party. Explorer is a family friendly ship giving young kids big first freedoms and first choices, and parents time to have a cocktail without really worrying too much about there kids. Though someone always has to be the Mommy or the Daddy, it's done in shifts, and with far less stress than at a land based resort. More than once I heard the phrase "Honey, go see where the kids are" and "Has anyone seen Alex since we left Jamaica?" At a land based resort these words would have been spoken in terror. On a ship they are followed by a laugh and a casual stroll. But enough from me. Let's hear from the pro's. Emily age 9 (I think), loved being able to choose from the adult menu. She never gets to do that at home at the price of restaurant dinners. She too loved the "free stuff". If only these kids knew what the free stuff cost. She gave the ship a 10, out of 10, in spite of having spent a very rough sea day throwing up. Emily hated the kids club. When I asked what she hated about it she said "Everything". Her younger brother Joey gave the ship a 9, and asked his Mom and Dad when they could go on a ship again. He had his first plate of pasta on the ship (he's a very picky eater) much to the delight of his parents. He loved the kids club dearly. His rating was also surprisingly high rating considering he got his finger closed in between the cabin door once, and his father rubbed vinegar into an open wound while trying to rid him of "sea lice". But that is another story. Alex the younger gave the ship a 9.9. I don't know if he was in the kids club, but I do know he loved the free Ice Cream, and loved "all the stuff to eat". If the ship wasn't so rocky that it made him sick to his stomach, he says it would have been a ten Chrissy and Alex (both age 13) gave the ship a 9. Alex favored Grand Princess because it was "nicer", though he thought Explorer was "pretty cool". Both really enjoyed not having to be with their parents everywhere for a week, and being able to go off on their own and hangout. I'm sure the feeling was mutual. Katie and Emily (I believe both are 14) met on Grand Princess two years ago. They became phone pals, and made cross country trips to see each other. Katie's Mom and our group hooked up and viola! Another family joined our group. Katie thought the ship was cool with lots to do and gave it a 9. Emily gave it a 7 because of "stuff". When you a 14 year old girl, there's always "stuff". Jackie (young, sweet and cute as a button) gave the ship a 10 because it was fun. Another high score considering she spent a day with an eye infection Adam, whose quote is above, thought deeply and gave the ship a 7. He said it would have "been higher if we made all the stops". As a matter of irony, his Dad who loves sea days, ALSO gave the ship a seven, and said ( I kid you not) "it would have been LOWER if it made all the stops". 8 other random kids I chatted with (always with their parents near), in the Promenade Café, and at Johnny Rockets all gave the ship 9's & 10's., one gave it a 7. Some of their comments included; "Cuz I can play mini golf as many times as I want with the other kids and Dad doesn't say it's too much money" "Mom never lets me eat pizza everyday". "The pool slide is just for kids so the grown-ups don't hog it" "You wake up and you're somewhere else", and by far my favorite "Dad gets loopy and lets me spend like 30 dollars on video games" The one who gave it a 7 said "Mom's food always tastes funny and she said the food on the ship would be better, but it tasted funny too" Out of the mouths of babes. ************************************ The little things & My last 2cnts. It's really the little things in life that make or break any experience. Many relationships have ended because of countless annoying little things that pile up day after day. I know things get pretty dicey around my house when I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor. Conversely, it's the thousands of wonderful little things and attention to detail that separates a Disney World, from Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in NJ. That is not to say a day at Great Adventure isn't packed with fun. It's just not packed with eye candy and zillions of little things to discover when you're not screaming down a 45 degree hill at 65 miles an hour in a roller coaster. Explorer *IS* without a doubt a big and beautiful ship. Anyone who would say less is on crack. But perhaps, at least for me, she is too big a ship, with too many people. While I absolutely loved her marvelous space, activities and entertainment, I did dearly miss a lot of "little things". But before I delve into those, I must point out the little things that were wonderful. When I'm on vacation, I always "accent the positive". Heck I save and anticipate for over 700 hundred days for each cruise I go on. While it is sometimes hard to "eliminate the negative", if I don't have a good time, it's my own damned fault for letting things bother me. The housekeeping staff of the ship, that I had *one on one* contact with were great. All those who traveled with me felt the same. The Cabin stewards were terrific and did a great job. Even though the "towel monkey" that ours left hanging in our room scared the hell out of "she who must be obeyed" and myself when we returned one night. He got us bathrobes when we requested it. He brought a plastic champagne bucket to replace the ice bucket to chill our "adult beverage". He was great. I even tipped a cabin steward who wasn't *MY* cabin steward. He made me laugh every day. Early in the morning as I walked to breakfast he could be heard singing Bob Marley songs as he cleaned. I joined him in a chorus of "Buffalo soldier". For the week when he saw me coming he would yell out `Ere comes Mista `Appy! The Jamaican Bartenders & bar staffs throughout the ship, (especially at the Skybar) were simply the best I've ever experienced. Martini's were perfectly chilled and all drinks were consistently good. They were personable, polite, fast, and very quick to learn your name. In fact they were the only ones on the ship that I'm certain knew my name. Of course they had seen it on a zillion bar receipts. Repetition does reinforce learning. But there in is the rub, learning your name. It gives a sense of personal service. It is one of the little things that get lost in the wash of 3500 fellow passengers. For me this was most missed in the dining room. Though our friends travel as a group, we do not vacation as a group. I like to think of it as going on 32 separate vacations together. Dinner on a ship is the only time (save our traditional raucous, drunken sail-away on deck) that we are together as a whole. For us, on previous cruises, it was the height of each days cruise experience. A time to recap and enjoy the entertainment of our company and argue over who has the best table service. This trip was easy, no one did. As I have said earlier, the probably cause for this is that the dining room is seemed to be understaffed, and preparing meals for 1750 people at a sitting may just be too much for the kitchen. Once again Explorer may just be too big a ship for me. Several of my fellow travelers dishes came out cold. My meats were for most part cooked medium rare, with the one exception of my prime rib. I did send it back, and what returned was exactly the same. I could live with that. The whole issue of no wine steward was a major issue, at dinner. Had the wine service been as fast as liquor service (which was perfect) the average nature of the food would have been easily overlooked. We had all read the reviews on the ship, and knew what to expect of the food. We were disappointed by the service. It could have made all the difference in the world. I must point out we did (as I stated earlier) speak about the service, and it did improve slightly, but the wine situation never really worked itself out. Add a wine steward and make the wine drinkers (who were mostly the womanfolk) happy. If the womanfolk are happy, the menfolk are happy, and everyone is happy. Take that from Mista 'Appy. The deck chair situation was another one of those little things that was a burr in the side of not only my group, but many, many people. It could be solved by more frequent patrols my the "towel police" or as I mentioned earlier, simply adding more deck chairs on the running track after X'o'clock. This has never been such an issue on any other ship during February break. Once again, 3500 people may just be about a thousand more than I want to travel with. While the Royal Promenade is indeed a wonderful space, it is entirely an interior space. I missed the constant views of the sea as I strolled along the interior of the ship. I missed the way sunlight plays and sparkles on plants, fittings and furniture through banks of windows on a glorious sea day. To be at sea on a ship is almost dreamlike. It strikes the primal seafarer within, that all original non-native North Americans began as. Sort of like going back to ones roots, only in a markedly nicer boat. I always need to be reminded I am at sea. I missed not having a convenient way to eat my lunches outside. I missed accessible poolside munchies. While there was burgers and hotdogs in steamers tucked by the ping pong tables, there's nothing like the smell of stuff cooking to make your nipples hard, and your tastebuds tingle while enjoying a seaday by the pool. We did have one other very unfortunate incident which we felt was all "size of ship and lack of staff" related. While taking our group photo on the "notoriously rocky" sea day that was to be Grand Cayman, the motion got to be too much for one of our younger sailors. To use the nautical term, she "puked" on the stairwell to the Palace Theater. She had been doing this in her stateroom all day, so I trust me, I've seen worse. I went to college after all. Members of our group blocked ends of the stairwell to prevent anyone from slipping because the "damage" was almost invisible, and the ships photographer called maintenance. Ten minutes later he called them again. Fifteen minutes later he called again. Twenty minutes later one of my party called. A total of twenty five minutes later I went to guest services and told them we were still waiting and my party was blocking off the stairwell. She called and sternly asked someone get there in two minutes, I heard her. At thirty five minutes members of my party went to the restrooms, got paper towel and water and began cleaning it themselves. I went to guest services and informed them we were doing this. I did so politely but firmly. I am just not the "going ballistic" type. The guest services manager picked up the phone and went ballistic. She used words only a true sailor would use. By the time I returned forward, swat teams of cleaning staff were descending on the area from all directions, including the ships head of facilities. If we were outdoors I would swear they came in by choppers. The facility Director apologized and said with the seas, the staff was very busy. It was a main central stairwell on the Royal Promenade. It took 45 minutes to respond. The guests started the cleaning process. It was an entirely unacceptable situation, and he agreed. It was one of those "little things" that can end relationships. Even in spite of all of these things, all in all I had a great vacation, I always do. We all did. When you cruise with the group of people we do, it's impossible not to, unless you the cruise ends up with you sitting in a life boat singing "nearer my God to thee". It just wasn't the best cruise I ever been on. Grand Princess still holds the title of being, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Norway, with her class and charm (and that's with her lack of windowed dining and activities) is second best, and because my glass is always half full, Explorer was third best. Regardless of all the little things or lack of them, nothing beats seven days at sea, with people whom for the most part first became your friends when big hair and disco was in style. Now many of us are in the little hair, and slipped disk category, but the fun is still the same. One of the things I always do on a cruise, is during the last day out, speak to as many people as I can and ask them how they enjoyed their week and the ship. I do this everywhere I go on vacation, not just cruises. It helps me level the playing field and give a broader opinion for those who may journey behind me. I always make sure when asking people about their week that they understand to "put aside" the things that are out of anyone's control. Those being weather, and missed ports. Lord knows everyone whines about missed ports. It happens. No port is guaranteed, it says so on the ticket. I think they started printing that there after Titanic. I only whine about bad weather, I could always use another day at sea. Of our group of 25 adults, there 2 who had cruised more than seven times, 2 that had only one other cruise, 4 first timers and 16 who had gone on at least three other cruises. 20 gave the ship a 7. As one said so eloquently "It wasn't a ten, but it certainly wasn't a 5. All 20 said while they would consider RCCL again, they wouldn't consider it for 2006. 12 of them said if they cruised RCCL again, they would definitely go on smaller ship with a higher staff to passenger ratio. Two gave the ship a 4, and two gave the ship a 3 and weren't sure they would ever consider RCCL again. Interestingly enough those four will venture out in two weeks on Carnivals Spirit, and promised a review for me. I spoke to 47 other adults at various chatty venues around the ship on Friday, mostly at bars. Nothing like a few drinks to get folks chatty. 12 were multi cruisers having been on various lines with a batch of cruises under their belts. They gave three 9's, three 8's, four 7's and two 6's 14 were primarily RCCL cruisers, they gave one 10 seven 9's, five 8's and one 4. The "4" had taken Navigator last year and immediately booked Explorer for this year. She said the difference in service and deck chairs was night and day, and would not cruise Explorer again. 4 Canadians at a corner table near ours in the restaurant were first time cruises. Three gave the experience a 5, because of a rather large "issue" they had (I didn't ask) and the forth gave it a 10, and stated "it was the best vacation he's ever had". 10 were Celebrity or Princess cruisers exclusively, and they handed out three 8's, four 7's and three 6's. 4 more I met at the aquarium bar were first time cruisers, three gave it a 10, and one gave it a 9, all said they would rebook the ship in a heartbeat. Three were exclusively Carnival cruisers, and all gave the experience a 9, but noted dinner was better on Carnival. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a solid 7 for her magnificent beauty, plentiful activities and wonderful entertainment. Do realize everyone is different, and there is nothing more subjective than a personal viewpoint. Depending on your week, your waiters, and if the chef is sober, your experience could quite possibly be a 10+ Ours was on the Norway in 2000, and if there was ever a ship that had as many 1 ratings as 10 ratings, that was it. All things now said, I'm glad to have experienced the ship, and for "she who must be obeyed" she certainly "got out there" and tried all Explorer had to offer and was glad to have tried it as well. She had a great time, but said “1000 less people next time. She *IS* “she who must be obeyed”. For our group, members have already begun to look into Celebrity's Millie Class, and Princess' Coral Class for our 2006 spin. Possibly even a Golden Princess Southern Caribbean run out of Puerto Rico. I wouldn't be surprised if our group passes 40 in size next time out. There are three more families that have sworn not to miss another. For those who stuck this entire review out to the bitter end, thanks for reading. For those who require such information, we had early debarking (white tags) and our entire group was at the airport by 8AM (some with bags already checked at the AA counter at the pier) checked in, through security and drinking Starbucks overpriced coffee by 8:40. Debarkation and Embarkation were the easiest we've seen. I was especially surprised debarking went so well considering the reviews I read. We had no problem making our much sweated 10:55am. Smooth seas, friendly skies and happy sails to all of you. May your next vacation be your best. John Office of Missing The Jamaican Bartenders The Zamgwar Institute [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Feb 14, 2004

While my tan is still dark, my waistline still swelled, and my memories clear I will endeavor to return the kind favors of the many that have gone before me, by passing on my impressions of my 2/14 sail aboard the Explorer of the Seas. To set a base line, we set out with a total of 32 old and a few new friends, with most relationships going back 25 years. There is no greater joy than vacationing with friends who know you well enough

to tell you your breath stinks. Rather than being a vacation, it always is more of a seven day party, that moves around the globe. It is important to note that due to our schedules we only travel as peak week touristos, at a time when virtually the entire United States (except for New Hampshire-go figure) is off from school for February break. This was our third group cruise together, and my personal forth cruise. It was our first experience with Royal Caribbean, having sailed NCL and Princess previously. Depending on when you sail, your mileage may vary. The Ship Perhaps the most disheartening words I ever read in a cruise review are “enough is written about this ship, so I won’t bother you with that”. If you’re like me when anticipating a cruise or researching a ship, you voraciously seek every description of the ship you can find. You care not if someone’s assistant waiter’s name was Julio, or that they sat next to a flatulent man on the plane to Miami. You want to know about the ship. It is important to note, our gang could have a great time floating at sea in a leaky row boat, albeit a big leaky rowboat. I am happy to report Explorer of the Sea’s is far from being a big leaky rowboat. She is in fact beautiful. She towers above the port of Miami, nose to nose with her sister, Navigator. They gleam bright white in the embarkation day early sun. The vocal excitement level of our group of 32 became absolutely electric as our bus drove into the port and the massive size of these ships filled our entire field of vision. Seeing her for the first time is definitely a “holy wee-wee” moment. Upon boarding Explorer, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very tastefully done vessel. The twin atriums soar in breathtaking a splendor of brass and glass with nary a bit of neon glitz to detract from them. Her interior public spaces are not only covered with works of art, but are pieces of art themselves. A graceful marble, glass and brass grand staircase makes it way down to the Palace Theater in the bow of the ship. This huge state of the art theater (this from someone who makes their livelihood in the theater) houses one of the ships most remarkable works of art. A shimmering Main curtain, painted with elongated, symmetrical people. The curtain absolutely bursts to life with color, when the front of house theater lighting comes on. Also located in the bow are a number of other wonderfully designed public rooms. The Schooner Bar, is a wood toned nautically themed space. There are ships models in cases. The room is lined on the starboard side with enormous portholes topped by whimsical sail shaped faux hatch covers that are done in rich woods. The same shapes are mimicked as open arches protruding from the walls above tables on the opposite side of the room. Rigging surrounds a masthead near the bar. A cannon guards the entrance way. It a great place to have a drink, some easy conversation and soak in the piano bar atmosphere. Just off the Schooner Bar is the ships disco, the Chamber. Most pictures don’t do this medieval setting justice. This room is meant to be best seen, in its own light, rather than a camera’s flash. Stained glass windows line the entrance corridor. High backed arched “kings chairs” are throughout. There are suits of armor, torches, and faux stone finishes. It is a very impressive space. I would love to say I spent many a night dancing here. Surely my entire group meant to. Sadly, however, it fell under the category of “we’ll go tomorrow night”, and never made it back. The ship is huge, the week is short, and many things fell into that category. One deck up you’ll find the “Connoisseur Club”, a richly wood paneled room where cigar aficionados can enjoy a smoke, a cognac, and a chat. The room is one of the ships most intimate spaces and easily leads to quick conversation with newly discovered friends. On both occasions that I enjoyed this space, I was immediately welcomed by those sitting there, and invited to join into the conversation. If the room had leather furniture it would have been a perfect men’s club setting. Then again, I am far from the perfect man, (just ask “She who must be obeyed”) so why quibble over small points. The Royal Promenade is a breathtaking space, and most do consider this the heart of the ship. Its lighting design is done well, warmly lit in the evenings in cool blues and reds and brightly lit in the day. With the promenade view cabin windows above it, it does achieve very successfully, the effect of being on a street. It is definitely unique as a gathering space and makes transits across the ship easy. For myself, my ventures there were only to get to my daily 5pm slice of Pizza and a chocolate chip cookie at the Café Promenade, or to get to one of the aft or forward cocktail lounges. While I did enjoy a fine martini in the Crown and Kettle Pub, with its dark wood paneling and pub feel, I prefer to be constantly reminded I’m on a ship. I’m frequently on a street. I’m only on a ship once every other year. I need windows to the sea. These windows were once again found aft in the Aquarium bar. The lounge is split by the aft atrium and the main restaurant entrance. It is a GREAT space done in warm blues and greens, surrounded once again by six foot porthole windows, and rather large, though a tad murky, fish tanks teeming with tropical fish. It featured ice cold martinis in properly chilled glasses, served up to ever present live music, ranging from an unusual trio made up of an oboe, a violin and a piano to a jazz quartet. Often overlooked, or perhaps better phrased overstepped, are the floors. Throughout the promenade area they range from highly polished inlaid wood parquets fore and aft featuring the Explorer’s “compass” logo, to cobblestone-esque tile on the “street”. Do occasionally look down when you walk. It not only helps you navigate after a long evening of “cocktailing”, but is full of visual surprises. The Casino is a big, glitzy casino. There are ample slots and tables and more than enough ways to rid yourself of the extra vacation dollars you may be burdened with. It was however, the first casino afloat that myself and “she who must be obeyed” ever ended up ahead in. Granted it was just a few hundred bucks which we applied to knocking the tip of the iceberg off our week’s bill, but we won all the same. I therefore loved the Casino. Out the doors on deck four, (four deck for you true old salts) is the exterior promenade. A very, very broad space running completely around the ship with the added bonus of being able to walk to the very tip of the bow. On a daily basis when weather permitted, “She who must be obeyed” and I took 8 lap strolls around it to fight off the ever present tide of drinks, chocolate chip cookies, pounds of bacon, multiple meals and the other endless evils that one suddenly deems “okay” when on a cruise. The more you eat, the less a cruise costs right? To me personally, on any ship, there is no greater place to feel at sea, than on an exterior promenade. It links the cruise industry, with the time when ships were transportation rather than a vacation. Sadly, there is almost no wood apparent, except for a small swath of teak, on its narrowest part, as you pass the main restaurant. The deck is fully carpeted, and except for the railings and an occasional crew door, lacks the seafaring “charm” of a true promenade. Even “teak look” floor padding would have added the more warmth and traditional color to the area. Still a full wrap around carpeted promenade is preferable to two short dead end promenades. Any promenade is preferable to a sidewalk full of snow, in front of your house. The pool deck is a vast tiered area. The main pool is the center for sea day activities with teak deck areas, two large hot tubs, showers and misting stations, two over flowing FRESH WATER POOLS ( a surprise to me, for all reviews state these are salt water pools-perhaps it was just my week of travel), a pool bar, a skybar and a bandstand for the mandatory island music. It is where our group spent the bulk of the week. Being poolside on a cruise ship, during a sea day, is heaven. It is also the most controversial area of the ship. Everywhere I went during the week (from restaurants to guest services) it was overheard to be a hot topic of conversation. Having been on four cruises I have been lucky enough to never have been bothered by “chair saving”. Arriving around 9AM on other ships, we have always been able to find ample deck chairs together. The deck chair situation on Explorer was deplorable. Though our group was always able to procure at least 8 chairs together using commando tactics, it was at Herculean effort. Our early risers (before 8AM) would go to pool deck and “hold until relieved, hold until relieved”. Little was done by the chair police to clear the hundreds of chairs which sat for hours with towels, rather with bodies. The pool deck chair situation is compounded by the running track on the upper pool level. It is an approximately 7 foot wide area, running around the entire top deck, which is “verboten” to deck chairs. It is a very, poor concept. We actually saw several unfortunate confrontations between joggers, walkers and sunbathers throughout the sea days. If I “ruled the waves”, I would have closed the running track after 9:30 am (opening the deck four Promenade at the same time to runners) and laid out an extra row of deck chairs around the entire top of the ship. It would have added extra 200-300 chairs for people to lay towels on and then not sit in. Mind you, our eight chairs, for our group of 32 meant we were all able to enjoy the music, warmth, sun, and sea days in shifts, but I am aware many weren’t. I felt sorry for them, at least until the Skybar staff made me forget. A wonderful area of the pool deck is the adult’s only solarium. With jets of water criss-crossing the small FRESH water pool and padded pool chairs, the columned finely tiled area is filled with objects d’art and has the wonderful feel of a Spanish courtyard. It has a large almost always empty hot tub. It is where I ventured to every time I needed to cool off from the Caribbean sun. My only question is why it didn’t have a retractable roof for foul weather days? I have to look up the meaning of solarium. While I never used the health center of the ship, many of my group did. I lead a very healthy life in the real world. I do everything I can to counter that on vacation. I did walk through it once and was very impressed. It is FILLED with a wide variety of equipment, has a large aerobics room, and a large hot tub. It is lined with floor to ceiling windows that look out on the bow. Those who did use it, did say it was the BEST “resort” health club they have ever seen. I have saved my favorite space for last. Dizzy’s in the Viking Crown on the top of the ship. This room is as nice a room as I have ever seen on a ship, and right up there with the Norway’s “International Café”. There are small glittering fiber optic star accents throughout. An Art deco bandstand, with a keyboard painted stagefront and a fiber optic star curtain stands in the center of the room. The space is surrounded with floor to ceiling windows, a wonderful “WPA type” jazz mural and pictures of Jazz greats line the walls. The furniture is arranged in great conversational settings of chairs and sofas. The lighting at night is indirect and very warm. On both formal nights our group met there for cocktails. Standing in a tux in this marvelous room was the height of the cruise experience. We also used the space for card playing during our foul weather day, and went there for any other reason we could find an excuse for. Going to the Jazz Club, the one night there actually was Jazz (most nights its Latin music-go figure) was as good a cruise night as I ever had.. Previous Explorer cruisers will note I have never mentioned the Champagne bar, The Maharaja Lounge, or the sports bar. I saw them, looked in them, but never actually made it to them. Like I said, It was a big ship, and even with two bonus sea days, there was so much else to do. The Cabins- I find it almost laughable about the amount of concern on message boards and newgroups over what a particular cabin on a ship looks like. Unless you're sailing on an old converted ocean liner (cough-Norway-cough) with the exception of category they're all the same right? Well mostly right. There were some slight differences. Our group had a boatload (excuse the pun) of cabins. Fourteen cabins to be exact. They all fell into the categories of D9, DA and a few scattered inside N's for the kiddies, and for the most part were located toward the aft. Four of us, including myself, had the much talked about cabins; 8390, 8690, 8692, and 7688. The D9's and DA's (which the above four rooms are) are indeed to be considered Cabins, rather than Staterooms. At 177 square feet, they are tight, but not uncomfortable for 2. Our Cabin was corner aft, 8390. It was, as they all were, very nicely appointed in kind of pastel colors with light wood appointments at the closet and the desk/make up table, with a thankfully round cornered queen bed, and a two seat sofa with a small coffee table in front of it. The entire cabin springs up on you as you open the scalloped cabin door. That's because it's all RIGHT THERE, two steps in front of you. The two steps you take are the length of what is a very cozy but workable bathroom featuring a "star trek transporter tube" shower. For all but two of us, it was the smallest cabin we've ever had on a ship. That didn't make it bad; it was, after all, a cabin on a ship. What could be bad about having a cabin on a ship! It was just, smaller than we were used too. After some ingenious work by the "unpacking fairy", all our suitcases were put away, the charm of the room took over, and size was forgotten. There were plenty of drawers and hangers. The closet was large enough to hold our "25 pound overweight big as a frigging house suitcase", all our carry-on bags, and a weeks worth of hanging clothes. Make that more than a weeks worth. "She who must be obeyed" brought home four untouched outfits. Our Garment Bag stowed nicely under the bed, as did the Emelda Marcos collection of shoes we brought on. The room had a mini bar, with enough room to store our bottles of water and a bottle of champagne. Contrary to all newsgroup and message board reports, we fondled and examined the items in the mini-bar and were never charged. They are NOT touch sensitive. There was a hair dryer in each cabin, though "She Who Must be obeyed" feels it is important to note that you must hold the button down to operate it. RCTV is a great innovation. You're able to watch your bar tab grow daily, rather than being shocked by it all at once. There seemed to be plenty of movies, for those who wish to watch them. I wasn't one of them. I would have loved to see a daily weather report, the ships location, and a line-up of activities on the tube, but settled for my growing bartab. Our cabin, as well as 8690 had a single outwardly opening door to the deck. Also contrary to other Voyager glass ships, this door was FULL GLASS not half glass as has been reported. The door allowed plenty of daylight in, and the room was always bright and cheery. The deck is what moved these rooms up from average, to spectacular. While the decks on the side DA's and D9's hold a comfortably a small cocktail table and two chairs, the aft cabin decks are very large. Ours held two lounge chairs at an angle, plus two chairs and two cocktail tables. All this plus ample room to move about, it was our best deck to date. Explorer has no place on it to sit and watch the hypnotic wake go off in the distance. It is a design flaw in the ship to be sure. Having my own private wake facing deck made me overlook the flaw. We ordered breakfast five of seven days and had it on the deck. We had night caps on the deck. The stars above were clearly visible without the glow of the ship surrounding us. Passing ships twinkled in the night. We watched the wake turn bright blue green as we approached the Caymens. Schools of dolphins danced behind the ship. I could easily look to the side, and have a completely unobstructed view aft. I am now doomed to always have an aft cabin, the view was glorious. For those that will ask, 8390 & 8690 were identical cabins. 8692 had a slightly larger deck, but lacked the overhang that the corners have, to give privacy and half sun/half shade. 7688, had an even larger deck (boarding on enormous) with a side six foot (at least) port hole opening and a double sliding glass door. However the aft design superstructure (you have to see it to understand what I'm talking about) begins to become part of the view. I imagine from the center aft cabins on deck 7 down, it would absolutely impede the view, making these cabins less desirable to those who wish to watch the wake. I would have hated a center aft on deck 6, even though it was a pricier cabin. A word of warning about the aft decks. From time to time, the ship "belches". When you're beside the pool and this happens, it usually results in someone joking and saying "sorry, I had the Ranch Steak". The belching is from my best guess, the ships engines purging itself of "gunk" (to use the nautical term). The "Gunk" exhaust pipes seem to be visible on the ceiling of the aft exterior promenade on deck four. The gunk expels itself as a huge, thick cloud of black soot. I was on my deck at one of the rare times it happened, and went back into my cabin looking like I was about to participate in a minstrel show. I kid you not. I laughed when I looked in the mirror. While it only affected my deck once, my friends in 8690 & 8692 awoke to find their decks, towels, and deck laundry covered in black soot. Course, speed, and wind spared the starboard decks. While I found it laughable, my friends were less amused. The ship offered them an upgrade to a minisuite, and gratis laundry service. Rather than packing up and moving they settled on a thorough cleaning of the deck. Also for those who will ask, both those cabins were occupied by two adults and a child in the pull down Pullman. They said they found it a little TOO close, and they will next time opt for more space. The D9's were only marginally larger at 188 square feet. The bed was further from the door, and the couch sat three, instead of two. A design flaw in all of these cabins is what I call the "heart attack closet door". Quite simply if someone had the closet door open, and was at the closet, when someone opened the cabin door, the two smashed into each other with a large bang scaring the bejeepers out of all involved parties. By far the cabin find in our group was 9676 (a D9 balcony) which had an adjoining door to 9681, a category N, inside. The kids were placed in the inside, the adults on the outside. It was kind of a two bedroom suite, without the cost of a two bedroom suite. The Food and The Restaurants On a previous cruise review I wrote in regard to a balcony, had I never had one, I never would have wanted one. Now I can’t cruise without one. To turn that around, if I had not had spectacular meals on three previous cruises, I never would have missed them on this cruise and this ship. I have been known to eat meat on a stick in New York City and enjoy it. I used to gobble up airline food, when there used to be airline food, and enjoy it. That is not to say that the dining experience is akin to airline food or meat on a stick. In those instances, I knew what to expect, and enjoyed them for what they were. I had expected dining to at least approach the level of my past experiences. It didn’t Food is not a strong suit of this megaship. Perhaps it was the week. Perhaps it was just this ship. Maybe the head chef had a 7 day hangover. Maybe my taste buds had a seven day hangover. I had after all been soaking them in gin all week. The three tiered main restaurant on Explorer, adds to the list of truly spectacular spaces on the ship. There was always dinner music being played on the balcony. The room is done in lavish red black and gold. There are elegant soaring golden cloths mimicking columns, a grand staircase, wonderful furnishings and the gold “compass” logo set against a blue starlit ceiling, the room is breathtaking. The meals weren’t. They weren’t bad. Heck I’ve eaten much worse stuff (see above). They were just average. A few items were excellent, but for the most part no meal as a whole was a stand out. It was the same opinion of my 21 of fellow adult cruisers, 4 of which who had never been on a cruise. 3 thought the food was downright awful. I don’t agree with them. The 8 kids thought all the *free* food everywhere great!!! No one went hungry or died from anything they ate, and we all indeed gained the proper amount of weight in seven days. Not having great dining experiences, however, was a blemish on the ship, though not on our fun. The bartenders on deck made sure of that. In addition, the service at all four of our tables, each being served by different wait staff, was very spotty. It was not at all what we had seen in the past. Some from our group did however, on the third night, speak to guest services, and the service and timing of the meals improved considerably. It still didn’t come near our previous cruises, but it was much better than the first two days. Our headwaiter came up and apologized and told us we should have spoken to him directly on the first night. He was right. We learned a lesson. Remember, it’s always better to speak up while ON a vacation, than to speak up afterwards on the internet. The former holds a better chance it will improve your vacation, than the latter. I actually think the dining room is understaffed and overworked. This is the first ship I’ve been on that didn’t have wine stewards, and the task had to be handled by the waiter and assistant waiter. The result always ended up with those who ordered wine having to wait. On one evening it took 20 minutes to get a bottle of wine uncorked. Nothing gets scarier than a woman having to wait for her wine. It’s like a tiger having to stare 20 minutes a piece of meat outside of a cage. The tiger can get very angry and its handler has a good chance of getting bit. My tiger was angry and the bites I have are still healing. I must point out, I never had that problem. I ordered Martini’s from the Beverage hostess. She was there in a flash when I arrived, and on several occasions had my drink in my hand before I ordered it. All those who ordered from the beverage hostess had the same service. She only had one job and did it well. It is also important to note, that we had late seating. Children were PROMPTLY served, lest they start wining and pass out in their chicken fingers, which was a plus for parents. Young “Joey” who sat at my table always had a large platter of French fries put in front of him immediately after sitting down. Johnny Rockets on deck twelve is however a good thing. The space is a stylized 50’s dinner tucked aft on the starboard side, with indoor and outdoor vinyl booths. There is a takeout window which makes for quick poolside snacks. Its burgers were great. Its onion rings pleasantly greasy and its shakes thick enough to burst a blood vessel while attempting to suck them through a straw. The burgers are indeed the thing here, everything else is just average. It is also the ONLY venue on the ship with outside dining. No outside dining is definitely a large design flaw of the ship. It is the first ship I’ve been on with no readily accessible way to eat outdoors. Another good thing was the Promenade Café on the Royal Promenade. It is brightly appointed traditional café full of intimate groupings of tables and chairs. Fresh flowers are clustered around the room in vases. There are once again large portholes to the sea. There is also an “al fresco” area on the Royal Promenade that is perfect for people watching. The Seattle’s Best coffee was the best coffee on the ship. The variety of snack sandwiches were very good, the daily specialty pizza (number three on the daily pizza list) was great. The chocolate chip cookies were scrumptious. The Windjammer and the Island grill are two more delightful spaces. They are done in bright yellows and greens with wicker seats, plenty of live plants and spectacular ocean views throughout. They offer a very wide variety of foods for lunch, though breakfast was always the same. Once again the food was average. A few things at lunch were good. The desserts at lunch were EXCELLENT, but most of the food was just average. The breakfast buffet DOES have an omelet and egg station in the Island grill. Being able to get eggs over easy and fresh made omelets is a big, big, plus. One of our group didn’t realize this was there until the last day, and was sorry he missed it. A standout on the ship, is the extra charge Portofino restaurant. We initially weren’t going to eat there, but caught up in the embarkation excitement, booked a dinner for adults only there. We are glad we did. The food and service was as good as we have ever had on a ship. The room is a small setting, second only in intimacy to the Connoisseurs Club. There are wonderful floral bouquets throughout, and more table attendants that you can shake a stick at. Salads are prepared table side. Food is cooked to perfection. Everything is flavorful. There were no senseless injuries due to wine waiting. I could not however order two entres in this space. You can do so in the main dining rooms. There were also two midnight buffets. One on deck, and one in the main dining room. Having just finished dinner at 10:30pm, it would have been suicide to attend one. Once again, the less than great experience may come from sailing a peak week, but then again all of our “great dining experiences” were all on peak weeks. I tend to think 3600 passengers is just too much to handle in two seatings. Royal Caribbean should certainly consider the free style dining of NCL or the personal choice dining of Princess for this size vessel. It seems to fare well for the food quality of other lines. The entertainment & Activities My background training in college was musical theater, and my instrument was French horn. Before making the switch to a life in theater, I spent 8 years as a High School Band director. I have in the past 10 years, been involved in over 500 productions. I know when things are bad and know when they are good, and can at times be a real performance snob. It is possibly the only thing I am capable of being a snob about. I am certainly not a slave to fashion (99 percent of my wardrobe is Hawaiian shirts and the remaining 1 percent is formal wear). I relish the thought of a day of eating carny food and as previously mentioned happily munch on meat on a stick from push cart vendors. I am fully capable of spending a day with breakfast stains on my shirt, missing large parts of my face when I shave or having soap from my morning shower in my ear. Just ask my wife. One area in which Explorer absolutely shines, is entertainment. The ship is brilliant at it. This is part in parcel to the incredibly large stable of musicians on the ship, and the astounding technical prowess of the ships two large performing venues. There was live music everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It's what made the Palace Theater Main Stage productions unique. On my previous cruises, main stage productions have always used a mix of canned (pre-recorded) orchestrations with a live rhythm section. Not on Explorer. There was at each Main Stage show, a 10 piece band backing up the singers and dancers. They were either on stage in a "Hollywood squares" type set up, or the pit, which rose up from the floor via hydraulics. Coupled with marvelous lighting design, fantastic stage effects and a visually stunning background star drop, this made the main stage productions a treat. A most unusual combination of a violinist an oboist and a pianist frequently played in the Aquarium Lounge or on the main dining room balcony. The lush timbre of this trio always soothed the party animal in me and caused me the pause, sit down, and listen to at least one number, before running off in search of my next libation. The poolside reggae/Island band was the perfect excuse to bop my head, order a drink, and forget the deck chair situation. There were pianists in Dizzy's in the early evening, the Schooner Bar, The balcony of the Main Dining room and at the Aquarium Bar. The Aquarium bar also featured a jazz quartet from time to time. There was a vocalist who played guitar and led sing-a-longs in the crown and kettle pub. Dizzy's featured a Latin band most nights, although it really sparkled the one night they had an 8 piece Jazz band and two marvelous vocalists performing all the great Jazz standards. It was also the only night Dizzys was really packed. Considering the hour of performance was 12:00am to 1:00am, and the place was full, RCCL should really consider changing this venue to full time Jazz. It is what this space screams for. Had it been there nightly, I'm sure the club would have been packed nightly. At the very least, we would have been there nightly. I suppose that would have meant there were that many people less in the Casino on a regular basis, so bookkeeping may play a hand in this. The vocalists in the mainstage shows were all beyond reproach. While the dancing was on the light end ("She who must be obeyed" is a choreographer) the live orchestration and butt kicking vocal work made up for it. The comedians were funny. Especially since one was an almost spitting image of one of our group of 32. People all week came up to our friend Tom and congratulated him for the great performance. We all did our best to keep a straight face he explained the rigors of shipboard comedy, or why he had red hair on stage and black hair on deck. ("If I didn't use some sort of disguise, I would have to spend my Caribbean days on the bottom of the ship. I have a very small room") The Drifters headlined the last night of the cruise backed up by the House band. Now that was a rip. The whole theater sang along with "under the boardwalk" and "on broadway". Krews Komic jugglers popped up from time to time, including once in an elevator to the surprise and delight of those who used the lifts. The Quest Game in Studio B was absolutely hilarious. Finally, to chime in what everyone has said about Studio B's Planet Ice Show, DON'T MISS IT. The effects, the costumes, the choice of music ( a lot of The Doors), and the skating that is performed in this tiny rink are astounding. It is the only shipboard performance I have ever seen, that left me feeling as though I had "paid" for my ticket, rather than sat down for free. Abso-freakin-loutely brilliant. As far as things to do on board ship, once again Explorer excels. "She who must be obeyed" and others in our group literally "got out there" and did what the RCCL commercial suggested. They rock climbed ( a real hoot), they roller bladed, they worked out in the gym, they had spa treatments and they played mini-golf. One afternoon, all the womenfolk and kids went Ice skating. The result was not exactly "The Planet Ice Show" but was just as entertaining to watch. Four of us sat in the seats and acted as Olympic judges shouting out scores. It was hilarious. WE all played bingo the last day. There was a 16,000 dollar cash prize for the final game which went to one very, very, very, happy player. Had I won it, I would not be writing this. I would be drunk rolling naked on the floor in the wad of CASH they gave him. In addition there were the standard pool games, Karaoke nights, trivia contests, art auctions, sporting events and a plethora of things for kids to do. Entertainment and activities is a very strong suit of the ship. They took some of the edge off, of having two additional days at sea, the missed port of Labadee and the missed port of Grand Caymen. Although even for me, who loves days at sea, four days was A LOT. Especially since the Grand Caymen skip was not a day to be topside. 40 knot winds, 16 foot seas and a ship rolling like a naked man with 16,000 dollars in bingo cash. Even in THAT weather, there were still hundreds of towels on the deck chairs by the pools just in case. What the kids thought "What I liked most about the ship was the free stuff. And also the Freedom. Anything with the word free in it" Adam-age 8 We had a gaggle of kids in our party and they all loved the ship. In fact, truth be known, they liked it considerably more than the adults in our party. Explorer is a family friendly ship giving young kids big first freedoms and first choices, and parents time to have a cocktail without really worrying too much about there kids. Though someone always has to be the Mommy or the Daddy, it's done in shifts, and with far less stress than at a land based resort. More than once I heard the phrase "Honey, go see where the kids are" and "Has anyone seen Alex since we left Jamaica?" At a land based resort these words would have been spoken in terror. On a ship they are followed by a laugh and a casual stroll. But enough from me. Let's hear from the pro's. Emily age 9 (I think), loved being able to choose from the adult menu. She never gets to do that at home at the price of restaurant dinners. She too loved the "free stuff". If only these kids knew what the free stuff cost. She gave the ship a 10, out of 10, in spite of having spent a very rough sea day throwing up. Emily hated the kids club. When I asked what she hated about it she said "Everything". Her younger brother Joey gave the ship a 9, and asked his Mom and Dad when they could go on a ship again. He had his first plate of pasta on the ship (he's a very picky eater) much to the delight of his parents. He loved the kids club dearly. His rating was also surprisingly high rating considering he got his finger closed in between the cabin door once, and his father rubbed vinegar into an open wound while trying to rid him of "sea lice". But that is another story. Alex the younger gave the ship a 9.9. I don't know if he was in the kids club, but I do know he loved the free Ice Cream, and loved "all the stuff to eat". If the ship wasn't so rocky that it made him sick to his stomach, he says it would have been a ten Chrissy and Alex (both age 13) gave the ship a 9. Alex favored Grand Princess because it was "nicer", though he thought Explorer was "pretty cool". Both really enjoyed not having to be with their parents everywhere for a week, and being able to go off on their own and hangout. I'm sure the feeling was mutual. Katie and Emily (I believe both are 14) met on Grand Princess two years ago. They became phone pals, and made cross country trips to see each other. Katie's Mom and our group hooked up and viola! Another family joined our group. Katie thought the ship was cool with lots to do and gave it a 9. Emily gave it a 7 because of "stuff". When you a 14 year old girl, there's always "stuff". Jackie (young, sweet and cute as a button) gave the ship a 10 because it was fun. Another high score considering she spent a day with an eye infection Adam, whose quote is above, thought deeply and gave the ship a 7. He said it would have "been higher if we made all the stops". As a matter of irony, his Dad who loves sea days, ALSO gave the ship a seven, and said ( I kid you not) "it would have been LOWER if it made all the stops". 8 other random kids I chatted with (always with their parents near), in the Promenade Café, and at Johnny Rockets all gave the ship 9's & 10's., one gave it a 7. Some of their comments included; "Cuz I can play mini golf as many times as I want with the other kids and Dad doesn't say it's too much money" "Mom never lets me eat pizza everyday". "The pool slide is just for kids so the grown-ups don't hog it" "You wake up and you're somewhere else", and by far my favorite "Dad gets loopy and lets me spend like 30 dollars on video games" The one who gave it a 7 said "Mom's food always tastes funny and she said the food on the ship would be better, but it tasted funny too" Out of the mouths of babes. The little things & My last 2cnts. It's really the little things in life that make or break any experience. Many relationships have ended because of countless annoying little things that pile up day after day. I know things get pretty dicey around my house when I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor. Conversely, it's the thousands of wonderful little things and attention to detail that separates a Disney World, from Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in NJ. That is not to say a day at Great Adventure isn't packed with fun. It's just not packed with eye candy and zillions of little things to discover when you're not screaming down a 45 degree hill at 65 miles an hour in a roller coaster. Explorer *IS* without a doubt a big and beautiful ship. Anyone who would say less is on crack. But perhaps, at least for me, she is too big a ship, with too many people. While I absolutely loved her marvelous space, activities and entertainment, I did dearly miss a lot of "little things". But before I delve into those, I must point out the little things that were wonderful. When I'm on vacation, I always "accent the positive". Heck I save and anticipate for over 700 hundred days for each cruise I go on. While it is sometimes hard to "eliminate the negative", if I don't have a good time, it's my own damned fault for letting things bother me. The housekeeping staff of the ship, that I had *one on one* contact with were great. All those who traveled with me felt the same. The Cabin stewards were terrific and did a great job. Even though the "towel monkey" that ours left hanging in our room scared the hell out of "she who must be obeyed" and myself when we returned one night. He got us bathrobes when we requested it. He brought a plastic champagne bucket to replace the ice bucket to chill our "adult beverage". He was great. I even tipped a cabin steward who wasn't *MY* cabin steward. He made me laugh every day. Early in the morning as I walked to breakfast he could be heard singing Bob Marley songs as he cleaned. I joined him in a chorus of "Buffalo soldier". For the week when he saw me coming he would yell out `Ere comes Mista `Appy! The Jamaican Bartenders & bar staffs throughout the ship, (especially at the Skybar) were simply the best I've ever experienced. Martini's were perfectly chilled and all drinks were consistently good. They were personable, polite, fast, and very quick to learn your name. In fact they were the only ones on the ship that I'm certain knew my name. Of course they had seen it on a zillion bar receipts. Repetition does reinforce learning. But there in is the rub, learning your name. It gives a sense of personal service. It is one of the little things that get lost in the wash of 3500 fellow passengers. For me this was most missed in the dining room. Though our friends travel as a group, we do not vacation as a group. I like to think of it as going on 32 separate vacations together. Dinner on a ship is the only time (save our traditional raucous, drunken sail-away on deck) that we are together as a whole. For us, on previous cruises, it was the height of each days cruise experience. A time to recap and enjoy the entertainment of our company and argue over who has the best table service. This trip was easy, no one did. As I have said earlier, the probably cause for this is that the dining room is seemed to be understaffed, and preparing meals for 1750 people at a sitting may just be too much for the kitchen. Once again Explorer may just be too big a ship for me. Several of my fellow travelers dishes came out cold. My meats were for most part cooked medium rare, with the one exception of my prime rib. I did send it back, and what returned was exactly the same. I could live with that. The whole issue of no wine steward was a major issue, at dinner. Had the wine service been as fast as liquor service (which was perfect) the average nature of the food would have been easily overlooked. We had all read the reviews on the ship, and knew what to expect of the food. We were disappointed by the service. It could have made all the difference in the world. I must point out we did (as I stated earlier) speak about the service, and it did improve slightly, but the wine situation never really worked itself out. Add a wine steward and make the wine drinkers (who were mostly the womanfolk) happy. If the womanfolk are happy, the menfolk are happy, and everyone is happy. Take that from Mista 'Appy. The deck chair situation was another one of those little things that was a burr in the side of not only my group, but many, many people. It could be solved by more frequent patrols my the "towel police" or as I mentioned earlier, simply adding more deck chairs on the running track after X'o'clock. This has never been such an issue on any other ship during February break. Once again, 3500 people may just be about a thousand more than I want to travel with. While the Royal Promenade is indeed a wonderful space, it is entirely an interior space. I missed the constant views of the sea as I strolled along the interior of the ship. I missed the way sunlight plays and sparkles on plants, fittings and furniture through banks of windows on a glorious sea day. To be at sea on a ship is almost dreamlike. It strikes the primal seafarer within, that all original non-native North Americans began as. Sort of like going back to ones roots, only in a markedly nicer boat. I always need to be reminded I am at sea. I missed not having a convenient way to eat my lunches outside. I missed accessible poolside munchies. While there was burgers and hotdogs in steamers tucked by the ping pong tables, there's nothing like the smell of stuff cooking to make your nipples hard, and your tastebuds tingle while enjoying a seaday by the pool. We did have one other very unfortunate incident which we felt was all "size of ship and lack of staff" related. While taking our group photo on the "notoriously rocky" sea day that was to be Grand Cayman, the motion got to be too much for one of our younger sailors. To use the nautical term, she "puked" on the stairwell to the Palace Theater. She had been doing this in her stateroom all day, so I trust me, I've seen worse. I went to college after all. Members of our group blocked ends of the stairwell to prevent anyone from slipping because the "damage" was almost invisible, and the ships photographer called maintenance. Ten minutes later he called them again. Fifteen minutes later he called again. Twenty minutes later one of my party called. A total of twenty five minutes later I went to guest services and told them we were still waiting and my party was blocking off the stairwell. She called and sternly asked someone get there in two minutes, I heard her. At thirty five minutes members of my party went to the restrooms, got paper towel and water and began cleaning it themselves. I went to guest services and informed them we were doing this. I did so politely but firmly. I am just not the "going ballistic" type. The guest services manager picked up the phone and went ballistic. She used words only a true sailor would use. By the time I returned forward, swat teams of cleaning staff were descending on the area from all directions, including the ships head of facilities. If we were outdoors I would swear they came in by choppers. The facility Director apologized and said with the seas, the staff was very busy. It was a main central stairwell on the Royal Promenade. It took 45 minutes to respond. The guests started the cleaning process. It was an entirely unacceptable situation, and he agreed. It was one of those "little things" that can end relationships. Even in spite of all of these things, all in all I had a great vacation, I always do. We all did. When you cruise with the group of people we do, it's impossible not to, unless you the cruise ends up with you sitting in a life boat singing "nearer my God to thee". It just wasn't the best cruise I ever been on. Grand Princess still holds the title of being, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Norway, with her class and charm (and that's with her lack of windowed dining and activities) is second best, and because my glass is always half full, Explorer was third best. Regardless of all the little things or lack of them, nothing beats seven days at sea, with people whom for the most part first became your friends when big hair and disco was in style. Now many of us are in the little hair, and slipped disk category, but the fun is still the same. One of the things I always do on a cruise, is during the last day out, speak to as many people as I can and ask them how they enjoyed their week and the ship. I do this everywhere I go on vacation, not just cruises. It helps me level the playing field and give a broader opinion for those who may journey behind me. I always make sure when asking people about their week that they understand to "put aside" the things that are out of anyone's control. Those being weather, and missed ports. Lord knows everyone whines about missed ports. It happens. No port is guaranteed, it says so on the ticket. I think they started printing that there after Titanic. I only whine about bad weather, I could always use another day at sea. Of our group of 25 adults, there 2 who had cruised more than seven times, 2 that had only one other cruise, 4 first timers and 16 who had gone on at least three other cruises. 20 gave the ship a 7. As one said so eloquently "It wasn't a ten, but it certainly wasn't a 5. All 20 said while they would consider RCCL again, they wouldn't consider it for 2006. 12 of them said if they cruised RCCL again, they would definitely go on smaller ship with a higher staff to passenger ratio. Two gave the ship a 4, and two gave the ship a 3 and weren't sure they would ever consider RCCL again. Interestingly enough those four will venture out in two weeks on Carnivals Spirit, and promised a review for me. I spoke to 47 other adults at various chatty venues around the ship on Friday, mostly at bars. Nothing like a few drinks to get folks chatty. 12 were multi cruisers having been on various lines with a batch of cruises under their belts. They gave three 9's, three 8's, four 7's and two 6's 14 were primarily RCCL cruisers, they gave one 10 seven 9's, five 8's and one 4. The "4" had taken Navigator last year and immediately booked Explorer for this year. She said the difference in service and deck chairs was night and day, and would not cruise Explorer again. 4 Canadians at a corner table near ours in the restaurant were first time cruises. Three gave the experience a 5, because of a rather large "issue" they had (I didn't ask) and the forth gave it a 10, and stated "it was the best vacation he's ever had". 10 were Celebrity or Princess cruisers exclusively, and they handed out three 8's, four 7's and three 6's. 4 more I met at the aquarium bar were first time cruisers, three gave it a 10, and one gave it a 9, all said they would rebook the ship in a heartbeat. Three were exclusively Carnival cruisers, and all gave the experience a 9, but noted dinner was better on Carnival. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a solid 7 for her magnificent beauty, plentiful activities and wonderful entertainment. Do realize everyone is different, and there is nothing more subjective than a personal viewpoint. Depending on your week, your waiters, and if the chef is sober, your experience could quite possibly be a 10+ Ours was on the Norway in 2000, and if there was ever a ship that had as many 1 ratings as 10 ratings, that was it. All things now said, I'm glad to have experienced the ship, and for "she who must be obeyed" she certainly "got out there" and tried all Explorer had to offer and was glad to have tried it as well. She had a great time, but said “1000 less people next time. She *IS* “she who must be obeyed”. For our group, members have already begun to look into Celebrity's Millie Class, and Princess' Coral Class for our 2006 spin. Possibly even a Golden Princess Southern Caribbean run out of Puerto Rico. I wouldn't be surprised if our group passes 40 in size next time out. There are three more families that have sworn not to miss another. For those who stuck this entire review out to the bitter end, thanks for reading. For those who require such information, we had early debarking (white tags) and our entire group was at the airport by 8AM (some with bags already checked at the AA counter at the pier) checked in, through security and drinking Starbucks overpriced coffee by 8:40. Debarkation and Embarkation were the easiest we've seen. I was especially surprised debarking went so well considering the reviews I read. We had no problem making our much sweated 10:55am. Smooth seas, friendly skies and happy sails to all of you. May your next vacation be your best. John Office of Missing The Jamaican Bartenders The Zamgwar Institute [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Feb 7, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

We traveled on Explorer of the Seas, departing Miami on Saturday, February 7, 2004 on an Eastern Caribbean route returning to Miami on Saturday, February 14, 2004. Ports visited on this route include San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau. The cruise was booked through AAA; we in an Atrium Cabin (Cabin No. 8609) and paid approximately $800 per person including port charges. We felt that the Atrium Cabin located on Deck 8 was

a great value and extremely convenient to the Windjammer Café and pools on Deck 11 as well as the Promenade area on Deck 5, Casino on Deck 4, etc. (Our Cabin was located near stairwells, could always walk up or down easily rather than wait for the elevator). Note: The Atrium Cabin has a bay window that overlooks the Promenade Deck (Deck 5). Therefore, you feel like you have a window to the outside, however you hare looking out into the very center of the ship. We flew from Pittsburgh to Miami on a 9:00 a.m. direct flight with US Airways, arriving in Miami the day of our departure at approximately 12:30 p.m. We took a cab from the Miami Airport to the Miami Port; cab fare is $21.00 fixed rate plus tip. We spent about 40 minutes in the Miami Airport getting our luggage and about 20 minutes driving to the Port. We spent no more than one hour being processed by Royal Caribbean and were in our Stateroom by 2:30 p.m. Our luggage arrived in our Stateroom by 4:00 p.m. This allowed plenty of time to unpack prior to the muster drill and clean-up prior to dinner. Before we go into details of our week; we will say that we thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of our cruise. The following are some comments/highlights: Food -- We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Café (buffet style) as well as a few meals at Johnny Rockets (a diner). All of our evening dinners, but one, were eaten in the Main Dining area (our dining room was the Magellen on Deck 3). We had the early/main seating (which was about 6:00 p.m.). We found this to be more convenient with respect to evening activities and we were not “stuffed” at bedtime. Also, there were two midnight buffets -- both of which were quite excellent. One was held on the pool deck with the other one being in the main dining room. The early seating allowed us some room to eat again at midnight. We found the food on the Explorer of the Seas to be “average to above average” with several of the “special” dinners (lobster, prime rib, and the midnight buffets to be above average). The food at Johnny Rockets was good; we would recommend having lunch there. For “after hours” dining, there is food available 24/7 in the Promenade Café. Their menu includes deli sandwiches, cookies, other desserts, ice cream, coffee, etc. We would recommend and would personally eat more of our breakfasts and lunches in the main dining room (rather than the Windjammer Café). We did not “press” our servers for multiple entrees or seconds which may have been a mistake. We would encourage you to order additional entrees or appetizers should you desire. In talking to others, most persons at other tables did in fact get additional entrees, etc. and were encouraged to do so by their servers. We did not have occasion to order room service. If we would have had a balcony cabin, we would have ordered coffee in the mornings, however, we usually went to the Windjammer Café in the mornings for our coffee and breakfast. Pool Areas -- There are three pools on the Explorer of the Seas; two in the main pool area and a Solarium Pool. The pool are in the solarium area is a “quiet” area, good for reading and some quite time. The main pool area is a bundle of activity; frequently having a band playing, different contests such as “men’s sexy leg contest” or “bellyflop contest”, etc. Pool bars are available as well as constant servers moving through the crowd. The water temperature in all 3 pools was 71° or 72° and quite “cool”. Needless to say, not many people got or stayed in the pools. On the “at sea” days, chairs around the pool area were crowded. One needs to be patient and willing to move chairs around to get a good location. There are 4 or 5 hot tubs located outside and a very large hot tub located in the indoor exercise area. Ports of Call / Excursions -- We had previously traveled to both Nassau and San Juan and were not overly impressed with either of these port stops. We did, however, enjoy St. Maarten and St. Thomas. St. Maarten seemed to be the best shopping area for jewelry. We pre-booked one of Royal Caribbean’s excursions to Orient Bay at St. Maarten (French Side) but the waters were rough and this excursion was not as enjoyable as it could have been. In talking to other persons on the cruise, it seemed that no one was overly impressed with the excursions -- most felt there were over-priced for what they did. A few suggestions we would have for the next time would be to visit the beach in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (where the boat docks); at this location you can rent a beach chair and have a drink for about $5.00 per person plus you are in the downtown shopping area. This is a very nice beach that allows you to shop in the morning and go to the beach when you are done on your own time plus this will save you $76 for the Orient Bay excursion offered. In Nassau, we spoke to several people who took a cab and/or water taxi to the Atlantis and utilized the Atlantis pool and beach facilities while “pretending” to be Atlantis guests with no problem. On a previous trip to Nassau, we took the water taxi ($3.00) to Paradise Island and went to the Atlantis. Beautiful place, huge casino, a lot of restaurants (expensive) -- a “must see” place. You can take a taxi back to the Port when you leave rather than walking back to the location to catch the water taxi. In San Juan, we would recommend going on your own and touring the Fort, Cathedral, etc. by taking a taxi from the Port to the top of the hill where the Fort is and then walking from there downhill back toward town. You will be given a map of Old San Juan from Royal Caribbean. This would be an economical way to see Old San Juan. Shows -- We attended all of the scheduled shows including the ice show and thoroughly enjoyed each of the different entertainers. Our Cruise Director, Gordon, was very energetic and was a great host. It would be best to attend the ice show (Studio B) during a time when there is no other show playing in the Palace Theatre. On our cruise, this was Thursday night. The early/main seating for dinner allows you to attend the 9:00 p.m. shows. (Shows for late seating were either at 10:45 p.m. or sometimes before dinner at 7:30 p.m.). There were also “game type” shows such as Love and Marriage (similar to Newlywed Game), Kareoke in one of the lounges, adult comedy, etc. each evening which began around 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. There were a lot of fun. Casino -- Unfortunately, we spent maybe too much time in the casino and had relatively poor luck, particularly on the slot machines. This seemed to be everyone’s general opinion. They also had a single deck blackjack game with fairly adverse rules. The blackjack shoe games had Las Vegas style rules and there were several tables with $10 minimums. Other tables were more than $10. The Casino is fairly small, however, they have a good variety of various slot machines and table games. All of the blackjack dealers were very personable. We also participated in Bingo which is played twice a day and has some fairly substantial cash prizes. Debarkation -- We found the debarkation process to be fairly painless. (We read various cruise reviews and were expecting this to be a very long and trying process). We had the “orange” tag for our luggage which was the second level called. We were able to enjoy a nice breakfast at the Windjammer Café prior to our color tag being called. We began debarking at about 8:15 a.m. and were in the Miami Airport by 9:30 a.m. We again took a taxi to the airport ($21.00 fixed fare). Painless and very organized! Miscellaneous Comments (Pros/Cons) -- We found all of the crew to be very pleasant as well as other passengers. We did not encounter any poor behavior or negative persons. As noted above, we felt that the Atrium Cabin was a good value -- plenty of storage space, closet space, 2 love seats, a desk, nice bathroom with shower. The cabin showed a little bit of wear after 3 years in service and the upholstery will be in need of replacement in the near future. The boat had slightly more movement than we had expected, although no one seemed to become seasick. Movement was similar to that experienced on an airplane in light turbulence. (Movement was more prevalent in our Miami to San Juan voyage, which was our first stop). There is an excellent review of the Explorer of the Seas’ Eastern Caribbean route in epinions.com/content_101991353988 written by Susan1118. This review is much more extensive than the review offered above and is extremely accurate on all points. We did find calling home from the ports to be a challenge, if you need to stay in touch with the office or home on a full time basis the cost will be high. If you would like to contact us regarding other specific items on our trip, feel free to email us at [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Feb 1, 2004

Western Caribbean

We enjoyed the cruise and it was fun being with first-timers. They couldn't believe all the food and pampering. Our friend said he only envisioned buffets but our waiter/assistant waiter were a joy. ... The ports were good but our friends got too much begging in Jamaica. Everyone enjoyed snorkeling but got a little sun burn. The ship was amazing to everybody and the balcony was a breath of fresh air. We did some star gazing and seeing

the night sky from a different latitude was great. We enjoyed the entertainment but it teetered on skimpy and crud at times but we tried to ignore that part. The costumes, singing, ice show were all very good. They had a "Beatles" group called Rain that rocked the house. We were all singing, swaying, clapping and waving as if we were 17 again. Loved it!! They warmed up the crowd with gigantic balloon balls in the audience which was dangerous but fun. Of course the water was blue, the weather was great the towel folding was special and the turned down bed with chocolates left us all too spoiled to come home.

Read More
  • New

Jan 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This is my third cruise review and I have very mixed feelings about this cruise. There were things I liked and enjoyed and maybe too many negatives that cause my mixed feelings. I have read many positive comments about the Voyager Class ships. When you read my review, remember it is my opinion but I met many on board with similar opinions. PREPARATION: As always I study the ship’s deck plans months before the cruise. I also read

all the current cruise reviews about the ship. We originally reserved a balcony room on Deck 6. I learned Deck 6 had steel railings not glass like the decks above. I quickly changed my cabin to Deck 7. When I board the ship I have a comfortable feeling that it is like an old friend and I have a pretty good idea where things are. I am a fan of Tom & Mary Milano’s reviews. He is the one that promotes the use of Two Dollar bills as initial tips on board. I read of people using phone cards as extra incentives to cruise staff. The phone cards sounded great to me because the ship’s crew all head to the phones in port to call home. We purchased a pack of a dozen 60-minute cards at Sam’s Club for about twenty dollars. We gave two to our room steward upon boarding and to the waiter and assistant the first night. Our waiter was not quite sure what to do with them but the others were very thankful. I gave a couple more to our room steward with her tip on the final night. She made a point to thank us the last morning and told us to stay in the cabin as long as we wanted. PORT OF MIAMI: My next cruise will be out of a different port. My last cruise was on the Carnival Triumph and was a traffic nightmare. I thought this trip would be better because we could turn off for the first terminals. However, there is construction going on and we had to detour way out of the way. The yellow cab drivers should be keel hauled. The RCL parking structure has no directional signs to speak of, I found myself at the exit kiosks before I found a place to park and had to turn around and drive the wrong direction to get back in. The parking is $12 per day and I thought Carnival’s $10 was high. EMBARKATION: We checked our bags at the curb and proceeded to check in. I had filled out forms on the website and received E-docs for boarding. We did have to stop and fill out a card for Bahamas immigration. Embarkation took only a few minutes and we were able to board the ship. Our room was ready and we dropped off our carry on and proceeded to Island Grill for lunch before a ship tour. We preferred the Island Grill to the Windjammer because it was in the aft with wrap-around windows for a magnificent view. THE SHIP: The ship as everyone knows was the largest cruise liner afloat till the QM II just sailed. We didn’t realize how big it really was till we seen it in Nassau along with seven other ships in near proximity. The ship is simply beautiful inside and out. We were impressed with the marble floor tile colors and patterns. The ship shaped directories on each floor are very novel. We liked the Promenade and provided a pleasant shelter if the weather outside was not the best. The café allowed us to sit and drink coffee and watch people stroll by and shop. The solarium is a major improvement to cruising. An adult only area with swimming pool, two large hot tubs, two showers and padded lounge chairs. It was a very relaxing area. The Casino is poorly designed. There is no direct path by or through it. I am sure it was planned that way, but it is difficult to navigate and congested. The casino should have been given more room by maybe eliminating a bar or two. Did I say there are too many bars? I like table games, my wife likes slots. Usually she can play a couple of hours on a couple rolls of quarters. We found $20 in quarters only lasts twenty minutes. Did I say the slots were very tight? I couldn’t get to a Blackjack table or craps table and I couldn’t walk a circle around the table area, they backed up to a wall too tight. Did I say the table area was too small? We didn’t play miniature golf, which we wanted to do. When we had time the wind or ship’s roll prevented it. When weather was good we had excursions. Did I say the ship rolls? It seemed to us and others commented that the Explorer has a noticeable roll from side to side. More than I expected from a vessel this size. We had very mild seas. I believe it must be the physical size of the ship. A solid wall a thousand feet long and about 15 decks above water line provides quite a wind load and I think this is what caused the rolling, a continuous fight against the wind. I don’t know how the ship is in stormy weather. Did I mention the elevators? I have read about the elevator problem. Sometimes, dinner and after shows, you may have to get on an elevator going in the wrong direction so that you are on it when it goes in your direction. We found after shows in the Palace we would be better off walking to the aft elevators if we wanted to go up. FOOD: Ok, I gained eight pounds, but that doesn’t mean the food was great, it just means it was plentiful and fattening. My wife had informed me that the food would not be as good as Carnival’s and that they put sauces on everything. I said I would keep an open mind and make my own opinions, now I agree. WINDJAMMER & ISLAND GRILL: I found the Windjammer and Island Grill was very adequate and almost the same items in each. There was enough choice at breakfast and lunch to allow something for everyone. We like the omelets in the Island Grill for breakfast. They also had fried eggs if you wanted. We never ate dinner there. JOHNNY ROCKETS: We ate lunch there twice. Once to try it and again when we were short on time and going ashore. Hamburgers and fries and onion rings. What can you say? We found the chili on the dogs and French fries lacking. I have had worse and better onion rings and fries. What I found nice was eating outside in the booths along the glass walls of the deck listening to rock n roll. Worth a visit but you can get the same at home. PROMENADE CAFÉ: A feel of Paris or South Florida. Lunch sitting at tables on the sidewalk. Free small sandwiches, free coffee and tea, free ice cold water, free cookies. Ice cream and flavored coffees for pay. I believe they had pizza but I tried that in the Windjammer and it was bad. The Pizza is like a cheap frozen pizza not the good ones. Carnival has good fresh pizza and calzones. PORTOFINOS: We ate in Portofino’s on Monday when we were in San Juan 2 to 6. It was Venetian night in the dining room. We choice that night, it was my wife’s birthday and we didn’t plan on being ashore very long. We both ordered lobster and each received 1 ½ lobster tails. The service was excellent and a quiet atmosphere. The food was not better than the dining room lobster where we each had two tails. Is it worth the extra money, no. The only reason we did it was for the occasion. I can’t say I would recommend it unless for a special occasion. The service stands out but doesn’t that mean the dining room service could be better? If you read my Triumph review, I state the service we had was the best on land or sea. It would be equivalent of Portofino’s and I didn’t pay extra except for a bonus tip at the end of the week. DINING ROOM: No consistency. Some meals were very good, some so so. My first experience was very poor. The young lady next to me and I ordered an encrusted baked Cod with some kind of sauce. When the waiter brought her’s out I wondered what she had ordered. Then I got the same thing! In both of our opinions the cod was cool and watery and there was this green sauce on top. It was tasteless and unappetizing. For the first time in five cruises I sent the meal back. The waiter replaced it with a Chicken breast stuffed with broccoli and cheese. I ate half of the chicken, it was like the frozen ones you can buy at Costco or Sam’s Club. This was not what I had been expecting. One other night I did not see anything on the menu that sounded appetizing, and I like to try new food! I had read reviews mentioning ranch steak. I now understand. I ordered the ranch steak off the daily alternate menu. The ranch steak is not the best cut of meat but not bad with a baked potato. When you choose off the alternate menu or eat at Johnny Rockets, something must be lacking with the regular menu. Now the good news. The beef tenderloin (aka filet minion) was very good unless ordered well done. One tablemate ordered it well done and it looked very shriveled up. It is not thick like a normal filet, but tasteful. The New York strip was very good if you scraped the yellow sauce off. It would be better with a good mushroom sauce. Our NY strip steaks were not done as ordered. I sent my well done back, took my wife’s medium rare which was actually medium like I wanted and the waiter brought her a new one close to medium rare. The lobster was very good, smaller than Portofino but we ordered another. One young woman and her daughter only showed up lobster night and my wife counted her getting eight of them. Lets sum this up, as saying the meals could have been better. You should never have to order from an alternative menu. Did I mention the dining room is beautiful? Our cruise critic friends agree with us that the dining room service was below par. They had better service on the Brilliance last year. ENTERTAINMENT: The stage shows we seen were very good. We seen two comedians and they both were very good. I feel a true test for a comedian is being funny without being dirty. These guys were funny. We did not attend any of their late night adult shows because they were late night. I have read the ice show was the highlight and we will have to agree. The ice show is very colorful and fast paced. The cruise director Gordon Whatman, I found very entertaining and he did a couple of songs the last show. He has a very good voice. Gordon emceed the shows and special events on ship like the belly flop contest and battle of the sexes. I thought he did a very good job. I have seen previous cruise directors whose main job was to hawk the shopping and ship’s tours. The explorer had a separate person, Liz Wadden that conducted that end of the cruise. The port and shopping programs pushed a VIP book for twenty dollars. The VIP book has coupons for free gifts, which in the majority of cases aren’t worth the time to visit the specified stores. The $20 book is really the same type of coupons we have received FREE on other cruises. PORTS OF CALL: I will remark on ports by chronological order. SAN JUAN- If you like forts see El Morro Castle, you pass it coming into port, and Fort San Cristobal. We visited San Cristobal since we had seen El Morro before. The fort is a short walk (uphill) from the pier and has very steep ramps to walk up to get to the top. Traffic and very narrow streets in Old San Juan where the dock is. We don’t enjoy shopping there. We have never been to the new area of town except for a dinner show on a previous cruise. Not much time in port this cruise. ST MARTIN: Our first visit here. I had planned on renting a car and driving around the island, many things I wanted to see. We decided to take taxis. I am very glad we took taxis. Traffic was very bad, streets were poor and we would not have found places in time allotted. If I were there for a week I would rent a car. First stop Orient Beach. It was $5 each in a van. I have friends that have stayed there and loved it. The family area is to the left end, topless in the middle and nude on the right end facing the water. We walked from one end to the other. The end with Club Orient and Pedro’s is the nude section although we seen totally nude people strolling the beach in the topless area also. I have no problem with seeing nudity but can’t see myself walking the beach nude. It was a very nice beach. And we seen all shapes and sizes and some red buns people won’t be sitting on for awhile. We next caught a taxi to Marigold ($16 for two). Another very congested area. We ate at a sidewalk café but we faced a parking lot with taxis, not romantic like I had expected. We then got a cab back to Phillipsburg for shopping ($12 for two). Shopping area was much better than San Juan. We bought a new setting for my wife’s wedding diamond and had it reset while we watched. I think we got a pretty good price after I haggled with the first salesperson at Kay’s Jewelers. We also bought a tablecloth ($22) in town. By the time we walked the shopping district, we were to close to the pier to take a taxi. We walked back to the pier, which took about 15 minutes. Taxis cost us $38 for day, about half the price of renting a car and I seen a lot more than if I had to keep my eyes on the road. ST THOMAS – We like St Thomas, this was our second cruise here and we had also spent a week on the island before. We took a taxi to town ($12 for two). We like the alleyways and side shops in places like Palm Passage and Drake’s Passage. Things have changed since we were last there. More traffic, more jewelry shops. We decided to take a tour of the island since we hadn’t been there for twenty years. We made arrangements for a noon tour ($20 each). Much more traffic than we remembered. We visited Coki Beach, one of the most beautiful on the island, a couple of view points overlooking the city and pier area, Maegens Bay overlook. The tour was about two hours and took us back to the pier. The taxi to the pier would have cost us $6 each. So the $20 tour cost was actually like $14 each. There is much to do and see in St Thomas, a weeks vacation there is worthwhile. Several Cruise Critic members did the BOB and really enjoyed it. BOB is the breathable observation bubble riding an underwater scooter. NASSAU - Our least favorite port. We had seen everything except Atlantis. We took the water taxi to Atlantis. I don’t recommend this ($3 ea), after the water taxi drops you off you still have quite a ways to walk to get to the hotel. A taxi for $6 would have been better for us. The casino is quite impressive in both size and décor. We did not pay $25 for tour of aquarium and dig. Part of the aquarium is free and the outside area of the hotel is very picturesque. We caught a cab back ($4 ea) from the hotel entrance not the casino entrance. We did a short loop through town and passed by the straw market. We were here two years ago and they were going to rebuild the straw market that got destroyed by a hurricane. They didn’t rebuild, instead it’s a parking lot and the new market is too congested to get down the aisles and the salespeople are too aggressive. Not only did we experience the aggressive nature but also rudeness when you don’t buy from them. Since this was a weekday we did not have to endure the school kids pestering everyone to by a wood flute like our last cruise there on a weekend. Like I have said before, the city should and could be beautiful if money from all the ships was used to make improvements. Once you get off main street, you are in one of the poorer areas of the Carribean. We seen nothing in town we hadn’t seen in previous stops and at cheaper prices. Next time in port we won’t get off the ship or we will pick an itinerary without this stop. DISEMBARKATION: Our luggage was color-coded tagged and placed outside the night before. We were up about five-thirty and seen us come into port. We docked at seven and people with early flights and tours were off first. We were one of the last groups off and did not get called till a little after ten AM. We thought this was an excessive amount of time. Having 3500 people aboard has its disadvantage. We never felt the ship was crowded until we all tried to get off. We ate breakfast at leisure and stayed in our room till about 9:30. I was anxious to get off, the fat lady had sung. CONCLUSION: Did I mention the ship is beautiful? You should try this class of ship to form your own opinions. Our friends and I enjoyed our cruise very much. We thought the ship had more movement than normal, food could have been better along with dining room service. The entertainment was above average to very good. The promenade struck some as being too close to the feeling of a mall, but it is spectacular for being in the middle of a ship.

Read More
  • New

Dec 13, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Our recent cruise was to be a very special event as it was my In-Laws 50th Wedding Anniversary and my wife and her two sisters had planned this cruise for them. My Father-In-Law is in a wheelchair so I took special attention to all of the details for his accommodations during this cruise. The Explorer Of The Seas was just incredible and our staterooms were very nice and very well maintained. My father in law had a handicapped room and

it was very nicely appointed to accommodate his needs. We were very interested in doing some excursion during this trip that were wheelchair accessible, we found once on board that no one was able to assist us with information regarding the accessibility of wheelchairs for any of the excursions, we were given the run around multiple times by the staff of Royal Caribbean no one ever seemed to be able to inform us of any available options for handicapped excursions (Very Disappointing). We had also inquired about having the Cruise Director (Gordon) make an announcement about our parents 50th Anniversary at one of the evening shows, we were not sure if this could be done so we left him a message at the desk to inquire about this and we never heard back from him during the cruise. We did locate an excursion on St. Maarten that was wheelchair accessible "Shipwreck Snorkel Tour" and the staff on the boat was awesome they helped make this a very special day. We had also inquired about a collapsible wheelchair being available for use during the cruise and were told this was possible, however we were not able to secure one at any time during the cruise. We had brought a motorized chair with us but it was not easy to use in some situations. We did find the ship to be pretty well equipped for handicapped people, elevators, restrooms etc. We did find it very difficult to get on the elevators as the amount of able bodied people who would not use the stairs for even one floor would pack the elevators causing difficulty in getting the wheelchair in. people would literally move in front of you as you were trying to get the wheelchair into the elevators almost as if it were the last elevator of the day. Ports were pretty easily maneuvered with the chair. The amount of people on the ship (3,500) caused long delays in getting off of the ship in each port. All of the ports we visited did not require a tender so we could use the motorized chair. San Juan was a very interesting place we really liked the city and the atmosphere it was a very enjoyable city to visit. St Maarten was our favorite port it was just beautiful, everyone was so friendly great shopping and a wonderful island; I will visit again. St. Thomas was not as nice but still pleasant, not quite as friendly but still pleasant. Nassau Bahamas was terrible, a very run down overcrowded city, you did not feel comfortable or safe being in town, I would not recommend it for anyone. It is the worst Caribbean Island I have been too and I have visited many. Overall our trip went pretty well we loved the ship but were a little disappointed in the staff of the ship they seemed at times very short in their answers and their willingness to assist you when you need help. I do realize that traveling with a handicapped person requires a lot of extra steps, however when you ask for assistance or have questions I do expect the staff to be helpful and look for answers instead of just saying "I don't know go ask so and so." I would highly recommend this ship, this itinerary and this staff if you do not require special assistance, or if you do you are not wanting to do much other than relaxing on board. Royal Caribbean should review the program for passengers needing assistance and possibly publish information regarding excursions of any type that are available, as well as street maps for ports that are wheelchair accessible. We found ourselves backtracking a lot because we ran out of sidewalks. I do not want to sound negative I am only trying to assist other people who may be traveling with handicapped people, I wish I had known all of the things I do now before I had left it would have made our trip much more enjoyable.

Read More
  • New

Nov 15, 2003

Eastern Caribbean with a 10 month old daughter!

Just returned from the cruise today from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas and had a wonderful time. The unique thing I would like to discuss is the fact that my wife and I cruised with our 10-month-old daughter! I initially was reluctant to bring her, but we were pleasantly surprised that the ship was quite child and infant friendly! Embarkation This was a snap. As long as you had your pre-boarding documents with you everything

went smoothly. The lines were long but fast, and we got a category C suite so there was a separate line for us, and since we were repeat Royal Caribbean cruisers, we were Gold Members, and that also entitled you to a separate line, for faster service. There are elevators so feel free to take your strollers. We booked the air and transfers from Dayton to Miami with Royal Caribbean International (RCI), so everything was included in the small binder they provide for your cruise. Make sure to read that little booklet thoroughly; it will answer most of your questions, as well as the web site, that too was very helpful. Once we landed in Miami we had to claim our own bags, but there was a RCI representative by the baggage claim area. Find this person and ask them where the shuttles to the ships are located. They will then lead you to the bus which corresponds to your ship. Make sure drop off your luggage with them and bring your carry on bag with you on the bus, you will have your bags by 6pm that evening, before dinner! You will give your voucher to the bus driver as you board the bus. Place your provided luggage tags on your bags before you leave your home. As long as your child is under 2 all you need is a birth certificate. I think that covers embarkation Exploring the Explorer of the Seas This ship is awesome! I sailed on the Voyager of the seas 2 years ago with my wife and a bunch of friends and this ship is just like Voyager with just some décor changes, and both ships are breathtaking. We loved our category C suite, and I recommend it highly! It is much bigger than an inside cabin, and the extra room compared to a non-suite outside cabin is perfect for an infant. We had a walk-in closet and a bathtub, so we were able to give out 10-month-old baths instead of cramped showers with daddy. That’s right a WALK IN CLOSET! We stored the baby’s travel stroller, baby-back-pack, and umbrella stroller out of our way, and had plenty of drawer and hanger space to spare. There was also a mini-fridge that had items for sale, but also some space for formula etc. We re-washed our bottles in the sink and mixed our own formula. We used the ships tap water sometimes but brought bottled water to mix her formula most of the time. We asked for a crib and our steward brought a pack-n-play which I assembled easily. The door to the balcony is made with a latch that you have to turn 180 degrees to open the door, so young children will have a hard time getting out to the balcony, so don’t worry about that. Our friends got a family suite located on the very front of the ship, which as a separate bunk bed for kids, which they liked a lot, although being on the front of the ship lead you to be more susceptible to sea sickness. Ship comments with children Get first seating if possible. We got second seating and our daughter was cranky almost every night, unless we planned the naps right on time. Had we had first seating I think we would have made more formal dinners. The Windjammer, the buffet informal dining was the highlight to our cruise/dining experience with our daughter. The food was excellent, and we got all our food at once so she could eat and pick and choose. As opposed to the formal setting where we had to wait for each course and if she liked something, we simply could get more. As soon as we would walk into the windjammer, all the waiters and cooks would comment on our daughter, since many of them have children of their own, and we always got star treatment. High chairs were provided once you asked anyone, and they fit right over your table. My wife would usually find a table and I would obtain a selection of food from the buffet and be seated by the time she gets situated with the baby and we are eating before you know it. Also, I recommend you buy a fountain card. I bought one for $40.00 on the first day of the cruise for unlimited fountain drinks, and it paid for itself in a couple of days! After awhile your waiters know you own one and get the drink without you asking. Otherwise, Ice Tea, Coffee, Lemonade and water are provided for free. We also visited the Café Promenade several times a day for cookies, pizza, cokes and coffee 24 hours a day. This was truly the best invention they had on the ship. A couple of times I was up late and I would just walk to deck 5 and have a coffee and cookie and just hang out. We took our daughter to main dining several nights and they provided her with a high chair, but you had to dress up for dinner and sometimes you just want to be casual, so her mood determined where and when we ate. One night I ordered our formal dinner in our room and they brought us the entire course to our room, the exact dinner we would have gotten, as long as it is during the dinner times. That was nice. Johnny Rockets is a must also. We ate there almost every day, and the food is great! Try the chili-dog, and original burger. The shakes are great, although you have to pay for them, again a drink card here will get you a tall bottomless coke! If all the tables are taken, there is a carry out line in the back, just order your food and eat on the deck or take it back to your stateroom. You can also self seat yourself on the counter, just like a real diner! Ask for nickels and you get to choose your own songs on the juke box. If you play respect by Aretha Franklin, the waiters dance! There is a great arcade on deck 12 for older children, it is very expensive though so make sure to put a limit on the gaming. Deck 13 has full court basketball and a 9 hole putt-putt golf course. There is also an inline skating rink and a golf simulator. There is also ice skating on deck 3 during sea days. In the end we tipped everyone for 3 passengers because Bryn was treated so well and made as much trash as my wife and I. We stopped at San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau. We just shopped at each port and hit the beach at St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We did the dolphin encounter at Nassau. I put our daughter in a back-pack carrier which worked great, just bring plenty of bottled water because it gets hot. We mixed formula on the run, and had plendly of snacks for her, but she did fine. I highly recommend Megans bay at St. Thomas. Go there in the morning to beat the rush and avoid the really hot sun, then go back to the ship, freshen up and explore the shops! In Summary The cruise has a great itinerary, the crew and ship are both child and infant friendly, and there is plenty to do on the ship. We are definitely returning to RCI. We also found it helpful to have a walkie-talkie on board. We brought a T5700 motorola with a 5 mile limit. This worked well when we left our daughter with our parents, or when I would hit the spa or gym. If there were any problems we could just contact each other. It also helped when shopping with friends, we could split up on the Island and do our own shopping and still find each other without difficulty. Some other issues, don’t plan on making the shows with a young infant, we were able to watch pay-per-view movies in our stateroom, which was great, they had continuous movies running daily too. I think next time I will book my own flight and get a non-stop flight into Miami, RCI got the cheapest flight which required a layover, which is hard traveling with a 10 month old. We bought her a seat on the plane, I highly recommend that, even though you pay more, the extra room on the plane is nice for you and your child. That’s it! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me! Enjoy your cruise. Just roll with the punches, remember, having fun is the name of the game, and just being with my family was the best part. The ship, crew and islands were wonderful. I would return in a second.

Read More
  • New

Nov 1, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

This is actually my second cruise with Royal Caribbean. Last year I sailed on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS resulting in a vacation beyond my wildest dreams. I never thought I would enjoy a cruise, but sailing with VOYAGER and ROYAL CARIBBEAN made me a believer. I plan to do a cruise every single year. Anyone that has never taken a cruise has no idea what they are missing. Imagine boarding a floating city where you unpack, travel to new ports

and get pampered by the ship staff. While most people quickly turn away from picking a cruise as a vacation due to its price, I believe that you do get your money's worth. Let me talk a little about my vacation on EXPLORER OF THE SEAS. As I stated above, this was my second cruise and I think that because of the great time I had on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS, my expectations were very high. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with EXPLORER OF THE SEAS -- especially in the food and Guest Relations department. More on that in a moment. Boarding the ship was relatively easy. We arrived early and were on board shortly before noon. Had lunch at the Windjammer which was very nice. The only aggravating part of the entire journey involves the mandatory "muster drill" that happens at 4:00pm. It took about 25 minutes to get through and if you don't get lucky enough for a station inside the ship, you are going sweat it out on the deck for a long time. It was a very uncomfortable drill -- especially for the fact that it was hot and people were closely packed together. Also, something new this year, because of the events of 9/11 all crew members must attend a HOMELAND SECURITY check that takes place in the dining room before the ship disembarks in St. Thomas. This goes for EVERYONE, regardless if they are leaving the ship or not. Fortunately, this went quite fast. Show your passport and sea pass card to the agents and off you go. Not very impressed with the ports of call. I must admit that I didn't do any excursions at any of the ports, so my opinions are based on an individual who just walked off the boat with a group of friends and walked around. SAN JUAN is a very poor city. The shopping here is not as good as the other ports, and the only thing we found somewhat interesting in walking distance was the Fort and lighthouse that stands beside an old cemetery. ST. MAARTEN and ST. THOMAS are shopper's paradise. Found some good deals on jewelry and cologne here. In ST. THOMAS our group arranged a terrific Catamaran trip that was the most talked about event of the week. NASSAU, BAHAMAS was a bit dry. Not much to do there but shop. Some friends went to the Atlantis hotel, but it is VERY pricey. Lunch for two cost just under $90, and a trip through the aquarium is about $25. Most felt it was not worth the price. Now let me talk about the ship.... My Cabin: Again this year I chose to stay in a "C" cabin. These cabins are now also known as "JS" cabins. If you can afford it, these are the best cabins for the buck -- especially suited for couples that want a roomy cabin with a wide and relaxing balcony view. Trust me, anyone that bought lower cabins were envious of the "C/JS" cabin that I was in. The room steward, Kenneth, was okay. I tipped him $30 right off the bat, promising more to come. You would THINK that would garner more knocks on the door asking if I needed anything, but unfortunately, I never saw him much after that. The only "extra" I got out of him was a bathrobe. Can you believe that the "C/JS" cabins no longer come with bathrobes? There were two on THE VOYAGER OF THE SEAS, but none here. The room was clean and was kept clean. Everything seemed to work well. Drink and Food: The first disappointment was that there is no longer an alcohol card that can be purchased for about $40. Guess Royal Caribbean was losing money and discontinued this 12-drink card. They also greatly jacked-up the price of their soda card which allows you unlimited refills the entire week. That card used to cost about $20. It now costs over $40. They hand you a cool Coca-Cola drinking mug, but the price of this card is certainly way overpriced. I started my first night eating in the Dining Room. For me, once is fine. There is something to say about being served food, but the reality is that the food is extremely portioned and that if you are a big eater like me, you'll find yourself asking the server for seconds or thirds. I will say that service in the dining room is very good. You'll be amazed how the servers learn your name and eating habits after the first night. In fact, after being absent from the dining room for 6 nights, I was shocked that my server remembered my name. On the VOYAGER OF THE SEAS I found myself eating in the Island Grill every night. This is a buffet that basically serves the same fare as the dining room. The food at dinner is pretty good. I ate 3-4 small steaks per night, and helped myself to all the dessert I wanted. The BIG disappointment is the food in the Windjammer. Breakfast will make you gag. Eggs are powdered, waffles are rubbery and the pancakes were hard as a rock. This is worse than the cafeteria food I had in High School. If you read a lot of reviews about ROYAL CARIBBEAN than you hear bad remarks about their coffee. Well, I'll also testify that their coffee (Seattle's Best) is just horrible. It's overly bitter, not smooth. It can be difficult to drink, but unfortunately, it's the only way to get your morning caffeine fix. Now just completed my second cruise, I have come to the realization that food aboard THE ROYAL CARIBBEAN is not gourmet quality -- even in the dining room. While the breakfast fare is horrific, the lunch and dinner fare is just above acceptable. You certainly get better food at a local restaurant. Speaking of which.... Know where the best place to eat on the ship? JOHNNY ROCKETS up on deck 11. From the moment you sit down, you are treated to unlimited piles of freshly prepared onion rings and french fries. The burgers are VERY delicious -- especially the DOUBLE burger which is very difficult to fit in one's mouth. I also recommend the BBQ burger topped with onion rings and BBQ sauce. You can eat all you want at no charge except for the malts which cost under $5. Soda is also an extra charge if you don't have a drink card. If you do have a drink card, the sodas come in a very large glass. Internet Access & Guest Relations: The biggest battle I had on the ship concerned the Internet Access. I got one of those "Cybercabin" phones that allows you dial-up access from your room. The damn thing costs $100 for the week for unlimited access. I suppose that's better than using the ship's DSL speed access which costs .50 cents per minute. Well, the Internet connection was spotty for the first 4 days. There were blackout periods coming in and out of ports. Then, for the final 3 days, the Internet went down completely due to satellite problems. GUEST RELATIONS was absolutely horrible in helping us. They denied there were any problems, yet myself and 3 other friends all were experiencing downage. We were promised that the situation would be looked into and we would get callbacks from tech support. These callbacks never happened. In fact, the problems were never properly relayed to staff members. One guy at guest relations got real snooty by telling me, "Didn't you read the fine print? These things are not guaranteed to work." Hmmm. Wonder if they take that policy against all their onboard services. I will say that in the end, after doing some extensive complaining, they refunded all 3 of us $50 each. I would warn anyone who is contemplating getting a Cybercabin to realize that these things don't work very well. The ships need to be outfitted for broadband access in every room with limited availability. Of course, I could just shudder at thinking of the prices they would charge. Entertainment: I must say, Royal Caribbean consistently has the best entertainment. The ICE SHOW is an absolute "must see" event that will amaze you. We were also very surprised with our celebrity entertainer, CHARO. Here is a woman who was never promoted on The Tonight Show as an accomplished musician. I was just blown away by her performance and have come away with a renowned appreciation of her talents. I also must highly commend our cruise director, Gordon. This man was treat to have aboard. He was very cordial, quite funny, and the sort of person you would want as a cruise director. On VOYAGER OF THE SEAS I never knew we had a Cruise Director. On EXPLORER, Gordon made sure that he mingled with the people onboard. Just a sensational individual who I would pick next year's ship solely because he was onboard. Final Thoughts: Cruising is still the best value for the buck. Try spending a week going to different destinations, packing and unpacking at strange hotels, and eating all the food you can eat for the same price as a cruise ship. You can't. ROYAL CARIBBEAN really does try to do everything they can to make their guests feel pampered. The entertainment is top-notch, and if you get Gordon as your cruise director you'll be in for an extra treat. Just don't expect much from the food. Try to stay away from the Windjammer at breakfast time, but indulge in the Island Grill at dinner time, that is, unless you want to be waited upon. Will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your upcoming cruise. Please feel free to email me.

Read More
  • New

Oct 25, 2003

Western Caribbean

Explorer of the Seas was my second cruise, so I had some idea of what my cruise experience should be. In addition prior to choosing Explorer of the Seas I did extensive research and watched every program on the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel on RCL’s Voyager Class ships but even after all the research I did I was not prepared for the truly delightful experience that I had onboard. After taking my first cruise (on a different

cruise line) I was hooked on cruising and now after cruising on Explorer of the Seas RCL has hooked me on their cruise line, especially on the Voyager Class ships. After collecting our luggage we checked in with the RCL desk at the airport for our ground transportation to the port, which was booked through them. Let me say one thing, next time I will take a cab, it would have been the same price and much simpler! (Cab fare for 4 is approx $22 to the port from Miami International) After Queuing several passengers up in the baggage claim area of the airport they paraded us out to the curb to wait for our bus to the port, which was suppose to be there momentarily, 45 minutes later we are still waiting for the bus! After the bus finally arrived we boarded and we were on our way to the port. After arriving at the port we waited while our luggage was unloaded, we claimed it and watched it be loaded onto pallets to arrive on the ship. After tipping the curbside porter for attending to our luggage we made our way into the terminal for embarkation. After my previous cruise (on a different cruise line) I had an idea of what to expect but was completely blown away by how efficient RCL was in getting us onto the ship. From the time we entered the terminal building, went through security, received our “sail and sign” cards (cabin key and onboard “charge card”), had our security picture taken, and our embarkation photo taken it was no more than 20 minutes. After arriving on the ship we made our way to our cabin, we were on Deck 8, a Promenade view room. The first thing I think I should describe is our cabin. I think the class of cabin we had was fantastic, much better than an ordinary interior cabin and certainly better than a balcony cabin. The reason I say that is there was always something happening on the Royal Promenade which was viewable from our cabin window—not that we were in the cabin very long other than sleeping. One suggestion I would give to everyone, no matter what cabin class you have, would be to bring two nightlights (one for the main cabin area and one for the bathroom), and to bring a can of air freshener to spray around the cabin and bathroom, just to freshen things up. The only thing I could complain about our cabin was it was one of the cabins that had a pass-through door which would allow our cabin to join to the cabin next door. The pass-through door IS NOT SOUND PROOF!!!! We could easily hear the TV in the next cabin as well as the cabin occupants snoring during the night. If you DO NOT NEED a cabin with a pass-through door DO NOT GET ONE!!! While I am giving advice, another piece of advice I can give to everyone would to bring a whole punch and a lanyard with you. The reason I say this is it is a great convenience to have your “sail and sign” card around your next during the cruise than always worrying about if you lost it in the pocket of your bathing suit. There were a large number of people who did do this on the ship which makes me wonder why RCL didn’t sell this option to you when you checked in considering they will sell you just about anything else you want. (Just make sure if you do punch a whole in your “sail and sign card” that you don’t punch through the mag strip or punch through the end that must be inserted into your cabin door lock). After we found our cabin we then found where our muster station was located so we didn’t look like idiots trying to find where we should be when the muster drill arrived. Our next step was to find our dinner table in the main dinning room, I wanted to do that first not to approve or disapprove of our seating assignment but to make sure we wouldn’t be late for dinner, as you’ll come to find out I love food and never missed an opportunity to eat while onboard! After finding our dinner table we made our way back to the Windjammer café for our first meal onboard Explorer. You will read in other reviews that the food in the Windjammer was “adequate,” in my opinion the food was very good, the variation and quality of the menu did vary by day but overall I would rate the food at the windjammer a 4 out of 5. The windjammer did offer one service that other cruise lines do not offer, there were always servers available to bring you drinks and to clear your table. While I am discussing service I’ll discuss the service on the rest of the ship. Let me summarize, no matter what my request was it was answered with, “My Pleasure, Sir.” Our cabin attendant Rubi was amazing, our cabin was always in perfect order, we always had fresh pool and bath towels, and the bathroom was always very clean! Our waiter, Trevor, and his assistant Sherrianne were amazing as well. Trevor had a wonderful personality and his service was incredible he was more than happy to bring you as much as you wanted to eat. Sherrianne was hands down amazing as well, she would remember who wanted iced tea with their dinner in addition to water and automatically bring it to them, while also ensuring everyone’s water class was completely full. Thinking back, I don’t think I ever had ask for anything while at dinner during my entire week, my every wish was anticipated by the amazing dining room staff. Food: All I have to say is the food was wonderful, with one exception their coffee was AWFUL! The food was always was better in the dinning room, but even at the Windjammer the food was good. In addition the dining room and the Windjammer you had the option of eating at Johnny Rockets or the Café Promenade. The only time I would say the food was not very good was at the BBQ lunch served on Labadee (the private Island) don’t get me wrong it wasn’t bad, but in comparison to the food that was being served on the ship it wasn’t all that special. The only time I can say that the food was truly “bad” at the Windjammer café was for dinner the last night, and I am sure it was done for a reason. If you have cruised before or when you take a cruise you will notice that the dining room on the last night of the cruise isn’t as busy as it normally is, and the reason for that is the last night at dinner is when you give your servers their tips for the week. I am sure the poor food quality in the windjammer was done to “punish” the cheap people who have the nerve not to tip their servers for the wonderful service that they gave them all week. It became standard procedure for us to first visit the Windjammer café for a “pre-dinner” when they opened at 6:30pm to sample what was going to be served in the main dining room (Yes we ate at both the Windjammer and in the dining room but like I said earlier I LOVE FOOD!). After the first night the lady who served the desserts learned that I have a sweet tooth and LOVE desserts. She would take notice of when I would finish my plate of hot food and walk over a plate containing one of every dessert they had on the buffet that night! This was one example of how thoughtful and attentive the staff was on the entire ship. Entertainment: The entertainment on the ship was wonderful. The stage shows had incredible energy and were truly Broadway caliber. In addition to their own stage productions the headliner comedians that they had were hilarious, and also well know names. The Ice show that was put on in Studio B was amazing, I never saw such a fabulous production. The stunts that they performed on the ice were truly amazing. Anyone who I spoke with on the ship was truly impressed by the ice show. In addition to the stage shows there was a lot of other great entertainment going on at all times on the ship, from lounge singers, pool side bands, and my favorite--the Cruise Comics. The Cruise Comics were a group of Improv comics that performed mostly on the Royal Promenade. I remember countless times just walking down the Promenade and seeing a crowd totally mesmerized by the performance that the comics were putting on. My personal favorite of their performances was when there was one comic who was climbing the floor. I know this sounds ridiculous but it was hilarious, what was happening was there was one comic dressed like a rock climber, complete with ropes, climbing the floor of the Promenade like his was climbing a real cliff. What made this so amazing was that as people would walk by he would grab onto their feet and yell “Don’t move!” as if he was going to fall if they did, and when he finally reached the end of the Promenade he tumbled down the stairs two decks. Our cruise director was also very good, this cruise was a special cruise for him, it was not only his last cruise before his scheduled time off, it was his last cruise on the ship before transferring to a new ship. The last night they ran a tribute video to him in the Palace Theatre, it was truly special for everyone in the audience! In conclusion I would like to say that our cruise was truly wonderful and RCL’s slogan is “Like no vacation on Earth” and they are correct, this cruise was like no vacation I have ever had. As I finish writing this review I am pleased to note that just earlier today I booked another cruise on RCL, on their new ship Mariner of the Seas for next fall. If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned, or have a question about the ship please feel free to email me and I would be glad to answer!

Read More
  • New

Oct 11, 2003

Western Caribbean

The timing of this cruise gave us the opportunity to witness some extraordinary moon rises over the sea --- with a red gold shimmer on the water, which erupted into a perfect full golden Harvest Moon. Our tiny grandsons were mesmerized by it. We were revisiting the Explorer of the Seas on a family reunion. We had sailed on her in October 2000, her Maiden Voyage to the Caribbean. The five Royal Caribbean International (RCI) Voyager Class

ships are a destination in themselves, boasting of four deck tall Royal Promenades, which can be a meeting place, shopping mall, the scene of parades, or even the site of the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party. RCI Voyager Class ships, the Voyager, the Explorer, the Adventure, the Navigator and the Mariner are the BEHEMOTHS of the Seas. They have lengths of 1,020 feet; beams of 157.5 feet; drafts of 29 feet at 138,000 gross tons. Their passenger capacity is 3,114 and carry a crew of 1,200. This voyage, Captain Ole` Johan Gronhaug stated that there were a total of 4,600 souls on board. This is a floating small town! On board with us this cruise were two of our sons, Nicolas and Marcello and their wives Laura and Paige respectively and our two grandsons, Nicky and Marcello. Also on board was Mary's sister Elizabeth with her husband Vito and their daughter Rhonda, son-in-law Richie, two grandchildren Michael and Mallory and friend Jamie. The ages represented in our group were from eighteen months to sixty-eight years old. We had babies, teenagers, thirty something, forty and fifty and sixty year olds. We feel this class of ship best accommodates all ages and we are right: ice skating, in-line skating, golf, basketball, gyms, extravaganza shows, night clubs and more! Since, we have reviewed the Explorer before, here we want to concentrate on the logistics of traveling with family groups. EMBARKATION Since there are eight of us in the family, we arranged for a limousine to Miami as did Elizabeth with her family. The grandsons require car seats and the limo service was kind enough to store their seats until the next Saturday pick up at the Port of Miami. The one hour ride from Boca Raton to the port was fun for all --- we checked our luggage curb side and proceeded to the Crown & Anchor Society Express Check-in. We were quickly expedited and on our way to the ship with only fifteen minutes "Curb to Cabin." Our cabins were 7600, 7606, and 7608. The proximity to each other was handy during the cruise. We booked this cruise early in order to select these cabins. At the same time, Vincent arranged for a large table for nine at Main Seating (6:00pm) and a table for six at Second Seating (8:30pm). We ate early with Elizabeth's family and returned to our cabin, so we could baby-sit while our sons and their wives could dine elegantly. Elizabeth's family rotated dining at second seating, thus allowing for family gabfests. All cruisers know that the evening meal in the beautiful three tiered dining room is something not to be missed. We checked on the dining arrangements as soon as we boarded. There are two nice alcoves on each side of the entrances to the dining room which, we now feel, should be reserved for large families or groups traveling together. It would enhance the family time on board. CABIN Our Stateroom 7600 is wheelchair accessible, something Vincent has needed since his double back surgeries have left him partially incapacitated. This cabin has a double wide door and when entering on the left, there is a huge bathroom with safety rails all around and a handy mirrored medicine chest angled in the corner. The shower is 4x4 ft. with both high and low shower heads. Continuing in the room, on the left are a hide-a-bed sofa, an upholstered arm chair and a glass coffee table, which we slid under the desk whenever our grandsons were in the cabin. There are also a T.V., a mini refrigerator, a personal safe and a desk/mirrored vanity. Entering on the right is a long, handy shelf with a mirrored wall, a triple armoire, and a closet with shelves. There is a king size bed with two night stands and reading lamps strategically placed. The far wall is floor to ceiling windows with a door to the verandah which had two chairs and a small table. In addition, the wonderful cabin steward Roxanne brought a chaise lounge for Vincent, who spends a lot of time on the balcony. This is something that Holland America on our last cruise on the Zuiderdam refused to do. We felt it was unfortunate, especially since the wheelchair accessible cabins have oversized balconies and their occupants would most likely enjoy the added comfort. Roxanne is one of the most competent and pleasant stewards we have ever had. She anticipated our wants. Thanks Roxanne! The color scheme in this cabin was reminiscent of the Vision of the Seas, a combination of pale blue, dark blue and and lavender with an abundance of light oak wood. It was very restful and comfortable. THE SHIP Of course, this ship was brand new, when we were last on her, and after two years of carrying almost one half million people, she has been kept sparkling clean and still looks incredibly new. Captain Gronhaug should be proud of the Explorer which is run like a five star hotel. Deck 2 has Category I Outside Cabins, the Entertainment Complex, the Conference Center, and the main floor of the Palace Theatre, which is simple in decor, but functional with excellent acoustics. Deck 3 has Category H Outside Cabins and features Studio B, a hi-tech sound stage/skating rink and the Chamber, a nightclub with gargoyles stain glass windows and Knights of the Round Table atmosphere. Aft is the Magellan Dining Room. Decks 4 & 5 are all public areas. Forward on four is the balcony of the Palace Theatre; next to it is the Schooner Bar and mid ship is the Casino Royale with its Las Vegas decor (two larger-than-life fiberglass statues of show girl at the entrance). Toward aft is the gorgeous Aquarium Bar flanked by educational exhibits and walls of aquariums. All the way aft is the Da Gama Dining Room. Deck five is the most interesting deck afloat. Forward is the Observation Deck, which allows passengers to go all the way to the prow of the ship. This can be the most exhilarating place to feel the wind and the ocean air, while getting the best unobstructed view of the ocean. Access to this area is one of the best kept secrets: go through the side door of the Maharajah Lounge near the Connoisseur Club (Cigar club). These ships of the Voyager class have double centrums, one at each end of the Royal Promenade, with banks of elevators in each. In between the centrums is the most wonderful indoor promenade, with stores, cafes, bars, pizza, desserts and sandwich areas, coffee/tea and water stations, an ice cream Bar (with sprinkles and jimnies), jewelry and perfume shops. All the way aft is the Columbus Dining Room, the top tier of the triple deck restaurant. Decks 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 are all cabins. Deck 11 forward has the Bridge, and the Ship Shape Spa & Fitness Center. There is the Solarium, strictly for adults only, with a swimming pool and two whirlpools. This area is decorated with many majolica pitchers and vases and life-size bronze sculptures of matadors bulls and horses. Midship is the main pool area with two swimming pools and four whirlpools. Aft is the Portofino upscale restaurant ($20 per person), and then there is the most popular place on the ship: the Windjammer Buffet. Most Americans can't resist a buffet. Deck 12 has some unique areas: a jogging track, the Club Ocean Arcade, the Kiddie Pool and the Children's play area, and then the popular Johnny Rockets (a 50's retro diner with juke boxes, red naugahyde and stainless steel everywhere) which offers both inside booths and outside tables. This was our grandsons' favorite dining place --- French Fries, Onion Rings, Floats and Apple pie, also great hamburgers and hot dogs! Deck 13 has the Rock Climbing Wall, Basketball and Volleyball Courts, the in-line track and the mini golf course "The Dunes." Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge, an area surrounded by lounges: Dizzy's jazz music bar and the 19th Hole Sports Bar where Elizabeth and Vito cheered this year's playoff team, the Boston Red Sox, until they went down in a heartbreaking loss in game seven to their old nemesis, the New York Yankees! Deck 15 has the Skylight Chapel which can accommodate 60 guests, an ideal place for weddings at sea. FOOD The first impression is that the food is plentiful and the portion sizes are huge. The menu is varied and as Vito said the steaks were always as ordered ---- No errors here: medium rare was truly medium rare, an accomplishment in itself. Executive Chef Leigh Hesling serves 19,000 meals per day. That's incredible --- From the freshly baked cookies (oatmeal raisin, macadamia nut, chocolate chip, etc.) to the beautiful dessert stations and crisp salad bar in the Windjammer, to the Dining Room's great assortment of entrees, everything was truly appetizing! As usual, the best dining on board is at the Captain's table. Captain Gronhaug proved to be a most cordial and informative host. The menu included Citrus cured salmon with dill cucumbers, Wild mushrooms in flaky puff pastry, French onion or Roasted peach soup, House salad of escarole and vine ripened tomatoes, Surf & Turf (lobster tails and filet mignon), Seafood Brochette (skewered scallops, shrimp and lobster) and Asian Pork tenderloin Wellington. Dessert was the ultimate enticement: an edible bowl of caramelized sugar and almonds filled with wild berries and vanilla ice cream. All served under the guidance of Maitre d' Harry Simons. This was a night to remember: Great food; Great Company. Thank you, Captain Ole` Johan! SERVICE Hotel Director Sue Richardson has everything under control and service is snappy, pleasant and prompt. We had breakfast in our stateroom every morning and it was always on time and hot: omelets, bacon, toast, croissants, juice and coffee. Every "Thank you," was answered by the staff with "My pleasure." and a smile. The dining room staff is sharp and efficient. Order ice tea or lemonade the first time and every day, thereafter it is there automatically. Our Waiter Fritz was superb and Asst. waiter Rufo was very observant and helpful. Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society is the best organization afloat for repeat cruisers. Concierge Roberto Pita offered personal assistance in the Concierge's Lounge which is filled with amenities --- Breakfast buffet, cocktail hour, tender passes and ice show tickets. Danney League, the Loyalty Ambassador remembered us from the Grandeur Transatlantic crossing in May '03, and treated us like family. Martin Jackson, Chief Purser was very cordial and helpful. There is not a crew more friendly or available to passengers than RCI Crews. It is the reason why we have sailed more often on RCI than any other line! ENTERTAINMENT This ship has more than the usual venues. The Skating Rink provides the setting for "Planet Ice," a must see spectacular. The mainly Russian performers were excellent. However, Elizabeth felt that the involvement of the audience in judging the individual performances was a bit demeaning to the skaters. Outstanding in this show were two ice skating pairs of Olympic quality, one from Russia and the other Canadian, and the breathtaking Steel Ring act of Olga & Alexi. Only the "Majestic" duo in the Palace Theatre was as exciting. These acrobatic dancers did a routine using silk cloths to suspend themselves out over the audience. You had to be there to believe it. Of course, the Royal Promenade figures prominently in many of the celebrations aboard with parades featuring performers up close and personal throughout the week. It is the center of activities. Throughout the ship there is always something going on, such as Bingo, Casino Tournaments, Fitness Training, Sports Games, Trivia Sessions, etc.... We did not participate in many of them, but our family members did. Baby-sitting can take up time. However, we loved it and hope to do another family cruise soon. PORTS OF CALL We did not go ashore in any of these ports, since we have seen them many times, but members of our group did. They participated in several shore excursions and activities. Day 1. Miami -- Departure 6:00pm  Day 2. At Sea Day 3. Labadee, Haiti -- Arrival 8:00am Departure 4:00pm -- Here Vito and Mallory went parasailing, as we watched them soaring into the beautiful sky from our verandah. We knew then that they were having an exhilarating time and they did. Elizabeth and Michael rode the banana boat where some of the riders fell off, including Elizabeth. But it was fun. Most of the group participated at the barbecue on the beach which they thoroughly enjoyed: Broiled Ribs, Burgers, Hot dogs, etc., along with games and great fun at the beach. Day 4. Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrival 9:00am Departure 5:00pm -- Elizabeth and her family visited the Enchanted Gardens and climbed the spectacular Dunn's River Fall; Paige went horse back riding along the beach; Nicolas went shopping for the delicious Blue Mountain coffee. Day 5. Georgetown, Grand Cayman -- Arrival 8:00am Departure 5:00pm -- Here many in our group took the Stingray City Swim and Snorkel Excursion. They enjoyed feeding and petting the friendly stingrays.  Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrival 10:00am Departure 7:00pm (Scheduled); however, the ship departed four hours late (unexplained reasons). Here Laura had a beautiful experience Scuba Diving in one of the world's most spectacular sites, diving in underwater grottos and admiring amazing coral formations. Naturally, everybody went shopping for bargains. SUGGESTIONS Elizabeth complained about the long lines at the buffet in the Windjammer, especially the first day at lunch, after embarkation, and on port days at breakfast between 8:00 and 9:00 o'clock. Our suggestion is cruisers should anticipate the lines of people at critical times and plan accordingly. We rarely encounter any lines on this or other cruises, since on the first day, if possible, we take an early lunch and on port days, we usually order our breakfast in the stateroom or go to the dining room where there is very little waiting. Our daughters-in-law, Paige and Laura suggested that a ship's area or playroom should be dedicated to children under 3 supervised by their parents. It seems that older children have places and programs dedicated to them, but nothing is available for younger babies. We have noticed that more and more families cruise with babies, so it is appropriate to dedicate some facilities to them. CONCLUSION We had a great cruise, even though on this trip we did not take any shore excursion or participate in many on board activities. We did see the "Planet Ice" show and strolled a few times in the Royal Promenade, but overall we had relaxation and enjoyed our family, especially the grand children. Of course we are going to cruise again on the Explorer or any other RCI ships, especially the new ones. We love new ships and the feeling of discovering them. We have already booked a cruise on the Serenade in December and another on the Mariner in February, while in between we'll be cruising on the new Costa Mediterranea. Happy Cruising!

Read More
  • New

Aug 30, 2003

Western Caribbean

I'm so tired of hearing everyone whine!!!! I looked on some other reviews and I just can't stand it. We just came back from the Explorer of the Seas and now are planning to take the 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise onboard Adventure in May. We have never had so much fun in our lives. I believe that a cruise is what you make of it and it sounds like a lot of people don't make the most of it. They complain about the food, which is the most

pettiest thing ever to complain about. Hello, it's just food. Plus I thought the food was absolutely amazing. Considering what we eat at home is basically Chicken or Chicken. My husband and I are best friends and do everything together. We love to party and that's what we did on this cruise. The Chamber dance club was packed every night. We stayed up until about 3am every night. We met up with a couple at the end of our cruise and ended up staying up until 4:30am on our last night. Which left me tired and hung over the next morning for disembarkation. That stunk. All I have to say is I LOVE ROYAL CARIBBEAN! and I LOVE EXPLORER OF THE SEAS! Everything about this cruise was the best. Another thing I can't stand is when people complain about such things like lines. Hello, there are over 3,000 people on this ship, there's going to be lines at times. So just sit back and relax, your on vacation!!!! Oh and another complaint I saw was about the carpet being warn. Duh, 3,000 people trek all over it every week, they can't change it every week. Stop looking at the carpet and enjoy yourselves!!! Anyway, if anyone has any questions, we really researched this and we're researching our next cruise so just email us with questions!

Read More

By Ara_CR

  • New

Aug 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our family’s first cruise. My wife and I, our two daughters (16 and 15) and our son (13) flew from Philadelphia to Miami the day of the departure. The flight out of Philadelphia was delayed two and one-half hours, which meant that we did not get to Miami until 1:30 PM. Even with a delay, the luggage for three of us did not arrive in Miami with our flight. We got to the terminal at 3:00 Pm and boarded the ship at 3:45 PM, which

was too late to grab a bite to eat at the Windjammer. After the muster drill, and Bon Voyage, we freshened up and went to eat at our early seating (6:00 PM), very hungry and a little nervous over whether we would get our luggage. After dinner we were relieved to have all of our luggage (the missing pieces made it on a 4:00 PM flight and US Air delivered it to the ship terminal). This experience was the only bad part of our entire week. I won’t go into too much detail about the ship – enough reviews at this website do that. Even after reading many of these reviews, we were amazed at the sheer size of the Explorer. It took a good three days just to get to know your way around. The Royal Promenade in the middle of the ship is amazing. We found the Schooner Bar on the 4th deck to be our favorite, we spent a few evenings there at the piano bar, and our children were able to join us also (when they were not occupied with the youth activities hosted by RC). We chose Explorer of the Seas based on recommendations by friends who have cruised on the Voyager class size ships. It was big enough to host activities for people with many different interests. Bingo, line dancing, art auctions, karaoke and bridge tournaments were offered all during the week. The two parades and the two midnight buffets were also great. It is also big enough to handle 3200 passengers without feeling crowded. The only line we had to wait in was for the excursions early in the week. Cabin: Since we were a party of 5, we had two rooms – 9552, a D9 outside stateroom with balcony and an inside stateroom across the hall. The bonus was that the inside stateroom was handicapped accessible, so it had a much larger bathroom. The balcony stateroom was fantastic- I don’t know if I would ever cruise again without one. We would read out there in the morning, and sit and watch the moon there at night. The closets and storage areas were plenty of space for all of our stuff. Our stateroom attendant, Elliott, was fantastic; he even cleaned up after our children who usually left things out on the floor. Our children especially liked the towel animals that appeared when we were at dinner. Food: I’ve read that the food on Royal Caribbean cruises is about average --- we had no complaints, and found some items to be well above average. The themed dinners were very good, especially the soups and desserts. The lobster, prime rib, and the lamb entrees were excellent. Our favorite deserts were the key lime pie, Tiramisu, warm chocolate cake and the grand marnier soufflé. Dennis, our waiter, was the highlight of our trip. He made us feel very at ease, and even though he was hustling to wait on 4 tables, he always took the time for us. Our son usually had two entrees each evening. Dennis even had a few magic tricks and brain teasers for us, and our children looked forward to seeing him every night. Our bar server, Waldemann, was also a favorite of mine. By Wednesday, he would be off to get my Vodka tonic before I even took my seat at the table. He was also a very good salesman with the Loving Cup after dinner drinks. Lunches at the Windjammer and Johnny Rockets were very good. We had breakfast in the Windjammer a few times, and it is standard buffet fare. The Island grill in the back of the Windjammer has omelet stations, and a great view out the stern of the ship. Breakfasts in the main dining room were usually the best, and the menu in the main dining area for breakfast is the same every day. There are also soft serve ice cream stations at different places around the ship, which were used quite often by our children. Shows/ Entertainment: We missed two of the shows early in the week, but the Welcome Aboard show with Gordon, our cruise director was very good. Later in the week, the Qwest scavenger hunt was very funny, and the closing night with Carl Strong, a comedian, was hilarious. The Love and Marriage game show was also fun. I read on this website that the ice show is not to be missed, and I whole-heartedly agree. How they can do that much skating - on a rink that is about 1/8 the size of a regular rink - is hard to believe. Our Children participated in the Adventure Ocean Program on the “at sea” days and at night. This program had activities such as skating at the ice rink, rock wall competitions, ping-pong competitions, etc. Our daughters enjoyed being at “Optix”, the teen disco for 14 to 17 year olds. Some nights, they did not return to their rooms until 1:30 AM or 2:00 AM. Our son was not as excited over his activities for the 12 to 14 year olds, but I think that had more to do with his interests rather than RC’s activities. The ship has a curfew of midnight for all children under 18, unless they are in Optix. Ports of Call: We are not big shoppers, so we did not enjoy the vendors in Haiti, Jamaica or even Cozumel. We really were not in the market for anything of great value, so we window-shopped a little, and our children bought T-Shirts in every port. They especially enjoyed Del Sol in Georgetown, where everything in the store changes color when it is exposed to sunlight. For those that are shoppers, RC does a great job televising their “shopping expert” who explains in great detail what to look for in each port, and where the best deals are. Day One – At Sea – If you want a spot by the pool, get there early, we found a lot of deck chairs reserved. We got there at 9:30, and we had trouble finding 5 near each other. The only thing I would recommend for the “at sea” days is an insulated can cooler for beer cans (if you are a beer drinker) or an insulated mug for water/beer/soda. Day two – Labadee, Haiti – This was a nice beach day – the snorkeling was not that good, except my son and I enjoyed seeing the airplane wreck on the bottom of one cove (it is the cove to the left as you face the island from the ship- it is marked with an orange buoy). The beaches on the far side of the island had better waves and were less crowded. The buffet lunch fare provided by the ship was the only below average meal on the trip. The barbecued ribs and hamburgers were not that good; the chicken was average. The market vendors were too pushy, but we were prepared for that. Our son bought a hand made box for $15, and the starting price for it was $45. I bought a few Cuban cigars to smoke on the trip, and found the prices to be competitive with cigar prices in later ports of call. Our daughters had their hair braided for $50 each. Day Three – Ocho Rios, Jamaica – We signed up for an excursion through RC prior to our departure to Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove – price wise, it would have been cheaper to get a cab and pay admission to these places, but we were a little concerned based on some of the things we heard about Jamaica. Dunn’s River Falls was very crowded, but we enjoyed it. Walking in the river pools was nice since it was so hot. The market area at Dunn’s falls again had pushy vendors, but if you keep your eyes forward and keep walking, they won’t bother you too much. Dolphin cove was also nice to see, but we should have signed our children up for the Dolphin encounter. The encounter allows people to get in the water over your waist and wade with the Dolphins. We could not upgrade our tickets while we were there since it was already booked up. I would recommend this trip, and if you want the Dolphin encounter, book it ahead of time with RC. Day Four – Georgetown, Grand Cayman- We booked a half-day trip thru the internet with Captain Marvin’s to snorkel at the Coral Gardens, the Reef and then onto stingray city. I would recommend this trip – we only had 25 people on our boat, and the captain and his mate created some great photo opportunities with the sting rays. The snorkeling at each location was excellent – we saw an eel, stingrays and many colorful fish. An independent video-grapher was aboard for the trip, and he was selling DVD’s of the trip for $60. You order the video and it comes in the mail two weeks after your trip. He dove with us and videoed everyone snorkeling and holding the stingrays. There is no audio– the video is set to Caribbean music – we previewed it on the boat without sound and I would recommend it. Grand Cayman was our favorite stop on the cruise. Day Five – Cozumel, Mexico – At the last minute we booked the RC “Discover Scuba” excursion for the five of us. It was outstanding – none of us ever tried scuba diving, and the crew at Sanddollar sports (within view of the ship) did a great job of training us and then taking us on a ½ hour dive. Unfortunately, we had to split up since they only do it in groups of 4, so my wife went with a gentleman and his two children. Pancho, our guide, was excellent, he showed us eels, and picked up a stingray. My wife got to see an Octopus in her group. We were in about 25 feet of water for the dive. Day Six – at sea – a nice day to unwind from everything – the Calypso band at the pool was great. We also found the chairs in the shade towards the stern end of the pool area to be the most comfortable – it was a hot day, and there was a nice breeze blowing back there. We also participated in the adult dodge ball tournament and our children participated in the rock climbing competition. RC did a great job of creating events near the pool on the two “at sea” days to keep you entertained – if you want to avoid them, you can always walk over to the Solarium Pool for adults only, which is much quieter. Day Seven – Disembarking – this was a breeze compared to boarding the ship – we left our stateroom at 8:00 AM, ate breakfast, heard our color, got our luggage and were in a cab by 9:00 AM. We were at the Miami airport by 9:20 AM. Summary The RC staff was excellent. Our children had a great time with the directors of the youth activities, and everyone we met was courteous and helpful. The entertainment was good, and we enjoyed the food. We purchased quite a few pictures of ourselves, especially the ones taken on the formal nights. Overall, we had a fantastic experience. Our children loved it. My wife and I really enjoyed having a stateroom with a balcony. In Cozumel, we were docked next to a Carnival ship, and we laughed when some of them shouted over to us, “Hey, can we trade ships, I want a balcony.” After seeing the Carnival ships in Cozumel, I don’t think I would cruise on anything but Royal Caribbean. We enjoyed the vacation of a lifetime.  

Read More
  • New

Jul 13, 2003

Eastern + Western Caribbean back to back

Month: July, 26th, 2003 14 day Eastern- and Western Caribbean cruise on Explorer of the Seas (back to back) Introduction Last year my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and I graduated from high school. To celebrate these events, my parents (now 54 and 52), my sister (now 21) and me (18) went on an ten day Eastern Caribbean cruise on Celebrity’s Millennium. We loved this ship and became addicted to cruising the

minute we stepped onboard. My review of this cruise can be found on http://www.cruisereviews.com and http://www.cruise-addicts.com . This year my sister graduated from college. We didn’t plan to go on another cruise though. What we originally wanted, was to visit two or three islands in Greece (we live in Holland, the one in Europe, not the Michigan version!). But this turned out to be almost impossible. My father mentioned: “Then we might as well cruise through the Mediterranean sea.” He shouldn’t have said this, because two seconds later I was surfing the internet looking for the options. We all liked a certain cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance, but it’s departure dates didn’t match our agendas. There was one on Millennium as well, but we all wanted to try a different ship and cruise line this time. Don’t get me wrong, Millennium is a fantastic ship, but we just wanted to try something else. Then a 14 day Eastern- and Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer caught our eyes. It visited 9 different ports (including Miami) of which we had seen only two on the previous cruise. After convincing my mom that a big ship isn’t all bad (on their honeymoon, my parents cruised the Mediterranean on a, for nowadays standards, tiny little cruise ship) , the cruise was booked. Then the time for preparing came. I really think I have read all the reviews and seen every single picture of the ship available on the internet. Arriving in Miami From Amsterdam, we flew to Miami on KLM. I am over 6 foot tall, so there was very little leg room for me on this 9 hour flight, but hey, we’re on vacation! The real fun began when we finally reached Miami. First there was the immigration line, in which we waited for 45 minutes. Of course, we managed to find the slowest (or perhaps most thorough?) immigration officer of the airport. Then, after several passport checks and x ray-machines, we reached the baggage hall. What a mess! There were people everywhere. It was awfully crowded. Somehow, we managed to spot our luggage. So, after another 15 minutes in another line, we found ourselves a cab. It took us 1.45 hours to get from the airplane to the cab. Well done Miami! I don’t know what Ft. Lauderdale’s airport is like, but I can’t imagine it being worse than Miami International, so please, if you have the choice, choose Ft. Lauderdale. We came two days prior to our embarkation, so we stayed in the Four Points Sheraton in Miami Beach, the same hotel as last year. This wasn’t because we liked this hotel so much, but because it was the only option for us. The hotel itself is good, the rooms are huge, with all the amenities. However, the service is not what you would expect it to be like, and the food is expensive and not very good. Thank god the Fountainblue Hilton is next door, so this is where we went for breakfast. Amazing! So, after a day of buying the unavoidable Gap’s and Abercrombie’s (yawn!), it was time to go to bed and prepare for the embarkation on Saturday. Embarkation We took a taxi from our hotel to the port of Miami. We could get a clear view of all the ships in the port. Of course, there was the Explorer with its sister ship Navigator of the seas, Carnival Glory and another Carnival ship, but I don’t know which one. We arrived at about 11.00. We filled out our Bahamas immigration forms, went through some x-rays and then went over to the “check in”. Needless to say, we ended up with the slowest, least experienced employee, but who cares. We received our sea-passes and my parents declared in writing that I was allowed to drink beer and wine. Then, after having taken our embarkation picture, that wasn’t even that awful, we stepped on board on deck 4 forward. After all it took us about 45 minutes to embark, but if we had had a more experienced employee checking us in, it would have been faster. All in all, the embarkation was a lot more efficient then on the Millennium. Now, let’s go check out our staterooms! The Stateroom My sister and I shared an interior stateroom on deck 6 (6647). It was a very cozy cabin, with 2 single beds, a sofa, a desk with hairdryer and tons of storage space. The bathroom was not very large, but its layout was very clever, so we didn’t mind. The shower had a sliding door, not the sticky shower curtains that I heard are on other ships. Our stateroom had lots of mirrors, so I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. In fact, my sister and I would close the curtains at night, so that the room was divided into 2. Also, there was an interactive television that could be rotated, so it was possible to watch TV from bed, as well as from the couch. My parents had an exterior stateroom with a private balcony (6638), that was actually very private. More private than the ones on Millennium. Now that we’re talking about the balconies, I have a little suggestion: If you want a balcony, choose deck 7 or higher. These balconies have a glass “window”, so that the view is even better. All the exterior cabins on deck 6 had a steel “window” that you can’t see through. It didn’t bother them, but it’s something you could keep in mind. The cabin itself had a large bed (I don’t know if it’s queen- or king-size). Their cabin was a bit larger than ours, and my parents loved it. Our stateroom attendant was called Teddy and he was very good. We loved the towel animals he made for us. My sister’s formal Shanghai-dress got some stains on it on the way over, so she gave it to him the first day, and got it back the next afternoon, spotless and right in time for the captain’s cocktail. The Captain(s) As I said, we did two different cruises. Coincidentally, we had a different captain the second week. Our captain on the Eastern itinerary was Ole Johan Grønhaug (or something like that) from Norway. He would talk to the passengers every day through the PA-system. On the next cruise, Carlos Pedercini from Argentina was our captain. He was the youngest captain of the fleet. He was a bit less “outgoing” than Ole, but I heard some crew members say that Carlos was friendlier to the crew. After the cocktail party, it was time to go to the theatre, to see “History Repeating”. The Entertainment The Entertainment on Explorer is simply amazing. The theatre is called “The Palace” and it is huge, with a capacity of about 1250. There were 2 production shows, the first one called “History Repeating”, the second one was “Fast Forward”. I loved History repeating, which is a journey through the centuries. Fast Forward was something like a tribute to all the famous dance movies like Footloose, Dirty Dancing etc. I didn’t like this show as much as the first one, but I went to see it again the second week anyway. All the guest entertainers were wonderful as well. Our fantastic cruise director was Gordon Whatman from the United Kingdom. He is a great guy, but he should stop his irritating giggle. This man was everywhere, all the time. I wondered if he ever slept. There were lots of bands all over the ship, even on the Promenade. The Promenade The center of the ship is definitely the Royal Promenade on deck 5. It is a beautiful, 4 deck high street, with lots of terraces and people to watch. On each side of the promenade were atriums that were about 10 decks high. The whole concept of the promenade works, it is fabulous. There was a lot of jewelery to be found here, as well as a souvenir shop, an arcade, a sports bar, an entrance to the casino on deck 4. All the way forward on the starboard side of the promenade is the café promenade. This is the place to get those to-die-for chocolate chip cookies. They also had some terrific pizzas, croissants and sandwiches 24 hours a day. Right in the middle of the promenade on port side was the Crown and Kettle’s pub. This is were we would go before dinner to eat popcorn and have something to drink, while watching the people go by. The People Both of our cruises were fully booked, which means there were approximately 3700 passengers onboard, of which there were, hold on, a thousand(!) kids. They didn’t really bother us though, except for the fact that they would sometimes hang out in the elevators. I think about 95 percent of the passengers was from the United States. However, we did come across some other Dutch people the second week. They were also doing a back-to-back cruise, so we could tell them about the ports of call. The Ports of Call San Juan, Puerto Rico: We arrived in San Juan at about 2 pm. Celebrity’s Galaxy was docked next to us. We did a 2.5 hour old and new San Juan bus tour. It was nice, to be driven around in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus. We also visited the fortress, which offered some great views of the harbor. After our tour it was time for shopping. I read about a Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren outlet store. These store were not very interesting though. After a refreshing drink, we returned to the ship, since it was time to go to dinner. The Galaxy was gone, but now Celebrity’s Century was our neighbor. We sailed at 8 pm. Philipsburg, St. Maarten: We had been to St. Maarten last year as well. We rented a jeep then and drove around the island, visiting the French side (Marigot) as well. This time we docked at about 8 am. Disney’s Magic was already there. We took the water taxi to town, which will set you back 5 dollars per person. First my mother wanted to visit an old colleague of hers. (she works for the Dutch government and St. Maarten is Dutch). Then we visited the tiny courthouse. There is a hotel called Holland House in Philipsburg, where they sell a traditional Dutch dish called Bitterballen. We had some of those, and they were very good. By now the time was right for an old hobby of the female part of the family: Shopping! First we bought about EVERYTHING in the Tommy Hilfiger store. I bought a digital photo camera here as well. It was about 150 dollars cheaper here than in Holland, so that was a good deal. After having bought several postcards and having lunch with a colleague of my dad, we headed back to our home away from home, the beautiful Explorer. It was a great day. Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas: We had been here last year as well. We did a 3 hour bus tour around the island then. When we saw Magen’s Bay, my mother said that if she ever came back, she would go to this beach, which is supposed to be one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. So, 1 year later, here we are. We took a taxi, and headed for the beach, which was beautiful. Everything was ridiculously expensive, since the Explorer, Disney Magic and Radisson Diamond were in. Nassau, Bahamas: We had been to Nassau before, on a land-based vacation. We arrived at noon. Carnival Fantasy, Sovereign of the seas and Disney Wonder were already in by then. When we got off the ship, we started looking for a regular bus that would take us to the hotel were we stayed then. This is a lot cheaper than using a taxi. We paid 1 dollar per person for a half an hour ride. After having drinks in this hotel, we proceeded to Paradise Island to see the Atlantis resort. If you like a small, intimate hotel, this place would drive you crazy. It was huge and there were people everywhere. The aquarium was spectacular though. We all decided we didn’t like this hotel. We felt that the Atlantis resort made Paradise Island loose most of its old charm. The last time we shopped was now 2 days ago, so it was time to catch up. There used to be a straw-market in Nassau, but the place burned down, so they moved it. There were about a 100 shops, all selling the same stuff. After having visited the 5 star Hilton hotel, we went back onboard. Century had joined us by now, so there were now 5 ships. What a beautiful sight. Miami, Florida: Arriving in Miami meant the end of the vacation for most people, but we would stay on board for another week. It was necessary for us to go through U.S. Immigration, even though we didn’t want to get off. We had to wait for over 2 hours before everyone finally got off the ship, wasting those “quiet hours at the pool” we had been looking forward to during the first week. We sailed at 5.15 pm. Labadee, Haiti: Labadee is RCCL’s private peninsula of Haiti. It is a beautiful place, the ship is anchored in a bay, and there are tenders to get you to the beach. The problem is that this place is CROWDED. There are 3700 people trying to find a spot on the beaches. We did manage to find some beach chairs. My parents booked two floating beach mats, for 10 bucks each. They were great, except for the fact that there was very little space for swimming, because even in the sea it was full of people. At 1 pm, my mother and I decided to go back to the ship, since there would be no one there. We waited for hours in the tender before it finally was full, and after a quick swim we headed straight to Johnny Rockets for a delicious, low calorie lunch (sure). Ocho Rios, Jamaica: Ja Mon, today’s Jamaica day. The ship docks in Ocho Rios, where basically, there is nothing to do. My sister and I did a tour in a 4x4 vehicle, with zebra striping. It was nice, even though we didn’t see many sights. But thank god there was complimentary rum punch. It was a fun day, and Jamaica is a beautiful island with a very friendly population. My parents went on a tour to some sort of plantation. It sounded a bit boring, but they really enjoyed themselves. I would love to go back to Jamaica some time. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman is a real shoppers paradise. There are thousands of diamonds, rings and Rolex watches to be found here. We bought some t-shirts, and drank coffee while overlooking the port. Carnival’s Sensation was our neighbor today. We went back onboard at about 1.30 pm, to spend another relaxing day at the pool. Grand Cayman is not a very interesting port if you are not into stingray’s. If you are, it’s supposed to be fabulous. Cozumel, Mexico: Cozumel was one of the ports of call we had been looking forward to the most. We booked the Tulum Express tour, a 6.5 hour tour that takes you to the old Maya Ruins on the continent. First we boarded a very comfortable air-conditioned ship that took us to playa del Carmen. Then there was a bus waiting for us that took us to Tulum. When we finally arrived, there were some lines waiting for us. Then our guide said that in order to film the ruins, you had to pay 8 dollars. We thought this was absolutely ridiculous. We paid 4 times 75 dollars for this excursion, and then they ask you to pay for your video! It was well over 90 degrees that day, and there was hardly any shade in Tulum. So after having walked around a little bit, we decided we had seen it and visited the local Subway. After the inevitable souvenirs, we went back to the bus, which would take us back to playa del Carmen. They served something they called lunch on the way back, but compared to the food on the ship, it was simply inedible. In Playa del Carmen there was a very small, open boat waiting for us. There was quite a lot of wind, and the sea was pretty rough as well, so the ride was rather bumpy. Like this wasn’t enough, the rain started pouring down, so we were all soaking wet as well. This tiny boat dropped us off in the center of Cozumel. Result: We had to pay another five bucks for a taxi- ride back to the explorer. There were three other ships as well: Carnival’s Jubilee, Inspiration and Sensation. That night our cruise director said: “we were like a rose in between thorns”. We were all very, very disappointed with this day. We had been traveling for over 4 hours, in order to see some ruins for 2 hours. It was definitely NOT worth the money. The ruins are great when you’re on vacation in Playa del Carmen. From Cozumel it is just not worth the effort. When we finally went on board again (for the last time), we quickly showered to prepare for dinner. The Food In general, I thought the food was very good on the Explorer. We had dinner in the Main Dining room every night. The dining room was very pretty. We requested a table for four and the main seating. However, we were assigned to a table for six on both cruises. Our tablemates were all very nice though, so we didn’t really mind. Our Waiter and his assistant were fantastic. We had Rajesh Ballah from India and Nicholas from South-Africa. We liked them so much that we wanted them again the second week. Our Maitre d’ (Harry Simons from Jamaica, great guy) arranged this for us. We thoroughly enjoyed dinner every night. The food was very good, however, the food on Millennium was slightly better. The service was great though. My sister loved the Insalata Caprese, so after asking our Head Waiter, she had this salad every day. I liked having breakfast in the dining room the most. It is a very relaxed way to start your day. We also tried the Windjammer, which had a breakfast buffet. This was very good as well. Explorer vs. Millennium Both ships are pretty large, but somehow, the Millennium is a totally different ship. The ship’s interior is a less stunning than the Explorer’s, but is a little more elegant. Celebrity seemed to attract different people as well. We had very, very many children on the Explorer. Millennium’s service is better and so is its food. Also, you won’t find yourself dancing the Macarena during dinner on the Millennium. On the other hand, the Explorer’s entertainment is a lot better. There is a lot more to do, and the promenade is fantastic. From the outside as well as the inside, I think the Explorer is prettier than Millie. My parents disagreed with me, though. However, you’re sure to have a good time on both ships. Final thoughts · Royal Caribbean’s ships can be easily recognized by their Viking Crown lounge. On most ships, this lounge is used for observation during the day, while at night it is transformed into a disco. On Explorer, there are a sports bar, a jazz club, a card-playing room and something I didn’t manage to find out what it was for. Most of the time, including the evenings, there was almost no-one here. The whole lounge was redundant. I would advise the cruise-line to move the disco to the Viking Crown Lounge again in the future. · The pool towel service is not as good as on the Millennium. You find two towels in your stateroom that you can change at poolside. There are no towels provided at the pool. This way, it was impossible to get a second towel. Also, the towels didn’t excel in cleanliness. · Does a ship sailing the Caribbean year round need an ice skating rink? Conclusion We had a fantastic time, and would love to cruise again on Royal Caribbean. The Explorer of the seas is a beauty, and doesn’t look that much larger than other ships on the outside. I never felt crowded, but I thought it was pretty difficult to find a spot for yourself. I didn’t describe all the public areas. For a very detailed description of these areas, please visit Passenger ship parade, at http://psp.club.tip.nl . It’s a fantastic site by another Dutch person, that features some ship tours of new ships as well. This review was quite extensive, but I hope I provided you a lot of useful information. If you have any further questions, or you disagree with me on some point, please let me know. My e-mail address is [email protected] Martijn Nathan

Read More
  • New

Jul 10, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

About me: Hi my name is Ryan and I love cruises. I have been on a total of 3 cruises, I went on the carnival Sensation when I was in 5th grade, I went on carnival victory when I was 15, and on my most recent cruise I went on Explorer of the seas. I like to think of my self as a party animal. I love athletics and I love meeting new people. That’s one of the main reasons I liked this ship so much. About my ship: The ship I went

on is on of 4 of the largest ships royal Caribbean has at sea right now, Explorer Of The Seas. It has a rock climbing wall, an ice skating rink, and even a full-length basketball court, not to mention the small putt-putt golf course and tiny roller blading track. It is a 138,000 ton ship and I believe it is the largest ship in service right now besides its sister ships. Day 1; Well my family and I took the long 13-hour drive from Virginia to Miami Florida where the port is to get on this huge ship. Once we finally got there, (very early) we went through the long process of getting on the ship. You have to fill out forms and go through metal detector after metal detector (its all worth it) but I didn’t mind because it’s for our safety. Now the rules on the ship are you have to be 18 to drink alcoholic beverages. But like I said I am a party animal so as quick as I could get on the ship I had a corona in my hand. I think being able to drink on a cruise is a huge part of the fun, plus my parents didn’t mind as long as I didn’t get busted. To get alcohol on the cruise was ridiculously easy, if you had cash you could ask anyone to buy you some and they would, but I will let you know right now they charge an arm and a leg for beverages. I had my parents buy me a coke card, for 20 bucks so whenever I wanted a drink I just showed the bartender my card and wham! He gave me a coke for free. I saved my money’s worth on that card because I must have drunk 10 tons of coke. Pretty much the first day of a cruise you just walk around and get a feel for the ship, as well as go through the pane staking process of putting on your life jacket and sitting around for a while. But once again it’s for your safety so it didn’t bother me. I totally ditched my parents until dinnertime. I met a couple of guys that I decided to hang out with for most of the cruise, because after you meet some guys, you have no trouble meeting the ladies, which I may say were in a surfeit. (There were tons of girls my age) At the end of the day I went back to my room and got ready for dinner at 8 30 with my parents where I met my wader Dublin, he was awesome and he needed to be because we tip him. I don’t remember what was for dinner but I do remember it was great; there wasn’t a thing on the menu that I didn’t like. But you must ask what do you do after dinner its only 9 30 ish…. Well let me tell you I went to the basketball court, I love basketball, and there’s nothing like tearing up a bunch of rich kids on the basketball courts. But there’s one thing I hate about royal Caribbean cruises, and it’s how they do the clubs. I love to dance but I got stuck in the 15 to 17-club optics, which was a tiny mini club that was suitable for the 10 year olds. I know carnival is 16 and up for the club and that makes it a lot more fun, but I wanted to have a good time and I wanted to manage with what I had. I had met some girls the first night and danced a little bit but no one else would dance. It felt weird being the only guy with a bunch of girls on the dance floor. But I realized I could drink and once you have taken a few drinks you really don’t care. That night I went to bed around 3 30 in the morning and it was only the first night, I got a little drunk but it was worth it because I had a blast. By the way the beds were very comfortable. Day2: Day 2 was great it was a day at sea, and nothing is better than a day at sea. Those are my favorite days on the ship. Like I said earlier I am a ladies man but most of the girls would just lie out during the day and bake in the sun for hours. So I decided to go find the guys I had hung out with the night before and I wanted to find some competition on the basketball courts. Burn some of those calories I had gotten from all the eating. So I got all my basketball gear on and headed for the courts, where I found it impossible to make a shot because it was so windy. So I had to manage with the wind, but we got some full court basketball games going where my boys and I strait dominated. So while all the girls tanned we played basketball. The next thing you know dinner is getting under way, but I decided to skip the second night and go to Johnny Rockets, its this little pub where everything is like the 60’s and you get free hamburgers and stuff like that. It was great, and I didn’t even have to dress up. Now like I said before the night before club Optics was kind of boring and there weren’t many people there. So my friends and I went around and told all the girls to go the club that night. They all showed up, and I danced the night away! It was so much fun and I met 2 girls I kind of liked. So I did the usual tried to get with both of them. But in the end you have to pick one cause you can’t mess with a girl’s head. But I had split a couple sixers with a guy named mark. It was buy 6 beers and get the 6th one free. That was a whopping 20 dollars, but we split the price. I am not a big drinker but man a couple of beers can loosen you all up. I didn’t get to bed until about 4 or 5 that morning but it was amazing. Day 3: Day 3 we made a nice little pit stop in Puerto Rico. I will admit I just wanted to get drunk at senor frogs. So my parents took me there where I drank a margarita and some kind of Spanish beer but it was good. I went back to the ship and played basketball while my family kept on shopping, where my mom got some real expensive earrings. I was a little tipsy but I still wanted to play basketball. I had a great time, but I was looking forward to dinner that night, where I had New York style steak with this awesome sauce, one word, yummy. The word had gotten around to all the teens that club Optics had become pretty cool. I will take all the credit. So next thing you know it all the 18 year olds are trying to sneak in to club optics where we were all dancing and I was trying to decide which of these 2 girls I had met I liked better. The girl’s could dance and the music was great for the most part. It seemed like the club could have been a little cooler, I mean you would think the ship would target the teenage kids more than anyone. I made the best with what I had, and I took one of the girls to the very top deck where we laid down and looked at the stars until the wee hours in the morning, I will admit the deck crew is kind of annoying when your trying to get a romantic moment going, but they mean well, so I was off to bed to get ready for the next pit stop. Day 4: Was in St. Thomas or was St. martin, I don’t know I get them confused, but we went on the golden eagle catamaran, for our excursion. We had done it before along time ago and had a great time so we decided to do it again. Boy was it fun, they had all you could drink for free, and you know I took advantage of that. After that I was actually pretty tired so I went back to the boat and took a little nap, before I went to the basketball courts. But to my surprise they had a little camp for kids out there taking up the whole court. So I decided to give the putt-putt a try. I would have enjoyed playing with some of the girls, but getting them to stop tanning is like trying to get Bill Clinton to stop lying. I had fun playing golf and it was time to get ready for dinner, and the night life, dinner was once again not a let down. Food was good, but I think it was formal night, so we had to take a bunch of pictures for my family. I looked spiffy, but I felt under dressed because some people had on tuxedos, oh well I had fun, but was looking forward to the nightlife. Which was the best. The lady who runs club optics kind of gets teens together to do things as a group kind of like a camp but they never really worked out, but one night she announces the club wont let you in unless you where a toga. I thought that was a great idea, so I go back to my room with one of the girls I had met to make a toga out of my bed sheets, my toga was the best, I was rocking the cape and the whole get up. Every one said mine was the best. I hope so. That night I had managed to borrow my dads card which said I was an adult over 21, so I could buy all the alcohol I wanted, which I did and I got trashed and had an awesome time. I mean I had no worries I was on a boat. Days 5-7 Well these last days consisted of a lot of clubbing, partying, drinking, and a little bit of fun my parents shouldn’t know about. Dinner was great every night, and the club got better and better as the cruise went on; I didn’t want to get off the ship for my life! I had made such great friends and even found one girl I kind of like and am still talking to, but I got all the e mail addresses and phone numbers to keep in touch. Getting off the boat: I hated leaving the ship, not because I had the best time ever but because it took forever. The line to get through customs took forever, getting bags took forever, and everything took along time. So you ask was it worth it? It was totally worth it I have never had so much fun in my entire life. I am a senior in high school now and am planning my next big cruise on carnival Conquest, so if you know anything about that ship let me know. Highlights: Basketball court Drinking Clubbing Freedom Food The people who worked wanted to be there. And it made me happy to see them happy, and all of them always remember your name, till the last day when we left. You leave a lot of memories on the ship, but I know I enjoyed traveling with Royal Caribbean, but to set the record strait that royal Caribbean is way better than carnival. From a teenage point of view there very equal, maybe if royal Caribbean were cheaper it would have more teenagers on it, so for a teenager I would say ride on carnival, I mean the old people can always buy you drinks. But I had a blast I hope you enjoyed my story. Please feel free to send me some E-mail’s. Sorry I had to cut it short.

Read More
  • New

Jun 21, 2003

Western Caribbean

This vacation was number five with Royal Caribbean. It was our 5th visit to this part of the world so we knew what to expect. There were, however, a few changes. Boarding was much slower and the lines were longer. There appeared to be a significant reduction in the amount of personnel for the check-in process. The Explorer of the Seas was beautiful. We had previously sailed happily on the Voyager, but our last cruise aboard the Sovereign

was much to our dismay so we were somewhat apprehensive. No need to worry. The ship was clean and the employees were extremely friendly. We did not book any of the advertised excursions. Our experience has told us they are over-rated and over-priced. We prefer to leisurely walk around and investigate for ourselves. Sunday: Although the signs told us the ship was fully booked it did not appear crowded inside the ship. The pool area was busy but there were plenty of chairs for the sun lovers. Monday: Labadee was beautiful as usual. There was plenty of room, sunshine and food for everyone. TUESDAY: This was our big day and the main reason for writing this review. Normally, we would leave the ship and simply walk around Ocho Rios. Not being the athletic type, we had no real interest in climbing a falls or swimming with any type of fish. Frankly, Jamaica was not the highlight of our previous trips. We decided, however, that we might find a tour guide that would take us around the "real" Jamaica and avoid the tourist traps. After tearing ourselves away from some of the extremely aggressive natives, we discovered Phenomenal Phil. In a polite and relaxed way he introduced himself and offered his services as a tour guide. There was something about Phil that was different from the others. After much discussion among our group we decided to take a chance. What a treat! Phil showed us the best time we have ever had in Jamaica. We saw the tourist sites, true lifestyles, great photogenic areas, native foliage, the craft area and great little shopping places. Phil entertained us all the way. He would take us into certain areas, point out the highlights, and allow us to determine how long we wanted to stay. He was punctual when he returned to get us and did not get upset when we lost one member of our group. He actually volunteered to locate him for us. We do plan to return to Jamaica and when we do, we will book Phenomenal Phil's services again. If you would like to contact Phil his website is www.geocities.com/ochorios4u . His true name is Phillip Layfayette and his company is Exquisite Tours and Golf. Just tell him Sam and Vickie sent you. Wednesday - Saturday: The rest of the trip was enjoyable as possible considering it rained in Grand Cayman and flooded in Cozumel. The only negative I can pinpoint on this vacation was the evening show. The entertainers did their best, but the two variety shows were not up to the caliber as those on other RCCL ships. The cruise comics were very funny and the special acts brought in were excellent.

Read More
  • New

May 17, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

This was the "Precious moments" cruise and over 1500 passengers, myself, my wife my parents, 2 aunts, an uncle, and my sister were on board her and in the precious moments group. Boy explorer was a great ship, we really really had a great time. Other reviewers have done a good job at describing the ship, so I too won't get into that. What I will focus on, is what went right, and unfortunately what went wrong. First Service

from the Royal Caribbean crew we had daily contact with was great. Jorge our waiter was great, he is a real asset to RCCL, but this was his last cruise onboard the Explorer as he will be sent to a west coast ship. Now employees we didn't have daily contact with, well that was another story. I never got my Cruise Critic party invitation or pin. On Sunday I asked in guest relations and two people didn't know anything about a cruise critic party, even though two others in my group were registered for it and got invitations. However precious moments activities got in the way of being able to attend. Getting to the ship from the airport was an exercise in hurry up and wait. We had paid for transfers ahead of time. We were met near the gate by a Royal Caribbean rep, and told to go to baggage claim 10, then come back to number 8. Well there was about 2000 people or more in the baggage claim area so it was very very crowded. once everyone in my group got our luggage, we made it back to station 8, and were told to go to station 1 and wait for the bus. Well beside station one there is a narrow passageway where passengers arriving to get their bags are all coming in to the area. Well the rep had us and everyone else going on the explorer wait in the passageway, so it was very crowded , and I can't count how many times I was run into or hit with a carry on bag. Mind you our flight got in at 10:15. By 2:00 we were still waiting in the airport as RCCL didn't have enough busses to get everyone to the ship. Next time we will take others advice and come in the night before and stay overnight in a hotel and make our way to the ship on our own by 11:00am. Now the major problem, and I'm not sure who dropped the ball, or even who to point fingers at, but it was a MAJOR MAJOR problem, that could either be caused by RCCL, Enesco or Indian River travel. That was SEATING in the main dining room. Here is what happened: Saturday: My sea pass card had me assigned to table 323 in the magellen dining room, but my wife was assigned a table in the DE Gama dining room. Meanwhile the rest of my party was (the other 6 people) were assigned to table 4xx something. My dad and I went and talked with the head waiter shortly after getting on board, and assured us dinner would be "open" seating and to sit as a group. No problem. Let me just make a point, weeks before the cruise we were asked by Indian River Travel our seating preferences, how many people traveling with us and the names of the people we needed to sit with. NOT!!!! What actually happened: People like us showed up as a group, sat at the table assigned to the rest of our party. Well what happened was people did the same thing as us to get their parties together, while some people tried to sit where their sea pass assigned them, so there were LOTS of people unhappy with seating. Head waiters assured us Sundays seating would be fixed. SUNDAY: Woke up to realize not only had my wife and I been assigned the same table (great) but my parents and the rest of the party had also been reassigned and broken up. Unacceptable!!!! Again the head waiter said sit together. Again not only us but many many people had been reassigned all showed up tried to sit either in their reassigned seats, and many found people already sitting at their tables and again people were angry. MONDAY: Dean from Indian River travel talked with our group and others, got all of our names again (as well as other groups too) and we were assured by him and the head waiter that Monday night everything would be right. Nice try but NOT!!!. We got to our table now table 304 in magellen which we were all personally taken to by Dean found 2 people already sitting there. The people there had been reassigned 3 times and they were refusing to move. Finally dean had a word with them privately , and they reluctantly agreed to move once more. Once more my group was together again. Thank you Dean. TUESDAY: We were still together and had no more problems, but we heard from other people there were still problems. In Fact we heard there were still seating problems un until Wednesday night due to the fact not everyone got the message about being errantly assigned. But my party had no more problems. Through it all, the table waiters were great even though frustrated with the situation since they didn't know who their customers were. Jorge, our waiter was very outgoing and did his best with a difficult situation. In retrospect it seems Royal Caribbean didn't communicate to either Indian River or Enesco, or IR didn't communicate with RCCL before the cruise to discuss seating preferences. When people asked to be reassigned onboard it was handled, I assume such as a normal cruise when someone asks to be reassigned and the computer reassigned people, without regard to keeping groups together. I can understand this, Royal Caribbean can only do so much. IR and RCCL should have had pre cruise meetings to discuss seating when dealing with such a large group as the Precious moments cruisers. Oh well enough about dinner seating. The only other thing, was the water seemed very rough and the ship was rocking pretty good, sometimes things would fall off the counters in our stateroom. Not sure if anything could have been done, but even people who had been on several cruises said it was rougher this time than usual. I didn't get sick, neither did my wife who this was her first cruise. The food was all very good too. There was only a couple items in the main dining room that was less than excellent. Of course Portifino's was fabulous. Windjammer/Island Grill food was pretty good, better than some other reviewers have said I think. Ok shore excursions: We booked online about a month beforehand. The Baccardi rum tour was good in San Juan. And the Sea world Explorer land/sea tour of St Martin was real good too. Although if I had it to do again I wouldn't scheduled a tour in St Martin and had more time to shop there. In fact all the tours we took were very very good. I realize that the seating problems were more than likely caused due to the fact of the large group we were traveling with, and chances are anyone else cruising the Explorer would not run into those problems, but for us it was a big hassle. The week we spent on Explorer seemed too short now we are back home, but we are planning our next cruise. View our cruise pictures at: http://www.picturetrail.com/ohiofroggy

Read More
  • New

Apr 26, 2003

Western Caribbean

Simply an awesome experience. The ship is magnificent. The food and service were phenomenal. If you like beaches, Labadee was amazing. I could have done without Jamaica, Caymans were the best...We're planning next years trip. Our dinner waitress was sensational.

  • New

Apr 26, 2003

Western Caribbean

A simply amazing ship and it's very clean considering it's 2 years old. Some of the highlights are 1) the rock climbing wall- it was my first time and my arms and shoulders were sore for days afterwards but nevertheless do try it if you get the chance. 2) The Ice skating rink- such is technology that in the middle of the ocean you can skate. It was great to practice some spin moves but be aware the rental skates are very basic and you

will find yourself "ankle skating". They also had a excellent ice show on the rink called planet ice which is not to be missed, it's not accident that many of the skaters are Canadian. 3) the shows - from musical spectaculars to adult comedy the ship had it all. The only thing you have to watch for is schedule yourself for the shows as there many things going on, wine tasting, volleyball tournaments, etc. You can after all just lying back and do nothing after all that's what vacations are about but we are there to have fun but admittly near the end I spent more just sleeping around because I needed to rest. I only things to watch out for I would say is 1) The mattresses are awful and I was getting back aches in the morning, after I complained all they could do is put a piece of board underneath to firm it up a bit. Being in the home furnishing industry, I could see that RC spent some money on the interiors like Egyptian cotton towels, Cotswold blankets from the UK, etc. Too bad the couldn't get some better mattresses then those cot types in our cabins, I mean a bigger person who weighs 250lbs or more would sink half way to the floor. 2) The food- yes that's always subjective but I would say is was average and it sounded better then it was but that not to say they were some real surprises. For instance the shrimp cocktail was dry but I toke a chance on the lobster tail 2 days later it was great. This was surprising since most of the food is taken from the departure port of Miami and therefore is less fresh near the end of the cruise. Another disadvantage is that all cruise lines have, is that due to fire regulations there is no open flame and therefore no real grilling or BBQing. The buffets in general were again average that best, and could have used more selection. Good thing we brought our own hot sauce since, I expected a mostly bland taste which is what most people are use too. 3) the only other thing is the nickel and diming with RC. They are charge for liquor, bottled water and even soft drinks, good thing I gave drinking alcohol months ago! The tours on the Islands of Labadee, Ochos Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozemal Mexico are fine but be prepared to pay big time for activities and tours from the cruise lines. Overall I'd rate our trip 9- RC is perfect for families and couples. I meet a few people who told me that that they would never take a Carnival cruise and judging from seeing their ships at port- I think neither would I.

Read More
  • New

Mar 7, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Hopefully you are as excited as I was when waiting for your cruise. Here are some helpful hints for the Explorer of the Seas. Maybe you’ll like my review so much that you’ll print it and take it with you on the cruise. About us: We were with a group of 10 ranging in age from 17 to 87. My wife and I, both 30, love to see all that there is to see and will do many side trips without using the boat’s assigned tour groups. We also

enjoy shopping for about 15 minutes We also hate long lines. Overall Experience: Outstanding!! 9 stars out of 10!! We thought the Explorer was spectacular – and we had high expectations! It had very clean, classy, beautiful areas! We were always so proud in ports parked next to all the smaller, older boats. Boarding in Miami: They say 2 o’clock on your instructions, but they started boarding at 11:15 am!! Our rooms were ready for us as soon as we were onboard, and we had a nice lunch in an uncrowded café at noon. It was then very fun to explore a relatively empty boat over the next couple of hours. The only bummer was that most of the shops and bars didn’t open until later in the day. A side note: at the security check in – the security agents told us that we could bring ANY alcohol onboard that we could fit into our carry-on luggage without a problem. My father had a bottle of rum and a 12 pack of beer! Royal Caribbean ‘discourages’ this, but you’re breaking no laws. Staterooms: We saved a lot of money staying in interior staterooms that were very clean and nice. I liked the very quiet, dark room to sleep in, but some in our group later said they may have enjoyed a balcony. A side note: They offered us a balcony room for only $300 (for both of us) for the week after boarding (on a ‘sold’ out cruise). If you’re not sure which to book, why not reserve an interior room then upgrade if you don’t like your room after getting onboard. This will save you $$$ vs. booking a balcony before the cruise for about $800 more. ALSO – don’t pay hundreds more for a better ‘letter’ of stateroom in the same category of rooms. This is pretty much a ploy to get you to pay hundreds more for a room 10 feet closer to the elevator (sometimes farther!) Food: The Windjammer Café (main buffet diner) is outstanding – 10 out of 10 stars! Main dining room food – Excellent service and presentation. The food was VERY GOOD, but not outstanding. Just order wisely and you will be very happy. I loved all the fish and the Escargot! Small Promenade café – Very Yummy snacks and Pizza! A favorite of our whole group. Early vs. Late Dinner: We chose the late seating because we don’t liked to be rushed on port days getting back to get dressed for dinner. This also allowed us to gather around 7pm for the sunset and drinks. (dinner was at 8:30). We knew this would probably compromise our ability to attend some of the main shows. HOWEVER – we were wrong! ALL of the shows had 2 showings, sometimes before the late dinner seating (7pm) and some after (10:30pm). I highly recommend the second seating!! Soft Drink Stickers: They sell a soft-drink sticker to place on your main cruise card for $35 (less for kids). You also get a refillable mug, but do not need this to get a free drink from any bar. **All you need is ONE PERSON in your party to get the sticker on your cruise card. At any bar, just have your friend order you a coke. Or you can just borrow your friend’s card (they don’t even glance at the card). I know this may seem cheap of me, but I think it’s a rip-off they charge you this much for soft-drinks on an ‘all-inclusive’ boat. My last Carnival cruise had free soft-drinks. Alcohol Card: They sell a paper ‘alcohol’ card for about $40 that get you 12 drinks. Thanks to a friendly bartender, I learned this is a good deal for all drinks except beer. This card can get you Pina Coladas, mixed drinks, and wine. Buy your beer on your main cruise card for $2.75. I thought this card was a pretty good deal, but don’t lose the card! (luckily I had only 1 left when I lost mine). The Shows: I’m 30 year old guy and not into ‘singing and dancing’ and really didn’t think I would attend many of the shows on the Explorer. I was absolutely shocked at the quality of the shows that I attended and how much I enjoyed them! The ship dancers have 2 main shows – the first YOU MUST NOT MISS! It is called “Back in History.” Their second show I thought was fair. Of course you also MUST NOT MISS the ice show. It is only on 2 days – I recommend getting tickets (free) for the day you are at sea and not at port. We went to the 7:30pm show and easily made our 8:30pm dinner. Other HIGHLY recommended shows: The impressionist and the Beatles (you’ll know what I mean). All of these shows were a huge surprise!! Most of the other shows were ok, but a little ho-hum. The Lounges: Hands down the best location on the Explorer was Dizzy’s Lounge. It was very cozy with an awesome view of he sunset and entire boat. It was also surprisingly uncrowded. We met here every night at sunset for drinks – our best memories were here. Eastern Caribbean Route: I was a very surprised at the amount of WIND while we were headed east in the ocean. Several of the crews said the Eastern Caribbean route was usually this way. It was MUCH better heading back west after St. Thomas. I loved our route, but it is NOT for scuba divers (see below). San Juan, Puerto Rico – We didn’t stop here until 2 pm, getting off was VERY CROWDED for about 30 minutes. I recommend finding room on an elevator and taking this down to level 1 vs. standing in line on all of the stairs. If you’re planning on seeing the ‘old city’ as we did, here’s what to do: Immediately upon getting off the crowded pier, find a cab that will take you to the top of the very steep hill to the large fort – El Morro. Do not take a cab that wants to give you a $15/person ‘tour’ of the city (as most of them do). This will get you away from the crowds and let you walk back to the Explorer downhill! Make sure you find the park with all of the pigeons (ask anyone) and the bar that invented the Pina Colada (a little tough to find but worth the effort!). I thought El Morro was great and the old city was ‘ok’. We will definitely do something besides the old city on our next visit to San Juan. Many on the ship told us that the Rainforest side excursion was the best alternative to the old city. Philipsburg, St. Martin – Very nice island, fairly clean (for the Caribbean). I was surprised to see such DRY landscape (guess I was expecting Maui). Some of our group took the “glass bottom” boat excursion and were quite happy. I went with 3 others to go scuba diving – It was horrible!! VERY rough waters (they said it was calm today) and cloudy water. There was not nearly the sea life that we saw in Cozumel or Grand Cayman. If you want to scuba a lot – I recommend the Western Caribbean routes. After diving we rented a car ($40) for the half day and drove around the entire island in about 2 hours (and did not feel rushed). We had time to stop at Orient Beach – An awesome beach!! Marigot is a large town with lots of shopping and traffic. Some of the best shopping areas (clean, not too much traffic) are next to the cruise boat docks in Philipsburg. If I was in St. Maartin again, I would try scuba off another (downwind) side of the island or go to Orient Beach. St. Thomas – St. John: After doing my research before the cruise, I knew I must see the beaches of St. John and go snorkeling. I was right! This was one of our best days on the trip! When getting off the boat, take a cab (3$) to the short drive downtown to take the City Ferry ($7) to St. John’s. It leaves promptly at 9 am and I strongly recommend taking this boat or your day will be very cramped on St. John. When getting to Cruz Bay on St. John, there will be 25 ‘taxi’s’, or pickups built with benches in the back to go on beach/’jungle’ tours. We really wanted to be on our own, so we splurged and rented 2 new scooters for the day. They were a blast!! Some of our other group took the “jungle” pick-ups. On the scooter, I was able to inspect over 15 beaches on the island. HANDS DOWN, the best is TRUNK BAY (although there are a few nice ones that were very secluded and private). Some guide books told me that Trunk Bay would be crowded – VERY UNTRUE!! If you like snorkeling or would like to try – this is the place for you! It is the most beautiful beach that I could imagine. The “national forest” part of the island was surprising very dull with not much to see. However, we enjoyed the drive on our mopeds. You must catch the 3pm boat from Cruz bay back to Red Hook to make it back to the Explorer in time for departure. Non-stop, it’s probably a 45-minute drive around the entire island. I do NOT recommend the ship’s excursion package to St. John’s as they only spent about an hour at Trunk Bay before the group leader blew an air-horn and said it was time go. Another couple from our group rented a jeep on St. Thomas and found a great beach – MEGAN’S BAY. Apparently a favorite of Ex-prez Clinton and Al Gore. Nassau, Bahamas: I can only say 1 thing – GO TO ATLANTIS!!! It was well worth the $25 admission and you still have plenty of time to shop at the crowded, dirty, junky “straw-market.” I’ve been to many great aquariums, but “the dig” was amazing! The $25 lets you into all of the aquariums and able to walk ALL over the amazing resort (including the pool areas). I don’t think they want you swimming in the pools as a day guest, though. That’s ok, because we just wanted to look around, have a drink, and get back to downtown. You can take a cab ($3/person) or boat ($2/person) each way to the close-by Atlantis, or take the boat’s excursion package for $38. The shopping district of Nassau again was very unimpressive. I recommend heading to Senor Frogs for drinks. Back at Miami: You get colored tags for your luggage the night before departure. I recommend getting in one of the earlier groups as this process was VERY SLOW because of the lack of enough immigration officers at the port. You can exchange colored tags at the front desk the day before – just say you have an early flight. Cabs to airports: They cost $18 to MIA and $60 to FLL. Not bad I guess. Have a great trip – We loved Explorer of the Seas!!!

Read More
  • New

Mar 1, 2003

Western Caribbean

Day 1- Arrived into Miami International Airport at noon, took a cab ($18) to the port and the porters who took our luggage promptly pleasantly greeted us. Being we had a reserved suite, we were able to skip the usual line (which we heard was quite speedy) and get processed in immediately. Once in the room, our "Romance Package" was quite impressive. The arrangement of flowers lasted the entire cruise. Our suite had a "tub"

and was 180 square feet of room. We were quite impressed with the efficient use of the space, including a huge walk-in closet. (The next day, we upgraded from our "C" suite on the 10th floor to a "B" suite. This cost us a mere $150 and this gave us nearly 400 square feet of room and our balcony was twice the size. We also picked up a DVD player and plenty of movies, which were available through our "Concierge." We also peaked at the “B” class “Owner’s Suite’s,” which were a little bigger. They each had flat screen 37” plasma televisions. And of course on the last day we were able to get a tour of the Royal Suite, which astonishes you upon entering the suite with a Baby Grand Piano. For those that cannot play there is a computer that allows one to pick their favorite ivory pieces. To the right is a huge living room, and to your left is a bar area with an entrance to the suites main lavoratory that includes a lavoratory, bidet and shower area. The main bedroom further to the left has it’s own lavoratory and huge walk-in closet. The bed is shaped in the form of a circle. The television rises out of it’s own cabinet with the switch of a remote control. The bathroom has it’s own spa tub and if you wish, go out onto the balcony where you can relax in your own hot tub. Why would anyone want to leave this room?) After our muster drill at 4:00 PM (Painless) we went back to our suite and finished our champagne and treats. Off we went to our dinner where we enjoyed 5-star dining each and every night of our 7- night cruise. The food each night was as terrific as if you were eating in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Our waiter, Ramone and his assistant were superb as Giovanni, our headwaiter and Gagne, our personal bartender combined to make our dining experience a memorable event. Later in the evening we had top-notch entertainment and a comedian that was truly an up and coming star. Day 2- At sea, we took off to explore the ship and found rock climbing, basketball being played and the miniature golf course. Then we treated ourselves to the services offered by the spa. A couple of massages and a haircut for myself and a styling for the wife, we were well off on our way to a relaxing vacation. Day 3- Labadee, Haiti is Royal Caribbean’s private beach area where if you want to bargain, it’s a buyer’s paradise. I proceeded to buy over $200 worth of souvenirs for less than $30 US Dollars. The Haitians selling their wares are tough in wanting your business, so bargain hard and you’ll end up with a gift for everyone back home on your list. Royal Caribbean provides all with a terrific buffet. When they came around selling “Cocktails” I thought the guy was selling “Laba-doobies.” As it turned out, he was selling frozen cocktail drinks that hit the spot. Day 4- Ocho Rios, Jamaica was another perfect day. Our day started with the bus ride up into the hills to where we rode water tubes down a 3-mile section of the White River. We wore bathing suites, as I would recommend to anyone. Later in the day we went shopping in the new shopping area that has plenty of security guards watching over the area. We had heard that there was plenty of undesirable’s that made this excursion uncomfortable. This problem has been obviously been taken care of. The experience was wonderful, and there were plenty of bargains to be had. Jewelry prices here are a lot more negotiable than Grand Cayman Island. The Jamaican’s really want the US Dollar. Day 5- Grand Cayman Island began with a bus tour down 8-mile beach to the small village of “Hell” where we sent out postcards to everyone. The tour took us to the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm where you’ll find a noble cause going on to keep the turtle population alive. Debbie even held a turtle and rubbed its neck to calm the poor thing. Back at the center of town, we shopped until it was time to get back to the ship. *One small footnote. One of the women that sat at our assigned table in the main dining hall, was stung by a Stingray on an excursion offered by Royal Caribbean. Apparently someone dropped a container of squid that they feed upon into the water. You are supposed to feed them individually. This caused a commotion that brought approximately 40 stingrays looking for the handout. Her husband pulled the stinger out which had penetrated two of her toes. There was no medical equipment available on the boat that had taken them to this sandbar off the coast of Grand Cayman. We are still waiting to hear from our friends as to how Royal Caribbean ends up taking care of this. If it handles the outcome as they handled everything else then I’m sure there will be a happy ending for their vacation. She was sick in her bed for 2-days. Personally, I would not recommend this part of excursions offered by Royal Caribbean. (They say that a Stingray “sting” is worse than the pain of childbirth.) Day 6- Cozumel, Mexico was in the distance as we entered the high-speed ferry to the mainland where we took a bus south to the Mayan ruins of Tumel. Our first stop was at the factory outlet for Capri’s Jewelers, where we found a couple of great buys that I quickly negotiated. The salesman was quick to get his manager who was able to finish our deal. The Mayan ruins were incredible. Since they are located on the coast next to the sea, the tour was comfortable for being very hot. (Mid 90’s) Day 7- At sea for our last complete day of the vacation was spent at the spa area for a couple of last massages and then sitting out on deck by the pools with a couple of good cold cocktails along with the warm sun above. I might add that disembarking the ship was simple and easy. Everyone is given color-coded tags, which was to be placed on our luggage; we placed out the prior night just outside our cabin door. Once our color was called we were headed off the ship. I had prepared a detailed accounting of all of our purchases. Customs was pleased to see this and pointed out that the penalty for not declaring an item can be 4 times its actual value. So if you bought a Rolex retailing at $5,000 for $3,500, your penalty could amount to a fine of $20,000. What a way to ruin a vacation. I might point out that for this particular vacation that our deduction was $1,200 for each of us for a total of $2,400. The duty we paid for our items brought back was based upon 3.5% This cruise was our first. We did a lot of research and read a lot of reviews such as you are reading hear and decided to go with the largest ship in the world. Not only is this ship one of the 3-sister ships of the Voyager Class ship that Royal Caribbean has, we feel that everything offered on this cruise was beyond any of our expectations. This is definitely the way we will vacation in the future and what we would recommend to anyone we know.

Read More
  • New

Feb 22, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Carol Shipley Just got back from the Explorer and had a wonderful time!!! It was great! The ship was out of this world…very clean, well maintained, beautiful! We are sad to be back on shore b/c we had such a great time but I’ll try and capture my most memorable moments. Boarding- we arrived around 12:30 and we were on the ship by 1pm. The lines were a bit long but it moved fairly quickly. We went straight to our room to check it

out and it was great. This is the first time we had a balcony and we highly suggest it. The room was very spacious with lots of closet and drawer space. The balconies were very private and I thought very spacious. After we got settled, we went to explore the ship and had a nice lunch in the Windjammer. The food was good – I’ve had better on Royal Caribbean but I think it’s just b/c it has to cater to so many people. But, nonetheless, we ate like small pigs and everything was very tasty. The dining rooms are very nice and elegant and we had a great table with 3 other couples. A lot of them were first time cruisers and they were having a ball – I think if this was my first cruise, I would never want to cruise on anything else b/c this ship had it all. We went back to our cabin to take a little siesta and we heard a knock on the door and it was our luggage – so we were really surprised b/c other reviews I read – it seems like you can wait all day before you get your luggage and we got it in about 2 hours?! So, we were happy and after our nap, we unpacked and went exploring some more! Our first day at sea, we went exploring – it’s so big that it takes awhile to explore everywhere but we tried. They have so many activities and fun things to do that you cannot get bored. My husband climbed the rock wall – he thought it was a lot of fun. The day we were at sea, it was very windy so we didn’t get to play putt putt or rollerblade. But, there is definitely a lot to do. My favorite spot on the ship was the Solarium. It’s so nice and elegant. I loved going here to just relax or take a nap. The shipshape center and spa were very nice and had everything you could imagine. The Promenade deck is out of this world – it’s amazing how they put a small city on a boat but they did! It was really a sight to see – and I loved all the shops and little cafes to eat at – it was really just like being in an European city. Our first stop was Puerto Rico and we didn’t do much but walk around. It’s not one of my favorite islands and I doubt we would have even gotten off the boat but I wanted to walk around a little. We were only there a couple of hours and then back to sea we went to St. Maarten. On St. Maarten we rented mopeds and toured the island. This was a lot of fun and a very relaxing day. We went to Orient Beach and swam, then over to St. Louis fort (very nice view) and then back to the ship. It was fun but if you aren’t an experienced rider – I wouldn’t suggest it just b/c the roads are very narrow and the cars tend to tailgate. But, it was a blast. The next day we were in St. Thomas and my husband and I went scuba diving. This was a lot of fun – Coki Dive Club did the dive with us – they were great – I had never been before and they gave us a 20 minute course and then some lessons in the water and off we went. It was very relaxing for something so scary! But, we had a great time and did some snorkeling there as well. Then we were at sea again and knew that our cruise was almost over. We had a good day at sea – just took it easy, layed by the pool, ate at Johnny Rockets (this place is great for hamburgers, onion rings and french fries). The next day we were in the Bahamas and I’ve been there so much that there wasn’t any place I wanted to see or go – so we just walked around the shops and looked for good bargains. Then, off to the ship again for our last night on board. We went to all the shows and the ice skating show is fantastic. It’s unbelievable what they can do on that ring. We liked all the shows for the most part, my husband isn’t big on musicals but they actually had some music that he liked so it wasn’t too bad. The comedians were very good and our cruise director was very good. Some may or may not have heard but on this cruise we actually had a fire on board. It happened while we were sleeping (3am) and no fire alarms went off or anything like that but the next morning, the captain made an announcement about the fire. Nothing was said how it started or what exactly happened but he just said that it was under control and there wasn’t concern for the passengers. So, my husband and I thought that it was probably just a small trash fire or something but when we went to go see the damage the entire back end of the ship was burnt! It was wild – the windows had blown out, the metal railing had been warped and burned, it looked bad from what we could tell. But, they started to fix it the next day, re-painting and putting boards up, etc. I doubt the cruise after ours were able to rollerblade or putt putt but I’m not sure. Everything was wonderful and we had a great experience. If anyone has any questions or want to know more details, just email me. I highly recommend this ship!!!! I can’t wait to go back!!!!!!!!!!

Read More
  • New

Dec 21, 2002

Western Caribbean

We are from the UK and so decided to get some sun this xmas. We booked about 5 weeks in advance off teletext and think we got a fairly good deal. We had cabin D9620 which was right in the centre of the ship and very near the lifts. We actually found this to be an advantage and were never disturbed by any noise. Our itinerary was day at sea, Grand Cayman Island, Jamaica, day at sea, Cozumel and then another day at sea and back to Miami.

>From a Brit point of view there are a couple of things I would have done slightly differently. I would probably try and get out to the States about 3 days in advance to get used to the time difference. The first night on board we fell asleep in the cabin and completely missed the welcome etc. Also we had one night in Miami before boarding the ship the next morning. The travel agent had, as part of the package, booked us into the Holiday Inn at the Airport. I asked to be upgraded and put somewhere in Miami where things were happening as we were arriving at midday. He advised us that the hotel was very nice and the transfers very good so we stayed put. Big mistake. We had to catch a cab down to Bayside anyway for the afternoon and evening and it was very pleasant down there with the restaurants, boutiques and watching the boats. There are hundreds of hotels and you are obviously nearer the ship. So don't be fobbed off with anywhere near the airport there is nothing going on there at all! Embarkation was really quick and easy. We arrived at the dock at about 11am and were sent straight through - so it is true that you can get straight on board early. Our luggage came in dribs and drabs throughout the day up until about 6.30pm. The ship is huge and very impressive. We rarely felt any motion. The ice show as everyone has said is excellent and so were the shows staged by the ship's crew. We had one of the Monkees - Mick Dallance or something and he really was past his sell by date. The casino was great fun and not too painful. The drink cards worked very well and would recommend this system. Although it does not include premium brands like Jack Daniels you could have Jim Beam instead - what a hardship. Our two girls had soda cards and that worked well as they could get drinks whenever they wanted. The children went to the kids clubs once and decided that they really didn't like them - Drat. I think they found the activities rather boring or not old enough. Eg my 12 year old went to a bandana graffiti session only to find that it was a scarf which had the RCI blurb on it and it was coloring in with fat felt tips. This also was an activity for my 9 year old. The food overall was pretty good. There was just about everything you could want at breakfast in the Windjammer and you could get eggs etc cooked how you liked through in the Island Grill. Lunch was a massive buffet - watch the plates they are enormous and it is very easy to pile them up. We liked to eat in the restaurant in the evening. Unfortunately the other people on our table were also "foreigners" and so some nights they wouldn't make it and others we didn't so we only got together a couple of times. Our waiting staff were absolutely fantastic Oliver from the Philippines and Albert from India. Very friendly, helpful - couldn't fault them. Our stateroom attendant Henrick was also fantastic. The room was always immaculate when we came back with towels made into a variety of different animals from scorpions, teddy bears with shades on, monkeys hanging from the ceiling on hangers etc. Our ice buckets was always full to the brim morning and evening. Couldn't fault him either. We had a lovely balcony and I would recommend this to anyone thinking of cruising. If you have the option and can pay just that little bit more then go for it. It is just so nice to be able to sit outside, have a drink, watch the sun and also to get some fresh sea air into the cabin. As mentioned we traveled with our two children and we found the cabin to be perfectly OK for the 4 of us. Our bed was surprisingly comfortable bearing in mind we both suffer with our backs and the girls sofa bed was large as well. The bathroom was obviously compact but perfectly adequate. We were told that the middle of the ship half way up or higher is best as you get the least action. This proved to be true as we were on Deck 9 just where the ship bulges out at the side. Oh another thing the muster drill was just so easy and quick. Very well organized. Our shore excursions were swimming with the stingrays in Grand Cayman. Lovely creatures but god there were a lot of people there and the sandbar is probably 4'6" deep so when the sea starts to swell any children and most adults go under - be warned. Jamaica we were slightly worried about having heard about all the hassling that goes on. We found that if you actually spoke to the people and explained that you had already got an excursion planned they just chatted with you. OK yes they did offer us ganja but this is Jamaica. We chose to do the river tubing excursion and I would recommend it. Tubes/tires just like at Disney but on a real river with a few tiny rapids. Not too commercialized as yet - the guys in charge were very entertaining and looked after everyone very well. At the end of the tubing you were set down at a shack selling jerk chicken - like I said not commercial. Also it was nice to get out of the town and up into the hills and see a bit of the real Jamaica. In Cozumel we swam with the dolphins which was a wonderful experience. Definitely the swim was better than the petting experience or whatever it was called. with the swim they pull you through the water, push you up and out of the water by your feet like superman, jump and just swim etc. If you are thinking of purchasing any jewelry etc then listen to the guy on the ship for some good tips. Cozumel seemed to be pretty good for nice little trinkets and the guy in one of the shops said watches were the things to buy in Jamaica. Another thing from a UK point of view was that you have to get off the ship early in the morning so try to get an early afternoon flight home. Ours was meant to be at 10.00pm but having checked the tickets proved to be a 11.45pm so we paid extra to catch the 8.00pm flight home. However, this meant many boring hours at Miami airport. We flew with American Airlines and found them to be very good with excellent legroom compared to BA. Well I think I have burbled on enough now. We would definitely cruise again and with RCI. However, I think we would like to go with some friends and then you could have a real blast. Oh just one more thing. I read one review when someone was moaning about the carpets - well two weeks after we got off the ship it was due to go into dry dock and was going to be completely recarpeted and sanitized because of the nasty bugs going around - none of which were on The Explorer as far as we knew. So the next set of cruisers will have her as good as new I am sure. Having got back to England and it pouring with rain and then snow I would jump at the chance to get straight back on. Have a great holiday anyone going on The Explorer. Gina

Read More
  • New

Dec 14, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

We traveled on Voyager of the Seas about 2 years ago, so we were very excited to attend a conference on board Explorer, Voyager’s sister ship. We have cruised many times on various lines, but always considered our first RCCL trip one of the better ones, mostly because of the many activities and the “energy” on the ship. The itinerary was great with a nice balance of sea days and port days. St Thomas is always a favorite (we bought

12 bottles of booze…) and St Maarten has some nice beaches. The 4-hour stop over in San Juan was a waste, and Nassau is kind of lame, but not horrible. The ship is quite nice and our C level suite was very spacious. We loved the walk-in closet. And of course, a balcony is a must. The entertainment was good…especially the ice show and the production show. Our celebrity headliner was Yakov Smirnoff…lets hope he is not yours. There’s a reason he does cruises. He stinks. Now for the complaints…the food was AWFUL and the service was spotty at best. RCCL has clearly made some cutbacks since our last trip. We aren’t the pickiest of eaters, but the food in the Windjammer buffet was slop. It made Old County Buffet seem appetizing. Princess and even Carnival had better buffet food. Cold meats, poor selections, and lack of taste. YUCK. Unfortunately, the dining room was not much better. I realize that on a ship with 3000 passengers the quality can’t always be good, but I was thoroughly disappointed with most of the meals. First off, fewer menu choices, and a terrible wine list. One waiter told me that too many people complained that some of the wine was too pricey, so they basically cut out anything that was half way decent. Gee, thanks. The food itself was bland, poorly cooked (if you want medium, you get WELL done), and unimaginative. Everyone at our table agreed that it was some of the worst cruise food they had ever had. Compared to what I had on Voyager 2 years ago, it was definitely a step down. Furthermore, when compared to other cruise lines, it was well below par. The service also lacked. I had 2 people tell me that they thought all the crew appeared bored and didn’t want to be there. Our cabin steward rarely came around…and always seemed put out by requests. Our waiter and asst. waiter fought all the time. The only bright side was in Portofino, the alternative dining room, where the food was excellent and the service was top notch. But of course that cost an extra $40 AND a tip. But, given the slop in the dining room, it was well worth it. I have told many people to go on RCCL based on my experiences on Voyager 2 years ago. But based on this recent cruise, I’d say look elsewhere if you enjoy quality food and service. If all you want is a big ship with lots of activities, and don’t care about what you eat, Explorer may be ok for you…a lot of people I talked to had no complaints. But if you want a little class, a little pampering, and good, quality meals…I suggest Celebrity’s bigger ships (Summit, Millennium) or Princess (Golden, Grand).

Read More
  • New

Dec 14, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I took our first cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We seem to be the minority who were quite dissatisfied with the overall experience. Worst of all was the 50 min. full body massage. The massage therapist at first seemed interested in my health. She talked about toxins in my body that she needed to work out. It was very painful not relaxing at all. She did not stop talking the entire time. Then while I was still naked

(and vulnerable) she tried to push her $90 algae pills on me for detoxifying, which explains why she was so talkative about my toxins during the massage. This was really upsetting to my wife and I. She had the same experience with her massage therapist. We’ve had full body massages before, so we know how you are supposed to feel afterward. We also had poor service from the stateroom attendant. I’ve had better maids in hotels. She didn’t clean our room in the morning on several occasions. I asked for Ice to be delivered in the morning and in the afternoon. Only two days was ice delivered twice. We went to guest services to complain about the service we received and they said “well it is a big ship and it’s hard to service everybody properly” like I should be satisfied with the short end of the stick. She didn’t offer anything as a token or gesture to show sorrow or concern for the troubles we had. The food! We were quite disappointed with the food quality overall. If you ate in the dining room you had it best. If you chose to eat in the windjammer buffet line style then too bad for you. I’ve eaten better a “Old Country Buffet” which I hate. The food was generally the same every time. Breakfast foods were the worst. Unripe cantaloupe and melon, soggy waffles, poor tasting and hard pancakes, and all those pastries that were worse than what I pick up in the local supermarket on Sunday morning here at home. The café promenade was decent, but would have been much more inviting if there was a variety. They had one type of muffin, two types of doughnuts, and maybe a pastry or two. No quiches, or pies. Don’t expect the coffee to taste too great. After 4 creamers it started to lighten up a little! We had nice entertainment. Greg Shepard the pianist was who we enjoyed the most. We relaxed at Dizzy’s with Elijah who was a great waiter. All that said, my wife and I will never cruise again! Save your money. Get a nice hotel and eat in upscale restaurants. You will have better food and probably come out ahead financially.

Read More

By Jill_CR

  • New

Dec 14, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

Highlights We chose the Explorer of the Seas based on reviews from this site and research and it served us very well. The ship is, quite simply, beautiful! She sails beautifully too! Out at sea, coming in and out of port and docking were the best parts of the cruise for us as we are fascinated by the size of the ship and the engineering marvel that she is. Our balcony was critical to our enjoyment of the cruise. St. Thomas is the

gem among the ports of call on our itinerary. I would return here in a heartbeat. The staff in the dining room were warm and friendly. We really got to know our servers and became very fond of them. I get the impression that not many people take the time to ask these staff about their life and their careers. It was heart breaking for us to know that these kind, young folks are all away from their loved ones over the holiday season. Many of them have children of their own that they miss for approximately 6 months. Don't get too hung up on your position as the paying customer - these folks have seen it all and they are humans just like you doing a respectable job and doing it well. Johnny Rockets was so much fun. The entire staff does a dance routine when a customer plays 'Y.M.C.A' on the jukebox. I joined their line while having lunch one day and it was a lot of fun. The Adventure Ocean Kids club was run by highly trained professionals. This group of talented individuals gave our 2 girls memories that will last them a lifetime. The Review style shows were fabulous. The singers, dancers and skaters were all wonderful. We also liked coming back from excursions early to an almost empty ship. It was such a good feeling to enjoy the pool all to ourselves as a family and escape the crowds. This was very relaxing and the fancy drinks are delicious. Lowlights Be sure to arrive at the terminal as early as noon. Our travel agent and ship documents both said to arrive at 2 pm, however we spent an hour and a half in line looking at an RC sign that indicated they had been boarding since noon. This was disappointing as we had just been killing time to avoid arriving early. There is no sign to say that the pools are salt water. Upon jumping in my nose and eyes burned as I was not prepared. Not enough elevators. During busy times at ports when many passengers are coming and going you can never get an elevator. We ended up using the stairs many times, which was probably a good thing after all the food we were eating but still an inconvenience. My kids always wanted an ice cream but the ship closes all 5 self serve locations at the same time (11am) each day. It would be nice if they rotated so that only one machine was closed at a time. Be prepared to spend a lot of money. We had arrived thinking that we knew what our trip would cost before leaving given the all-inclusiveness of the ticket. Wrong! They only cover the bare essentials and before you know it you are racking up a big bill. From photographers with mascots in the dinning room and room service, to soda or milkshakes everything costs extra as every attempt is made by the cruise line to get more of your money. I do feel that I got very good value for my money on the cruise. The quality of the food and the entertainment was well worth it. However, I do resent having to tip so well to offset RC's choice not to pay their staff well. I would prefer to pay more for my cruise and not be nickled and dimed to death. If I had the cruise to do all over again I would arrive to the terminal at noon, get involved in more of the Cruise Director's activities and would have reserved the late sitting in the dinning room as the early sitting compromised our ability to do everything we would have liked to do. RC has videographers taping passengers at ship events and they compile the clips into a video that you can buy on the last night. We were not in the video at all as we did not go to any of the featured events. I urge you to get out, have fun and get on film as this, in my opinion, would be the best souvenir money can buy.

Read More
  • New

Dec 7, 2002

Western Caribbean

We flew into Fort Lauderdale at 9:30 am and transferred to a bus that took us to the Royal Caribbean pier. As we approached, our bus driver pointed out our ship. That was the first time we realized just how huge it was. We stayed on the bus while they got the suitcases off. We identified our suitcases and the RC porter took them away. We proceeded into the building to check in. We waited in a lobby area for about 10 minutes before

they allowed us through metal detectors to the actual check in. We stood in line for 5 minutes before we checked in and were given our SeaPass, which acts as both your room key and your money on the ship. They then told us to go into another room to wait. While in line, I called my cousin who lives in Miami so that she could pick us up and drive us around Miami for a couple hours. Others that were with us said that they waited in that room for over an hour before they actually let you get on the boat. When we returned to the boat at 2:30 pm, we walked right on to the boat. They took our picture in front of a sign with the boat name on it. I was disappointed because I thought that they would take a picture with the actual boat in the background. Little did I know that that would be done many times in the future. The Ship When we first got on the ship we initially felt disoriented because we could not figure out which end was which. This did not last long thanks to the wonderful ship maps that are posted by every set of elevators. What can you say about the ship except it is simply breathtaking. I knew that it would be beautiful but did not expect this. Take pictures. After we got on the ship, we immediately went in search of our cabin. The Cabin The cabin was larger than I expected. We had an inside cabin on the 7th floor. The decor was mediocre with melon and blue colors. This did not bother me because I did not plan on spending much time here. Every nook and cranny had storage space. We completely over packed and there was still room for every item that we had and then some. We were surprised to be greeted with a bottle of champagne on ice and a fruit plate waiting for us. The Cruise Compass was also waiting. This is the daily planner that lists every single thing going on at every moment of that day. We loved this. Take this with you every time you leave your room so that you will be sure to catch the going ons. DAY ONE Embarkation At 4 pm we were required to do a muster drill for safety. We put our life jackets on and were supposed to go to a particular life boat depending on the number on our life jacket. This was confusing. We were guided there by the staff. I did not mind this and thought it would be helpful but don’t think that I could get back to that lifeboat if I had to. We ended up standing there in rows with a person just 1 ft away on all sides of you for 30 minutes while we waited for late comers to get in line. Kids were crying and it got to the point that people were not listening. After we got this out of the way, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip. We went to the top deck to watch as we sailed off. After this was over, we had our first of what would be many colorful drinks in tall glasses. We sat in Dizzy’s Nightclub and watched the sunset as we sipped our drinks. Dizzy’s was one of our favorite places on the ships. You could listen to soft piano music while sitting in big comfy chairs and look out of their floor to ceiling windows. Heaven, pure heaven. We went to the Welcome Aboard show and met Paul Rutter, the cruise director. He was really good. He was funny and seemed to be at every activity no matter what time of day. He will tell you all that is happening on the ship that evening and the next day. We had the last seating for dinner which happened to be at 9 pm on this evening. Dinner for the rest of the cruise was at 8:30. Eating that late was fine because we at so much during the day that we were not starving on any day. Day Two At Sea We ate breakfast at the Windjammer Café. Other reviews complained at how bad the food was here. I did not think that it was bad. It was not great, but good. After breakfast we picked up tickets to see Planet Ice, the ice show. Before getting these, I had mapped out the other different shows that we wanted to see with their day/time. This was helpful because they give you 5 different ice shows to pick from. This was a tip given to us during the Welcome Aboard show the night before. After breakfast we went to workout. Walking on the treadmill while looking out of the windows made me dizzy. I tried to keep looking away. I felt like I was going to fall so I just rode the stationary bike instead. The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship. Lounging in the sun while drinking the fruity concoctions and enjoying the hot tub. This is a good day to plan your excursions if you have not done so. We set ours up on-line before we left. We missed the Captains’s Welcome Reception, which was disappointing. Instead we took a nap before getting ready for the first formal night. We don’t have many (if any at all) opportunities to get so dressed up and go to dinner. My husband complained about having to buy a suit to go on a cruise. He ate his words later when he admitted to feeling like royalty. The reason why was due to our excellent wait staff, Shankar and Hennery. There was never an empty glass. Shankar’s suggestions were always right on. They got along with each other well and it made for a wonderful dinner every night. After dinner every night we went to see the show of the evening. Don’t miss these. They are all great. There were some people that never went to any of the shows. We couldn’t believe it. Day Three Labadee No excursions planned. We visited the open market. Big mistake. If you like the natives begging you to come and look at their goods, then you will enjoy this. We did not stay there long but instead walked along the ocean side of this beautiful little island. Haiti is only a hop, skip and jump away and is very beautiful backdrop for you pictures. We toured the various sites on the island before plopping down on beach chairs for an afternoon nap in the sun. The RC staff comes on the island and makes you lunch. It is cookout style food with a bunch of extras. Very nice to not have to go back to the ship for food/drink. The waiters walk the beach selling those yummy drinks that we all loved and you use your SeaPass to pay for them. The island is not crowded at all. No other cruise lines there since RC owns this island. We headed back to the ship at 2:30. After dinner and the evening show we went to the Country Western Dance Party where we learned how to line dance. Day Four Ocho Rios, Jamaica We were able to walk right on the island from the ship. That was nice. We had an early excursion to Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Encounter. The falls were awesome and a must see. The encounter could be skipped unless you were getting in the water with the dolphins. We did not. We shopped. We ended up buying quite a bit of alcohol & Jamaican coffee. We walked away with 5 bottles of different rums and rum creams. Everywhere you turn they are offering free rum samples. Jamaica is not what I expected at all. It was very dirty and the people are so desperate to get you to buy something from them. What I thought would be my favorite port was my least favorite. We ate lunch back on the ship and relaxed before getting ready for the ice show. The ice show was very impressive. Go see it. Day Five Grand Cayman We had an excursion on the Nautilus (glass bottom boat) and island tour. The Nautilus was great. Sunken ships, coral reef, lots of fish. A definite must see. The island tour was ok. We visited the rum cake factory and Pedro St. James which is the oldest estate on the island. Because we were waiting on 2 people that were late, we did not have much time at Pedro St. James. Had we not been rushed through this, I am sure it would have been great. We shopped downtown which was very enjoyable. The island was pretty and clean. We went back to the ship and had our second formal dinner night. Day Six Cozumel We headed out with empty shopping bags for this port. Since I am somewhat fluent in Spanish, I intended on doing most of my shopping here. After shopping in the am we came back to the ship, ate, emptied our bags and went on our 2:30 pm snorkeling excursion. The snorkeling was nice but I didn’t see as much fish/coral reef as I had expected. The water was very clear and blue and it was still very enjoyable. After we finished here, we shopped some more and went back to the ship for some rest. Day Seven At Sea We did much of the same thing this day as we did the previous at sea day. This evening’s headliner was comedian T.J. McCormack which we thought was awful. It does not take much to make me laugh and I was forcing myself to do so only a couple times during his routine. We went to the farewell show and then back to the room to pack. Disembarkation They give you color coded tags to put on your suit cases the night before. When your color is called you can leave the ship. We took this waiting time to walk around the ship and take pictures. This allowed us to have great pictures of the different areas without the crowds of people in them. After our color was called it took about 15 minutes to get through customs. We quickly found our bags and were off to the airport. Extras Cruise video – when they first advertised this I did not want to pay $29.99 for this. At the farewell show, they show you part of this and you can see how professional it is done. Pictures – everyday somewhere on or off the ship, they are taking formal pictures. I suggest taking them. There is no obligation to buy them. We took them every opportunity that we could. We ended up coming home with 7 shots that were awesome. We didn’t purchase the other 20 that were so so. TV – the tv in your room is very helpful. You can check the balance on your SeaPass acct, see what’s on the agenda for the week and see the actual video tapings of all the activities that happened on the ship. They also show a different first run movie everyday. Restrooms – the women’s restrooms have free tampons and pads in them. How nice! Kids – there were only 273 kids on our cruise. They were all well behaved and busy with the many activities that RC offers. Food – excellent. The gala buffet was unbelievable. Impossible to pass a soft serve ice cream machine without getting a cone. They are every where. We bought the recipe book Staff – went over and above every time. They were all wonderful. Drinks – are delicious. We bought the recipe book to make these. Ship Motion – we did feel it moving at times but we took our Bonine and were both fine. Entertainment – go see the parades that are at the Royal Promenade, go to as many of the shows that you can. Go ice skating, roller blading, putt putt golfing, rock climbing. Do the things that you would normally not do. Why not, you are on vacation

Read More
  • New

Dec 7, 2002

Western Carribean

Brief: The ship is huge! Every positive, and amazing thing you've heard about the Explorer of the seas is true. This review will benefit first-time cruisers more than cruise veterans. The first thing you must do is relax, you are on vacation, have a good time. Don't get caught up in taking pictures, and videotaping every detail. You can't do everything, but you can experience more than you think. Carry your cruise compass (ship's

newsletter) with you in your pocket everyday, so that you don't miss any shows, or activities. The ship is a vacation in itself! There are many great bargains on board in the promenade. You can see most of the ship in an hour, despite what you've heard. Internet reviews make the Explorer sound bigger, and more confusing than she is. The ship is very well put together. The rooms, lounges, and atriums all interlock beautifully into eachother. The Ship: Take lots of pictures, and if you have a camcorder take it everywhere. Remember you are allowed to walk anywhere on the ship, take advantage and explore, it may be a long time before you go on another cruise. The dining hall is gorgeous, and so is the theater. The chamber (the ship's nightclub)is cool, The ship isn't as confusing as other reviews make you believe, but it is more beautiful than you've heard. Day 1 Embarkation: Despite what you hear, RCI is very efficient, considering that 3000 people have to board this ship in about 5 hours. You may have to wait in a few line ups, but where do you have to go? relax, you are on vacation. Once aboard drop your stuff off and go eat at the windjammer/island grill. Then grab your compass and explore. This would also be a good time to book shore excursions if you haven't already. I booked online, before my cruise, which was convenient and hassle free (bring your on-line confirmation just in case). Watch the sail away on the top deck, it's beautiful. Day 2: At sea: This is a good day, to take pictures of the ship, and videotape, and suntan. There is never a shortage of deck chairs. Day 3 Ports: Labadee: Do take advantage of the vendors in Labadee, there are some gorgeous carvings you could purchase here. Just remember to low ball them, otherwise they will charge you 10 times what this stuff is worth. Day 4 Ocho Rios: Got off the ship without an excursion, and were swarmed by the locals hassling us from every direction. They were offering us everything from Jet ski's to drugs. They were fighting over us, and weren't even smiling. All they want is your money. Unless you have a shore excursion booked, travel in a pack, stay with your group, or stay onboard, we got off...then got right back on the ship. Day 5 Grand Cayman: Beautiful Beaches. We spent the whole day at 7 mile beach, it was gorgeous, turquiose water. Hot! Like a dream. Day 6 Cozumel: We spent the day at Playa Sol, unless you plan to drink all day, don't buy the ship excursion. Go there on your own and pay $8.00 to get in. The beach is crowded but beautiful, blue water, and hot. Use the tubes, they're fun and free with your admission. Also when shopping, you can probably get whatever you're buying for a third of the price they are asking you for. Day 7 Remember not to pack anything sharp in your carry on. Put it all in your checked luggage, Pack early, it's a bummer to pack last minute. Disembarkation: If you have an early flight, like we did (11:00 am) to Toronto,Canada. Get early luggage tags (White, 7:00 a.m). It can take you up to two hours to get off the ship, clear customs, get your luggage, bus ride to the airport, and check in. Don't do this on the first day of your cruise, but do it early on second last day. Complaints: If you have a lot of complaints you are not on vacation. I don't complain much but if you must know, here it is: 1. After a couple of days the elevators start to smell funny. 2. There will be times when you will feel the ship moving slightly but nothing you will not get use to, not intense. Tips: 1. Buy drink cards to spend less on drinks 2. Make sure you tip your cabin steward, and waitstaff, they really deserve the suggested minimum, and more. Do's: Watch the ice show. it's amazing. Watch at least one sunset and sunrise. Watch as many shows as you can in the palace theater. Listen to the live calypso/reggae band Heatwave on the pooldeck. Bring two formal outfits minimum. Be prepared to buy some beautiful pictures, the ships photographers take of you, they're great. Eat at Johhny Rockets the burgers and vanilla shakes are amazing. Dont's: Weird stuff: 1. It gets a little breezy on the top deck 2. the stalls in the bathroom are shaped funny. Caution about Camera film: Also an extra note on photo film and airport x-rays. There has been recent buzz about film being affected by new airport x-rays machines installed in airports since September 11. Some say it affects film, others say it's fine, you decide. but remember it's your cruise memories. When I first cruised four years ago I had two rolls of 800 ISO film ruined (fogged) by the x-rays, but my 400 ISO film was fine. Remember, the damage is culmative, so every time you get on and off the ship you put your stuff through an x-ray, may cause damage! Solution, a lead lined film bag. They are available for 400 and 800 film. Use one, I had no problem, and they are clearance items at Walmart. Some say that using a lead lined bag actually causes airport security to open your bag because they see a black blob on the screen, but I had no problem at all, they never asked once, not on the ship, or the airport. You could have your film hand inspected, but I think that is a hassle for them, even though you are within your rights to ask, I actually think that makes them more suspicious, but that is my opinion. Also, who wants to argue with a airport security if they say no. Use your own judgement. Have a great cruise!

Read More
  • New

Nov 18, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

I have been on several cruises and I must say, the Explorer is a FABULOUS ship in every way. We had an Owner's Suite. It was incredible and huge. The balcony was fantastic and the the service was impeccable. The ship was the most spectacular I've ever seen, bar none. I enjoy being pampered and this is what you get on the Explorer. All is at your fingertips. You will LOVE the experience. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.

  • New

Nov 9, 2002

Western Caribbean

Explorer of the Seas, what a beautiful ship! The handicap suite was absolutely beautiful. There was more than ample room to navigate the cabin This was the first cruise where my wheelchair bound wife could even enter the handicap bathroom. She even was able to use the shower this time. Getting onto the ship was another story again. Wedding Parties and Crown and Anchor member (Past RCL Cruisers) received priority access even though RCL

brochures say handicap and special needs cruisers would be allowed early boarding. We did a 2-day pre-cruise land package and booked air through RCL as well. After arriving at the Miami airport we were told we had no transfer even though it was included with air booking. They even told us that they wouldn't provide transfer to the Inter-Continental Hotel, again booked through RCL, because they don't use that hotel. I think the problem here is that RCL has switched to the Fontainebleau for next year. We called our travel agent from the airport. He call RCL himself and they told him that they would have provide transfer on a one day pre-book package but not a two day. Both options are in their catalog. RCL says in their new travel documents booklet which includes vouchers for all included transfers to contact the RCL Cruise Hospitality desk at your hotel to arrange for transfer to pier. The problem is there is no such thing. Our transfer to pier was scheduled for 1:00 pm the day of sailing, so much for early check-in. We called at 9:00 am and spoke with Customer service. They said special needs or not we would not be getting a transfer any earlier than 1:00. I ended up having the bellman at the hotel find us transportation with a lift to accommodate my wife in the chair. So opting to pay our own way to the pier at a cost of $22.00 compared to $5.00 for a regular cab. Even at that it was well worth it. At least we stood a fighting chance for check-in. Airport arrivals and people who provided their own transportation were already lined up at 11:00 when we got to the pier. There must have been 200 people already in line. I asked for special needs assistance because my wife is in a wheelchair and un-able to stand at all. Their assistance was showing us the elevator. We were then placed behind the Wedding Parties. Then even though we were standing in line waiting for check-in windows to open they rolled several people in wheelchairs right past us to the front of the line. After checking in they had us go back to the same area we had been waiting even though as it turned out the line to get in was at the opposite side of the large registration area. When they cleared the ship for boarding I had to push my wife's wheelchair and drag our carry-on bag behind me. The ramp was an incline uphill all the way. Several RCL personnel went right past us and failed to even offer assistance. It wasn't until I caught up to the Wedding party in front of us that the Wedding planner offered to carry my bag. The suite was absolutely marvelous. We could move about very well, even on the balcony. VERY NICE! The lunch buffet was very good. What a difference in personnel. They even offered to carry the plate for Carrie through the line. This was a Night and Day difference from the shore-side staff. RCL's Accessible Seas brochure states that at least one pool and whirlpool would be equipped with a lift. We did find the pool but not the whirlpool. It didn't matter though because you needed to find a pool attendant to get the lift set-up. Pool attendants were not to be found poolside. There was an abundance of them in the Video arcade however. The main dining room was breath taking and a real joy to behold. The portions were much larger than we were used to on other cruise lines. That was a good thing since they were so proud of their food that they didn't want top part with it! The waiter actually made you feel like stealing directly from them if you hinted at a second entree. Believe me I tried often but was only successful at getting seconds on one occasion. I gave up trying to get more Prime Rib. The variety of selections on the menu was not the type that would make you want to try everything. Fortunately the portion were fairly sizeable. In the past we had trouble deciding one only one appetizer or Entree and ended up going with several. Again that was on other Cruise lines, not a problem with RCL. We didn't go hungry by any means but were quite disappointed by both selection and ability to try many things or even seconds. This was our first cruise that required use of a tender. We were pleasantly surprised as they were in most cases a roll on and a roll off situation. Disembarking was no less frustrating than getting on. Never mind that you have special needs. I asked three different people at guest relations about procedure for special needs. They all said wait for your color to be called. They wanted you to check out of your stateroom by 8:00 am. If you required assistance you were told to go to a bar area and wait for announcements. Other passengers got to go the the theater and watch Friends on TV screens. They even served them juice and rolls. In stead we went to the bar area where the piped in music was extremely loud, several people had the same comments. When announcements, which were scarce, were made they didn't turn off the music so they could be heard. We were the fifth color to be called and even though I asked all three Guest Relations personnel none of them would change our color to an earlier departure time. The cruise itself was fantastic. There was never a lack of activities to fill the days. We never had a drop of rain the entire trip. What more can you ask for. The vacation was somewhat soured though by the experiences of getting on and off the ship and their lack of assistance or concern on RCL's part. We will have to think long and hard if we want to risk going RCL again. We spent a lot of hard earned money for our vacation and we expect to be treated with a little more dignity than we were afforded.

Read More
  • New

Oct 21, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

We had the best time of our lives!! The Ship is simply beautiful and they are constantly keeping everything clean down to the fine details, the food was great. The Crew were so nice and really made you feel comfortable. In the 7 Nights on the cruise I realized that the only people complaining ( very few) were people who were very negative and unhappy people to begin with. Give this cruise a try you'll be glad you did. St. Thomas my

favorite.

Read More
  • New

Oct 19, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

This cruise was our honeymoon. Overall, it was wonderful. We wish we would have had the cruise line take care of our airfare, because compared to when I cruised on Disney 2 years earlier, the bus/suitcase hauling thing was kind of a pain. Everyone at our table was great. My husband was in heaven the whole week over the food. He couldn't believe how much food they gave you, and we found it all to be delicious. Our head waiter was replaced

mysteriously after the second night, but that proved to be a good thing. Our cabin steward was a sweetheart. We had a cabin at the front of the ship, which provided a neat view and also rocked us to sleep every night. Our cabin was really big. We loved the high pressure toilet! Much more efficient than the plumbing in our 130 year old house at home! The ship is enormous and beautiful. Surprisingly, for how many thousands of people are on board, we never had trouble finding places to be alone. We stood on the deck at the bow of the ship looking at the stars and nobody bothered us. We bought a lot of art from the art guy. I got addicted to the auctions and ended up being one of his "friends" (he even gave me a free bottle of champagne). The shows were not as enjoyable to me as on Disney, but the comedian was hysterical. We loved Bingo. I was so proud of myself for successfully making it to the top of the rock climbing wall! Our climbing instructor was great. We met several other honeymooning couples. The honeymooners night in one of the clubs was pretty lame, and unless you were big drinkers, it wasn't worth going to. We had fun at Johnny Rockets and played mini golf at sunset. We really enjoyed the hot tubs and the spa. Even the free tour of the spa before we left port was great! We hated San Juan. It was scary, dirty, and smelly. St. Thomas is gorgeous. We went to Magen's Bay (our baby girl's name is Megan). We liked Nassau the best, although you need to be prepared if you have led a rather sheltered life. Same thing in St. Maarten. Be aware that it is extremely hot in the Caribbean (we are from Wisconsin) and you will be thankful to return to the air conditioned ship. We

Read More

By Dawn_CR

  • New

Oct 12, 2002

Western Caribbean

Overall excellent cruise. The food was not as good as I anticipated. I wanted to see more seafood (i.e. crab legs, lobsters, etc), but they did have seafood offered at every meal. My cabin attendant was exceptional....Roxanne from Trinidad and Tobago, very personable, not just working for a tip. The guest relations person we mostly dealt with Cameron was very knowledgeable and personable as well. The ship has something for EVERYONE.

If you don't have a good time it's your fault. I would strongly recommend to reserve your excursions on line. Many of the excursions were booked up the first day because so many people took care of it on line. Use taxis at your destinations and bargain on the prices. They can get you to a lot more places much cheaper than the tours, but you have to get out there early. I recommend for any stops in Cozumel to contact Victor Delgado,, Island Tours, phone 872-3922, cell 044 987 878 7778, he does an excellent job, with drinks included (with or without alcohol). Although our cruise was packed we never had to wait for any of the activities, passengers were very courteous. Get to the basketball court, golf simulator early. One other thing, whenever they have parades get to those early especially if you have kids they fill up fast and it's hard to see. Anyway awesome cruise, the ship was breathtaking, bring your swimsuits, a good attitude and leave all your worries behind. ENJOY YOURSELF.

Read More
  • New

Aug 31, 2002

Western Caribbean

Bryan Kinsey Excellent cruise experience!!! This was our second cruise -- first time with Carnival Fantasy in 2001. No complaints about first cruise, but Royal Caribbean elevated the cruise vacation to a whole new level. Explorer of the Seas was the perfect ship on which to spend seven days of your life. There are endless choices of activities, entertainment, and FOOD!!! The service we received on this ship was first rate all the

way. Since the ship is enormous, it is easy to find places of privacy -- even with 4000 people on board. Labadee, the first stop on our itinerary, was fun, but our least favorite port of call. The beaches are nice, but the local people in the market were too pushy. Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the second port, was better. However, the locals in the markets were also too pushy. Dunn's River Falls is an exciting climb, but somewhat dangerous. Closed-toe aqua shoes are a MUST for climbing the falls. Grand Cayman, the third port of call, was a beautiful, clean, and comfortably safe island paradise. The local people we encountered were friendly and helpful without being pushy. The final port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. We had our best shore excursion here -- "Catch the Wave Snorkel Safari". The crew was friendly; lunch on the boat was good; the snorkeling was great; and there was an open bar - all for one reasonable price. All things considered, I can't imagine a better vacation than what I just experienced. I look forward to my next cruise with Royal Caribbean with great anticipation.

Read More
  • New

Aug 31, 2002

Western Caribbean

Day 1: This was a Saturday to Saturday cruise, so Day 1 was Saturday. The checkout process was not the best. However, given there were something like 3300 passengers, it wasn't so bad. When I say it wasn't the best, what I mean was is there was a long line. Actually you got your pick from two equally long lines. By long I mean probably a couple of hundred people. On the bright side, they had many people helping out in the processing

and they were pretty quick in processing people, so the line moved along. I had a very pleasant conversation with a travel agent (who didn't bring along a business card -- tut tut!) so I didn't mind the wait. I also heard they used to check in people from outside (where it's hot and humid), so at least it was inside and air-conditioned. The process was not as fast as other ships, but this is no doubt due to the sheer number of passengers. I wanted to see what this large ship was like, so this comes with the territory. I will say that RCI is very well organized, and this was one of the few times I had to wait in a long line, in spite of the large number of passengers. The ship was a little late heading off, so we had to choose between staying on top to watch it sail off, or go eat. We chose to go eat. That was a good choice, as the meal was surprisingly good. The food in general was better than I expected. The food on cruise ships is never bad, but ranges from good to excellent. I was expecting a higher ratio of good to excellent rather than the greater percentage of excellent that I received. I'd say it was about 60 - 70% excellent, with excellent meaning I really wanted to get seconds (and sometimes did!) The first day's show featured a number by the production show staff, a dance number by the adagio pair (ballet style dancing featuring lifts) and a comedy routine with a guy with a puppet. The show was entertaining, especially the dance number which was outstanding. The theatre was wonderful. It's by far the largest theatre I've been in on a ship. A lot of times you have to leave supper very quickly to get a decent spot at the show, or you'll wind up off on the side or behind a post. This theatre was huge, with two floors, and hundreds of good spots. In general, you had plenty of time to enjoy your meal and not have to worry about getting a good spot. The only time you might worry a little was if the given show was only shown once instead of twice (once for each seating) which was generally the case. Day 2: At sea. There were plenty of activities. Plenty of T.V. stations. This was different than most cruise ships where the T.V. choices were very limited. There was a movie station in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German I think. They used these stations (in the different languages) to communicate important messages (like safety messages). The show was a disappointment (the only one -- all the other shows were good). It was a production show with a bunch of songs, almost none of which I had heard of. Also the staff was odd. The men were smallish while some of the women were huge. One of the women in particular was Opraish in size. I can imagine the men thinking "Oh no, not her!" when the number called for a lift. Usually one expects dancers to be slim, well built, and attractive. Some of them were, but others were not what one would expect. We were told to get tickets to the ice show early on as there were a limited number of seats and they "sold out" early. (There's no cost of course, hence the quote marks). We got tickets as soon as we could on day 2. I'll comment on the ice show here, even though we saw it later. It was excellent. The first part was a little slow, but the second half could not have been better. And the ice skaters looked like I would have expected the production show people to look like. Athletic and attractive. Day 3: The ship lines have their own islands or island-like places they take their passengers to. I'd rather go to a regular port, but that's not an option one has. RCI goes to Labadee, which was an attractive place. We stayed for a short time and got back on the ship for lunch. If you like water sports, you can enjoy it, but it's expensive. Renting a wave-runner for an hour = $100. Para-sailing = $79. A touch I appreciated a great deal was they have a piano the guests can use. (I'm a pianist and brought some music with me, hoping to have the opportunity to use a piano). While on the subject of pianos, the ship had three solo pianists, two of which played piano solely, the third singing as he played. I got to know the two that just played quite well. They were both very friendly and accommodating. On a related subject, the dancing was adequate. As with most ships, there was in general very little dancing space (speaking of ballroom type dancing). However there was one area for dancing which had a decent sized dance area, which is better than most ships which don't have any. The different bands alternated getting that spot, so I actually only got to dance on that spot once. One of the bands was dedicated to playing ballroom dance music, which was good. Very few people dance on the ships, so even the very small areas were adequate for the most part. Day 4: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I asked a news group what to do in Jamaica, and was recommended to do a tour. www.ocho-rios.com is the web site of a nice lady that took us on a tour. We went to Dunns River falls and had a very nice time. You're able to climb the falls. It's a good idea to bring water shoes, or water socks as they're sometimes called. Or you can rent them at the falls site. The climb was more difficult than I expected. You have to be really careful or you can slip and fall. I almost slipped and fell, but was fortunate to make it with a fall. After the falls we saw some pretty areas, went to a shopping area, and lunched at a restaurant with decent food and a wonderful view. The prices were in Jamaican dollars which was about 40-1, so 1600 would translate to about $40.00. We were prepared for this but a table next to us was really upset when their bill came. They were scarfing down lobster at 1500 thinking that was $15.00, when it was 2.5 times that. The show was a one person vocal comedy show. I wasn't expecting much, but it was really good. The fellow was able to sing in various styles. The show was a combination of songs and jokes. Day 5: Grand Cayman island. I was intending to do the swimming with stingrays thing, but for some reason my wife didn't wear a bathing suit, so that was out. So instead we went on a tour of the island. Our tour guide was a fifth or sixth generation native and knew pretty much everything about the island. The tour lasted a couple of hours, and included a stop at the turtle farm the government runs. It also included a stop in Hell. It was pretty hot, but it's hotter than Hell back home where I am now. We lunched at a beach spot, which was nice but a bit on the expensive side. $8 for a sub and potato chips from a regular Subway. $8 for a drink. For dinner the waiter was very accommodating and I had a pasta dish which wasn't on the menu. There was a delicious appetizer with a mushroom sauce, which I used for the pasta. It was delicious! The entertainment was a type of Newlywed show, which was fun. Day 6: Cozumel. The last time I had gone on a Western Caribbean cruise, Cozumel was my favorite spot, and it turned out to be the same this time too. I rented a scooter, even though they (the ship line) warn you not too. They're probably right, if you're not familiar with it. But I had done this a couple of times before, so was familiar with the process. A safer way of doing essentially the same thing is to rent a jeep. I traveled around the island which wasn't hard to do. It took maybe 2 hours. The scooters go about 40 mph. After 2 hours, I had run out of gas, so refilled the tank for $1. The last time I had gone, I went body surfing on the windy side of the island, but this time there wasn't enough wind, so I was disappointed (the waves were too small). So I considered going snorkeling instead. As I was returning from getting the gas tank refilled, it rained. I got completely soaked. At times, there was over foot of standing water, perhaps two, which was a bit scary, but the scooter made it through fine. Since I was soaked anyway, I decided I might as well go snorkeling after all. I asked the fellow where to go snorkeling, and he sent me to Dzul Ha, which was just a couple of miles away. I'm glad I did! I had a wonderful time. There were lots of fish to see. I followed a beautiful parrot fish around for about 5 minutes, after which I guess it got tired of my and swam away (it swims better than I do). The entertainment was a second production show, which was far superior to the first. I knew almost all the songs, which were mostly from well known movies of the last 20 or 30 years. Day 7: At sea. I kept so busy in the cruise over all I didn't get to do two things I wanted to do. One was to climb the rock wall. The other was to ice skate. Oh well. Maybe next time. One thing the cruise did not have which I would have expected was a movie theatre. It did have a pretty good library. It also had an internet cafe, but it was too expensive to use. (50cents/minute). Another ship I was on let you have unlimited use for $100, which is a good idea. However, I'm not sure being on the internet is such a good idea for a cruise anyway. We took advantage of the Jacuzzi on our last day. They have a number of pools and hot tubs. The pools were more attractive than other pools I had seen from other ships. The entertainment was a different comedian who was very funny. His humor was observational, which is a type a like. The ship itself is a beautiful ship. It has an atrium which is very large (3 floors). The shopping area looks and feels like a mall, and you can easily forget you're on a ship. You can also forget because the trip is so smooth. (Because the ship is so large, it's virtually always standing on at least 3 waves, so it doesn't pitch at all). Last day: I didn't do any of the ship excursions during the trip itself. There is more competition for services when you leave the ship, so in general you can do things much more cheaply that way. However, I decided to do a tour the last day for two reasons. One is, I thought the rate was very reasonable. The second is it got us off the ship early. It's kind of ironic, but when the cruise is over, the only thing you want to do is get off the ship. Without a tour, you have to wait and wait and wait, especially if you don't have an early flight. With a tour, they whisk you right off. One other thing I'll mention which might be of help to someone is there is a train which takes you from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami airport for (are you ready?) 4 bucks! (a taxi would cost a minimum of $55). Flying into Ft. Lauderdale is often cheaper than Miami. In our case we were able to save $200.

Read More
  • New

Aug 24, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

Overall, an excellent vacation that we would do again. Good combination of exciting activities, relaxation and romance for our 16th anniversary. We had 2 minor disappointments that we’ll discuss first. Room – Grade C We had an inside room that had a door to the adjoining room. The door to the next room was flimsy and we could clearly hear next door (nothing exciting, usually a TV or chronic coughing). We asked both the cabin attendant

and maintenance to find a way to soundproof the door with some foam or a curtain, but they responded very poorly, each blaming the other. The rest of the room was excellent and the attendant service was very good. If you go, make sure you don’t get a room with an adjoining door in it. Food - Grade B We always ate dinner in the formal dining room and met 3 nice couples. Most of the dinners were excellent with a good selection of appetizers, salads and desserts, however some of the items were only fair, including the lobster which wasn’t nearly as good as you’d get at a Red Lobster. We were told to expect food as good as our local $25/entrée restaurant but were disappointed several times. The service was good with excellent wines and cocktails. The Johnny Rockets restaurant was ok for lunch, great milkshakes, but only fair sandwiches. The buffet restaurant for breakfast/lunch was good but we enjoyed the Café Promenade which had a good assortment of finger sandwiches and desserts. We also tried lunch once in the main dining room – more formal, but very good. There is one grand midnight buffet, which was fair, some of the food looked better than it tasted. We spent about $300 dollars on drinks which were good and reasonable. Typically we had 1or 2 afternoon drinks, wine, cocktail or champagne for dinner and 1 or 2 drinks at bars during the evening. Entertainment - A We highly recommend that you make an attempt to check out the shows. The Explorer class has a 1000+ seat auditorium. We saw the 2 large production shows which had great singing, dancing, bands, sets, lighting. While the music wasn’t original, it was as good as seeing a major musical on Broadway (we had seen Chicago in NY last year). The Ice Show was also excellent; it’s amazing what the skaters could do on such a small rink. This show also had an acrobat tumbling/hanging inside a large wheel as he rolled around the ice. We saw one of the comedians who was also good and the cruise director Jeff Arpin was funny. There was quite a variety of clubs inside the ship. Barry from Boston played requests in a cozy piano bar; he was good in that corny piano bar style. We also enjoyed the rock band, The Stingrays, and went dancing whenever they were playing. They also had a nice jazz club and a modern loud thumping dance club. The Ship – A The ship has 14 levels with a nice mall-like center walkway with a large atrium at either end. The artwork was very interesting; paintings, photos, sculptures on every floor landing, so take the stairs frequently. The top deck could get crowded, but the pools, jacuzzis and outside bars were fine. Many activities so check your daily schedule and go do something. We both rock climbed, ice skated (because it’s there!) and I took a juggling class. We both vowed to work out in the large gym, but this became a low priority. Excursions – A We did some good snorkeling in Nassau and had a few complimentary rum punches on the trip back. On St Thomas we did more snorkeling and the introductory scuba dive down to 35 feet, which was really great. We went to Megan’s beach in the afternoon which was crowded and only fair. Puerto Rico was just some quick shopping for us but we heard from several others that the sightseeing was worth it. Labadee was a nice private beach with native entertainment and arts/crafts from local vendors. We aren’t professional shoppers but did buy a watch, some jewelry and some crafts at seemingly reasonable prices.

Read More
  • New

Aug 3, 2002

Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Isl., Cozumel

Our trip to the Western Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas far exceeded our expectations. We arrived at the port early, about 1 p.m., expecting long lines waiting for the advertised 2 p.m. boarding. Instead we were ushered directly to the ship and, after a few short lines to take care of registering, we went to our cabins and the vacation began. The Windjammer Cafe was ready for lunch, and we ate and prepared our rooms for the week. Several of

our bags did not arrive until late in the evening. This concerned us, but we soon realized others had the same problem, and the bags did finally arrive. We had two inside cabins, one for my wife and I, the other for our three teenage daughters. When I first got a glimpse of the outside cabins with the balconies, I thought I had made a mistake in not paying extra for them. We ended up spending very little time in the cabins, however, and did not miss the balconies. My one suggestion to future passengers would be to make sure you bring a clock for your room, and a night light to guide you in the middle of the night. The restaurants were all more than satisfactory. We ate at the early sitting in the Magellan Room on Deck Five. The food and service was excellent. The salads were probably the only disappointment. There was nothing extra special about them. The Windjammer was always open for buffet breakfast and afternoon snack. There was a vast array of choices there. The chocolate chip cookies were a treat in the afternoon. The pools on deck eleven were somewhat disappointing. I had pictured them to be much bigger than they were. The water became a nasty sort of yellow color by the end of the day and the pool decks were very crowded, but since we were there mainly on the two days at sea, it was not a major issue. The shows were all top-notch, and the cruise director, Jeffrey Arpin was outstanding. His comedic reviews of the day and previews of what was to come were hysterical. He should have a show of his own. The ice show was first rate, despite the small size of the rink. The ship had 3600 passengers aboard. Very rarely did we feel we were in a crowd. Often, when coming down the stairways, or going to our cabin, we were the only people in sight. We had four ports-of-call. The first was Labadee, Haiti. The pre-tour information says Labadee, Hispaniola, using the generic term for the island occupied by Haiti and the Dom. Rep. I figured this was done so as not to scare people away from booking a cruise to Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It was our favorite spot on the trip. The peninsula of Labadee has five different beaches, and many aquatic activities to choose from. The ship catered a wonderful lunch to everyone. There is a small Haitian market where you can buy native crafts. The vendors were not overly pushy, and very willing to bargain. We took the kayaking tour which took us up close to the nearby fishing village (as close to the real Haiti as you can get). We learned quite a bit about the history and culture of Haiti, and it was worth the money. The next stop was Jamaica. We took the tour to Dunns River Falls which everyone had recommended. (If you are adventuresome, the falls are only two miles out of town, and you can get there by cab on your own). It was a great experience, but we could have been in New York doing the same thing. The beach they took us to after the falls was not a nice one, and a waste of 1.5 hours. The reggae party on the boat to and from was fun, though. I wished we would have chosen a tour to the interior of the country to really see what Jamaica was like. We also went on our own into town for shopping. Others on the tour complained about people hastling them, but this did not happen to us. Grand Cayman was the next stop and the thing to do there is to go swimming with the stingrays at Stingray City. This is a once in a lifetime experience to swim with huge stingrays (they climb up your back, front, between your legs, etc.) The beach there is also world famous, and the shopping is upscale. Our last port was Cozumel. We opted for the 8 hour tour to the Mayan ruins at Tulum and the lagoon at Xel-Ha. These are nice choices, but most of the 8 hours is in a ferry to the mainland and a bus to the ruins. We were one hour late in leaving and everything was rushed. This carried over into the evening since we missed our dinner, had to rush to the show, etc. Royal Caribbean did give us a 20% rebate when we complained about the day. I would rather have spent time exploring Cozumel in a more leisurely fashion. A minor annoyance was the confusion upon disembarking for excursions. The crew members often weren’t clear in their directions, and at Grand Cayman, we were on our own trying to find where to go for our tour. This is any area where the cruise line could stand improvement. Disembarking was well planned out. We had red tags which were called ahead of the scheduled time. The only problem came at the baggage claim where we had to wait about 45 minutes for our luggage. All in all, this was a minor problem. In summary, our family had a wonderful week. There is so much to do and see, and so many people to meet and watch. I highly recommend the Explorer of the Seas to anyone.

Read More
  • New

Jul 27, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

I want to start by saying we had a great time. My wife did not want to go on a cruise but my persistence paid off. Now she is the one that is pushing to go back. We are planning on trying the Western Itinerary next summer. This was our first cruise and we were very nervous about going. The main thing I was concerned about was being delayed at an airport and missing the ship, but that was not the case. If you stress out and worry

about things like that I would tell you to be sure and get the trip insurance and maybe even go the day before you set sail and stay in a hotel. Complaint We arrived in Miami at noon and had to wait for an hour and a half for the bus that was taking passengers to the ship. This was terrible. Because of the delay at the airport we got to the ship later than I had hoped and so the line to board was huge. We had to wait in line for two hours just to get on the ship. I told my wife that it is all a matter of perspective; we have waited longer than that for a ride at Disney world that only lasted 3 minutes. This was our only complaint of the whole trip. Next summer we will spend about $20 and take a cab from the airport and bypass the bus ride. Cabin We had an inside room that was much larger than we expected. We did not mind not having a window. Next time we will have a balcony just to see if it is worth the money for future cruises, but for out first cruise the room was great. Our stateroom had a love seat, coffee table, TV, dressing area, queen size bed and a curtain you could close to separate the bed from the rest of the room. My wife took afternoon naps so the curtain was nice. Meals The meals were great. We ate dinner every night in the dining room. We thought about eating at Portofino’s but the food was too good and we did not want to miss visiting with the new friends we were getting to know. They were from Detroit, upstate New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and then us from West Texas. It was a great mix of people. Not to mention Portofino’s cost $20 per person extra. We had the second seating for dinner. That was good and bad. Good because all the children have the early seating, bad because the shows for late seating were before dinner. Johnny Rockets was very good for a snack or lunch and the Promenade Café held us over with pizza and desserts while we waited for the late dinner. Activities The ship was amazing with so much to do we never really got bored. The pool is great and the decks have tons of chairs. My advice is to put your towel in a chair the morning of the days you are at sea and reserve your spot for the day. There are plenty of chairs but some of them are farther from the pool and bars. The ice rink is neat, but we loved the miniature golf, and inline skating. Shows The shows were very cool. The comedians were funny and the big productions we enjoyed, but our favorite was the ice show. You have to see that show. It is so cool to be sitting there watching the show and then think, “Oh yeah, I am floating on a ship in the ocean.” It is great experience. There were also two movie channels in the cabins that showed a new movie everyday. This was nice to have on while dressing or relaxing in the cabin. Nassau We stopped in Nassau on a Sunday so all the stores opened late. We got off and walked to a beach and stayed about an hour. It was nice while we were waiting for the stores to open. We later toured a Pirate museum that was cool and visited the local stores. Here is a stupid travelers warning from my experience, don’t buy “Cuban” Cigars from a guy at the straw market. I know that sounds like a no brainer but just don’t. Buy from a tobacco store, there are plenty to choose from. St. Thomas This was a great stop. The morning was spent shopping at St. Thomas. They are famous for their good prices on Jewelry, and there fine hand made linens. The after noon we took an excursion to St. John. We went to one of the Top 10 beaches in the world to relax and snorkel. This beach has an underwater snorkeling trail that is a lot of fun. We recommend this excursion. San Juan We took a bus tour of Old and New San Juan. We toured a historic fort and found some great stores to browse. We like this spot way more than we thought we would. Labadee The private Island was my wife favorite stop. It was great. Important things to remember is don’t stop at the first beach. Most people will and it will get very crowded. I think there are 7 beaches so be more selective and have a great time. The lunch was ok but the Island is amazing. Rent the floating beach mat and have a great time. We climbed in a hammock and took a nap. Great day!!!! Trip Overview It was great. I could not imagine it being much better. We loved Royal Caribbean and have even joined the Crown and Anchor club. We can’t wait till next summer. Happy Cruising.

Read More
  • New

Jul 20, 2002

Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

This was our first cruise. We were nervous about what our cabin would be like. We were worried about crowding on such a large ship. Basically our fears were completely unfounded. Our cabin was one of the larger balcony types and we LOVED it!! The ship is so huge that we really never waited for anything….I think the longest we ever stood in line was to get our picture taken one night – about a 5 minute wait. The ship is beautiful, clean, and HUGE.

We had such a great time exploring. The gym is awesome. The rock wall is fun and challenging – and very well organized. We loved the Solarium area where kids are not welcome, and all the seats are cushioned - talk about amazing naps – yeah! We thought the drink (alcoholic) prices were very reasonable; and the drinks weren’t weak, like we were expecting. The staff is wonderful. We highly recommend giving part of your tip in advance with a little “hello” note – our service was EXTREMELY great. The food was, in most cases, just right, but honestly, we weren’t there to eat anyways! We saw one show and all three comics – it was all on par with something we’d go to see at home. The Casino was fun although we aren’t really into gambling. The musical groups were fun – our favorite was Barry the Piano Player. We also liked Dizzy’s a lot. We saw the ice show and enjoyed some parts of it…it’s quite something that they have this on a ship. Really, the best show is out on deck – the views, sunsets, sunrises, are unbelievable. LABADEE: once you get on the island – explore a little. Don’t just stop where everyone else does in the crowded first beach. There are hammocks and chairs all over the island and you can actually find an area all to your own….for a couple of hours we were on a beautiful deserted island….with the exception that we had someone serving us drinks and a huge lunch to attend! JAMAICA: We highly recommend the Mountain to Sea bike ride. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and careful for our safety…not too mention hysterically funny. The ride itself is awesome…and at the end you get to jump off 23 foot cliff into the ocean – awesome! The biking is actually at the same location as the horse rides…just FYI the horses are wonderfully taken care of, with individual stables, and a full time ferrier. It all looked just as organized as the bike rides. CAYMAN: We elected to not do the Sting ray city – but we’re going to next time! Some of our table-mates did it and said it was great. We went to 7-mile beach. It’s lovely. We decided to hike the beach back to Georgetown – what a workout! The shopping was the very best of the cruise. A clean, very pretty little stop. COZUMEL: We elected to go Scuba diving – we didn’t bring any of our gear. The operator was extremely safety-oriented. The gear was in very good shape. The organization was better than that of scuba tours I’ve done in the states. Our guide was very well informed, very confident – and instilled a lot of confidence in us too. We went deeper than we ever had before – 90 feet; and we went through caverns – a new one for us! It was breath-taking and beautiful. The tour boat picked us up and deposited us right back at the ship – very convenient. We then did some shopping in the downtown area and had lunch and drinks at Carlos & Charlies…we ended up participating in the “Grease Melody” onstage with a bunch of other Explorer guests – what a fun place! We didn’t take our son this time…but we are going next summer (we’re addicted!!) and we’re taking him because the ship has whole areas geared to kids – arcades, a kid’s program, a kids pool area, basketball, putt-putt, inline skating, ping pong tables…..he’s going to love it. We decided on about day four that this was the best vacation we ever had. We really tried to come up with complaints, but we simply don’t have any. We had great staff, met great new friends, and had some terrific adventures. And there was even time for naps! How can you complain when the ONLY thing you have to worry about is getting yourself to dinner on time?!

Read More
  • New

Jul 20, 2002

Western Caribbean

We went on the 7/20/02 sailing of the Explorer of the Seas with two of our kids and a friend. We have cruised 15 times and this was the second with RCCL. This is our favorite cruise line and favorite ship so far. We flew to Miami and arrived at the port at 1:00 p.m. Big mistake. Everyone else arrived at that time too. It took us an hour and a half before we got on the ship. That is the only area I think that could be improved. We then went to our

cabin (the first balcony cabin we have had) and loved it. We went exploring the ship and ate at the Windjammer for the Welcome Aboard Buffet. We didn't eat a lot since we had early seating for dinner and it wasn't but 2 hours away. The life boat drill was longer than most and it was so hot. We went to check out the dining room to see where our table was and it was in a perfect spot right by the window. We then got ready for dinner and proceeded to the dining room again. We loved our waiter, Domenico from Italy. He reminded us of Emeril Lagasse except that "Excellent Choice" was his favorite words instead of "Bam". We all agreed he was the best waiter we have ever had. The bus boy, Condrut was a little slow and it took him until the third night to know our usual drink requests, but he was friendly. All of the food was wonderful each night. We all had 2 lobsters on lobster night and most nights we got more than one dessert. The entertainment and shows were top notch. A lot of costume and prop changes. Susan Anton was the special celebrity of the week and we enjoyed her. We had been to all of these ports before so we didn't do any shore excursions. We went to Margaritaville in Jamaica, shopping in Cayman and Chankanaab in Cozumel. It was too hot on Labadee, so we only stayed a couple of hours there. The Gala Buffet was beautiful and the white chocolate strawberries were wonderful. Debarkation was a long and slow process too. We had a 12:50 flight and they still had not called our color tag by 10:30 so we were getting a little nervous but they finally called it at 10:45 and we got to the airport around 11:30. This cruise is for all ages and has plenty to do for everyone.

Read More
  • New

Jun 22, 2002

Western Caribbean

The ship was so elegant and large. It is truly a floating city. Aside from the size, the ship was very classy as opposed to Elation's gaudy look. The nightly shows were very good. My only complaint is that the service and the food was not better than Carnival's. This is a little surprising because I read so much on the Internet about Royal Caribbean's service and food. Also, there was no midnight buffets. That was hard for me to grasp. The casino

was big and it had craps and roulette tables also. I don't know if all ships are like this but the pools were filled with salt water and I didn't care too much for this. But the ship had 5 or 6 jacuzzis and that is great because I was able to use it anytime I wanted. On the Elation, it was usually all occupied. The excursions were to Labadee (Haiti), Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel (Mexico). I was real disappointed in Labadee which is Royal Caribbean's private location. The beach was quite small and there was too much rock. The BBQ lunch served was cold and bland. Jamaica was ok but it was such a tourist trap. Locals were so pushy too. Grand Cayman was beautiful but you had to buy a tour to do something fun. We didn't and was stuck on a hotel beach front which we had to pay to get in. It was nice but not great. I regret not snorkeling with the Sting Rays. Cozumel was the best! I had a great time at the beach. The beach we were at had people bring us chairs and their were plenty of shade. There was a beach for kids with no rocks...ah finally and the snorkeling was superb. Better than Hanama Bay in Hawaii. In conclusion, I really enjoyed cruising with Royal Caribbean and the Explorer of the Seas. I would definitely sail with Royal Caribbean again although its reputation preceded it. If Carnival had a 100,000+ gt ship, I would probably say it would be just as fun. One last thing that I remember, during dinner, someone asked for seconds on the lobster tail and was only given a half. I thought that was pretty cheap of Royal Caribbean.

Read More
  • New

Jun 8, 2002

Western Caribbean

My experience with RC was excellent. It was my first real vacation, and I was rather nervous from the beginning. I never left home without my mother so I was filled with angst and trepidation about the vacation. Since I completely hate surprises, I was not in a particularly ecstatic mood. My great aunt, my sister, and I traveled from Dallas at 7:00 A.M. to Miami at 4:30 P.M. The boat was to depart at 5:00 P.M. We were the last group to board the ship

and because of your lack of punctuality, we arrived onto the ship when they were conducting the muster drill. Everyone had their life jackets on and stood by the rail, peering into the ocean. My family and I proceeded to find our cabins, which took us quite awhile to find. My sister and I shared a stateroom cabin, which was the last cabin in the hallway. Believe me, it was a far walk. The corridors in the cabin area were a little narrow and the ceiling was short. I deem a person taller than 6 ft. may find this troublesome. Anyways, we missed the muster drill. Something to know: the toilets are a little frightening at first. You can loose a shoe when you flush. The first day was rather hectic. By the time I found my cabin, it was time to go to dinner. We had dinner in the Da Gama during the main seating. My family, which consisted of extended family and in-laws, reserved 3 tables for all 23 of us. We were from all over the country. On my Supercharge Card, I was reserved for table 423, but my great aunt moved me to table 421. From the get-go, my waiters were the sweetest and most patient people I have ever met. The waiter’s name was Ferhat and the assistant waiter’s name was Rajeev. The waiter at table 423, Soner, who usually traveled to my table to talk to us, was also very amiable and fun. After dinner, my sister went to the Casino, which was very grandiose and spectacular to look at, and I sat with my other family in the bar area, where we were usually entertained by a talented pianist. After awhile, I got bored sitting there so I tried to find my luggage. It turned out that they misplaced my luggage in another family member’s cabin. It took me about 30 minutes to track down my things. Although the stateroom attendant misplaced my luggage, they were still very nice. I did not find anything really objectionable about the carpet, but there was quite a bit of dust collecting on the hallway displays. Something that did bother me was the fact that too many people smoked during the evening. Almost everywhere I went during the night involved some nicotine. I detest smoking. On the other nights, we went to the Palace Theater (features a musical performance every night), Maharaja’s Lounge to karaoke (Note: A lot of drunk, boisterous, rude college buffoons tend to take refuge here during karaoke), Johnny Rockets (which is less crowded after dinner, closes at 1:00 A.M.), great arcade, Promenade Café (located in the Royal Promenade which serves pizza, sandwiches, cookies, and drinks 24/7) dancing places, bars (located around every corner, great place to watch sports), pubs (enjoyed the live Salsa music), and Studio B (danced to 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s music & watched an ice show) Our first stop was Labadee, Hispaniola. The beach area was pretty good. You can work up a really good tan there or burn. After we grew tired of wading in the water, we rode the banana boat (costs $10 per person). There is usually a long waiting list, and you need 6 people to ride a banana boat. Anyways, as you are waiting to get on the real banana boat, the instructor teaches you some techniques and hand signals. We of course brushed him off and ignored him. As fate would have it, all of us fell off of the banana boat and into the ocean. I was exceptionally frightened because I did not know how to swim, but I did have my life vest on so I was fine; a little shaken up but fine. We then had a BBQ and relaxed for the entire day. For those of you who plan to go jet skiing on Labadee, like my family did, be careful where you step because my sister stepped on a sea urchin. It is very common but painful. The next stop was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I didn’t really enjoy Jamaica because I don’t fare well in environments where numerous strangers offer you a taxi ride, but the view of Jamaica from the ship was beautiful. I think I was approached by 20 different people. Of course many people didn’t face the same problem as we did because we decided to tour the city by foot. We walked through the shopping areas and through the city. After some time, we finally took a taxi to Dunn’s Waterfall. We didn’t want to climb the waterfall because we were already exhausted from the walk. We took pictures and then headed to a beach. The beach did not spark any interest in me so we walked back to the ship. At the shop near the pier, my friend bought a lot of liquor and I bought a 20 oz. Coca Cola for $1.00 (liquor and soft drinks are much cheaper there than in America and on the ship& duty free, tax free). Breakfast at the Windjammer is a must. The Windjammer is a buffet area and is very laid back. However, you cannot wear wet bathing suits or go in bare foot. It is open very early. Usually after breakfast, if we were at sea, we would go to the gym and workout. The sauna is also nice. In Grand Cayman, we went to Sting Ray City on a small boat for $30 per person. I had a wonderful time with the Sting Rays because we were able to feed, touch, and pick up the sting rays. We stood in about 3 ft. deep water. Our guides all spoke English and never left our sides. After our time with the sting rays, we traveled a little further to go snorkeling. I did not go snorkeling because I was sea sick from the choppy waves (there was a storm the night before). I hear the fish were stunning. We then returned to the ship with an hour to spare so we headed to the hot tub. The area was empty because most people hadn’t arrived onto the ship yet. In Cozumel, we were to be on the ship by 6:30 P.M. (we docked at 10 A.M.). In Mexico, it was a little more up to you for your plans. We rented a van and traveled to Chankanaab Park. We went snorkeling and swimming. Also I was bitten by a fairly large fish. It made a slit on my index finger. Also watch out for mosquitoes and flies. You can also swim with the dolphins for about $200 or go snuba. We then went to get some lunch, which engrossed a lot of flies. We left the park and drove around the city some more. We visited the ancient ruins of the Mayan which turned out to be a large rock in front of a church. My in-laws purchased a few hammocks and rugs. We then had the duty of refilling up the gasoline tank. My friend was the only one who spoke Spanish and it took a great deal of patience to get directions to a gas station. Having a Spanish speaking person accommodating you is not vital, but it may be helpful at times. We returned about 5 minutes late and we were one hour late to dinner. After the ship had left Cozumel, a group of people, who were left behind in Mexico, were carried from a small ferry onto the already moving ship. It was a sight that caught the attention of everyone. Overall, the trip was the great. There was room for improvement but nothing is perfect. The dining room staff was superb, not to mention very, very handsome, and the environment was excellent. I am planning to go again a few summers from now and hopefully I will get the same dining room staff. If you don’t find my upbeat testimony believable, try it yourself. Take Care and Have Fun!

Read More
  • New

May 18, 2002

Nassau - St. Thomas - San Juan - Labadee

What a cruise ! What a cruise ! What a cruise !! My experience is different from most because I got married on my cruise with 18 sailing guest present but I must say it was absolutely perfect from the minute we checked in to the minute we left the ship. My wedding was beautiful and every detail that I had requested was fulfilled by RCI’s wedding planners - Royal Romance. The ship has a beautiful chapel on the 15th level - the highest

point on the ship and it was romantic for the wedding and the perfect size for my 18 guests. Our reception was one level down in the "Cloud 9" lounge. The room was all glass and overlooked the Miami bay. Amazing views for a reception! My wedding was perfect and all that I had imagined so on to the rest of the cruise …… I have to preface this by saying that this was one of the best vacations I have ever taken. The ship itself is an absolute marvel and has something for everyone. Everything was first class, all the way. Our cabin - We had a cabin on deck 9 with a balcony. A balcony cabin is worth the extra money. It was wonderful to sit on the balcony and watch the ship come into port each morning. It was even nice to sit on the balcony on the mornings we didn’t port. Most of my guests had inside staterooms and some overslept a few mornings because they had no idea what time it was. They wished they at least a window in their room. Something to consider, in the future. Our stateroom attendant was efficient, friendly and very accommodating. On the first night, we had not received all of our luggage by dinner and he made sure we had all of it before we went to bed that evening. Our cabin was clean and kept clean by the cabin attendants. We never had to ask for extra towels, they were just left. I loved that they left towel animals in the room at night and would even put my sunglasses and my husbands cigar cases on the animals. If we left our bed unmade from our afternoon nap, he made it up and folded down for bedtime. Amenities - Endless!! I used the gym and it was better than my gym (a national chain) at home. The machines were new and clean. They offered different aerobic classes & yoga. There was an adult pool/jacuzzi area that we used in the evenings because we had it to ourselves. The main pool was usually crowded in the daytime but was nice in the evening. It was surrounded by 1 giant jacuzzi and 2 smaller ones. The casino was usually crowded and we only walked through it to get to other parts of the ship. We don’t gamble and it was one of the few indoor places people could smoke, so we pretty much avoided it. We visited several of the bars and clubs in the evening and enjoyed the different bands playing or pianists in the bars. The DJ’s at the clubs played dance music and had different theme’s each night. We enjoyed "80’s night" since we were both 80’s kids. The shows were great. I highly recommend the ice show. You have to get tickets (free) for it and they go fast so make sure you get them when offered. I missed 2 of the shows but my family saw all of the shows and enjoyed them all. The crew - Top notch ! Our waiters had our dinner drink orders memorized after 1 night. Our head waiter was wonderful, funny and very personable. He made excellent food recommendations and gave use sneak previews of the menu for the following evening. He always asked about our adventures each day and gave us tips on our next ports - what to see and do. Every crew member we came in contact with was friendly and offered great service. The food - We enjoyed breakfast each day in the Windjammer. What a spread ! We never lacked anything and loved the omelet station and fresh fruit. I was wishing they offered cappuccinos or lattes but could have gone to the main dining rooms for that. We had lunch at the Windjammer and at Johnny Rockets. Johnny Rockets was great. I limit my red meat intake and was happy they served veggie burgers. As soon as you sit down they bring you a "starter" of french fries and onion rings with a side of ranch dressing - yummmmmy! When the song "YMCA" would come on the jukebox the waiters would all sing and dance and get the restaurant involved. The restaurant usually has a wait but it was never longer than 10-20 minutes. Dinner in the main dining room was always a treat. The menu each night was wonderful and offered so many different choices that it was often difficult to choose just one thing. The great thing is you didn’t have to choose just one thing. You could order multiple desserts or another main course. One evening, they served lobster tails and offered all of us seconds on the lobster. Most of us took advantage of that treat. The menu’s even offered light recommendations for those of us on Weight Watchers ( I am ) or who diet. And, they offered at least 1 sugar-free dessert each night. I chose that a few times and enjoyed it just as much as the desserts loaded with sugar. The only food I felt was a little bland was the Italian fare. It was OK but not as good as most Italian restaurants on land. Ports - Nassau, Bahamas was fun. We went on the excursion to Black Beards Cay. That was a short boat ride to a private island then just a couple of hours of beach and relaxation time. The water was so clear and blue but I would skip this excursion next time and go to the Atlantis resort. My parents visited Atlantis and raved about it. We were only in port until 1 p.m. and our excursion ended at 12:30 so we had no time to look around Nassau. I wished we had more time at this port. Next port - Charlotte, Amalie, St. Thomas was very beautiful. Our excursion was a half day of snorkeling at Turtle Cove on the sailboat the "Doubloon." This was very fun and a good excursion. The crew of the Doubloon were funny, informative and helpful. Some of my group got seasick on the way back and the crew helped them as much as possible. St. Thomas is a great place to buy jewelry, liquor and perfume. We took advantage of the prices of liquor and bought a bottle of Absolut Citron for $.8.95. Next port - San Juan, PR was very historic and had some good shopping. We shopped at the name brand outlets in Old San Juan and trekked up to El Morro. This was an amazing structure. It was massive and offered a nice history lesson. You can plan a formal excursion through the ship, take one of the many taxi’s available or just venture out on your own like we did. There is a free trolley called "Parada" that takes you though most of Old San Juan. Labadee, Haiti was relaxing and very quaint. This is RCI’s private area. RCI has leased this area from Haiti for 100 years. Haiti is a very poor country and Labadee is considered one of the more wealthy areas of Haiti. It offers a small straw market that has some great deals on unique gifts. The main beach near where the tenders dock were crowded but there are plenty of beach areas and plenty of chairs. If you want to Parasail or ride the wave-runners sign up early because they were both sold out 2 days before we even reached Labadee. My favorite port was St. Thomas. Disappointments? Very few. I got into an argument with 2 people over lounge chairs. The ship advises that you cannot reserve chairs but people drop their towels that RCI provides on chairs and come back an hour later expecting it to be available. I feel it needed to be announced around the pool area every hour to remind people of that rule. Highlights? The whole cruise ! I wasn’t ready to go home and could have sailed on for another week. The ship and cruise has something for everyone - I really mean everyone. They accommodate children, teens, young adults, adults of all ages and even the elderly. We all plan on cruising again and will definitely go on Royal Caribbean and on the Explorer of the Seas. I would have a hard time going on a smaller RCI ship so we are looking at the sister ships "Voyager" and "Adventure."

Read More
  • New

May 4, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

My husband and I were first time cruisers...so we didn't know what to expect. Let me just say, it is the BEST vacation we have ever taken and ever will! The ship was enormous, like a floating city, and very beautiful. One just can not imagine it, one must see it in person to fully appreciate how magnificent it truly is. All of the employees were truly the best! They are so well trained and are truly there to ensure that everyone has the best vacation

of their lifetime. I would recommend this cruise line to anyone, especially to those who have never gone on a cruise before...This really was by far the BEST vacation we've been on. There is so much to see and do that one could not possibly become bored. The food is superb! It's so amazing that they can prepare the amount of food that they need to accommodate such a large ship without making the quality of the food suffer! We'll never be able to go out to eat again...nothing can compare to the treatment of the wait staff and the quality of the food on board. We had a Royal Promenade view from our room, it was great! We paid less than those with a water view, but we still had a window to make the room feel bigger...plus we got to see all the action on the inside of the boat!(it was also soundproof, so we didn't have to worry about any noise drifting up from the promenade). There were people on board from age 0 to age 99. My husband and I were celebrating our honeymoon a little bit delayed, others were celebrating their anniversaries, birthdays, etc. One couple was celebrating their 62nd anniversary! So it truly was a cruise for everyone! Everyone was so relaxed...if you've ever taken a trip to Disney World (my 2nd favorite place now) you know first hand that by the end of a day there you're ready to beat somebody...it truly wasn't like that on board at all! Very relaxed! Everyone was great, from the guests to the staff. My husband and I met several people that we ended up spending the entire cruise with...Tina and Tony were sitting with us at our Dining Room Table in the Columbus Dining Room....we're still in touch...we had such a blast with them! Our wait staff was exemplary! Pardeep was our waiter, Christoph was our assistant waiter and Merrick was our headwater! We love them! We hope we get them the next time we cruise with Royal Caribbean! I just can't say enough! All I can really reiterate is that it will be the BEST vacation you ever take!!!! Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas all the way!!!

Read More
  • New

May 3, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

Ten months have passed since our first cruise, yet the wonderful experience and memories we have from the EOS still lingers. The ship is MAGNIFICENT!! She is HUGE! So many things to do on board, from just relaxing in a hot tub in the ship's solarium to ice shows, entertaining variety shows, gambling at the casino, listening to jazz, song trivia contests, library, internet access, viewing the wonderful artwork throughout the ship, the

list goes on and on. We sailed with my sister and brother-in-law who are in their early forties, and their teen children, a boy 16 and a girl 13. Yes even the teens had a FABULOUS time, rock climbing, snorkeling, visiting the arcade and attending the various events, specifically for their age group. PLUS pizza was available almost round the clock. My neice made friends quickly with another very lovely young girl from Michigan. A subsequent post by another cruiser on the EOS, said she would NEVER recommend it. All of those mishaps she experienced seem an anomaly to us. On arrival in Miami airport there was a rep from RC who immediately assisted us in filing out the INS cards. She then hailed two taxis for us which cost about $13 per cab (as opposed to the $25 per person RC arranged bus transport. BIG SAVINGS ! It's a very short 10 min ride to the piers. Our bags were unloaded & tagged immediately. We went through the process of getting all our documents/accounts for charging in order. Lines were long, but moved very quickly. Went upstairs in the terminal to sit and wait to be called to board and within 10 min. we boarded exactly on time. The ship was booked to maximum capacity, but you'd never know it, Only crowds we saw were in the Promenade for the welcoming parade and other occassional (short but fun) events that took place in the Promenade. We were always able to get a seat without waiting in line anywhere, including Johnny Rockets. Our stateroom was an inside cabin and it was just fine. It was appointed pleasantly enough. We had more than enough space for storage (and me especially, who brought lots of "stuff". We felt quite comfortable sitting on the couch and watching a bit of TV before going to bed. Beds were quite comfortable and we slept well because we went to bed happy every night, because RC spoiled us all day long. The bathroom was clean and modern, no problems with how water or pressure; lots of storage for toiletries. The room attendant Rosa was very quiet and seemed shy. One caveat emptor here: Watch that "in room fridge." Every night my husband would bring a lunchroom-sized milk container from the Cafe, to have some milk and cookies before bed. On the last night, we noticed a lot of things missing from our fridge, Stuff they charge you a hefty price for. We immediately summoned Rosa. he informed us that a neighboring cabin had ordered these items and she just used ours to fill the order quickly. BUT SHE NEVER INFORMED US UNTIL WE CONFRONTED HER. She did apologize profusely and replaced the items immediately. Some people never bother to use or check their fridge, but do it first and last thing to avoid such problems. Ports: Nassau Easter Sunday, almost everything is closed. Strawmarket with pushy vendors is open, but nothing here is wildly expensive anyway. Only in port a short time. St. Thomas Lots of great shopping within walking distance of the ship. Souveniers, jewlery, clothing. Public pay phone kiosks for those who need it. We actually walked to a nearby K-Mart and bought a 12pk Pepsi for my husband, a diehard Pepsi drinker. (RC serves only Coke on board.) My nephew stopped at a nearby Burger King there, because he's ALWAYS hungry. There is also a tobacco shop nearby, for those who smoke and can't get their favorite brand aboard ship. Spent our beach time at Megan's Bay. Long, narrow beach, white sands, surrounded by mountainous views. vendors will bring you drinks. The water is just beautiful calm and warm. This is a bay, not for surfer dudes or snorkelers but great for small children, and those like me who don't like getting knocked down by waves. Taxis easily and readily available both to and from the various beaches. A few sudden unpredictable short-lived downpours. My sister-in-law and her family got drenched. So don't go cruising around town in your see-thru-whites, unless you want it to be seen. Puerto Rico- We meet a friend who lives in San Juan and he brings us to the beach at Isla Verde. OH..MY..GOD ! I LOVE THIS BEACH!!! Some locals and those staying in the luxury hotels here. Cheap lounge rentals, drinks if you want or a walk-up bar nearby. But the beach, which is raked and cleaned is a joy to walk on. No shells, no seaweed, no jelly fish. Walk into the ocean, it's like walking on wall to wall carpeting. For those who are skittish about stepping on things in your bare feet that you can't see; this is where you want to take a dip. The ocean this day is glorious, not too rough, warm and inviting. I did not want to come out. Capped off the short stay with lunch at ny friend's restaurant, Mi Casita. Food is soooo good, coffee delicious and a really nice place to dine. The stay in PR is way too short. Labadee: RC private island. UGH! YUCK! Natives eye you hungrily, sand is brownish and coarse,and in some areas was actually trucked in and placed over cement sidewalk, you MUST wear flip flops or you'll roast the soles of your feet. lonuge chairs old and rusty. Water was actually too warm to be refreshing. Floating mats should not have to be rented, RC should just let you use them. HOT HOT and TOO HOT. Waverunner excursion was super fun, but we missed the BBQ. No matter, it was so hot, you just wanted to puke. DON"T DRINK THE WATER IN LABADEE NO MATTER HOW HOT IT GETS. IT'S NOT SAFE!! Dining :Superb! Our waiter Antonio was a sheer joy. Delightful, amusing, charming and very attentive. We looke forward to our late seating meals, just to spend time with him. Seconds were never a problem, even whe he introduced my nephew to lobster tails. Food was always, excellent, salads always crisp and fresh, steaks done as exactly as requested. Menu was diverse, and if you didn't like that night's offerings, you were always free to order a grilled steak, chicken or fish. Desserts were presented with flair and were very fancy; but still, if you wished just a dish of ice cream that was no problem. Food at the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch.. so much to choose from. Breakfasts were delicious. Had few lunches because of stuffing myself at breakfast. But there were many, many choices. You'd be hard pressed not to find something you liked. Plus you could take it out oto the deck or just bring it to your room if you wished. Ah that second cup of coffee. Not once did I encounter from any wait staff, any rudeness or surliness. These people bent over backwards to please you. Many are from Turkey and Portugal. Strike up a conversation and their stories will surprise you. Bartenders were terrific, in the Aquarium Bar especially Robert. Haydar, from the Champagne Bar is very engaging and interesting young man. Roti, from the 19th hole another real nice guy. Bartenders at the pool and sports bar were forgettable. Mind you,I had lot of nada coldas, and did not cruise in a blurred state. I loved the Explorer of the Seas, it was the best vacation we ever had; and my husband and I, and our extended family can't wait to be spoiled again by Royal Caribbean. A word to the young lady who posted that the carpets were in need of shampooing as well as some guests: Yes the carpets did need some shampooing here and there, but certainly they were not filthy by any means. Try having 4000 + guests to your house ever single day. The foot traffic is unavoidable. Certainly, there were no guests aboard that I would deem were in need of a shampoo either. This was a nice class of people we sailed with, running the gamut in age, ethnicity and backgrounds. All were neatly groomed and very friendly. Perhaps that cruise was not in your stars, but our cruise aboard the Explorer, was absolutely superb.

Read More
  • New

Apr 13, 2002

Western Caribbean

Embarkation was a piece of cake. We got there around 10:30, hardly no line at all. We had pier pick up for the documents and that was very easy. They told us we would be getting on at 11:00. It was 12:30 before we got on. Apparently two people got arrested when they went through customs and we had to wait on that. The ship itself is beautiful, but is so nasty! I have been on Commodore (from 1951) and Carnival and RCCL is must nastier than either

of those. It is a shame to have such a pretty ship and let it be that run down. The funny thing is before I went, I read reviews where people had talked about the carpet and the kind of people on the boat, and I thought they were nit picking or snobs. The carpet was disgusting and the people on there looked like they should be spending their money on clothes and shampoo. When the cruise lines have major discounts though, I guess you get what you pay for. And the kids running around wearing next to nothing. 10 and 11 year old girls with their bottoms hanging out of their shorts. C’mon parents! I did enjoy the Promenade Café and the kids program looked like they were awesome. They had a parade with the kids dressed up like pirates (the kids were maybe 4-5 years old) and they sang and danced. It was too cute! Our cabin steward told us on the first night that he was too busy to clean our room! Then he told us to expect our luggage by midnight. No problem, but 1:30am rolls around, no luggage, and no room steward. My father and I had to go through the service doors ourselves and find our luggage. They never brought us any. Then the day we were in Cozumel we saw him several times and I thought how nice he gets to have a day off here. When we got back on the boat, we were in the room for maybe 30-45 minutes and he came and knocked on the door and told us if we wanted our room cleaned to get out in the next 10 minutes!! I have never had such poor service. We ate in the Windjammer. For breakfast and lunch it was fine. For dinner you had to beg them to bring you tea or water and then you never got a refill. At breakfast and lunch you got your own drinks. At dinner they had to bring them to you. So much for the casual dining. We were also disappointed that there was no outside dining except for a few booths at Johnny Rockets. There was also a girl who led you to your table at night that looked like it was killing her to speak to us. She was so rude. Johnny Rockets was great however. We really enjoyed that, but you can only eat there so many times! The Daily Compass was wrong every day. They had times to get on and off the ship wrong. We could have missed the ship. They also had for the second formal night dress as formal, but the description was sundresses or slacks. They had put the casual dress as the description for the formal dress. The biggest mistake was the colors for disembarkation. The compass said our color would be the second group off. We were the sixth group to go. They also called the colors wrong. When we told them our flight left in two hours, no one cared. They had us in the same color as people who had late afternoon flights. If they would have had the compass right, we could have changed our color. First thing we did when we got on the ship was sign up for shore excursions. They “somehow lost” our form and it was “our bad”. They did get us booked, however one was cancelled because we didn’t get into port until real late and the other one was a joke. They put us on an old shark fishing boat. It had a severe smoke problem. You couldn’t even breathe. The captain was upset because there were only about 5 people that spoke English and RCCL didn’t send an interpreter. Very dangerous to go snorkeling in the middle of the ocean when no one can understand you! However the captain and his mate were great. If you go on the Stingray Swim and Snorkel, ask for Presley’s boat and tell him Summer from TN sent you. He usually captains a catamaran, so you won’t be on the same nasty boat. I can go on and on about how awful it was, but I wont. Let me say that I am not a picky person, and I can look over a lot, but this is a major disappointment. I will tell you what was good. Balcony cabin Showers (love the doors) Johnny Rockets Celebrity show with the Osmond Brothers Kids program Labadee (with the exception of the guards who follow you around) be sure to see the show with the native dance and singing. It is awesome!! Cayman Islands. Love Captain Presley and his mate. Love the water and 7 mile beach. Do not go to the beach they recommend though. It is a rip off. All beaches are public there. Cozumel. Chankanaab Park. You HAVE to see the sea lions. It is a great show especially for kids and only costs $5.00 The soft serve ice cream The room service Also, try to find out what area of the country has a huge group booked. The kind of people make a difference. I will not sell RCCL to my clients anymore, nor will I sail them again. I will go back to Princess or maybe HAL or Crystal. I would have rather been at work than on that cruise and that is bad. Maybe you will have a better experience. Good luck!!

Read More
  • New

Mar 16, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

A group of eight couples - six from Western Wisconsin, one from St. Louis and one all the way from Houston - all decided that it was time that we ventured forth on a cruise. For the most part, the majority of us had not been on a cruise. We had heard wonderful things from friends, but had instead gone to all-inclusive resorts or other well-known vacation stops like Orlando. Because the majority of us had not cruised before, we did quite a bit of research

on Cruising, our Boat (Explorer of the Seas), and the Ports of Call. For the most part, we found interesting reviews – a few of them extraordinary (See Tom & Mary Milano’s reviews for an example). But many did not get into the nuts and bolts that many new cruising couples are looking for. So after doing this exhaustive research, and then taking our cruise (which we will say upfront was WONDERFUL!), we thought we would attempt to compile and recount the information we learned. It just made sense to us to do so. So although this is a review of the Explorer of the Seas and the Ports we visited, it is also written with a bend towards the first-time cruiser. As with all reviews, it is important to remember that our perspective might be very different than others. What we like, you may not. What we think is excellent, you may disagree. Remember that we are simply suggesting our opinions, and we are (mostly) from the Midwest.... Which breeds its own style of disappointment. About us... I mean really - if you live in the Midwest and crave a little glamour, where do you go and what do you do? How glamorous is the glamour we are likely to find, if we find any at all? What if the top, glamour-wise, is only a workaday hotel restaurant with a good smorgasbord? I say this only to create for you a “mental picture” of our little neck of heaven - Western Wisconsin. It does breed a distinct kind of disappointment, which, in some, becomes murderous resentment (check out the well-known mass-murders) - ever wonder where they come from? I think this disappointment has to do with glamour, or rather the lack of it. After all, if the American media promises us anything, it’s glamour. Everyday, everywhere we look (except, alas, at home) we see glamour: on television, in the movies, in magazines. Glamour has become part of the American promise, but it’s hard to scare up much of it in the Midwest. Kids and adults only have to turn on the TV or pick up some magazine to see people in other places wearing better clothes than they wear, eating more interesting food than they eat, and having a better time than they’re having. In some, (See Jeffrey Dahmer), this lack of glamour festers. Heck, a new outlet mall is seen as a blessing by many in this part of the world. But for others (like us) we are mature compromisers when it comes to glamour, or, for that matter, to life itself; if life means working in a local Gas Station, driving a truck, fishing a lot, and occasionally getting drunk for fun, then so be it. We find our glamour by traveling to areas that are NOT where we are from - for although we love it here and most never leave - getting our glamour means traveling to it - and most importantly - having (or many times making) our good times with good friends. This review.... We thought we would split this review into a number of parts, each covering an area where we had the most questions. They include: The Ship Itself: What’s on it, where is it at. The Staff: Who are they, how do they interact with us, how do we thank them (Tipping) Restaurants/Drinks/Bars: Good/Bad, costs of drinks, drink specials, etc. Staterooms: Sizes in real terms, inside versus Promenade versus Balcony. Ports of Call: Overview, sights to see (or avoid) people you meet, shopping. Amenities: The extras on the boat, like Theme parties, shows, Bar Styles, etc. Various Thoughts: A Catch All for anything we may have missed. Before we get started.... Lastly, because this review is being written and contributed to by a number of people, and just like we mentioned earlier, opinions vary, even the opinions within our group may vary. So when an individual contributes something to our review, or if someone wrote a certain section, we will try to note it by putting the initials after the section. That way you can keep up with who is saying what within this review. So lets get started! (BP) The First off, recognize this baby is HUGE! At 1030 Feet in Length, it’s over 3.5 football fields long. But you really get a feeling for how big it is when it is in port and seen next to other ships. It dwarfs most other ships. One of the special things to start your trip off right is to get up early (I mean early - between 4 AM and 5 AM) and watch the ship come down the channel and pull into Port in Miami. It looks like a moving skyscraper. Stay at the Marriott in Biscayne Bay and get a room towards the Bay. We were on the 22nd floor, and the ship will come into the bay and turn around right in front of you. And at 15+ stories off the water, it won’t seem like it is that far away. You should be able to board the ship at sometime around 11 AM. Since you are paying for that day, why not get on as early as possible? Take this time (since your room will not be ready until around 1 PM, and lunch will begin being served at 12:30) to look around your new home for the next week. You will board the ship on deck #4. If you have a carry-on bag, go ahead and drop it off at your room. Then begin your examination of the ship. Start on Deck 5. The Royal Promenade is the centerpiece of the Explorer. Anchored on both ends by two towers of Atrium Elevators, between you will find the heartbeat of the ship. It reminds one of a high-end mall with shops, entertainment venues, bars, desserts and places to stop for a beer or a cup of coffee. At one end, you will find Guest Services (towards the Aft of the ship), where you can pick-up the Compass, the daily newsletter of activities on your ship. Grab some Ice Cream and check out what you might want to do for activities your first day. Go to the Aft on Deck 5, and take a peek into the Columbus Dining Room. When you board, you will be given a Blue ShipCharge Card. This is your Key to your room, and your onboard “Credit Card” that everything will be charged to. On this card, it will tell you which floor you will have dinner on (Deck 3 is called “Magellan”, Deck 4 is called “Da Gama”, and Deck 5 is called “Columbus) You will also find your table number on your card. Go ahead - walk in and check out where your table is found. If for any reason you are not happy, find the Maitre d’, who is normally found on Deck 3 (Magellan). Take the stairs or the elevators down to Deck 4, in the Aft of the ship, and begin to work your way forward. Here you will see the Aquarium Bar (Can’t miss the fish tanks), and the Casino Royale. Walk thru the Casino and just out the door on your left is the upper entrance to the Chamber, the Medieval Disco. This is found over two floors - but go ahead and walk in and take a look around. Go back to the fourth floor and moving forward you will find the Schooner Bar (one of our favorites) and finally you will come to the entrance to the Palace - a three story Broadway Hall where the entertainment happens each evening. The first night is the Welcome Aboard Show. You just walked by the forward Atrium Elevators to get to the Palace. Go up the Stairs or take the Elevator to the 5th floor. On the 5th Floor, move forward into Maharajas (you can’t miss the Pink Elephants), a place where most nights you can hear wonderful live bands playing a variety of music. Just before you walk into the main hall, look to your right, where you will see the Connoisseur Club. This is the place to go for after dinner cigars or a wonderful brandy. It will remind you of the high-end intimate club the men went to after dinner in the movie Titanic. Move back to the aft of the ship to the elevators, and go up one floor at a time from Deck 6-10. Right off the elevators on each floor (which is almost entirely cabins), you will find areas that may be of interest to you. On Deck 6 you will find Business Services, where you will find an onboard travel agent - this may seem strange but after spending a bit of time on this ship, you will want to come back, and you can book your next trip right there for exceptional values and added benefits! Deck 7 is a comfortable Library, where you can check out books to read during the week. Deck 8 is the very popular Internet area - Royal Caribbean Online. Take the stairs or Elevator to Deck 11, where the fun really begins! Look to your Left, and you will see the Windjammer Cafe, your Dining Alternative to the main dining room. The selection of Buffet-Style Food will blow you away, and this is where you will grab your first meal after 12:30. Moving forward, you will see Portofino’s, a very high-end classy Italian Style Restaurant that will cost you an additional $20 per couple to enjoy, but it is well worth it for that special event evening! Move to the left or right and enter the main pool area. You will see the two whirlpools and the two pools. The chairs on this level can be had either in the sun or in the shade. Keep moving towards the front of the ship. where you will find a stage that will have Music playing most of the day, and stop at the Pool Bar for your first drink. Get those ShipCharge Cards Out! If you are a sun lover, you will be visiting this spot quite a bit for your cool beverages. Sit down and enjoy! Once you have completed your rest, move to the left or the right of the pool bar and move forward to the Solarium, a Roman Feeling world of more Whirlpools, another pool, another bar, and comfortable chairs. This is the quiet area (no kids allowed) that allows adults to enjoy solitude while resting or reading. Continuing to move forward, you will find the Shipshape Fitness Center, with state-of-the-art exercise equipment. Make sure to find the Peek-a-boo Bridge for a glimpse into the captain’s chair and control room for this massive ship. Move up to your next fun deck, Deck 12. On Deck 12, from the front to the aft, you will find the Shipshape Spa, the Sky Bar, and chairs exposed to lots of sun overlooking the pool on Deck 11. If you are a sun worshiper, get out early and get a front row seat to see the fun and games on the stage down below. Also remember that you CANNOT save chairs for other members of your party. Once you move aft on the ship, the deck splits into starboard and port. On one side you will find Adventure Ocean - the place for fun for the kids. On the other side is the Restaurant Johnny Rockets. The malts are wonderful at Johnny Rockets, although there are better hamburgers on the ship (more on this later.) Now that you are toward the aft, move up on deck to 13. Deck 13 is the Sports Deck. On this deck, in the aft of the ship, you will find a full-court Basketball/Volleyball court, Adventure Dunes Miniature Golf, the Headquarters for the Ship Shape Staff (along with the Golf Simulator. Also the inline skating track is in the aft of the ship. On Deck 13 1/2 is the Rock-climbing wall, which has its wall almost directly above the Basketball course. Your Almost done (hungry yet?) so go forward to the elevators, and go up to the 14th floor. The 14th Floor is home to the Viking Lounge and Dizzy’s Nightclub. This Jazz bar has live music almost every night, and with its panoramic view, provides a breathtaking look over the ship and pool area. Right next to the elevators, there is a staircase that leads up to the highest point on the ship, the Skylight Chapel. The stain glass is beautiful, and during the week multiple weddings will be held there. There, you have seen the highlights of the ship. Drag your tail down to the 11th floor, go to the aft, and enjoy your first meal in the Windjammer/Island Grill Buffet! The Staff... It is my opinion that the staff that you interact with makes or breaks your vacation. We found the staff (with only one exception) to be fantastic! The service we received was personal and very attentive. We found that almost all the staff has worked on other Royal Caribbean vessels and are well trained - friendly, without being overly so; correct, but not stiff and formal. Every crewmember goes out of his or her way to greet passengers by name in dining rooms and in your cabin. There are three individuals with whom you will have the most interaction - Your Waiter, your Cabin Steward, and your Assistant Waiter. You will also interact with your Maitre d’ and your favorite bartenders/drink servers. Let’s spend a couple of minutes on each, and introduce you to each of ours (they made our trip!) Our Waiter was named Richard, who was a delight! As I noted earlier, our group is quite an outgoing group, and Richard fit right in. Your Waiter will take your drink orders, food orders, and hoover over your table taking care of your every need! If you are comfortable, get to know and have fun with your Waiter! He found out from us when our Birthdays were (we had Birthday Cakes during two evenings), he gave his honest opinions on the different food choices, and most importantly he was unbelievably attentive. We found out about his Girlfriend (who had left him - we spent hours trying to find him a replacement!) He had a free smile, and during many evenings your dinner staff will have a little show, like walking around balancing things on their heads, singing songs, etc. Whenever Richard came by during one of these numbers, we stood up and cheered, whistled, and called out his name. He positively beamed! Each Cabin has a Cabin Steward assigned to the room. If you need ANYTHING (I mean ANYTHING) - call them and ask! We got Pain Relievers, Ice, drinks... just about anything. He or she will be responsible for straightening your room, keeping the Ice Bucket Full, turning down your bed. Treating these people nice will add a unique enjoyment to your cruising experience. Your Assistant Waiter will bring you water, coffee, drinks, and will put your dressings on your salad. He or she is also quick with the pepper shaker. Ours was named Althansio. I got the impression that they are Waiters in training, so if they are pleasant (they are if you are!)- have fun with them! If you get the treat them well and have fun with them, they will come all the way across a room during breakfast or lunch to say hello! Tipping Tipping these individuals is (in our opinion) a very important and NECESSARY action. If you choose to not prepay your gratuities, then I would suggest that you provide them with a portion of their tips early in your cruise. You will receive envelopes on the last day of the trip, but I highly suggest that you do it early. Consider it a prepayment for good service. These individuals will make or break your trip, and are not paid very well (around $100 per month) Tom & Mary Milano (read their reviews at http://www.tomandmaryscruisereviews.com ) suggest the following: The Cabin Steward should be tipped a minimum of $3.50 per person per day (or approximately $50 per cabin for a week). They suggest you give the Cabin Steward his full tip on the FIRST day. Same thing goes for your waiter. First off, ask for his/her recommendation. They are happy to give it to you. Give him/her their full tip (Again $3.50 per person per day) on the first night. Assistant Waiter’s receive about $2.00 per day per person - Or around $30 for the week. Give this to them on the second night - not the first night (leave that to highlight the main waiter.) The Maitre d’ is like the Head Waiter. He will visit your table about once per night to see how things are going. If you happy with your Waiter and Assistant Waiter -then let him know! Tip the Maitre d’ whatever you wish, but I would suggest around $20 and do it on the second night. Some of you will be offered the opportunity to prepay your gratuities. I would suggest you do so. The staff is told the first day who has prepaid and who has not. Even if you prepay, may I suggest that you tip MORE than is suggested? On average, our group gave the Waiter/Cabin Steward an ADDITIONAL $20.00 on the first day, the Assistant Waiter an ADDITIONAL $10 on the second night, and most gave the Maitre d’ $20.00 sometime early in the trip. This is money that will be very well spent. Since we’re throwing money around, anyone else? Well, your deck stewards/bartenders make 15% on each drink you purchase (its added and noted separately on each drink bill). But while laying around on the deck, or in your favorite bar, if you hit it off with one or more of the staff, give them a little green love. You will have interactions with many others - like the Cruise Director and his staff (normally the friendliest and goofiest group of people on the ship.) Again I say and will say it again and again.... THESE PEOPLE WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOUR TRIP! Treat them well, and they will make your trip memorable. They will reflect your attitude that you project. Your on vacation - why not treat everyone the very best you can? Restaurants/Bars/Drink Packages It would be incredibly difficult to get off the Explorer of the Seas with a hungry feeling. There are more dining and eating options than most people experience in a month in your own town. The main hub of your eating experience is the three level main dining room, itself having three separate galleys. The different levels are named for the explorers Columbus (Deck 5), Da Gama (Deck 4), and Magellan (Deck 3). Each level has separate embellishments at the entrances with maps charting their respective journeys. The most dramatic feature or the room is the large ceiling dome with gold and silver skyburst rays, stars and fiber optics and fluted gold leaf columns decorate the multilevel space. The food served at dinner is outstanding, with a different theme each evening. Some themes Venetian Feast, Caribbean, Crown & Anchor (Lobster!), and other non-food themes like Captains Gala, Chef's Dinner (think Prime Rib), and a Feast of Nations. On each night, alternatives are available for your salad and main entree if nothing looks good. Remember there is no limit to what you can eat, so we encourage you to try different things. If a couple of Appetizers look good - go ahead and order two! Same thing with the main courses. Low Calorie (are you kidding!) and vegetarian choices are available. You will most likely be seated with other couples, as most tables seat six or eight. Tables for two are very scarce. Food is one of the strongest points on a cruise. Sit back, loosen your belt, and enjoy! Everything available for dinner is also available by room service, in case you want to spend a quiet evening in your cabin. Another place you will need to visit is the Windjammer Cafe, which is a indoor/outdoor self service restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is buffet style, with no less than 7 or 8 different lines, each serving slightly different items. For example, at lunch you may find burgers and hotdogs in one line, pizza in another, BBQ Ribs and ham in another - all of them start with salads and fresh fruit. Many of us found ourselves eating lunch here most days. I would argue the best burgers on the ship are found right here! Of course, some would argue that Johnny Rockets (Deck 12) serves the best hamburgers at sea. It is certainly worth a visit for the Shakes/Malts (there is an additional charge- just about $4.00 per shake). The Island Grill behind Johnny Rockets has other freshly grilled entrees. Cafe Promenade, on the Royal Promenade, is the place to sit back, relax and enjoy the nightly parades, and other activities while sipping coffee or nibbling on the diet crushing desserts, sandwiches and Pizza. This Cafe is open 24-hours for the late night munchie attack! Probably one of the most utilized food area on board is Sprinkles, a self-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt bar on the Royal Promenade - available around the clock, with all the trimmings. Finally, for an elegant evening and a delightful experience, you may want to experience dinner at Portofino's, the a la carte restaurant. It is an elegant, upscale Euro-Italian restaurant, the service and food preparation is worth the additional charge ($20 per person). Make sure you make your reservations early (the first day you are onboard) - this place fills up fast. For Breakfast, you have the choice of the Buffet Style in the Windjammer or sit-down, order off the menu in the Magellan Dining room on Deck 3. There is no charge for breakfast drinks like coffee, water, juices, etc. For Lunch, you have the Windjammer, Johnny Rockets, Island Grill, or the Magellan Dining Room. Each has different, unbelievably good fare. For dinner, its the main dining rooms, or the Windjammer Cafe. Bars There are over 30 places on this ship to get a tasty beverage. Everywhere you turn around there is a bar. Many of these also are entertainment centers. There is something for everyone's preference. There is the Chamber on Deck 3. It resembles a Gothic castle with stone columns and arches that make an interesting backdrop for the contemporary disco. Be prepared - its' loud but fun. It also has two levels, with the upper level allowing one to look down on the dancing people. The traditional Schooner Bar on Deck 4 attracts people who want subtle piano music with their drinks and conversation. This is a very busy place before and after shows at the Palace. Dizzy's on Deck 14 (along with the Viking Crown Lounge and the 19th hole) features the sound of Jazz (also a bit loud). For the slightly older crowd, or those who enjoy a live orchestra playing Latin or contemporary dance music, try the Maharaja Lounge on Deck 5. Of course there is the Sky Bar, the Solarium Bar, the Pool Bar - all around the pool area which will be popular to cool off during your sun-drenched days. If you are just too relaxed to get up, drink stewards are everywhere, asking you if you want a drink (some can be a bit aggressive, but they are all very friendly and funny). Lastly, the Royal Promenade has a sports bar called the Weekend Warrior (point: it only shows ESPN International, so you will be surprised how difficult it can be to get a score from home), A traditional English Pub called the Crown & Kettle (Karaoke happens here many evenings - great Black & Tans), and a Champagne Bar that is busy before and after dinner. Our bet is that you will NOT be able to have a drink in each bar. We tried, and did not succeed! Drink Specials We found a few different ones, although it is tough to find information in writing about these specials. So we'll also tell you where you can buy them if offered. There is a soft drink Card that allows you unlimited soft drinks from the Bars. For somewhere in the low $20 range, you will receive a sticker on your blue cabin card (ours was a Coke Sticker), that alerts the bartender to not charge you for the drink. One point of warning - it only allows the HOLDER of the card to the no charge drink. You could not get one for you and one for your mate. One card - one drink. Soda is $1.50 otherwise. There is also a Alcohol Card. Unlike the soft drink sticker, this is a separate Paper Card that provides 12 drinks of your choice (as long as it is not a Call Brand - So Rum and Coke is Ok - Bacardi and Coke is not). This card is $39 plus gratuity, so for the low $40's you get 12 drinks. Think of it as $3.75 per drink. Now most mixed drinks or fruit drinks(16 oz.) (foo foo - like Margaritias) are $5.25. Like those fancy glasses that they let you keep? Those are $5.95. A bottle of Evian is $3.50. A can of domestic beer is $2.75. A large glass of Imported Beer is $4.00. Everyday there is a drink special - like day 2 is Bahama Mama's for $3.95. These are in 10 oz glasses. A bucket of Domestic Beer is $16.50 - that's for six beer. House wine is $4.50 per glass. I tell you all of this to let you know the drink card can be a value - but use your head. Use the drink card for frozen and mixed drinks - don't use it for beer. Lastly, there is a Wine & Dine Package that consists of 7 bottles of wine (one for each night with dinner) for $109.00. The wine selection is good - so if you are looking for wine with dinner each evening - I would suggest it! You'll save $38.00 using this package. The soft drink and Alcohol Card were available at any bar, and on the first couple of days there are tables outside the Windjammer or main dining rooms offering the cards. The wine package I picked up at a table on the Royal Promenade, but I also saw the tables in other locations around the ship. Staterooms We arranged to be in cabin 8390, a balcony cabin in the aft of the ship. Our group enjoyed a number of different types of rooms, from Balconies to Atrium to Inside Staterooms. Your preference for your room is completely based on your use of your stateroom and the comfort you are looking for. Our Aft Balcony Cabin had 173 sq. ft of space. When you walk in , the first thing you see is the large sliding glass door that makes up the back wall. Out the door is a large balcony, approximately 69 sq. ft. The Balcony has two recliners, two deck chairs and a small table (all plastic). Back in the room we find a King Size Bed, with two night tables on either side. The phone is on one of the nightstands, with Voicemail. Across from the bed, there is a large desk area with your safe, mini bar, and drawer space. The Hairdryer is found in the upper right drawer in the desk. Luggage can fit under the bed. There is a closet directly to your right when you walk into the room, with adequate space to hang your things and some shelving that can hold additional clothing, shoes, etc. The bathroom, to your left when you walk in, is not super sized, but it is not an airplane size either. The shower utilizes a circular plastic door instead of a shower curtain. It works very well, although if you are a person of larger size, you will need to open the door to lean over to pick up a bar of soup. Overall the room was very comfortable and the temperature control (which is by the desk) worked very well. Be warned that the room has a PA system that you control, but it is initially set to hear all announcements. The first time they come on will certainly give you a scare! Other members of our party had Atrium Cabins and Interior Cabins. The Atrium Cabin is virtually the same as the Deluxe Ocean View, except they are slightly smaller (167 sq ft), and instead of the sliding glass door and Balcony there is a bay window that looks down into the Royal Promenade. Our friends did not note any noise problem from the Promenade, and when we walked thru the Promenade after 10:30 PM, it is pretty quiet. The Interior Cabins are the smallest on the ship, and are still 160 sq. ft (bigger than most ships interior rooms.) Same layout, just no windows. If you don't like leaving the bathroom light on, or bringing a nightlight, they can be very dark - no clock to give off light. So plan accordingly. In closing, consider how you are going to use your room. If you plan on simply sleeping in the room and enjoying the almost 24 hour activities, then an inside room makes sense. The Atrium room is a nice (and unique to Royal Caribbean) option and perfect for a sense of space offered by the bay window. Our Balcony cabin suited us perfectly - we spend a bit more time in our cabin then many. We would get out on the deck during days at Sea early, stay out enjoying activities until mid afternoon (4 PM), then go back to our cabin to take a nice nap and shower before our late dinner. We also enjoyed simply sitting on the balcony and enjoying the air and atmosphere. It was also wonderful to be on the balcony during moon-filled nights and while coming into various ports. But truly, it should be to each their own. I would suggest that one gets a cabin they can afford, and then check out other rooms to see if they would enjoy other rooms. If so, then on future cruises you can downsize. Ports of Call Our trip was to the Eastern Caribbean. Here is a summary of the itinerary and the Ports of Call: Day 1 - Depart Miami - board the ship and leave port - normally at around 5 PM. Muster drill at 4:15 (Safety Drill- Watch Video on TV for details) Day 2 - Nassau, The Bahamas - arrive in port during the evening. You can depart the boat around 7 - 7:30 AM. Nassau is the capital of the commonwealth of the Bahamas and the largest city on the on the island sits on one of the smaller islands. 250,000 people call it home. It is not an island that calls to mind pictures of Caribbean Paradise (it's actually not part of the caribbean). For the beach lovers, there is cable beach and some others, all of which have nice sand and lots of people. For the sightseeing kind, there is the Government Buildings such as the House of Assembly, the Court House and the Public Library. The British Colonial Hotel is also beautiful to see. If you are a snorkeler or scuba diver, I was told the action is wonderful with very clear water. Royal Caribbean provides a Recommended Shopping Service called "Shopping in paradise", which has shops that are recommended by Royal Caribbean. Look for the Jewelry here. There are 11-12 recommended stops for shopping. My advice? If you love shopping, you'll be happy. If you like sightseeing? There is Atlantis Resort across the Bay, a couple of interesting buildings, and that is it. You need to be back on the boat at 12:30 PM, so make sure to get an early start. Day 3 - At Sea Day 4 - St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - Arrive during early AM. Can depart ship at 9:30 AM Ship Time (Eastern Time Zone). The first thing you need to remember is that you need to go through US Immigration. Everyone must personally clear with US Immigration between 9:30 and 10:30 AM regardless of whether or not you are going to shore. This is a local that will fulfill your idea of Caribbean Paradise. The shopping is about 10 minutes away from the dock. This island is hilly and beautiful - I would suggest if you are not doing shore excursions to get a taxi and take a 2 hour tour of the island. Expect to pay around $40-50. See Magens Bay - one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and a MUST see. Around every corner is beauty - Mountain Top, the Gondola Ride, the list goes on and on. If you are looking for a really good (and wild) time, take the Kon-Tiki Boat Tour. Rum Punch for everyone! On the upper deck, just about anything goes! You will also stop at a beautiful beach for about an hour to absorb some sun and water. For you shoppers, there are 18-20 different stops - This is the stop to look for your Watch! Day 5 - San Juan,