Explorer of the Seas, 11 to 20 June 2009 Eastern Caribbean
Itinerary: Bayonne, Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan,
As always, I'll preface my review by stating that a lot of
things found in a review of this nature are subjective and
therefore can't meet everyone's expectations. I also warn you it is
both long and detailed. I write what I consider to be a totally
honest review yet I do not nit-pick. All three of our voyages have
been on the same ship and the same itinerary. Obviously we enjoy
both. While after reading this review you might assume we may be
"Royal Champions," your assumption would be wrong. If I find
something which I didn't like or with which I disagree, it will be
in this review. Many I'm sure will feel because we have not sailed
other than the same ship and itinerary, we have nothing with which
to compare and therefore this review should be discounted to the
point of meaningless. While I don't see it that way, everyone is
entitled to their own opinion. As the writer of a weekly column
appearing in our small
town newspaper for the past twelve years, and having been an
elected office holder as well as a retired law enforcement officer
and police instructor, I have a thick skin.
I'll also here state that a lot of what has been written about
both disappearing perks or new ones adversely affecting more often
non suite guests on RCI ships, were in no way evident on this
voyage of the Explorer. To wit: There was indeed a welcome back
party held the fourth day out and attended by the Captain. The
event was held in the Maharaja's lounge where cocktails were
served. Secondly there was no reserved seating for suite guests at
either the pool, the main theater or in Studio "B" at the ice show.
Additionally, many staff and crew made it a point that RCI was
proud of the significant percentage of repeat cruisers it enjoys (a
greater percentage than say, Carnival). Finally, as did all Crown
and Anchor members, one of the gifts that we discovered in our
stateroom one evening were truly nice and functional large canvas
tote bags sporting of course, the RCI logo; thankfully no more ball
caps as I'm sure many long time Crown and Anchor members possess a
significant inventory of the item.
The ship also sailed its original nine night scheduled
itinerary, meaning that there were no abbreviated stops nor were
there any early dockings and/or departures. This was the first
cruise without variance since the incident involving the bent prop
that occurred in January; therefore the problem must have been
permanently repaired during a one day stop at some point just prior
to this cruise.
Also, while I'll get into more detail later, the staff and crew
I found, without exception mind you, "over the top" when it came to
courtesy, graciousness, helpfulness, honesty, etc. Not only I, but
everyone in our party of six concurred with this observation.
The passengers were also with but a very few exceptions,
themselves good humored and courteous in both language and
behavior. There were of course a very minimal sprinkling of foul
mouthed boors, such individuals often being referred to as,
"Trash," but they were few and far between.
As we did for our two previous cruises, we drove to Staten
Island and went straight to the Hilton Garden Inn for our
pre-cruise night's stay. We also returned for an eight day stay
following the cruise. Although certainly not by design, we happened
to be greeted upon arrival by the Hotel's owners, Richard and Lois
Nicotra who also own the adjoining Hampton Inn and Suites. A noted
Staten Island entrepreneur, Richard and Lois certainly do things
the right way. The Hilton is absolutely gorgeous. While certainly
not inexpensive at around two hundred dollars a night, tax
included; it assuredly is superior to many Manhattan hotels
charging far more than that amount. When it comes to the relativity
of hotel prices within the City of New York keeping in mind "bang
for the buck," both the Hilton Garden Inn and the adjoining Hampton
Inns and Suites (which was rated as second of all Hampton Inns in
the entire nation in cleanliness) are quite affordable gems. The
hotel also offers a very significant perk. Although we didn't avail
ourselves of the service, free transportation to and from Cape
Liberty is provided hotel guests as is also shuttle service to the
Staten Island Ferry for those guests wishing to go to Manhattan or,
as New Yorker's refer to it as, "The city."
Contained in the hotel is Lorenzo's. Named after the Nicotras'
adorable little Maltese, Lorenzo's is an outstanding bistro style
restaurant. Ensconced just on the opposite side of a strategically
placed wall separating it from the lobby, is a most attractive
cocktail lounge behind which is an excellent restaurant. Both
interesting and varied, the restaurant menu manages to satisfy the
most varied of tastes.
After meeting my wife's niece Adelaide, who again hosted us on
our cruise, we together made our traditional initial New York
supper stop at Brother's Pizza on Watchogue Road, just off Forest
Avenue in Staten Island. Everyone has their favorite pizza parlor
and Brother's is ours (along with probably five or six hundred
thousand other folks). If you ever try it, I think you'll probably
be in complete agreement. Likewise as we did last year, we went to
Gino's Restaurant on Forest Avenue and had Gino's famous Chicken
Gino. It must be something to write about as aside from southern
fried, I'm not a chicken afficionado yet we visited this restaurant
twice so I could enjoy this delectable dish.
Day One We awoke Thursday morning to a leaden sky that dropped
on and off showers before that continued throughout our sail away.
This pretty much presaged the weather for a good part of the
voyage. We loaded our overnight luggage back into the car and drove
over to Fran's niece's where the three of us loaded up her
neighbor's large van with our shipboard luggage.
Following last year's cruise, we had decided that we took far
too much luggage. Consequently. My wife Fran made significant
changes in that department. We ended up taking half again more. It
never ceases to boggle my mind, but I fear I'm certainly not alone
as far as most husbands go. Not only that, but to insure I had
"sufficient" changes, Fran packed for me alone (just for the cruise
mind you as we had separate New York bags for our post cruise
stay): 23 casual shirts, nine dress shirts, about eight pair of
dress slacks, nine pair of casual slacks, one suit, two sport
jackets, eight ties, a new pair of deck shoes plus two pair of
dress shoes. Included was even one decent sized case containing
just toiletries not to mention enough of our various prescriptions
to trigger DEA alerts along the entire eastern seaboard. I won't
even begin to tell you how much Fran packed for herself! Suffice it
to say, I don't think we would ever have had to return home had we
so decided. I wouldn't have been a bit surprised that were we to
have elected to fly to New York instead of driving, our excess
baggage charges may have exceeded the price of the cruise!
I think we have our estimated time of arrival at Cape Liberty
down to that brief but perfect interval wherein we drive up to find
no embarkation line and we drop our luggage and proceed to
embarkation processing immediately after all departing passengers
have left. That magical time was around 12:15 pm, or at least so it
was this year. We took around fifteen minutes to clear the check-in
process (the greatest amount of time being spent changing the
credit card to one Fran wanted to use for the "Sign and Sail"
purposes. She'd discovered one from which we could obtain much
better perks at no cost whatsoever to us as she pays the entire
bill at the end of every month. In essence, she figured it high
time we "used" the system to our benefit as for all too long, the
banks have used theirs to our detriment. I do believe were she (or
millions of like minded homemakers) to be in charge of our
country's finances, we certainly wouldn't be in the shape our
nation currently finds itself.
One thing I've finally learned, is to just go ahead and check
even what used to be our carry-ons, only physically carrying my lap
top and camera. We proceeded straight to the Windjammer Café
on Deck 11 as the staterooms of course would be unavailable until
We found the Windjammer offerings tasty enough. I had the honey
stung fried chicken, mashed potatoes (known as whipped potatoes if
like me, you're from the South), sliced roast beef and gravy and a
salad. Unlike our previous cruises I declined to purchase the Coke
card inasmuch as last time I didn't even begin to drink enough soda
to get any value from the purchase. I opted for iced tea (the
closest thing I could get to the South's obligatory beverage, sweet
tea). I had never during our previous two cruises had the iced tea
after reading so many dour reports as regards it's quality, was
hesitant. As so many other things, I found I greatly preferred it
to unsweetened iced tea served at the average restaurant
I also ran into the only person that I've seen on all three of
our cruises, an assistant waiter on our first cruise who absolutely
spoiled us rotten in the Promenade Café, Gabrial Fernandez,
a native of India. Whenever we were in the Windjammer where Gabrial
was assigned this cruise, we were treated as visting Royalty. A
little more on that later.
Sail away was pretty much a ho-hum affair inasmuch as an
extremely dense fog and that combined with the on and off showers
found few passengers up on deck barely able to make out the
Verrazzano Bridge as we sailed beneath it into lower New York bay.
Interestingly enough, all scheduled passengers had obviously
effected very early embarkations, as we cast off a full twenty
minutes prior to our scheduled departure. We continued through the
‘pea soup," sounding the fog horn as required. The fog
extended far out into the Atlantic until late that evening.
All of our luggage arrived in lesser time than during our two
previous cruises. Our stateroom, 9502, was the same one we enjoyed
last year and is an oversized Category F outside and is a generous
211 square feet. The room sports an extremely large circular
"picture porthole" window looking out over the bow. The cabin is
located just below the Bridge, the second one in from the port
side. Entry reveals a large wardrobe with wire shelving on one side
on your right with the shower/bath on your left. While of course
small, the circular shower has solid double sliding doors and the
shower is of sufficient size (and I'm 6'4" and 280 lbs.). Closet
and places for folded items is more than ample we were able to
unload all the bags and easily place everything in its proper
place. I think so many people don't realize that one side of the
large make up mirror at the desk opens up for things such as
cologne and women's make-up.
Excepting to see a bit more wear and tear from last year within
the room (the eight year old Explorer is scheduled for it's second
dry dock January upcoming, probably at RCI's drydock in Bermuda), I
was very surprised to find out that either the love seat had
recently been re-upholstered or more probably, had been replaced. I
found it hard to imagine that over one hundred fifty people had
occupied that room since our previous cruise in June of last year.
There were absolutely no stains on the stateroom carpet. A very
close inspection of the public areas revealed that it was extremely
difficult if not virtually impossible for me to accept the fact
that this vessel has been sailing almost continually (with only a
couple of very short breaks), for over eight years.
Our stateroom attendant, Lucy Thomas from the island of St.
Vincent, warmly greeted us upon our arrival to our room. Lucy
turned out to be the best Stateroom Attendant we've yet had...and
all of them have been excellent. There was no request, regardless
of how small, that was not immediately met. She truly spoiled us. I
am always amazed at the apparent sincerity of so many of the staff
and crew. Lucy certainly is an outstanding representative for
Assigned early seating at table 543 in the Columbus dining room
on deck five, we were pleased to discover that the table was set
for our party of six, so there were no issues whatsoever in that
department. Under the direction of Head Waiter Wises Phathidee from
Thailand, our waiter from Peru, Javier proved most friendly,
solicitous and efficient and accompanied by his Asst Waiter, Ms.
Fernandez (I just couldn't remember either Javier' first or Ms.
Fernanadez's last names), a Chilean native, provided excellent
service. It's obvious this duo has been a team for some time which
makes for a more pleasurable dining experience.
Prior to our initial entry, who did we run into but the
absolutely marvelous couple we met last year and who captured the
affection of the entire ship during the "Love and Marriage Show,"
Abe and Julie Smith! Abe who is 93 and Julie at 91, were
celebrating their 70th Anniversary. Though usually traveling alone,
this year they were accompanied by a daughter and son in law and a
niece and her husband. We enjoyed a marvelous reunion!
The menu, from what I could remember, appeared to be a duplicate
from last June. As the menus usually last for two years, I wasn't
surprised. Following an appetizer of the Vidalia Onion Tart,
chilled Mexican tomato soup, and spinach salad with oil and
Balsamic Vinegar, the entree` of Prime Rib was delectable. This was
my first foray into the world of chilled soups and I'm certainly
glad I made the journey. My wife also had prime rib but her's was a
bit too well done only because she had inadvertently ordered it
medium as opposed to her usual medium rare. Inasmuch as we were
also splitting an entree of the perfectly broiled Cod, she was
certainly satisfied. As usual, everyone's desserts were
Following dinner, we attended the welcome aboard show at the
Palace Theater. We were most pleasantly surprised to find on stage
our Cruise Director from last year, that highly talented and
energetic Australian, Dave Chapman. I had expected someone by the
name of Mike Hunnerup but Dave told me he left the ship at the end
of the preceeding voyage. Dave continued that he generally prefers
a two month stint on the Explorer before switching over to the
Mariner and then back again to the Explorer.
The evening entertainment was provided by the introductory
performance of the very talented Royal Caribbean Singers and
Dancers backed up by what I called last year, the best house band I
personally have ever enjoyed. The band has been led for several
years now by a true magician on the keyboards, Filmer Flores who is
a native of the Philippines.
Opening night's headliner was comedian Jim Colliton who
originally hailed from Pennsylvania. A very funny man, the audience
seemed to thoroughly enjoy his performance. We certainly did.
Prior to turning in and following my wife's obligatory nightly
donation to those sinister one handled mechanical devices located
in the Neon Temple of Weird Sounds and The Almighty Dollar, our
group of six proceeded to our traditional end of the evening stop
at the Promenade Cafe`. This year it was a native of Jamaica,
Millicent Camran, who spoiled us to the extreme in that venue by
catering to our every whim. Isn't it frightening that as we begin
to pass from middle age to senior status, we tend to turn into
creatures of habit to the extent we take on the aspects of a flock
of sheep following a herder? I prefer, however, to refer to the
process as did Tevia in Fiddler On The Roof by calling it,
Day Two Friday was a "Sea Day" wherein we got our bearings,
finished unpacking and just enjoyed the ship. That evening was the
first of two formal nights. I was really hoping that people were
again returning to at least some level of formality on Formal
Nights and as has been recently noted in other reviews, such was
true this voyage. I only saw one unattractive couple attired in old
shorts and literally dirty T-shirts awaiting entry into the dining
room. Evidently the unattractiveness extended beyond just the
visual as they were standing alone in a rather large circle
surrounded by properly attired cruisers with disgusted looks on
their faces. Needless to say, they didn't make it past the
entrance. Matter of fact, would you believe these idiots tried it
My entre of Filet Mignon was excellent as was my wife's and the
other members of our party thoroughly enjoyed their meal as
The evening's entertainment was the Royal Caribbean Singers and
Dancers performing Fast Forward. This energetic show which we had
seen last year, we again enjoyed this one as well. Although we
didn't recognize most of the dancers from last year, the
performance was nevertheless just as outstanding.
Day Three Saturday found us entering Bermuda which for me is
probably the most beautiful place in the Caribbean; which is the
reason that it is so very expensive. I even overheard someone in
the elevator remark that it was the second most expensive place in
the world in which to live. I must point out that I was surprised
to find in a brochure a remark written in a humorous vein as to how
expensive Bermuda. Can't for the life of me however, figure out why
it's so extremely more expensive than some other destinations in
the Caribbean basin. While yes Bermuda imports most everything, so
does virtually every other island in the Caribbean. Although I love
"Fish and Chips" it will be a frigid day in July when I pay over
thirty dollars for such a meal.
Instead of hitting the shops, I, my wife and my wife's niece
toured the museum at King's Wharf. Being a big time history buff,
most notably the era surrounding WW II, I thoroughly enjoyed the
museum, especially that room devoted to the U.S. Navy's assistance
during the war. Highlighted is an incident that occurred in1944
wherein Adm. Daniel Gallery directed the capture of a Type IX D
German Submarine, U-505, that was the the first enemy man of war
boarded and seized by the United States during combat since 1815.
The captured U-Boat was towed to Bermuda to help insure it's
capture remained secret from the Germans. (Note: That U-Boat is now
on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago).
We also wandered by "Dolphin Quest" that is maintained behind
the walls of the old fort as well and wherein those so wishing, may
swim (for a substantial fee of course) with the dolphins. They
certainly looked cute enough and we halted long enough to take some
photos. Thankfully, during the first couple of minutes of what we
had intended as a brief respite, a young lady by the name of Kelly
Adamonis approached us as we were seated and asked if we had any
questions about the dolphins. Kelly turned out to be a veritable
fountain of facts about the beautiful creatures. A student from
Penn State, she is engaged in a summer internship with the
organization. The conversation that transpired from that question
truly made our visit interesting, worthwhile and educational beyond
every expectation. Kelly not only related little known and very
interesting things about bottle nosed dolphins, but she also
dispelled a lot of conjecture that I had heard over the years
concerning the care and proper treatment of these animals in
captivity. For instance, the bottle nosed dolphins in captivity are
from coastal waters and inlets where they are constantly confronted
by predators as well as man's destructive nature and are much
smaller than their cousins you see further out to sea. Not only do
they enjoy far longer lives in captivity, but unlike many other
animals and because of their extremely high level of intelligence,
happier ones as well. If you visit Bermuda and haven't gone to
Dolphin Quest, I certainly recommend you do so. You shan't be
On the way out we stopped by the bookstore. Being a huge
afficianado of the golden age of Ocean liners, I purchased a
gorgeous book devoted to the extremely interesting history of the
22,000 ton Queen of Bermuda.
We then took the ferry across to Hamilton and enjoyed a brief
sojourn down the dockside where a significant number of "Tall
Ships" were docked, including the training ship belonging to the
U.S. Coast Guard.
That evening following another memorable dining experience in
the Columbus Dining Room, we went to the theater where the head
liner was the vocalist, Hal Frazier. I am fully cognizant that many
are always intimating that if one finds cruise ship entertainment
outstanding, they are at the very least, lacking in their tastes
regarding "good entertainment." To those folks, I'll only say that
I, along with everyone in that theater must certainly have been so
lacking because I participated with 1,300 fellow attendees in
giving Frazier the longest standing ovation that I have ever seen
on any of our three cruises. With one of the more wide ranging
voices I've ever heard, Hal Frazier, who some years past crossed
that sixty year line, sang selections made famous from everyone
from Nat King Cole through to John Denver. A former guest on the
late Johnny Carson's, "Tonight Show," Frazier was in addition to
his marvelous vocal performance, one of the more "fun" people, not
to mention among the funniest, by whom most of us had ever been
entertained. Oh, and in case you're wondering, there were a large
number of young adults in that audience as well; so much,
therefore, for the "old people" remarks.
Day Four Sunday was a sea day and to those I do so look forward.
It is my time to relax, read, etc. The group gathered per usual at
breakfast in the dining room. We generally enjoy the table service
and setting of the dining room. Nonetheless, we had breakfast
several times in the Windjammer, one of which was the most
memorable of all of those on three voyages.
Sunday evening, Adelaide, Fran and your intrepid reporter
enjoyed dining at Portofino's. Gosh, how the three of us love that
restaurant. It is truly five star dining and the service is both
formal and impeccable. The food, as expected, is on par with the
service. A leisurely dining experience, your meal will take in the
neighborhood of two hours. If you are the type who wishes not to
"dress for dinner," or doesn't enjoy fine dining, then I have to
tell you this venue is certainly not for you. As regards the $20
per person service charge, we believe the experience is worth far
We did not attend that evening's performance in the Palace
Theater but those in our party who did, said the impressionist,
Scott Record, put on a very entertaining performance.
Day Five We docked Monday afternoon at 12:30 in Phillipsburg St.
Maarten. Having been to all of the ports scheduled on our itinerary
twice previously, I elected to stay aboard to work on this review,
get my weekly newspaper column out of the way and in general just
enjoy a virtually empty ship. The rest of our party including my
wife, disembarked in their continuing attempt to hit every shop in
the Caribbean. To refrain from being an anchor to their excursions,
I of course expect some form of tribute. I two years ago, informed
my wife that a large bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry and a
bottle of a fine men's cologne usually will suffice to dispel my
expressions of (feigned) grumpiness for their leaving me behind by
While the group was off shopping, I gloried in having the ship
to myself; taking photographs while wandering around the ship
followed by thumbing through my new literary find.
Dinner in the Columbus Dining Room was again an excellent dining
The evening's headlining entertainment in the Palace Theater was
the magic and comedy of Peter Gross. While Peter was quite
entertaining, the most memorable moment will be one that could have
resulted in a true tragedy.
During his act, Peter asked for two young children from the
audience to assist him. One girl of six bounded up on stage while
another of four, obviously didn't want any part of the
presentation. Her mother nevertheless coaxed the little tyke t
climb the steps to the stage. Before proceeding and for those
who've never been on a large theater stage, I'll point out that
those on the stage find it difficult, because of the spotlights, to
see beyond the first row. The little girl, who obviously didn't
want to be there, decided to head back to "Mommy." Although unable
to see where her mother was sitting but knowing the approximate
direction and while Peter's attention was diverted to the other
child, she started walking. Everyone thought she would of course
stop at the stage's edge but she didn't.
Sitting in the front row was a couple whom we had met that
morning at breakfast, Phil and Rosetta Jobe who hailed from
Pennsylvania. Phil, a retired coal mine safety expert, actually
launched himself from his seat and in a diving basket catch
reminiscent of one of those spectacular outfielder performances in
baseball, caught the little girl literally just before she hit the
deck face first. Only those in the first couple of rows actually
saw the entire incident and know just how dramatic the event really
Day Six Tuesday morning found us docked in Charlotte Amalie, St.
Thomas. Both Fran and I elected to remain aboard and spent a
relaxing day reading.
Dinner that evening was as usual, simply wonderful.
RCI does one thing however, that is a true and totally
unnecessary pain in the neck. At virtually every evening meal in
the main dining rooms, it's bad enough that there is a photo set up
blocking half the entrance but on formal nights both avenues are
mostly blocked. It is therefore extremely difficult for everyone to
get into the dining room as they are being funneled through an
extremely narrow corridor at of all places, the narrowest point of
the dining room entrance lobby. Described to me wryly by one ship's
officer as a "revenue opportunity," if RCI were aware of the number
of extremely negative comments from disgruntled passengers that I
alone heard, I believe they'd do well to review this policy.
Additionally, this year, in one evening, we had not one, not two,
but three photographers approach us wanting to take the
inordinately overpriced "formal night photographs." And people talk
about the incessant "hawkers" on the islands?
The Palace theater was once again packed for the evening's
performance by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers of , "Wild,
Cool and Swingin`." I shall repeat still yet again that this troupe
is the equal, in my opinion, to those I've seen on Broadway. I'm
sure there are superior ones. It's just that I've yet to find
Day Seven Wednesday's sunrise greeted the Explorer as she was
docking at San Juan. While the rest of the group went shopping (of
course), Fran and I stayed aboard. Here I have with me four books
yet still I managed to find one from the ship's library. I won't
finish all four but one of the few that I do, will be the one from
the ship's library.
I make it a point to go out of my way to be nice to all staff
and crew. I have yet to find in my three cruises, any crew or staff
member who has been unkind, disagreeable or even out of sorts. I
have observed other folks having problems with staff and crew but
while the problem itself may well not have been the fault of the
passenger, they're reaction to the crew member or staff member who
was attempting to solve their problem was sometimes so bad as to be
This became classically evident when, while on my way to the
elevator, I overheard a passenger state to a woman accompanying her
about a problem so trivial as to be unbelievable. The issue
concerned a smudge on the stateroom window that the woman wanted
cleaned. Her complaint? The stateroom attendant told the woman she
would do so as soon as she finished cleaning the bathroom. The
woman told her friend that the stateroom attendant had a smile on
her face when she replied to her request. Yes and.....? This woman
had such a twisted sense of values that she felt the smile to be
insulting and and sarcastic and wanted to ".....slap her (the
attendant's) face!" To further prove my point, that very evening
the same woman who was morbidly obese, wanted to get on a crowded
elevator that I happened to be on and was indignant to find there
wasn't enough room for her to fit whereas there was room for a very
slender young woman in her stead. She immediately launched into a
tirade that the elevators didn't hold enough people. Another female
passenger who seemed to exude maturity and grace and who along with
her husbad evidently had a stateroom near the offensive passenger
remarked upon pressing the door close button causing the elevator
doors to close in the offensive woman's face, "Closing this door
makes me feel so good. That is without a doubt, one of the more
offensive people I've ever run across and I'm 68 years old!"
As I once wrote in an article on this site, if you want to solve
a problem, you'll get far better results with honey than you will
with vinegar. We all know those with "friends in high places." I,
on the other hand, take pride in knowing the "working class" crew
members and have found that merely being kind and solicitous brings
about it's own satisfying, "Loyalty rewards."
We departed San Juan as scheduled and once leaving the harbor we
increased speed to "full bore" of around 22 knots in order to make
it back to New York on Saturday morning, the distance between the
two cities being over 1,600 miles.
Day Eight I was up early to try and resolve computer internet
problems I'd experienced throughout the cruise. The problem lay in
the fact that although I was signed up for the $55 package that
provides 150 minutes of service, I kept being billed at the higher
55 cent single minute price. The folks at the Purser's Desk (Guest
Relations) were great and kept removing the excess charges. One
Guest Services Officer, Suzette Sobers from Trinidad, even took the
time to escort me up to the Internet room on deck eight to help me
re-swipe my card and change my passwords as I had expressed the
possibly the problem may have been a result of something I was
doing. The process, especially for one so inept at computers as am
I, can prove confusing. She graciously assured me that the problem
was not a result of my actions or my laptop's. True or not, we
hopefully had the problem solved.
Such proved not to be the case. Early Thursday morning around
4:00 am, I again went to the Purser's Desk where I was greeted by
Esteban Pinnock who had the "graveyard" shift. He once again
rectified the problem as regards the charges and asked me to return
a little after eight as possibly someone from IT would be available
to help solve this continuing and increasingly frustrating problem.
I did return and was once again taken under Suzette's wing who
after a lot of juggling, found a permanent and quite equitable
solution. I cannot but highly complement the Purser's Desk staff
for their understanding and diligence in solving this increasingly
frustrating problem. They are indeed wonderful folks.
I shall say that due to increase in usage, the speed of internet
service has measurably declined. To help obtain a fast connection,
I advise those using internet service to do so either late at night
or early in the morning.
Although as previously stated, we on most mornings had breakfast
in the dining room, on Thursday I, Fran and her niece decided to go
up to the Windjammer. When entering the line I felt a little tug on
my sleeve. I turned and there stood Gabrial. He said he had a
special table for us and then escorted the three of us to a special
reserved area that provided an absolutely beautiful view. There we
were once again spoiled rotten by Gabrial and those working with
him. It was indeed, the most memorable breakfast in all of our
That evening, I was privileged to meet and have a brief
conversation with the Captain of the Explorer of the Seas and a
resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Olav Gunnar Nyseter. A man with
around forty-eight years of experience at sea, Captain Nyseter's
association with RCI goes back to 1971 when he commanded the Nordic
Prince. He is by far, RCI's most senior Captain. The previous day I
had observed him conducting an inspection in the lobby area of the
Windjammer with one of his officers. To I'm sure the junior
officer's embarrassment, I observed Captain Nysetter spot numerous
really small areas of chipped paint, scuff marks, etc., that missed
even the other officer's practiced eye.
Although just turning sixty-five, Captain Nysetter nevertheless
cut a dashing figure in his formal attire that evening as he stood
outside the Columbus Dining Room. What I found most noteworthy is
that he was there not for the professional pictures by RCI staff,
but stood unobtrusively to the side for anyone wanting to get a
private shot with their own camera of a family member standing
alongside the ship's captain. That in and of itself bespeaks
volumes as to the man's professionalism.
The show that evening we had also previously seen, "Invitation
To Dance," by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers and the band.
This too is an extremely energetic show and one we thoroughly
Day Nine Our last sunrise aboard found us off the East Coast of
South Carolina. After breakfast in the main dining room, everyone
but yours truly adjourned to the pool deck while I went back to my
beloved books. I also took frequent breaks to take still more
photographs of one of the most beautiful vessels in the world.
One new addition we noted in this cruise was the generously
appointed salad bar in the dining room at lunch. Including even
shrimp, the diner obtains a large bowl which they then hand to the
next available chef, who in turn fills it with the diner's choice
(and amount) of items he/she desires including the type of
dressing. It is nutritious, delicious and filling. Even I, one who
normally delights in a heart clogging cholesterol filled diet,
looked forward to this meal. As a result it must be considered,
As opposed to last year when lobster was served on the last
formal night, on this voyage lobster night fell on the final night.
As was last year, the lobster was delicious. The good bye by the
galley crew was again memorable.
The final show in the Palace Theater didn't vary from previous
ones to any notable extent but we did enjoy it.
Disembarkation I'm finally to the point that I personally have
no problems with disembarkation. It appears they've got out all the
kinks save one. One waiting area is on Deck Three in Studio B.
Because of a circular island, it can become conjested in that area,
however, on the circular island were padded seats where some people
were sitting. These individuals because the staff member stating
that they were blocking the aisles, were made to move into the
Studio whereas the items really blocking traffic were the absurdly
over priced "auction' paintings. These could easily have been moved
out of the way for the disembarking process from that area and had
one been damaged, just because of their location would have
indicated it would have been no great loss. I heard one cruiser
even remark that obviously the paintings were more important than
the passengers. The young girl in charge replied that they weren't,
but the fact they remained illustrated the untruth to that
statement, at least in that area during disembarkation.
When we got throught customs (being processed by not only a very
courteous customs inspector but one with a grand sense of humor as
well) and outside to the pick-up area, we only then recognized that
a porter had inadvertently picked up not our bag but an adjoining
one that was the same make and color of one that wasn't ours. I
immediately returned it to a security officer to be taken back
inside. I asked one of our party if the bag was "in place of" one
of our own and was told no, that it was extra. Ten minutes later I
was informed that indeed, we were missing a bag from our groups'
luggage. I now had to go back in and search for our bag. I was told
by security "No can do" and that I would have to wait until 11:00am
to be escorted back in by customs. Here it was about ten-thirty and
our ride was due any minute. I happened to spot a customs agent and
while approaching learned through his overheard conversation, he
too was a retired New York law enforcement officer and presented my
problem to him explaining that I too was retired from "the job." I
showed him my shield and he immediately said to follow him,
escorted me back inside where I retrieved the missing bag from a
luggage cart that was being pushed to a storage area and got back
to the waiting area just as our ride pulled up. The timing couldn't
have been better.
While disembarkation was efficient, the limited traffic
approaches insures unbelieveable congestion and a possible wait of
an almost unconscionable duration for a "pick-up" vehicle. I do so
hope RCI addresses this issue.
Hopefully one of these days, RCI will also have Cape Liberty
looking other than an extremely depressed port area. To give credit
where credit is due, they're working on it.
Synopsis I have never experienced a bad cruise. Was it perfect?
Excellent yes, perfect no. There are always any number of ways that
any cruise can be enhanced. That being said, the only negative
issues I either experienced or witnessed this cruise that had
anything directly to do with Royal Caribbean, were the previously
mentioned congestion around Studio B during disembarkation, the
traffic congestion and one issue about which more and more
passengers are complaining.
I'd like to see replaced that dubious of all ship board "revenue
opportunities," the ubiquitous cruise ship art "auction." The
proocess provides few if indeed any of the consumer protection
afforded on land by law (for obvious reasons of course) and to me
at least, reeks of small town county fair hucksterism. I guess
though that in keeping with our free market beliefs, two truisms
remain, "Caveat Emptor" and P.T. Barnum's quote, "There's a sucker
born every minute." I choose to be aware of the former and whenever
possible, avoid the latter. As "Dirty Harry Callahan" would say,
"You gots to know your limitations." Hopefully I know mine.
Those so wishing are asked to contact me by private message
through this web site.
Recommendation for this ship and itinerary: Excellent.