This was my first cruise, so there will be no comparisons to other cruise lines, or ships. Fearing sea sickness as I am prone to motion sickness, I took two Bonine tablets daily and had no problems.
We arrived at the port early, and got on early....The Windjammer was open for lunch and after that we explored the ship till our room was ready. The sail-away was cool, not knowing what to expect.
The ship is a floating city! There was so much to do, a lot we didn't even get to do and some things we had no interest in (like the rock climbing wall, the ice skating, basketball, etc) but was nice to see them there for those who wanted to do those things. The entire ship is beautiful and kept very clean. Pools were nicely kept. The promanade area is beautiful. And there seemed to be alot going on in that area, between musicians, parades, sidewalk sales, etc.
Food at the Windjammer was plentiful, delicious... plenty of variety at breakfast and lunch. Didn't have any dinners there as we enjoyed the dining room very much. All dinners at the diningroom were wonderful. The selection was decent and everything we received turned out to be delicious. Waiters and staff were so nice. They greet you by name every night after the first night. Before dinner on the first night we requested a table for one, just because we thought we would enjoy being alone, but they were unable to grant our request and it turned out that the two other couples at our table were very nice and we had a good time with them. We saw all types of dress in the dining room from jeans to very dressy. We went to Portifino's on formal night, so I can't comment on formal night, but I can say that Portifino's was absolutely wonderful (food, staff and atmosphere).
Drinks were easily accessible. Numerous bars located throughout the ship. No long lines or waits and I believe the ship was about at capacity. We did go for the soda package, but probably could have done without it.
The shows were very professional. Saw three comedians, two singing/dancing shows. They really put their heart and soul into those productions. We also saw a couple who's act was called The Majestic. They did acrobatics and were outstanding. The palace theater where these shows are held was large and modern, no small time operation.
The ice show was excellent too. You have to get tickets ahead of time. They are free, but they need to control the number of people who show up.
Our room was an inside stateroom and very small but like others have said, were were only there to change clothes and sleep. It was fine for us.
We were never able to stay awake to go to the midnight buffets, but saw them setting up and they seemd very good.
I'm sure I forgot things, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what is on the Explorer of the Seas. Would definitely recommend this ship. And hopefully we will do this again.
For our 2nd cruise vacation me and my boyfriend (him 30, me 27) decided to try RCI's Explorer of the Seas 9 Night Eastern Carribean. Last year, we flew to Miami and took Carnival to the Western. We liked the idea of the ship leaving 20 minutes from our home in New York. Of course, since it was our 2nd cruise, we couldn't help but compare…a lot. However, by the end of the vacation, we both realized that both experiences were very much the same in a lot of ways. What Carnival lacked, RCI made up for, and vice versa.
Embarking the ship was a breeze. We arrived at exactly 2:00pm, unloaded our bags, found parking not far from the terminal, and in 15 minutes we were in our suite. A big change from last year standing out in the Miami sun for two hours! I was however a little disappointed that we didn't enter into a scenic ship atrium. You come in right by a bunch of elevators on Deck 1, and no one even shows you to your room. Your kinda on your own.
The room itself was comparableto our last cruise, although, somewhat smaller and more "hotel like." The balcony was alright, but if you sat down on one of the lounge chairs all you could see was a very blurred view of the ocean.
Although there is A LOT to do on this ship, especially with the sports deck, you are on their schedule. My boyfriend works at night, so he is nocturnal, and unless you wanted to get up at the crack of dawn every morning the sports deck was not always available. We tried to rollerblade a few times and all except once, the gate was closed and locked up. One time there was a tiny tiny puddle so they closed it, another time there was just nobody there to rent skates from even though it said on the Compass that they were "open until 6:00". Now, due to the "puddle" I'm not quite sure why they couldn't just mop it up. Hmmm… They have "sessions" for everything and unless you make those one hour sessions you will have a hard time using the facilities. The rock climbing wall situation was ridiculous. I must have gone up there every single day. It was either closed until the next session or no one was running it. You were able to play mini golf at night, but due to the wind it was more of a hassle than relaxing. So unless you are ready to plan your day by the minute you might run into a problem gaining the most out of these "gimmicks." Carnival did not have these activities at all, but, since we didn't get much out of them anyway, it wasn't really a big draw over last years cruise.
Since we are both night people, we were looking forward to going rollerblading under the moonlight (which we were never allowed to do), or seeing a good live band and having a few drinks. Well, unless you were part of the dinner/show crowd there is not much entertainment after dinner time. I don't think this was due to royal carribean as much as it had to do with the fact that the majority of passengers were the over 50 crowd. That's what we got for going 9 nights during September. The bars and clubs (if you even want to call them that) were virtually empty, and not once did I see any live Jazz in the beautiful jazz club they had. Whenever we made it up there, there was either no music at all, or very very soft recorded music. We wound up spending every night at the Kettle Pub watching a guy sing and play a guitar to a back up track. He was okay, but he was really the only show in town, so we didn't have much of a choice. He only new about 15 songs and he played each one nightly. Same people, same songs, same experience.
I honestly didn't see the difference in food between Carnival and RCI. It was cruise food…nuff said. It was alright, nothing spectacular, but very edible. What I found very odd was that getting ice was very difficult. Getting water was also very difficult, as I only saw one water cooler on the whole ship. The ice tea and lemonade were really horrible and the burgers were lower than average. Although, the pizza was out of this world. The room service pizza was even better. I suggest getting a soda package (which we did not do), as after awhile that watery iced tea can get a little tiring.
We missed st. Thomas due to hurricane Florence. Which meant that we were at sea for three whole days. We got a little stir crazy, but it wasn't too bad. I liked the fact that the chairs (when you did find one) were better quality than carnival and much more comfortable. They did have an adult only pool in a separate area which was also nice.
The shows were fantastic, and the ice show was amazing. Even the random parades they had at midnight were a sight to see and worth making it out to. Another good point was the service…from the waitstaff, to the guest relations desk, to the room stewards, was outstanding.
The ports were great, and we had a good time as always. Labadee, the private island is a really good time. Especially if you are a beach/water person. I wasn't too impressed with San Juan, as you feel as though you are in Miami. Everything is very American. St. Martins Rhino Riders is a great, fun, blast of an excursion and I highly recommend it. That was probably the highlight of our cruise.
Upon leaving the ship the only annoyance is that they make you leave your room by 8:00 and then you are all just sitting around for two hours. But once we were called we were home within one hour.
All in all it was a good time. If it was my first cruise and I had nothing to compare it to, I probably would have had a better opinion. Carnival has a way of pretty much forcing fun down your throat, but then again royal carribean has less annoying announcements and random conga lines while you are trying to read by the pool. There were pros and cons to both ships, and I would cruise on both again. If I have to give any real critique, it was the lack of availability on the sports deck, and not much alternative entertainment to their nightly shows.
It took a while, but everything started to fall into place, the port of debarkation, the ship (Explorer of the Seas), and the destination (BERMUDA!!!). So, this Carnivalite booked an RC cruise.
I did as much pre work just to get me along, as I wanted to let my first RC cruise to bring me back as a sort of newbie again. All this cruising eventually makes things seem simply standard.
The other thing I wanted to make sure of was not to "COMPARE" everything to Carnival. I did that once on a cruise on NCL, comparing EVERYTHING, and almost ruined what was a nice cruise.
But, I found myself doing just that once I boarded, but this time with a more open mind.
We arrived just after 10:30, which was an hour earlier than recommended, and sat in traffic waiting for those still getting off to do so. We parked the car about 11:00, checked in at about 11:15, and was on the ship at 11:45.
Two disappointments hit me right away.
First, there was no grand atrium upon boarding, but we found the second set of elevators while looking for thestairs, and tried to make our way to our room, just to drop our carryons off. But, the corridors were blocked, so that wasn't going to happen.
So we made our way up to the Windjammer.
The food in the Windjammer was not exactly to our liking, especially with what Carnivals Spirit class buffets are now. I barely touched each of my selections, mostly because for some reason I also wasn't exactly hungry.
Next, we were off to find the dining room, as we were assigned late seating. The MD reassigned us to a table of 10 in a side room off the main dining area for early dining. Turned out, by day two, they had assigned two other couples to that table as well, so it was 7 of us to a nice size table. Lots of elbow room.
So back up to the Lido Deck (not even sure if the decks had names, so deck 11), found ample space. Lots of empty chairs, and never had or saw a lack of chairs the whole week. They were everywhere, and I loved that they didn't "round them up" each night. And having a pool and hot tub available 24 hours was a definite plus!
After our first foo foos we headed to our cabin.
We got what was the last available triple at our time of booking. I liked that we were high up, but not necessarily so far forward. In retrospect, we never felt anything. We were also waitlisted for the next available JS, but the only one that became available was aft on deck 6. Not a good choice, so I let it go.
The room was a disappointment. Although it claimed to be the same size as a standard Carnival balcony room, it sure wasn't laid out like one. It was narrower, with a slightly different configuration, but it was still larger than the closets that kept me away from RCCL all these years. But we got used to it.
And then the balcony really threw me. All the openness was gone. Even breathing resonated. I liked the rail to floor plexiglass on the other ships better.
Also, they could have done better with the bathrooms. Besides a "round" shower, it smelled of urine. It was faint, but it was there. Lately, I see the stewards closing the drains. I wonder if that's where it's coming from, or if there's another reason they do this.
But the BEDS! Saggy and cot like. So I ordered the foam layered whoosie from the steward, and she had it installed by the time we retired, except that we never told her we switched seatings. Oh well.
Another thing I didn't like was not having the major networks on the TV. But I did get to catch up on old episodes of Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and the Partidge Family.
But, none of this was gonna get me down. There was a whole HUGE ship to explore!
We spent the afternoon at the pool, and headed down when it got close to dinner time.
The food turned out to be very good. I do see it's debated quite often on the boards, so I set my expectations low. Something to chose from here and there. I enjoyed all I ordered, and sometimes ordered more than one meal. My only disappointments were the lobster and the turkey, but they were still palatable. Just prepared different than I was used to. Our waiter even brought us second helpings of the lobster.
What I didn't like was that off hours, food was not readily available. I've gotten used to having something available at all hours. We did try Johnny Rockets one night at 11:30. Never had their food before. Never will again. Not my kind of grub. The stuff they had at Cafe Promenade never looked that appealing, and I stayed away from the pizza.
The Windjammer fare was better all the subsequent days of eating there. We only had lunch once in the DR, just so we had more pool time. Never had breakfast there.
After dinner, we went to the first show. It was the welcome aboard affair. All the entertainment all week was very good. Again, didn't have to worry about what I had seen before.
We went to most shows, and enjoyed each and every one of them. They have a talented lineup on this ship.
The Ice show was over the top. You had to get tickets, and I made sure I was there early to get them.
BTW, I was worried about what I wouldn't have priorities to not being a Crown and Anchor member. I had read there are priorities to those members for all sorts of things. Well, it didn't take anything away from me, so I guess it's all extra value stuff.
I always enjoy a good, personable and funny cruise director. We were fortunate to have one on this trip. His name was Allan Brooks, but for those looking for him now, he just left for vacation. There is at least one family doing a B2B this week. I wonder what they think of the new one!
We arrived in Bermuda on Tuesday morning, and all we felt like doing was beaching it. We got our bus passes right on board, and headed to Horseshoe bay both days.
On Tuesday and every Tuesday night, they have a street festival next to the clock tower mall. It's some shows, and local flea market stuff, but it was nice. It's like one big block party. Later that night, they had the deck party on board. We grabbed our grub, ate, and retired.
Now as far as the ship went, it was stunning! More than lots to do, and we still never came close to seeing everything. Loved the Royal Promenade. Love the lounges up in the Viking Crown. The views are stunning, as is the atmosphere. We never even got up there until the fourth day, and unfortunately, never got back there. The main show lounge is accommodating, although they should do something about the bottle neck. I wasn't used to having only two (four) banks of elevators. We did our sneak trick of going up one flight, and then heading down into the masses, just to go back up again. But I was NOT going to walk up 9 flights of stairs!
Everything about this ship was soothing and enjoyable.
I was surprised to find the lower decks to be non passable from one end to the other. And was even more frustrating if I found I was on the wrong end on the ship. Having two atriums really screwed me up.
What I did like was being able to go to the front of the ship. I've been waiting to do that for 18 years!
The service was fantastic! Loved how they ALWAYS called you by name. Nice touch. All were very friendly.
The other thing I noticed was that how some diehards on the boards attack Carnival for certain things, yet I found the same experience on RCCL, some slightly different.
For example, Carnival has it's hairy chest contest. I guess the equivalent on RCCL is the hairy leg contest. But I did NOT appreciate the guy in the Speedo pulling down his bathing suit to reveal his bum.
Other things found were hawking of drinks, the announcements, the in your face selling tactics. None of these things bothered me, but you would think they didn't exist if you read the RCI boards.
Will I sail RCCL again? Most likely. It was truly a rewarding experience. I found most between the two lines interchangeable, and offering probably the same product to the same target audience. What lacked here, was compensated there. And vice versa. The size of this particular ship wins over anything Carnival has, just for the variety and diversity it offers. Do I need an Ice skating rink, rock climbing, or golf? No, but others like it, and there's plenty of other things to do as well. I think I could probably sail for two weeks and have not explored everything this ship had to offer.
BTW, debarkation was a pleasure. We were the fourth group called, and was in our car within 15 minutes, and home in a hour. A nice touch at the end of our trip.
This cruise was an excellent opportunity to introduce my eight year old daughter, Bridget to the world of travelling, while having a vacation myself. We didn't have my husband, nor son with us this time, so I had to be creative in thinking of a way to keep my daughter somewhat busy. Royal Carribbean provided us with just the right combination.
Everything was excellent, from the food in the Dining Room to the Windjammer Cafe. In fact, we ended up eating in the Windjammer five nights out of seven as we found it quite to our liking. For dinner, we always had our own panoramic view at the back of the ship and it was alot quieter and more leisurely to our liking. The service everywhere was excellent and I enjoyed getting to know several staff members as the week went on.
My only complaint was the usual rush to get us off the ship on the last day. Our cabin steward actually started to give us heck, because we slept in till 8:30 on the last morning and he had to clean up the room.! Too bad!We weren't rushing anywhereand deci. ded to enjoy our last morning. Other than that, an overall great trip. The Kid's Club was excellent. It was well supervised and had loads of activities. In fact, we are planning on going on another cruise this year.
I would highly recommend this cruise if a mother is travelling with her children, and needs a few activities to amuse her children. When my daughter wasn't at the kid's club, we golfed, swam, played cards, ate, talked, and watched a movie. It was a holiday the both of us won't easily forget!
My wife and I sailed on Explorer of the seas recently. Overall we had a very nice time. I will try and give you my perspective of how we felt about this ship.
First, this was our 6th cruise overall, 5th w/RCCL, and 1st on a Voyager class ship. The ship itself is impressive to say the least. I saw really no visible areas of wear and tear on the ship....very minimal stuff..some of the varnish on the rails was peeling off, minor minor carpet stains...nothing to complain about.
We sailed to Eastern Caribbean, San Juan, ST Maarten, ST.Thomas, Nassau. So much has been written about these ports, I wont say too much. We dod book the Screaming Eagle Jetboat tour in ST. Thomas, but due to mechanical problems with the boat, it was cancelled at the last minute. RCCL quickly credited our seapass accounts, no problem.
Weather was great for most of the trip..the 1st morning at sea was a little cool, maybe a 10 foot swell. No problem for this big ship.
Food-we ate 4 nights in Portofinos (20.00 cover per person) Service/food there was great...top notch. We ate breakfast/lunch usually inthe windjammer, it was "o/k", nothing great, but not horrible either. We at twice at Johnny Rockets, once again that was just "o/k". They do charge 3.95 per person again, but if you are a crown and Anchor member, you get one free pass to eat there. We did not eat at all in the dining room, Portofinos seemed worth it to us.
Service-overall friendliness of the crew was great. I don't know how people complain about the crew all the time...every cruise I've gone on with RCCL the crew always says hello, good morning, etc. Our room stewardess, Amanda, was great, kept our room spic and span 2x a day. Extra towels, pillows, no problem, she got more than the recommended tip, and deserved every penny of it.
There were tons of activities daily to keep you occupied, and the ship is so big, we really never felt crowded or never really had to wait in a long line for anything.
If anything, the ship seemed almost too big for our tastes. There was so much to explore, it took us 2 full days to see everything.
Our real only major complaint was disembarcation. It was not the greatest. From what I saw, when they called our color, there was about 500 people with Red. They let people off in 15 minute intervals, and had us stand in line waiting. My wife and I stood in line from 8:30AM to 10:45 AM. We had a 2PM flight, and just made it to the airport around 1PM. Worst disembarcation I've ever went through.
Another point before I forget, if possible, fly down a day early, especially in the winter to avoid any weather delays, etc. We booked a hotel on priceline.com and got Miami Courtyard downtown, about 1 mile from the ship. It was a very nice hotel, good service, clean, etc.
Will we sail with RCCL again, yes. Will we sail on a voyager class ship again, maybe. My wife and I seem to prefer Vision class/Radiance class ships as we get older. Explorer was beautiful, but just a little to big for us.
Getting on the ship:
We got to the pier about 11:15. There was no line At all, got right on the ship. I think the whole process Took 15 minutes max. They have this down pat, we Were very impressed with them. Rooms were ready At 1:00, they had lunch ready at 11:30.
We booked a ocean view room on the 2nd deck. Our Room number was 2618. We had a nice room, plenty Of drawers and closet space. We were close to the Elevators, but never heard any noise. Bathroom is a Little tight. Shower looks small but isn't so bad when You get in it. Had good water pressure on the shower. Our room steward did wonderful towel animals every Night, and he had the pillows done up in different designs Every day.
The ship is huge, you can get lost easily. They have a three Level dining room. The promenade deck is always got a lot going on, Specially in the evening. They set up tables with specials, tshirts 2 for $20 etc. The ship is in great condition. They were constantly cleaning it all the time. Theyhad a adult only pool, with two huge Jacuzzis. They had to large pools with four Jacuzzis for everyones use. They had a kids area at the one end of the ship, with a big slide. They have a rock climbing wall, mini golf, inline skating, ice skating, and big basketball court that is all free.
Food was good. They had good choices every day. The Only complaint we have is the steaks were awful. The Prime rib and other steaks were tough with no taste. The Filet was not good either. All the other meats were great. Lamb chops were excellent. Buffet had a nice salad bar Daily, usually pretty good choices. Go all the way to the Back and they have hamburgers and pizza. We found it On the third day. They also have a grill in the back where You can have your eggs cooked how you want them.
Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Caymen. We did The ships tours on all ports. We went to Althun Ha in Belize. This was a four and half hour tour. The ruins were wonderful, 5 Large temples. Next went to Chacchoben in Costa Maya, they Had 3 large temples at this site with some original paint still on One. We did a city and shopping tour in Cozumel. We did a Sting ray city and turtle farm tour in Grand Caymen. It was a lot Of fun. Diver went down and brought the sting rays right to the Windows on the semi submersible boat. Grand Caymen still has A lot of hurricane damage, it was unbelievable how almost all the Trees fell down.
Production shows were pretty good. The ice show was fantastic. Its amazing what they could do. I suggest anyone to go to the ice Show, they pass out tickets for a couple of shows through out the week. The krooz comics were a lot of fun. You could see them performing on The Promenade deck and before the shows.
This ship had wonderful service. We had Daniel and Miche for our Waiters. They did a great job. Calvin and Fitzroy were our room stewards. They did a great job, wonderful towel animalsJ They only thing I Noticed on this ship that some of the crew(ones working buffet etc) Did not seem very happy. They did their job but many did not ever Have a smile on their face. It made me wonder how well they are treated By their supervisors. I hope they were just missing home. I know they Work very long hours. They did a great job keeping ship clean and Serving up the food.
Getting off the ship
We had a tour in Miami, Everglades tour. We got off ship around 7am. We had our luggage and were off on our tour by 8 am. Tour was great In Miami, and they dropped us off at the airport when done.
Tips and FAQ
Johny Rockets $3.95 cover fee pp per visit, plus extra for shakes and drinks. Soda card is $6 a day for adults, $4 a day for kids. Portofinos is $20 pp extra Book shore tours before you leave from home, saves you from standing in Line for long time on ship. The snacks at the Café Promenade are free, they have cheesecake, other sweets and light snacks all day. The Ben and Jerrys had been closed the whole week until the last day, I Know its extra but not sure how much. Its attached to the café promenade. They have a really nice gym, wish I had used it more. They had nicer Equipment then my gym I belong to.
We really enjoyed our cruise, we will try RCCL again I am sure. This was Our first RCCL, but 5th cruise.
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 atan 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 routeing 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 humour never afraid to use herself and her accent as the butt of the humour, 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 counsellors 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.
My wife Ginny and I took our first cruise on Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ship, Explorer of the Seas, from Miami to the Western Caribbean. This large (138,000 gross tons) ship provided us several new cruising experiences, highlighted by the Royal Promenade and the ice skating rink. Everything was bigger and grander than most ships because of the extra space. But the extra space and passengers did not make things crowded. In fact, it was just the opposite, from embarkation to disembarkation.
We arrived at the Port of Miami by car, having driven south from Melbourne. Sunday traffic on I-95 is tolerable. We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and were on the ship shortly after noon. We did notice people still disembarking as we went to check in. Rooms are generally not available until 1 p.m. but buffet lunch is available in the Windjammer Cafe, so the timing works out.
HINT: Use the on-line check in. In this case it really seemed to work, with special lines and signs to expedite boarding.
Disembarkation was even easier. We elected to use the "express roll off" option in order to meet other travel commitments. The "expressroll off" was advertised to start at approximately 6:45 a.m. It started at 6:40 a.m. and we were in our car and headed out of the parking garage before 7 a.m.
HINT: Position yourself to use the "express roll off option" if you want to get off the ship early. That means being able to transport your own bags safely.
The Ship Explorer of the Seas in the Voyager Class is definitely in a special category and needs to be experienced. We are already booked for our next Voyager class cruise. I'll describe it deck by deck.
Deck 5, the Royal Promenade, extends the length of the ship from the dining room aft to the spiral staircase in front of the Palace Theater at the bow, about 600 feet. We debated whether the Royal Promenade reminded us of a street in Venice (my choice) or Rome(Ginny's choice). It turns out the promenade is modeled after a street in Milan, Italy. The wide promenade includes the Cafe Promenade (no-extra-charge food and coffee), the Crown and Kettle English pub, the shops, the Weekend Warrior sports bar, a spiral staircase midway in the promenade directly into the casino on Deck 4, guest relations, the Connoisseur Cigar Club, the Maharajas Lounge and more.
There is a walkway over the promenade, and three floors of inside cabins with window views into the promenade. It is decorated with sculptures, artwork and models including a 1936 "Knucklehead" Harley Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar. The Royal Promenade is especially active in the evening and is a great way to get from the ship's bow to its stern, or from dinner to the theater.
Deck 3: the ice rink. The ship features a large (for a cruise ship) ice skating rink complete with professionally produced ice shows and the opportunity for passengers to ice skate and/or take skating lessons from the performers. Deck 3 also includes the main level for the three-level dining room and the photo gallery.
HINT: Tickets are required for the ice show. Get them at the first advertised opportunity in order to get your first choice. The tickets were no extra charge. The seating around the rink is somewhat limited but everyone who wanted to see the show appeared to have the opportunity.
Deck 4: the casino and lounges. The casino is the largest we have encountered on a cruise ship and had a nice selection of games. Although it was crowded at the usual times between dinner and the shows, the crowds were lighter than we experienced on other ships. The lounges are larger and grander than on smaller Royal Caribbean ships. The Explorer's Schooner Bar, for example, is larger than the Sovereign of the Seas Schooner Bar. The Aquarium Bar actually has four separate aquariums, one at each corner. Deck 4 also has two eco-learning centers, one for water and one for air, both worth a visit. The deck is surrounded by an outside promenade deck.
Top decks: the buffet and sports activities. For the physically active there are the usual top deck activities related to the swimming pools. The Explorer also has a rock climbing wall, putting green, golf simulator and basketball court . Elsewhere you can play shuffleboard, jog, walk and use the exercise room.
Food We thought the food was very good. The dining room had a nice selection that included meat, fish and pasta at every meal. There is no open seating for dinner in the main dining room. It's either early or late seating. The buffet restaurant, the Windjammer Cafe, was one of the best operated buffets we have experienced. It has four different buffet lines and staggers them to restock and clean. The food selection was very good and the crowds were not bad. Hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza were also available, and throughout the day you could get sandwiches, pastries and cookies.
HINT: The Promenade Cafe is open early on disembarkation day and a great way to get a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee if you are leaving early.
Special notes The elevators, at each end of the ship, were very responsive and well located for getting around. There was no disembarkation talk in the theater because it was done via television and printed instructions -- a huge and very positive change. There was a virus breakout (one day flu) on the ship that was handled very efficiently with extraordinary cleaning and sanitizing. We also witnessed special crew training that was impressive.
Ports The Western Caribbean ports are nice. Both Belize City and Costa Maya have developed or are developing special shopping areas at the piers that are modern and have good shopping. The tours include nature and Mayan ruins. The Mayan ruins accessible at Costa Maya and Cozumel are worth the visit. Cozumel is still experiencing major post-hurricane problems including the total destruction of its major pier. Grand Cayman is one of our favorites because it appears to be a prosperous and busy city as would be expected of a major banking center.
We have made a few cruises to the western Caribbean and this one was extra special because of the ship. The Royal Caribbean Voyager Class ships definitely are a worthwhile cruising experience.
It had been two years since I have been on a Royal Caribbean cruise and I was shocked and disappointed to see how the quality of their product has declined. We were on the Explorer of the Seas, which was launched in 2001. The ship, itself, is still beautiful, and the service on board is great. However, the food quality has greatly declined. RCI's new brasserie service for lunch is very limited. The food quality is horrible, in the Windjammer. The steam tables failed to keep the food hot. The food and desserts were tasteless. The soups they served at all meals tasted sweet. I will say this; the service in the dining room was excellent.
On this cruise, there were many, many, undisciplined children running wild at all hours of the day and night. Their special playground was the elevators. Apparently, the ships rule of a 1AM curfew for anyone under 17 was not enforced. Another new policy of the ship, which was quite a nuisance, was the policy regarding beach towels. Each person is allowed one beach towel, which was put in your room before sailing. You had totake this towel with you to poolside. Towels were not provided poolside. You were expected to take your beach towel back to your stateroom where your room steward would replace it. It was a hassle.
This was my twenty-second RCI cruise and I remember how wonderful they use to be. I am so sorry the product has suffered due to cutbacks and to the large volume of passengers on the mega ships.