Explorer of the Seas Reviews

  • Average User Rating

    Excellent
  • My Rating

    You have not rated this yet

User Ratings

Overall Rating
4.2
from 68 reviews

Cuisine

Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms

Staterooms

Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities

Nightlife

Shore Tours

Itinerary

Alternative Dining

68 User Reviews of Explorer of the Seas Cruise Ship

Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: September 19, 2004

This ship was amazing. My husband and I had a deluxe cabin with a balcony. We were very pleased with the cabin; the bed was even comfortable! The balcony did show some wear (there was a bit of rust showing), but we will never go with less than a balcony again! The bathroom did seem bigger than the bath on our last ship, Rhapsody of the Seas. Our room attendant, Maria, was the best! We also enjoyed the wait staff and especially our waiter, P.K.!

The overall appearance of the ship was very good. The crew did a good job of cleaning up after all of us. I never felt crowded; there seemed to be enough room to accommodate all the guests.

Dining

We had second seating for supper. It was great because you were not rushed getting back from port for an early-seating supper. I thought the food was good -- even better than on our first cruise. It seems that Royal Caribbean is always trying to improve itself. I even noticed a change in the coffee to Seattle's Best, much better than what we had on Rhapsody.

The Windjammer Café

was the same as on our other cruise -- the food was fine for breakfast and lunch, but I would not want to eat dinner there. The main problem was finding a seat -- not an easy task.

My first experience with Johnny Rocket's was not very good. After waiting 25 minutes for take-out, I got my food and it was cold. I decided to give it another chance, and it was much better; the milkshake was grand.

Entertainment

All the entertainment was top-notch. The Ice Show was fantastic! What a nice change as well. There was a nice variety of entertainment so you did not get bored. The theater was big enough to accommodate everyone. I wish they would have had tables by the chairs in the theater instead of drink holders in the arms -- the holders were not big enough to hold most glasses.

Our cruise director Clodagh was great! She kept everyone happy and entertained. She was very visible all the time.

Casino

I thought the Casino was rather small for this size ship. Everything seemed cramped.

Ports

The ports-of-call were beautiful. We booked our St. Martin and Nassau, Bahamas excursions through the ship. The St. Martin island tour was fine for the money. Our Nassau excursion and port call was cancelled due to Hurricane Jeanne beating us to the island. We booked our St. Thomas excursion online ourselves through Godfrey Tours, St. Thomas. It was the best shopping/island/swim & snorkel excursion! He kept us entertained all day!

Extended cruise Day 8

The port of Miami and airport were closed on Sunday due to Hurricane Jeanne, so we got an additional day at sea. Royal Caribbean did all they could do to accommodate our extra day, even creating a Day 8 daily itinerary. There were plenty of activities to keep people busy, and they even showed movies!

In the afternoon on Sunday they gave everyone free Internet access and free phone calls. Probably the only things that could have been better would have been making telephones in the cabins free (they were the usual $7.95 per minute) and if you had used the Internet in the morning, they did not go back and comp it retroactively. The lines to use the telephone were at times three hours long. The Internet was faster, as there were more computers set-up to use.

Meet & Mingle--We had 47 people signed up for our Meet and Mingle. About 30 showed up. It was very nice. EOS gave us a private room with drinks (tea, water and lemonade) and appetizers, as well as lanyards with a sea pass holder! It was very nice and we had a great time! Clodagh (the Cruise Director) came to visit with us.

All in all, I was very impressed with RCI and Explorer of the Seas. I look forward to our next cruise with RCI!

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: July 18, 2004

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

Expand Review
Read More
 
Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: July 11, 2004

The ship is beautiful, but all was not wonderful. The pools are salt water. I read lots of reviews about the ship and did lots of research before booking it, and no where was it stated that the pools were salt water. There were too many people for the size of the pools. The excursion we had booked (Away from the crowds beach break) in St. Maarten was nice, until we got ready to go back to the ship. The driver returned, got out of the bus and got on another and left us there. The owners put us on another bus, but this was very stressful. Be very careful of anything you purchase on board - watch for an automatic tip to be added. My daughter bought a soda and all the person did was hand her a can and she was charged a tip. Way too much emphasis is placed on tipping. The cost of the cruise is enough and there should be no "requirement" of tipping. Also, the dress code needs to be a little more relaxed for the main dining room. After "playing" all day,

we did not feel like dressing up for dinner, so we ate in the Windjammer most of the time. The food there is ok, but we would have preferred to eat in the main dining room if we could have just worn shorts and collared shirts - not dresses or pants.

The plus side...room was a bit bigger than anticipated - ocean view on 2nd deck. This is a great deck to be on - very quiet. The ship security was very good. The athletic team was great. The activities planned for shipshape dollars were always fun and entertaining. The food in the main dining room was very good and the service was great.

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: April 24, 2004

We purchased our own air travel and arrived in Miami the day before our cruise. We took the free shuttle to the Radisson Plaza Mart & Convention Center. This was a really nice place to start our vacation as the motel was very nice and there were over 300 little wholesale stores to shop in.

Embarkation: We took a cab to the port and arrived there at about 11:30 which was the perfect time to get there. We were on the ship in no time at all and having lunch at the Windjammer Buffet by 12:15. The food was very good and there was quite a nice selection. My husband especially loved the honey stung chicken, but only found it there on the first day.

Dining: We found the food to be very good in the Columbus dining room and our waiter Eduardo and assistant Giovanni were both excellent. We never had to wait for anything and we could order 2 entrees or extra desserts with no problem. They were also very entertaining and made us laugh quite often. We sat at a table with 2 other couples and a mother

and daughter from Ireland. Everyone was very friendly and we all got along fine. We ate breakfast in the dining room once and it was very good. The other mornings we ate at the Windjammer Buffet with the exception of room service one morning. We ate lunch in the Windjammer each day and found the food to be really good. The salad was fresh and there was always a lot to choose from. I didn't think the desserts were quite as good as they looked. However, the home made cookies at the Promenade Café were out of this world. I stopped there just about once a day...which isn't a good thing. Johnny Rockets was terrific, we ate there twice. The onion rings are delicious as are the chili fries. Don't miss this stop for lunch or dinner.

Entertainment: We thoroughly enjoyed all of the entertainment. I thought the ventriloquist was excellent and the singers and dancers were very good. The ice show is awesome and hard to believe that these people can keep their balance while on a ship. We played the bingo for the cruise for two which was fun and exciting to think that we might win, but of course we didn't! The art auction was nice, although we didn't purchase anything. It was nice to learn about the art and a good way to stay out of the sun for a few hours. The pools were beautiful and lots of deck chairs. We had a difficult time finding chairs on one sea day, but we found a couple in the shade and later moved into a sunny area. Be sure to use sun screen with a high SPF if you don't want to burn. We used SPF 15 every day and got a burn every day. We do not have fair complexions either!! The band "Heat Wave" was truly entertaining; we enjoyed that as often as we could. The Kruise Komics were really a lot of fun and very friendly. Be sure to see the parades on the Royal Promenade, they were a lot of fun. I always had fun shopping in the little shops and at the sidewalk sales each night.

Ports of call: Nassau: This was a substitute port, as we were supposed to go to Labadee, but with the unrest in Haiti they stopped in the Bahamas instead. We stayed on the ship in Nassau as we had been there on our first cruise and didn't really enjoy it. Its great being on the ship at the different ports as there is hardly anybody around the pool. Had a nice relaxing day by the pool and never regretted not getting off.

Jamaica: I loved Jamaica! I thought it was just beautiful there! We did the Best of Ocho Rios tour and had a great time. We first stopped at a garden area with a 40' water fall and had a lot of fun with our tour guide Michelle. She was so cute and could really bat those eyes. We then went on to Dunns River Falls. That was beautiful; however we did not actually climb the falls. We did go into the water in different areas of the falls. My husband and I both have bad knees and were afraid that the climb might make us miserable for the rest of our trip. It did look like people were having a lot of fun; although we did see a few people fall down. Everybody holds hands as they climb with a tour guide. It seems as if everyone is trying to help the next person up the falls. Be sure to take a waterproof camera if you go. Our next stop was the Island Village, which was a neat little market area with a Bob Marley museum, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and a lot of little stores and a beach. We only had about 1 hour there before our tour would take us back to the port. We had a meal of jerk chicken with beans and rice which was delicious. We never made it to Margaritaville. It would be nice to spend a little more time here, as it was relaxing with nobody bothering you to buy their wares, like at the Dunns River Falls. There was a little shopping area as you exit the falls and the locals are selling their things and are very pushy. We just walked right through there and didn't stop to look at one thing.

Grand Cayman: I thought the port was a little bit commercialized, not that impressive to me. Everything in the stores was priced pretty high. But we booked the Stingray City Swim and Snorkel tour thru the ship and loved it. The water was so gorgeous, you can't even begin to explain it and the stingrays were pretty cool. They would swim right underneath you and you could pet them. Our tour guide gave us a few lessons on petting them and also feeding them. I had my picture taken while holding one! The only letdown was that the only snorkeling you do is in 3 feet of water at Stingray City Sandbar! But, this was a wonderful tour and as I said the water was beautiful and it was pretty neat to be out in the middle of the ocean in 3 feet of water. I would've liked to snorkel in another area and see the Stingrays. There is a tour available for that, but you don't go to the sandbar to see the Stingrays, you will be in 12' of water.

Cozumel: This was lovely, although pretty hot and humid. It was a little scary to see the guards with rifles near our ship. We did not do a tour here, but took a $6.00 taxi ride to the downtown area for shopping. Things were definitely a lot cheaper here than in Grand Cayman. Lots of t-shirts and lots of silver jewelry. We bought a lot of souvenirs here. We had lunch at an open air café, which was okay. I think it was called Palmera's. It wasn't anything great, but was okay.

Overall: This was our second cruise. The first was on Carnival for 4 days and we loved it, but this was unbelievable. We can't think of one thing that we were unhappy with on this cruise. The ship is awesome. We were in awe from day one. It is huge, beautiful and a wonderful place to take a vacation. The ship was sold out with over 3,000 guests and 1,200 or so staff and you never felt crowded. We never waited in line, except once or twice in the ladies restrooms, which is normal. There were a lot of kids on board, but they were never a bother. We would highly recommend this cruise to everyone. It has so much to offer, although we didn't do the rock climbing, ice skating, mini golf or many of the other things it has to offer. The ship is truly a vacation in itself. You are guaranteed to have a lot of fun on this ship.

Mary R.

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 27, 2004

This was a first cruise for me and for my 2 sons, ages 13 & 15. We went with my mother, who has cruised before, but not for a very long time. So I got to see the cruise experience from the vantage point of 3 different generations. As many reviewers before me have said, Explorer is a very beautiful ship. It is also unbelievably huge, and when our bus from the airport got its first glimpse of Explorer & Navigator docked end-to-end at the pier, everyone gasped!

I will try to write the rest of this review by topic, to make it simpler.

CABINS: We were originally booked into 2278 and 2280. Somehow (possibly because I was having a birthday during the cruise) we got an upgrade, and ended up in 8582 and 8584. That was mostly a good thing, but it also created some problems. #1, our suitcases were delivered to the original rooms, because that was what our luggage tags said, so our stateroom attendant had to track them down. #2, the flowers that my wonderful husband arranged to have delivered on my birthday never arrived (and of course

I didn't know to be expecting them....) But our cabins, tho small, had cozy little balconies with 2 chairs and a table. Before the cruise, I would have said who cares about the room or a balcony -- I'm only going to sleep there. But actually it was very pleasant to have a private place to sit and watch the waves, or have a cup of coffee. It was also a very convenient place to hang up the handful of clothing items that I washed out in the sink!

FOOD: I had read some reviews that had led me to believe that the food would be only average, but it was outstanding! We were at the 6pm dinner seating in the Magellan dining room, and the menu, tho not extensive, was creative and different every night. Our waiter Gabriel, and assistant waiter Eliseo, were friendly and attentive, and knew our names and preferences after the first evening. We did not try the "Portofino" restaurant, as we saw nothing on the menu that seemed to justify the $20 per person upcharge. "Johnny Rockets" may have been terrific, but one encounter with the 40-minute wait to get a table or even to get take-out items, and I didn't care to find out. It was possible to eat 3 meals a day in the dining room, but we fell into a pattern of eating breakfast and lunch (when onboard) at the "Windjammer"/"Island Grill" buffet. The quality there was more uneven. The breakfast eggs and potatoes were randomly either pretty good or horribly soggy. But there were all manner of muffins, croissants, bagels, and pastries. At lunch, salad fixings were plentiful, as well as a daily-changing array of hot items. And, because of the many reviewers who warned that the coffee was dreadful, I have to say that (au contraire) the coffee was excellent -- in the dining room and at the "Windjammer". The dessert selections were seemingly endless, and they were all first-rate!

ACTIVITIES: My kids found the "Adventure Ocean" program before I did, and were hardly ever seen (by me) again! The 13-year-old was in the 12-to-14 group, and the 15-year-old was in the 15-to-17 group, so they enjoyed the chance to have fun with separate crowds of kids. I swear that 80% of the passengers this week were from the Chicago area, and to my stunned amazement, my older boy managed to find a crowd of kids who all live within about 15 miles of us! One cautionary note, particularly with older teens: despite a supposed midnight curfew for kids, there were significant crowds of teenagers running around the ship at all hours of the night, long after the "Adventure Ocean" activities were over. Some of these rather-enterprising teens discovered that age limits on purchasing liquor were either non-existent or not enforced in our ports of call, so were able to buy small (read "easily concealed") bottles of alcohol for, let us say, recreational use. Also, in Ocho Rios, many of the kids were solicited by locals trying to sell them marijuana. So the opportunities for teens to get drunk or high did exist (thru no fault of RCI). It's a good idea to keep track of who your teens are hanging out with onboard, just as you would at home.

I cannot begin to describe all the activities available for adults! The ship's features -- e.g., the pools, the spa, the casino, etc. -- can be read about on RCI's website, but nothing compares with firsthand experience. The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers are a very talented group, though the shows themselves were of variable quality. Still, I would strongly recommend going to these. The ice show is outstanding, and it really is unbelievable that they can skate with such precision on a moving ship! James Andrews, our cruise director, seemed to be everywhere at once, and did a great job! I had some sort of therapeutic seaweed wrap & massage in the spa -- it was insanely expensive ($194 for 90 minutes!) but it really did feel wonderful, and rid me of years of pent-up tension in my neck and shoulder muscles. The karaoke was delightful, and all very good-natured. Basically, everything that we attended was worth the time spent. And the 3 generations all had different things to do. On each cruise, they create a video with cruise highlights, and it is available for sale at the end. At the variety show on Friday night, James showed us the week's video. I didn't buy it (I had taken plenty of my own photos), but we did get a kick out of seeing me and my younger son in the backgrounds of some of the activities. James also ran thru a list of his 10 favorite questions that passengers have asked the Guest Relations staff: these included "Do these stairs go up, or down?" "Is the water in the toilet fresh water or sea water?" and "Can I pay off my seapass account with my seapass card?"

PORTS OF CALL: These were a mixed bag. We could not stop at Labadee because of the Haitian unrest, so substituted a stop in Nassau. We meandered around the streets near the pier, and the "straw market", but found the local merchants unpleasantly aggressive. On several occasions, vendors actually took hold of me or one of my children and pulled us in the direction of their particular stall. One elderly vendor told my 15-year-old, "Spend a dollar on an old woman -- don't be so selfish!" The kids were not in any way harmed physically, but they were quite shocked by the guilt-tripping and high-pressure sales tactics. They also didn't have a clue about haggling (we don't do that at our local mall!), so I had to drag them off for a crash course in how to barter! In Ocho Rios, we did a wonderful and fun river-tubing trip, but my kids waved at some local schoolchildren as we went by in our tour van, and were "flicked off" in response. I did try to give my kids a quick education in the economic and political issues that affect how cruise passengers are perceived by the locals, but the bottom line is that it lent an unpleasant atmosphere to an otherwise enjoyable vacation. Grand Cayman was a delightful stop, though. We did the glass-bottomed boat excursion, and then the snorkeling with the stingrays. Both were completely awesome! The water is so clear and so blue that you can see easily down to the bottom even in relatively deep water. To folks who are used to Lake Michigan, this was unbelievable! In between excursions, we had lunch at "Breezes", a little restaurant that is no more than a block from the pier, upstairs from a liquor and souvenir store called "Big Black Dick". (Hey, he was a pirate, and I didn't choose the name!) Cozumel was the stop we had planned as our big shopping day. My mother had purchased the "VIP passport" coupon book that is sold at the port talks onboard the ship, so we tramped from store to store collecting our freebies. Frankly, unless you really are planning to do major jewelry shopping, I don't think those books are worth the $20 -- the stuff you get free is all "dreck", and a coupon for 20% off is only meaningful if you actually buy something.... My mom bought earrings of "Caribbean topaz" -- this is a very pretty gemstone created (in 3 color schemes -- "morning", "afternoon", and "evening") by heating the gem to bring out multiple colors in one stone. However, "caveat emptor" has never been more applicable! The merchants have some real garbage (along with the good stuff), and will not hesitate to lie to you about the nature and quality of what they're selling! After all, what are you going to do when you realize you've been had -- fly back to Mexico to complain?! My mom (whose vision is not what it used to be) bought me a ruby ring at Diamond International (one of the stores recommended by RCI), and the ruby turned out to have a scratch on it, and a very unsightly inclusion within the stone (both visible to the naked eye, if your naked eye happens to have normal acuity). You could not possibly encounter such a stone at a reputable jeweler in the U.S. In retrospect, I wish we had booked some sort of excursion in Cozumel. We had an excellent lunch at "La Mission", complete with mariachi band. When we were shopped out, we made the obligatory tourist pilgrimage to "Carlos 'n' Charlie's". My older boy promptly disappeared into the mob of young folks out on the dance floor, and the next time I saw him, he had TWO young ladies hanging on him and dancing with him! If you like loud danceable music, dance floors crowded with nubile young bodies, and shots of "Sex on the Beach" (a drink), this is the place to be. My mother gritted her teeth for our sakes, and managed to stay there nearly an hour before hitting her limit. I'd say it's fun if you are under 30, like to dance, and like to drink. Slightly tamer fun is nearby at "Senor Frog's", of which there is also one in Nassau.

CREW: I don't think I've ever met a nicer group of people in my life than the crew and staff of this ship. Everyone from the waiter to the stateroom attendant to the ship's doctor (my mom came close to breaking her toe) to the captain was friendly, helpful, and genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the passengers. According to the captain, who spoke briefly at the Captain's Reception, the crew number 1207, and represent 66 different countries all working together in harmony. The waiters in the dining room not only waited table, but also sang songs for us in between dinner & dessert, in accordance with whatever the theme was for each night. My mother and I both chatted with some crew members, and learned that they sign on for contracts of varying lengths (months at a stretch), and work continuously for the length of their contract, getting some time off during each day, but no actual days off during their stint. Since Explorer runs 7-day cruises back-to-back, this meant that these folks had not had an entire day off in months! It's a wonder that they're even civil, let alone pleasant! The vast majority of the crew seemed to genuinely love working there.

MISCELLANEOUS ADVICE: (1) The weather in port was uniformly warm (80-ish), but the ship was very air-conditioned. Bring a light jacket for evening, and some long pants and shirts with long sleeves, in addition to the shorts and t-shirts. (2) Bring binoculars! Not only are they useful for the usual purposes, but they also would have been handy for trying to spot my kids (or anyone else) at poolside when I was looking down from deck 12! (3) If you are traveling with kids of any age, keep them right with you on all shore excursions! My mom encountered one woman as we were leaving Cozumel who was anguishing over whether her teenaged grandson had made it back to the ship -- she had last seen him at "Carlos 'n' Charlie's", and he had not met up with her yet onboard. (I don't know how that story ended....)

In summation, I would recommend a cruise vacation on the Explorer to absolutely anyone, regardless of age, physical condition, or activity preferences. There is truly something for everybody!

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 27, 2004

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! There were some disappoints regarding food, but not enough for me to stay away! The Island Grille/Windjammer Cafe food was adequate but not great. However, they feed so many people people that it has to be hard. 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.

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 13, 2004

There were 27 of us who went to the Western Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas. Overall, it was a fabulous vacation. We ranged in age from 1 to 74. The kids, most in the 6-10 range, loved the activities of the ship and were out quite late each night with their camp.

I wasn't thrilled about going back to Jamaica but was pleasantly surprised. We went to Margaritaville and had a wonderful time, without being hounded by vendors. It is a short walk off the pier, with shops, bar, beach and pool. For the price of a drink, you can use the beach with a floating trampoline and the pool with a slide. Umbrellas, chairs and floats can be rented for a fee of $5 each. We had lunch there and the food was very good and reasonable. They also have live music and dancing.

We also went to a beach club in Cozumel called Playa del Sol. It was a short cab ride from the pier and for $32 a person (group rate we negotiated, regular price is $39) we received chairs, umbrellas, towels, mats, snorkeling gear, food

and all drinks (including alcohol). The beach was clean, the Margarita's were decent, food so-so, shops, music, pool, floating trampolines, floating rock climbing, paddle boats, kayaks and good snorkeling made for a great day.

The ship is the most beautiful one I have ever cruised on (8 previous cruises) and the entertainment was superb. The major complaint we had was with a shore excursion in Cayman. I had been there on two previous cruises, and I highly recommended the combination reef and ray snorkeling trip. All of us were highly disappointed in it this time. We waited over an hour in the hot sun to be picked up by the vans, then we waited another ½ hour to board the boat. The boat held 250 people ( previous boats I went on had 20-30 people) therefore, it took 20 minutes to get in the water and another 20 minutes to get out. While in the water, you frequently received someone's flipper in the face. We looked like survivors of the Titanic floating in the sea. At the rays, we were unable to walk on the sandbar. They took us to twelve feet of water. It was a wasted day and RC only gave a $20 refund to three of us who complained, ignoring the rest of us.

The other complaint I had with RC was the price increases. On my previous cruise with RC in November of 2003, soda cards were much cheaper and the corking fee for bringing your own wine to dinner was $8. A week of soda's is over $40 and the wine charge is $12.

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: February 14, 2004

Our family of four (14 yr ol daughter, 15 year old son) cruised on Explorer of the Seas on 2/14/04. 2nd cruise for my wife & I {20 yrs ago!}; first for the kids). My overall impressions: nothing at all negative to say; everything was great (we did miss Labadee because of Haiti unrest; Caymans because of rough seas; not Royal Caribbean's fault).

RC arranged our flights from Rochester, NY to Miami (next cruise I think I'd fly the day before just to ensure arrival, although we were lucky and had no connecting problems). I thought we'd have to wait on the dock but we were able to board as soon as we arrived (12PM); boarding procedure took less than 15 minutes.

WE had an inside cabin for the four of us; 2 pullman beds that folded to the wall when not sleeping. The room had everything we needed and was extremely clean and well kept, as was the entire ship. I didn't see a lot of our Room Steward, Erich (my kids did), but he did his job and was there whenever we needed something (When we got to our

room a light bulb was out; we told ERich and it was replaced within 15 minutes).

Most reviews will tell you how beautiful the ship is. I won't go into details, but we were all highly impressed with the facilities and the cleanliness. One other note on the room: we truly were only in it when we slept, but in talking to other families, we probably could have had 2 rooms for nearly the same price. Check out the cost difference; the extra room would've been nice, but wasn't really necessary.

Food Review: Our waiter (waitress?) in the main dining room was Bettina from Romania, assisted by Sebastian. They were both wonderful. My wife and I had planned on dining one night at Portofino, but Bettina was too nice and accomodating, so we ate dinner there every night except Thursday, when we went shopping in Cozumel. That night we ate at the Windjammer; I was surprised to see some of the main menu items on the buffet. Breakfast was standard buffet fare; nothing spectacular, but plentiful with a good assortment each day. Tons of fresh fruit, plain scrambled eggs and enhanced scrambled (ham one day, mushrooms another); omellettes made to order. Plenty of cookies, desserts and sandwiches always available at the Cafe Promenade; Johnny Rockets was convenient when spending the day at the pools or for late snacks.

Entertainment: I've read reviews panning the singers and dancers. I don't know what people expect; we all thought they were great! There was an acrobatic duo (Duo Claudio), a comedy juggling team, two wonderful comedians, and on Thursday night the original Drifters (Under the Boardwalk; Save the Last Dance For Me). I couldn't have expected better. Our daughter took in most shows with us; my son was usually busy meeting friends and doing other things (like living in the arcade, where he actually won a medal for competition). Another neat feature: when we told our son about the comedians or shows, he was able to see them on tv (they rebroadcast the shows later at night). By the way, one tv station was usually a fixed camera on the Promenade. If anyone else was on the ship that week, that was my daughter and then my son doing a break dance routine in the middle of the Promenade on Sunday night while the other 3 of us watched hilariously from our room!

Shore excursions were great. I'm 50 years old but I did at least 3 things I've never done before, which were: climb a waterfall, ride a horse in the ocaen, kiss a dolphin. Truly unique experiences, never to be forgotten. My wife and daughter enjoyed shopping in Ocho Rios and Cozumel. One bummer: my wife packed some jewelry she'd bought in a suitcase for the trip home. The jewelry disappeared (99% sure it happened at Miami Airport). They took the good stuff and left some cheaper items, although the diamonique earrings fooled them. With travel insurance we will probably recoup some of the cost. When you travel, KEEP EVERYTHING VALUABLE IN YOUR CARRY-ONS!! We learned the hard way.

I could go on and on talking about how impressed we all were, but you can get the idea by now. A few other notes: our kids played volleyball and basketball and participated in some other organized activities. The kid's programs were good, just so much to do, so little time. I think younger kids (5 to 10?) and their families will have the best memories judging by the video we bought summarizing the cruise. And a big Canadian hello and best wishes to out table mates, Ken and Laurie from Kingston, Ontario who were great company at dinner and all the other times we met up with them on the boat.

Did we enjoy the trip? When we got home one of the first things we did was get out the RC book and look at where we could go next year. I would recommend this boat and RC to anyone of any age. We truly loved it.

 

Expand Review
Read More
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: October 11, 2003

Day 0 - Friday

Friday, October 10th, 2003 We flew from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at 8:00am. Wasn't too happy about the early flight out as we had to be at the airport at 6:30am but what can you do. Flew to Toronto, had about a 1 ½ hr delay, went through U.S. Immigration. For such a long line up, the wait was pretty minimal. Boarded another plane and flew to Miami. Once in Miami, Royal had a bus waiting to take us to our hotel. Because we flew out the day before our cruise, Royal had us registered at the Miami Hyatt (what a beautiful hotel) for the evening at no cost to us. We also received a 20% discount on our dinner and breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

Day 1 - Saturday - Embarkation

Royal had a bus to take us to the pier, which was only 5 minutes away. Be prepared the bus driver will ask for a tip. I think we gave him a couple of bucks. We watched a porter take our luggage (two suitcases) off the bus and he wanted a tip too so we have

him a couple of bucks too. Tip: have some small bills handy so they don't see your $10's or 20"s.

Surprisely enough, the embarkation went very smoothly. I was expecting a long line up but we registered very quickly. We presented our tickets and credit card. Royal requires a credit card for all on board purchases. They issue each passenger a "sea pass card" which enables you to make cashless purchases and becomes your boarding pass each time you live the ship at ports and board the ship. You do have the option of paying off your purchases at the end of the cruise with cash. The sea pass card will also show your seating table and time for your meals in the main dining room. Check out your table as soon as you get on board because you have the option of changing it if you so wish. We had a table right in front of a porthole, which was perfect. We could see the ocean as we dined. We put our carry on in our room. They also have a safe, which you key in a pass code for you valuables. This is a great feature. We had an interstate room and even thought it may look small when you first enter, it has quite a bit of storage space. Tip: if you have an interstate room bring a flashlight along as you won't know what time of day it is as the room gets very dark when all the light are out. If there are two or more of you, you might want to bring some more hangers for your clothes. We then went up to the Windjammer Café for lunch. They do have free ice tea, lemonade and water. Pop is extra and you can buy a prepaid coke card (I think that's what it's called) if you like. After lunch, we explored the ship. What a sight to behold. I can not really describe what you're going to see; you just have to see it. It is so beautiful. My husband was awed buy the craftsmanship and what not. We went up on deck for the remainder of the afternoon and waved to the other (smaller) ships and we sailed out of Miami. Stay up late and don't miss the Bon Voyage parade at about 11:00 PM. Bring your camera. It's fun to watch. There are a couple of people on stilts and fantastic costumes.

Day 2 - Sunday - At Sea - Formal Night in Dining Room

We just kind of hung out. I brought my skates along and went ice skating in the morning. Just do what you want. They have a daily newsletter called the Compass and it will tell you what's going on at what times. Make sure you read it the night before cause they may have things happening early in the morning that you might miss. If you are at the pool, don't be surprised at all the bar service people walking around. Every night there will be a show in the Theatre so don't miss them. Some shows are better than others but fun to watch. Bar service their too. You can also keep track of how much is being charged to your account from the TV.

Day 3 - Monday - Labedee, Haiti - Casual Night in Dining Room

Royal owns a small private island. It is very beautiful and hot, hot, hot. The water is crystal clear on the beaches and warm. You will take small boats from the ship to the island and the Royal Photographers will want to take your picture by a sign for each port. We did buy each picture (6.95 each) to prove we visited that place. When you first disembark, don't feel obligated to stop at the first beach. They are other beaches if you just walk a little or they have a guy with a tractor pulling a small train to take you further up the island. We stopped at the beach near Dragon's Rock, which was just as beautiful. Royal also sets up a bar-b-que lunch with drinks and food that they bring from the ship. You can rent a floating mat or go on a banana boat ride but we just relaxed on the beach and swam in the salt water. This was awesome. Out in Western Canada, you don't have beaches like this so we thoroughly enjoyed the water. There will also have the locals selling their goods outside and inside a building. If there is something you want to purchase, don't forget to barter. My husband wanted a painting and the Vendor quoted $40.00. My husband was willing to pay this price. I bartered with the Vendor and got him down to $15.00. In all ports. Funds are U.S. Carry smaller bills for your shopping excursions with the locals. Back on board, we showered off the salt water, took a quick nap as we had early seating for dinner. Tonight is formal night and Royal Photographers will have different backgrounds to take pictures. Take all the pictures you like, as you don't have to pay until you buy the ones you want. The Photographers will also be going around during dinner taking pictures at your table. Again, no obligation to buy.

Day 4 - Tuesday - Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Caribbean Night in Dining Room

This by far was a fun port for us. Get up early on this day. When you disembark, make sure you take your picture by the sign. A full view of the Explorer will be in the background. We booked a tour with A-Z Planners. This tour was $50.00 each. Our tour guide Oscar was fabulous. We had a tour planned to visit Dunn's River Falls, Fern Gully and White River Tubing. We ended up being the only couple on our tour that day. He took us to the falls and he had us by-pass the crowd and advised us how to climb the falls. All you'll need is an underwater camera; you're bathing suit and water shoes. You're going to get soaked. You can take a tour with a Dunn's Guide but we wanted to climb the falls at a quicker pace. Oscar showed us where to climb and we had a fantastic time. You must climb the falls in Jamaica. After the falls, we drove through Fern Gully. We decided to by pass the river tubing and Oscar toured us about Ocho Rios and showed us points of interest. We stopped at a vendor and had freshly cut coconut milk and sugar cane. He also showed us the Jamaican version of Viagra. You'll have to book with A-Z Planners for Oscar to show you this natural ingredient. We also stopped at Wassi Pottery where we toured their shop. Just amazing talent when you see the finished products. You can purchase cups, platters, vases and much much more. Every thing is done right in their shop. We then stopped for lunch and then Oscar took us to a market to purchase souvenirs. I must admit that the vendors can be persuasive and pushy but if you don't want to buy, just give a polite "no thanks" and keep walking. They may call you back, but keep walking. Simple as that. If you plan to purchase goods, don't forget to barter. I have to say that Oscar definitely made our time in Jamaica fun and informative. He is so polite, friendly not to mention funny. You'll have a ball with him. I would highly recommend A-Z Planners any day. Note to mention. Always keep you watch on ship time. There is a one-hour time difference is Jamaica and if you don't board on time, the ship won't wait for you. On our cruise, three ladies got left behind cause they thought they had one more hour. The Jamaican Police boated them out to tour ship, they had to climb a rope ladder to get back on board and the Jamaican Police charged them each $300.00 U.S.

Day 5 - Wednesday - Grand Cayman, Cayman Island - Formal Night in Dining Room

What an experience of a lifetime. We booked a tour with Captain Marvin's and we were happy we did it this way. This tour was about $38.00 each. There were about 40 people on board our vessel. They had three staff members on board and boated us out to two coral reefs to snorkel and Stingray City. (Snorkel gear and fins are supplied or you can bring your own). The ocean is unbelievable. As we were in the water a Barracuda swan by. We then went to swim with the Stingrays. This was breathtaking. It's freaky at first when they swim up against you and touch you. Our guide held up a stingray for each of us to hold and take pictures. When in Grand Cayman, you must do this tour. You will also have the opportunity to feed the Stingrays. Captain Marvin also provides punch and water on board. I would certainly recommend booking a separate tour for Stingray City from the Ship's excursions. You can see the Ship's boat full of about 100 people. With Captain Marvin you get more personal attention. They also take a video of your trip for purchase. Again, bring your underwater camera. After we arrived back to town, we had a quick lunch and I mean quick and boarded the ship. You will also have to take a tender for this port. Showered and dressed for dinner and enjoyed the evening.

Day 6 - Thursday - Cozumel, Mexico - Casual Night in Dining Room

We didn't have any excursions booked for this port. At this port, you don't have to take any tenders. The boat parks right up to the pier. Don't forget to keep taking your pictures by the signs. We actually took a horse drawn carriage tour to downtown Cozumel. This cost $35.00. We didn't do much in Cozumel. Walked around downtown and purchased a few souvenirs. Some vendors you can barter with but the stores have set prices. Then we took a cab to Mr. Sancho's beach I think it's called. The cost for the cab ride was $14.00. Beach is clean and water was beautiful. You won't have anyone bothering you on the beach. Just lazed at the beach for the day. This is the port where you will dock the longest. Took a cab back to the ship and showered for dinner. Enjoyed the shows in the evening and just enjoyed the ship.

Day 7 - At Sea - All Nations - Casual Night in Dining Room

Hung out on the ship and went to a couple of seminars in the Spa. Went ice skating in the morning for a work out. The rink is small but still you will get a workout. Just enjoyed ourselves on the ship and it was my husbands birthday so I told our waiter a head of time and they sang happy birthday during dinner and had a piece of cake with his name on it. Went to the farewell show and pack our luggage to put out before midnight.

Next morning, you have to get up early and have breakfast. The disembarking is a little wait as you disembark by your assigned color. Went through customs fairly easy as you disembark and picked up our luggage. Royal had buses to take you to the Miami Airport. Now we have the long flight home as we have a stop over in Toronto then on to Edmonton.

This was my second cruise and my husband's first. He was in amazed at the size of the ship. Funny enough, there was 3,499 people on board that cruise and we only saw about 20 people more than once. You won't believe there is that many people on board.

Go to as many programs and seminars as you can and just relax. If you want something and they don't have it, ask the staff and they will try and get it for you. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at carmen_l_brathwaite@dresser-rand.com and I will try and answer your questions.

My husband was so impressed with the cruise that we are planning another cruise October 2004 on the Navigator to the Eastern Caribbean.

Now get out there!

Expand Review
Read More
 
 
Western Caribbean
Publication Date: October 11, 2003

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!

 

Expand Review
Read More
Write a Review
Results 31 - 40 of 68 1234567