A friend and I booked this cruise on a whim after finding out that another friend, her cousin (also a friend of mine), her mother and a bunch of her mother's friends booked. My friends scored the $399 fare while some of the others paid between $600 and $700 for their cruise.
We checked back every week for three weeks before we were able to nab that amazing $399 price. Granted, it was for an interior stateroom and I have been spoiled by my past cruises (a Royal Caribbean ship's first voyage for planners/travel agents where everything was completely paid for and everything was VIP, suites, etc and two cruises on Carnival in the owner's suite which is pretty much the side of a huge hotel suite or apartment- absolutely amazing). However, on each of those three cruises, I found that we didn't spend much time in the room anyway to the point I was sad that we had all of the entertaining space (full living room, bar, kitchen and dining room table as well as a huge balcony with the owner's suite) yet didn't really do anything with it. So, we said hey, we'll just be sleeping in the room, so let's go for it! As soon as the $399 fare popped up, we booked.
You will notice that I chose "other" as the port of embarkation (this is important for anyone booking. If you are flying, come into Newark airport) because it's not New York City- even though the Royal Caribbean website states that the terminal is only 7 miles out of New York City. You still need to deal with a lot of traffic both getting to Bayonne, New Jersey and getting home if you live in NYC or Long Island. For us, it was about an hour and a half each way. And, parking was $95. The parking situation was actually interesting and I didn't remember this from the other cruise I took with Royal Caribbean (I don't think it was the same process at all). We had to drop off our luggage at a tent looking structure which made me a little nervous (the note we found under our door on the 3rd day of the cruise stating that some people still hadn't received their luggage and asking us to check ours to make sure we didn't have it by accident didn't make my nervousness seem unwarranted at all) and then you park your car, walk all the way back to the tent structure (I walk all the time, usually 3-5 miles a day so I am not complaining about that, but the process seemed a little weird in my opinion) where you go through security and wait on line to check in with your carry on items. It looked like there were shuttle vans in the parking lot, but they weren't occupied so I am not sure what the deal was with them. The gentleman at checking terminal 13 was absolutely awesome and super friendly. We then boarded a shuttle to go over to the ship. This entire process (minus the travel time) took about an hour and fifteen minutes.
We arrived on the ship at quarter after 2pm, had lunch at The Windjammer Cafe's buffet. We then went up to the pool deck for the Sail Away Party at 3pm. We packed our swimsuits and a change of clothes in our carryon bag just in case our luggage didn't arrive for a few hours.
When we went to the room at 5pm, our luggage was there. Our stateroom attendant, Darius, was wonderful and brought the smaller bags into our room. We then unpacked and were impressed with the amount of hangers in the closet. Small thing to many, but I tend to pack a lot of sundresses vs shorts and shirts so this is something that I notice and really appreciate. There were also a lot of shelves in the closet, cabinets and drawers throughout the room. The stateroom was very small and a bit strange because it had no windows, but again, we were aware of that when we booked and for the price, you couldn't beat it. One thing to note (and I never mentioned it to anyone, so I really cannot complain) is that I have cancer and I had requested a stool/bench for the shower stall because all of the accessible rooms were taken. This was not in the room when we arrived or after the fact. Again, I didn't mention it to anyone (primarily because I didn't want the ship to know I was sick, for whatever reason) so I am sure they would have brought it right away had I mentioned it. A fellow cruiser told us to keep the bathroom light on with the door cracked at night because otherwise you might sleep all day without sunlight coming in your window. We did this and it was fine. I was nervous about the shower since it was very small. I am size 5/6 and thought it was tight, so I am not sure how other passengers feel about the shower. But, I can tell you the water pressure was amazing. After the first shower, all was well. The cabinet in the bathroom was big enough for our bathroom essentials. At some point during our cruise, maintenance came to the door with a new toilet seat because ours had a scratch or crack. I am not sure because we didn't call them, I guess our stateroom attendant must have because we were surprised when the gentleman knocked on the door with a toilet seat in hand! The one thing that stuck out about the room was the couch. It was very old and ratty. Other than that, the room was fine. The bed (at least mine) was very comfortable and the pillows and bedding were great. I am a poor sleeper and slept like a baby. Though, I did take less drowsy motion sickness pills every night before I went to sleep (and at 3pm the day we left New Jersey).
I am an event director and tend to be a little picky about food, but that really wasn't a problem on this cruise because the food was awesome. I didn't really like the lunch buffet in the Windjammer Cafe but that's just me. My friends loved it. I prefer to order off of a menu rather than serve myself when I am on vacation (but the breakfast buffet was good). We had breakfast delivered to the room one morning. I had eggs, hashbrown potatoes and a fresh squeezed orange juice. The eggs and potatoes were kind of cold and not great, but I figure they were delivering to a bunch of rooms, so... The delivery window was 8am-830am but they didn't arrive until after 9am. I would suggest if you are doing room service for any of the mornings to order earlier than you would like to avoid having your schedule backed up. The breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe was pretty good. The eggs were fluffy and fresh. I don't eat bacon or sausage or any of that so I am not sure how that type of stuff was, but I had eggs, breakfast potatoes, tater tots, waffles and fruit. The peaches, pears and pineapple wasn't great, but that's from cans so it's not their fault. I paid for fresh squeezed oj each morning and it was outstanding. We had lunch at Magellan one afternoon and it was spectacular. The lunch buffet was okay, but I felt like I was eating a hodgepodge of random food.
We selected the 8pm dinner seating so that we would never have to rush. Our table of 11- table 477 in DaGamma was so much fun and our waiter was amazing. We would order whatever we wanted and he'd bring his favorites for us all to taste. The vegetarian moussaka was amazing. I should have taken a photo of each day's menu because I pretty much tasted everything on it. My favorite dessert was angel food cake with strawberries, which surprised me and our waiter since I am obsessed with anything chocolate. There was also a great rasberry mousse that was amazing. I don't remember what it was called, but there was a great bay scallop appetizer with a piece of bread and this amazing amazing dipping sauce. You must order this!
In terms of onboard activities, I did not go to any of the shows except for the ice skating show. Everyone said you couldn't miss it and it was incredible. I hate to say it, because the rest of our group enjoyed it, but the skating show just wasn't my thing. However, there was a special guest from Las Vegas who skated with a bunch of metal rings and she was amazing. Amazing. Had she been the entire show, I would be raving. Again, just me. Most people loved the ice show. DJ Jon Blak was great. They should have him on every cruise. So much fun.
I didn't do any shore excursions but had a plan of how to explore Bermuda. Upon arrival, we purchased a one day $12 transportation pass at the booth outside the ship. This allows you to ride the ferries and busses unlimited. We took the ferry to St Georges (45 minutes- check the times online as this particular ferry runs every hour or so) which was the far point of Bermuda. We walked around and met a gentleman named Leroy Poker who has the horse carriage and chatted with him for a bit. He told us where to go in the area. We walked around for a few hours going up to the unfinished church and to Fort St Catherine and the museum ($7). The Fort was amazing and I highly suggest it if you are like me and enjoy seeing the sites and getting the historical backgroun of the places you visit. There's also an historic beach next door. We also visited Tobacco Bay's beach. After some time, we took a bus (the 3) to Devil's Hole. My friend was told by her friend that this was a great place to see turtles, etc. So we took the bus there only to find out from a nasty (the ONLY nasty person in Bermuda in my opinion) taxi driver that it was closed. Apparently it's an aquarium type place, however someone told us after the fact that there was a hole there and we just had to walk a little to see it. We got back on the bus and went to Hamilton where we walked around and had lunch in a nice place called The Pickled Onion. Our Canadian waitress was great and very friendly. We then took another bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach. We walked down and back up, though you can take a shuttle for $1 to avoid the uphill walk. We swam a little and took photos and then took the bus back to where our ship was docked.
The second day, we woke up and walked around the Royal Navy Dockyard. The weather was cloudy and there were some heavy spot showers, but they passed quickly. We went to the National Museum of Bermuda which was outstanding ($10). I cannot say enough about this place. It was simply beautiful. I went back and forth with doing one of the dolphin experiences at Dolphin Quest. But after reading reviews of how small the pools were that the dolphins were held in, I decided against it. I fully support aquariums and interaction programs that truly benefit wildlife, so I couldn't partake in this. I made the right decision. If you visit the museum, you can actually walk over and see the dolphins at play. This was heartbreaking for me since there were four dolphins held in a pool the size of any recreational pool. While it was fun to see them swimming, it really made me sad. But, again, that's just me.
I think that the disembarkation process was good. It felt organized and by the time we went through customs, our bags were in the designated section 21, safe and sound. I had worries about leaving our luggage outside the door the night before, but it was fine--- and fast.
The length of this vacation was perfect. I really was able to relax and disconnect from everything which was exactly what I needed.
My feedback on the survey was very positive but there are two things I wanted to share. The first, I shared on the survey. I am a Celtics fan and watched the playoffs in the sports bar on Saturday and Tuesday (Tuesday the signal cut out, no fault of anyone's). Both nights, the waitress took my SeaPass card and put it on her name tag so that it stuck with the magnet. Both nights, I walked to my room, tried the key only to find out it wouldn't work. I then went to the guest service desk on the 5th floor to get a new card, but had to wait in line for a long time (especially on Saturday night --- because the 20 or so people in front of me were planning their excursions). This was frustrating as I need to take my cancer medications at the same time everyday and am hesitant to carry it with me just in case it gets misplaced. I waited for at least 30 minutes the first night and probably 15 the second. I believe that they should have a designated station (or two) for the purpose of fixing these cards. And, I will also add that the people who helped me tried to make it like I had a magnet or something that would have made the strip deactivate, even though I had the card in my wallet with my credit cards, etc and explained to them exactly how it had happened. I really didn't appreciate that. The second I did not mention on the survey, but it is something that really bothered me. During one of the night time pool parties, I asked the staff if I could sit on one of the landings by the "stage." I explained that I wasn't feeling well. They said okay. Five minutes later, one of the staff members was dancing and hitting her body into me over and over again. I was really nice and asked her if she could please move over like 6 inches (and explained that I had cancer, which I shouldn't have had to do). She said sure. Two minutes later, she was back at it with another staff member, so I had one of them hitting me on either side of my body. I was not happy. I got down and was about to leave and then the other girl asked me what kind of cancer I had, etc. I told her and said I was leaving because at that point I felt physically ill from being hit into. Both of these women would not leave me alone and it really annoyed me. My friends were telling them everything was all good, but I guess they figured I would complain. I am just mentioning this because I felt that this was really not cool. Up until this point, I was having a great time at this pool event and really enjoying myself. I would sit when I needed to.
Anyway, I think that the value of this 5 night cruise to Bermuda on Royal Caribbean's Explore of the Seas at the $399 price was absolutely outstanding. I would definitely book with Royal Caribbean again. Just consider the location of the Bayonne terminal when choosing your cruise. It may not be convenient for you. We got a flat on the way home but a nice man stopped and changed it for us. But, we had to drive over an hour and a half with the donut (spare tire).