This cruise was just for my husband and I. We are both in our fifties and love to cruise but not if we have to fly to a port. Being only 3 hours away from Cape Liberty/Bayonne NJ, we decided to give the Explorer of the Seas a try. Overall, it was a very nice cruise and we were not disappointed!
We chose the Hampton Inn in Elizabeth, NJ for our pre-cruise overnight stay. Although this hotel is close to the Newark airport and advertises that it's only 5 or so miles from the cruise terminal, the ride from the hotel to the ship was at least 20+ minutes. By taxi or car service, it is at least a $45-55 trip (one way!)and in retrospect, hubby and I decided it would have been more cost effective to have parked at the port for $19 per day.
The Hampton Inn was rather nice but have no restaurant or bar lounges on the
property. They do offer carry-out menus to a couple of nearby sub shops, pizza, etc.
Embarkation at Cape Liberty was one of the fastest I've ever experienced. It was no more than 10-15minutes from car to ship (including the very short shuttle ride. We did use the suite line so that may have helped quite a bit.
When we boarded the ship, the Windjammer wasn't even open yet! We were one of the first groups of people to get served and seated--no crowds and plenty of seating available! Food selections were the usual soups, salads, Honey-stung chicken, green veggies, roast beef carving, desserts, etc. Although a long way from 'stellar', the food was good and very inviting.
We toured the ship a bit and found each and every area more beautiful than the last...the Explorer of the Seas is quite a pretty lady! We stopped at the Champagne bar and treated ourselves to a couple glasses of Moet and Chandon (sp?) and in no time at all felt very relaxed and comfortable in our new surroundings. We where enjoying ourselves so much, we did not realize that the cabins had been opened.
Upon entering our cabin, I knew we had made the right choice...Center hump, deck nine, port side. The cabin is very spacious, lots of storage, walk-in closet, nice sized bathroom with tub/shower combo. The only downside was the furniture on the balcony...it was rather dirty, paint chipped off of the frames of the loungers and one chair was actually torn in a couple of places. We didn't complain because we were not out on the balcony non-stop and when we were, I just covered the chair with the bathrobes provided which made it very comfy! Our cabin attendant, Rosa, was excellent. I did not see her much but everything I needed or needed her to attend to, was done expediously.
Having only one sea day before docking in Bermuda and one on the return from Bermuda, we crammed a lot into our short time on board. Here's a list of what I remember us doing:
*Jewlery making class (not bad for $10)
*Art Auction (free champagne)
*Casino (very stingy!)
*Silent Party held in The Chamber night club (too much fun with this!)
*RCI Singers/Dancers production show- "Fast Forward" (very good)
*Ice Show- "Spirits of the Season" Ice Spectacular (excellent!)
*Visit to the Peek-A-Boo bridge
*Johnny Rockets- good food and crazy atmosphere
*Dinner at Portofino's for fee restaurant - excellent food and service
*Special party for C/A members Platinum and up (free drinks,ships officers
present and comments from the Captain) good experience for me
*Parades on the Royal promenade (the costumes were fabulous!)
I'm sure I've forgotten a few things and we even found quite places on the outer decks to simply- relax!
In Bermuda, we booked an excursion thru RCI. I was a small group of us doing a 5-6hr tour of the entire Island. We traveled by mini-bus with a lively and expert tour guide. We visited Gibbs lighthouse, St. George, Somerset, Hamilton, we stopped at one of the beautiful public beaches, saw million dollar mansions (even saw a house owned by Diana Ross) and had a little time for lunch (on your own) and shopping. Not a bad deal for all we covered. I would recommend this tour via RCI. Because we were in port overnight, we explored a little in the Dock Yard area on the first night. The weather was perfect for the day and a half were were in Bermuda. On the second day (the half day) hubby and I shopped at the Clock Tower Mall,the GlassWorks factory and the Rum Cake store. There is a free troll that covers the Dock side area so getting around is very easy...the troll comes all the way up to the ship which is great for folks with mobility issues. We also visited the Sea Glass beach but this was not a good place for swimming...very rocky.
We did not deal with the Adventure Ocean; did not hang around the pool; did not use any of the Spa services; visited the Solarium but couldn't stay due to the overcrowding.
We only had dinner three of the five nights in the Main Dining room- Second seating. In my opinion, the food quality and presentation was only fair to good. We used room service each morning for a quick but hearty breakfast on our balcony. For lunch hubby preferred the Windjammer while I enjoyed the Cafe Promenade.
Our hosts for this cruise were as follows:
Captain Henrik Loy, Master
Gary Davies, Hotel Director
Leigh Xuereb, Cruise Director
Damir Blazicevic, Chief Engineer
Ingolf Lars Pish, Food/Beverage Director
Colette Sa Joe, Loyaly/Cruise Sales Manager
Overall, we had a great time. Although the Explorer is the largest ship we've yet to sail on, she did feel cramped and crowded from time to time. However, she is a beautiful vessel and her crew and managers are some of the best I've sailed with to date. I would gladly sail the Explorer again and I highly recommend her to others.