We left from Bayonne (Cape Liberty) and I would definitely leave from here again. I thought they were efficient and the ability to drive (less than 2 hrs for us) and park was fabulous. In general, RCI did a great job of embarkation. This was our first cruise on RCI and our 8th overall. I think this is a beautiful well designed ship. The promenade concept was new for us and I enjoyed it a lot. There are many facilities and sporting options. The common areas are well kept and attractive.
We were able to book the Royal Family Suite. We are now totally spoiled. There were 5 of us and this was a great setup. My DH and I had a nice master bedroom with bath. The 2 boys had the "boy cave" - a small room with twin beds. My FIL took the sofa bed in a living room space that was larger than I expected. Overall there was a ton of storage and closet space. The balcony was fabulous with 4 loungers and a table with chairs. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in how dirty the balcony was. The black and white soot was a problem. It would have been manageable, however, if anyone ever cleaned out there, or if we were provided with towels. The cushions and floor were permanently stained even without the new soot and there was rust everywhere. The glass table always had spots. Old coffee cups( ours) went days without being removed. We didn't let it deter us, but ended up with a huge pile of dirty towels in the corner as we brought them from the pool to use.
The food was sometimes very good but often just OK. This is one area for which our opinion has declined as we reflect on it post cruise. I had a couple of excellent soups and good pork tenderloins. The chocolate banana strudel was fabulous as was the cherries jubilee. In general, the main dining room menus are really odd to me. There were many strange choices. I enjoy many types of fish but the choices were basic grilled salmon or atlantic cod with one day having a tilapia. No sea bass, halibut, magi, or real interesting sauce choices. I am allergic to most shellfish and was quite surprised to find one night that had shrimp and or crab in 4 of the entrees - not great planning. The food in windjammer was ok. Portofino was excellent for dinner (upcharge) and for the suite breakfast (no charge for suites). Eggs benedict made to order almost every day and great service. Johnny Rockets was fun but the service was iffy. Great on one trip, beyond horrible on the next.
Service is where I think Explorer really shines. Our waiters were fabulous in the dining room and portofino's. The concierge was excellent and we always felt well cared for. I thought that bar service was very good throughout the ship and everyone was always smiling.
We did not take advantage of too much entertainment. The ice show was fabulous. Many of the shows did not interest us. We saw a few movies and attended Bingo a few days. I found the enrichment activities to be lacking. "Seminars" that were sales pitches for the spa and its products were prevalent. Good educational lectures were not available as they have been on other cruise lines.
We loved Bermuda and had a great time in San Juan and St. Martin. Labadee was one of the best beach day I have ever enjoyed. We were able to get a cabana which allowed my elderly FIL to join us on the beach for the day. The barefoot beach buffet had good food but was very poorly organized and had 30mi lines. As others have noted, the 5 hours in San Juan does not work real well and should really be revisited.
Overall, I can't give this cruise a 5 because of the food issues and the cleanliness. I will say that we had a fabulous time and would go on this cruise again.