My cruising history. My first was in 1994 on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas for a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise. My second cruise was on Celebrity's Zenith for a 7 day Bermuda cruise in 2005. My third cruise was a return to Bermuda in 2007 on board Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas. The following year, 2008, I cruised from Port Canaveral, Florida to the Eastern Caribbean on board Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. My fifth and most recent cruise was Aug. 2nd to Aug 11th, 2012 on board Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. Our ports of call were Kings Wharf, Bermuda, Philipsburg, St. Maartin, San Jaun, Puerto Rico, and Labadee, Haiti.
A little about me.
I don't consider myself to be a very demanding cruiser. I'm not into gourmet food and fine wine, I'm fairly patient, and I'm also a semi-professional musician.
We were a group of 17 relatives and friends on board from my wife's side of the family. We had the late seating for dinner.
Our 9-day Bermuda and the Caribbean cruise got off without a hitch. Embarkation at Port Liberty in Bayonne, NJ went very smooth. The process took less than 1 hour from the time we arrived at the port until we were in the Windjammer having lunch.
Leaving the NY, NJ area and passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with only 18 feet of clearance between the bridge and the tallest part of the ship was quite a site!
I'll get my complaints about Royal Caribbean and the ship out of the way first. I have three minor complaints:
First, our waiter at dinner was rather slow to get us our drinks and food on the first night. I wasn't that concerned about it since it was the late seating and we typically didn't have anything pressing to do after dinner (i.e. see a show in the theatre, a special performance on board, etc.). However, my relatives were somewhat concerned and brought it up with the head waiter the next day. The following night we were given a new waiter that was to be dedicated only to our table for the rest of the cruise so I feel Royal Caribbean solved that problem to every one's satisfaction.
Second, we all wanted to get a photograph taken of the 17 of us on the first formal night. Unfortunately, the Royal Caribbean photographers were very unorganized in my opinion and we ended up waiting around for probably over an hour only to end up not getting the photo taken that night. Also, from a logistics standpoint, Royal Caribbean concentrates all the picture taking locations in the same area of the ship. Needless to say, that area becomes very crowded and confusing around dinner time. Also, one of the photo areas was located in the area right outside of the main floor of the dining room; not a great place to put it as the lines waiting for the photographer blended in with the lines waiting to get into the dining room. We talked to one of the photo gallery representatives later in the week who apologized for the problem and gave up some tips as to how to get a large group like ours photographed which we did on the next formal night so again I feel like Royal Caribbean solved that problem to every one's satisfaction.
Third, the band that played everyday on the pool deck was very good but was way too loud! I brought an mp3 player and noise cancelling headphones with me and I still had a hard time drowning out the band trying to listen to my music. Others that I was traveling with who only had ear buds with them pretty much gave up on trying to listen to their own music while the band was playing. Also, although as I said, they were very good, they mostly played reggae music the whole time. I'm not a fan of reggae so after the second day I was ready for something else! I eventually went to Guest Relations and complained about the volume of the band on the pool deck and was told they would pass the info on to the music director on board. It didn't seem to make a difference as I didn't notice any reduction in volume for the rest of the cruise. Other than those three minor complaints, the cruise was excellent.
Explorer of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The crew is very helpful and experienced. I like seafood and everything I ordered at dinner was very good. I did not have wine or other drinks with my dinner. The buffet lunches and breakfasts at The Windjammer were also very good. My wife, daughters, and I didn't use the main dining room at all for breakfast or lunch. The Cafe Promenade also served snack foods, small sandwiches, pizza, and deserts pretty much all the time and was also very good.