I had read almost every review I could before we left and I was a little uncertain as to what I would experience. The reviews on the Explorer were all over the map; many raved about the experience and some completely panned the ship, most notably the food. For what they are worth here are my observations.
We chose to get the transfers from the airport and it was really worth the cost. When our luggage went into the belly of the bus we never saw it again until it appeared outside our cabin around 5:30 PM.
Embarkation. We arrived at the ship around 3:30 p.m. and we just breezed through the process. There were very few passengers in the queue, most having boarded hours earlier. RCI processed us very quickly and within 20 minutes from getting off the bus we were on board.
I was prepared for a huge ship but I was still blown away by the size of the Explorer. Surprisingly it was very easy to find our way around the ship. It certainly has the WOW factor. Overall the Explorer was very well maintained and staff was always cleaning, polishing etc.
We had a D1 category cabin (balcony) on deck 10. Although it was directly underneath the Windjammer cafe we never once heard any notice from above. The balcony was absolutely worth the price and we would encourage people to splurge on this luxury. The stateroom attendants were always available and our room was well kept. We found that with a balcony we spent a lot more time in it than we would have in another stateroom that did not.
We found the food in the main dining room to be excellent. If we did not see something we liked on that evenings menu we always had the "standby" options. The "Black Angus" steak was always a hit.
The Windjammer cafe was a buffet and people must remember that it is a buffet. The food is cooked in volume and it sits in warming trays. It is more than acceptable and you can get in and out in very short order.
We did not care for a lot for some of the entertainment. The ice show was tremendous. Everyone should see it. Our cruise has 2 comedians who were average and a "has been" Las Vegas act. He has talent but his act was very dated.
I was amazed by how "UP" the staff was. They work 7 days a week for 6 months in a row yet each staff member appeared to be enjoying themselves. The RCI staff do the same routines for weeks and weeks on end yet they through all of the energy into everything. They also seemed to genuinely care if you were enjoying yourself.
The service staff were very pleasant and helpful. We some a number of passengers act like total boors to the staff and they handled it with style and professionalism.
ADVICE from us.
My wife and I are very pale and we burn very easily. We went to a tanning salon for a few weeks before the cruise to build up a tan base and it was worth it. The sun was relentless and we saw some people get absolutely fried on the first day. This surely must have ruined their trip for a least a day to two.
Get a pedicure before you go. I don't think I need to elaborate but some people have feet in worse shape that wild animals. Be mindful of others and get those nails trimmed and those calluses taken off.
Don't bother to take your skates for Studio B. They weigh too much and it is only open for public skating on a few occasions for 30 minutes at a time.
Enjoy your trip and don't try to do everything. There are just too many activities.