Our cruise was very nice and we had a lot of fun, but that does not eliminate the fact that not everything was perfect. The Windjammer was constantly crowded, the new menu is inadequate, the entertainment was on the boring side, and the staffing levels are unacceptably low. I sailed on this ship a year ago and everything was different this time. The basic features of the ship remain unchanged, but the service on the ship needs improvement.
The Windjammer had the best food on the ship so everyone seemed to come in bunches. Royal Caribbean condensed the Windjammer hours since my last cruise. They eliminated the late night dining in the Windjammer and the Cafe Promenade stayed crowded the entire trip. At the Windjammer, we constantly endured an annoying announcement for people to finish eating and surrender their tables for others to enjoy their dining experience. It is offensive for the cruise line to rush people dining during a dream vacation. Hilariously, one night we met our formal dining waiters in the Windjammer because they stated only a few showed up for formal dining. Consequently, they reassigned them to the Windjammer for the evening.
The lemonade was scarce during the cruise and was only available during lunch and dinner; however, the only place where it was pleasurable was in the formal dining rooms anyway. Most of the lemonade was like flavored lemon water. Servers who operated the self-service drink stations discouraged your insistence for a fresh drink. They encouraged you to take the warm and watered down glasses already lining the trays. Lemonade is the only sweetened beverage that one can drink without paying extra. The brand of white sugar Royal Caribbean uses does not sweeten very well and the raw brown sugar disappeared completely after the first few days of the cruise. The poor availability of the lemonade did not affect me as much as many because I paid $74.75 for the Coca Cola Entertainment Beverage Package, which allows unlimited refills of your electronically activated cup at a few self-service stations throughout the ship. They advertised over 100 choices of beverages, to include various flavors of Coke, Sprite, Diet sodas, Hi-C, Fanta, and Dasani drinks. Not instigating a conspiracy theory, but if the shoe fits ...
Many people seemed to use Cafe Promenade as a substitute for the sub-standard selections at formal dinner. Lemonade was not available in Cafe Promenade. The lines at Cafe Promenade were steady, but manageable. Seating was limited in the Cafe because many people lingered for hours. I had a Promenade Stateroom and I could actually see the Cafe from my window. Many people sat in the Cafe for hours each day, just as many monopolized the lounge chairs in the deck areas.
Royal Caribbean did not accommodate vegetarians and vegans very well at all on this cruise. The selections were limited; however, they did serve three delicious entrees, eggplant parmesan, soy meatballs in a sauce, and vegetarian chicken chunks with mixed vegetables. The eggplant was served on day three, and the vegetarian meatballs and chicken chunks were days nine and ten, respectively. Obviously, the other seven days were tough for vegetarians in the formal dining rooms.
We had a wonderful time despite lemonade-gate and the crowds. The two Ice Shows were outstanding, the nightly shows were a notch above amateur hour, but the live bands and performers were A++. My personal preference is production musical programs. The cruise director inundated us with a variety of comedians. Some of the comedians were musical, others juggled, and still others were stand-up comedians, but I still felt cheated from my prior cruises. On my last cruise, we enjoyed concerts from the Unexpected Boys, a veteran singer from the famous Platters, and several production shows with live music and wonderfully choreographed dancing with accompaniment from the Explorer of the Seas Orchestra. The shows were not as I hoped but I enjoyed them anyway.
Explorer of the Seas shared Labadee, their private Haitian Island, with the Independence of the Seas. The crowds were unmanageable and the food lines were unacceptable. Royal Caribbean should have announced this schedule prior to the cruise. Labadee cannot adequately accommodate that many vacationers without reducing the quality of the experience for all. The Labadee experience was the low point of this cruise, despite the fact that it was the high point of my last one. No one should wait over an hour in the hot Caribbean sun for food. Royal Caribbean should be ashamed for this fiasco. The Cruise Director made light of the situation and even joked about the long lines and the need to get in line early.
Royal Caribbean reduced the staffing levels and the service was slow and inefficient in all facets of customer service, especially at Guest Relations. No one would answer the phone when one called from the stateroom. The Windjammer did not have enough waiters available to assist the guests and they constantly ran short of convenience items. One day it was butter, another jelly, and another day they ran out of ketchup. They seemed clueless when people began to ask questions. One exception to the poor service was the Onboard Cruise Center on Deck 6. They are professional, patient, and diligent, despite their very heavy workload. The Onboard cruise planning staff personifies all the best of Royal Caribbean and they exemplify the hospitality and courteousness one expects from this cruise line.
Although I did not feel that this cruise was as good on service and amenities, I actually enjoyed the cruise as much as the prior one. Food, service, and entertainment deficiencies cannot subtract from the wonderful vacation experience on the Explorer of the Seas. The Ship is beginning to show her age and the need for a thorough refurbishing. I urge Royal Caribbean to listen to their customers and fix these problems because other cruise lines are waiting for our business. I still recommend The Explorer of the Seas.