Hello hello! My wife and I just celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary on the Explorer of the Seas, and we were not disappointed. Hopefully, you will find our review helpful and encouraging.
It was a bit clunky, but I think that has more to do with Cape Liberty than anything else. We chose to go through NJ because we wouldn't have to fly. It is definitely worth it, even if the port isn't the most developed for Embarkation and Disembarkation. It was a bit odd in how they started boarding... they gave out numbers and would call them out to board the shuttles for the ship, but no one had numbers 4-16. Aside from that, it was pretty painless. We arrived around 11:30, and we were on the boat within an hour and a half.
We had an interior stateroom, and the decorations it seemed a bit out of style. It was small, but we expected it. What made our stateroom the most enjoyable was our attendant, Christopher Graham. He made our experience incredible, both with his friendliness and his attention to detail, we never had to ask for anything, he made sure all our needs were met.
The WindJammer, where we first ate, was decent enough. It's their buffet. They served everything from asian dishes, pasta, chicken, to burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. The cuisine was hit or miss, but rarely was anything terrible. I would probably say it ranged from decent to good. One thing not to miss is breakfast, and their made-to-order omelet bar. It was excellent.
Cafe Promenade: Decent to good. Pizza was serviceable, but some of the daily pizza specials seemed random. I was somewhat disappointed, but when it was fresh, the pepperoni was good. The sandwiches they served were decent, sometimes exceptional. My favorite was their mozzarella and pesto on ciabatta. Their desserts were fair, brownies and cookies and such, and breakfast they served fruit and pastries, the apple and raspberry danishes were fantastic. They also served never ending Seattle's Best Coffee, as well as Starbucks specialty drinks and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream for a charge. I thought the coffee was good enough.
Main Dining Room: This is where the people who tend to you make or break your cruise experience. We had two excellent waiters (we wish they weren't just our waiters, but our friends back home... Godofredo and Andrej), and they made the time. The food was great, often excellent. The everyday options were decent if there was nothing on the menu that was all that exciting. The strip steak was decent, as were the beef sliders if you didn't like anything. However, the second half of the cruise, the food was wonderful. Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail, crab cakes, all some of the best I've ever had. Also, if you're willing to spend a little extra, the filet Mignon under Chops Grille was SUPERB. The desserts were great too, their chocolate sensation being an every night must have.
Portofino: This is their fine Italian dining restaurant. The price is $20/pp, and we ate their twice. The food was wonderful, including a nice tuna steak, and a dessert (I forget the name, but it was a chocolate mousse with a brandied cherry in the middle)
Johnny Rockets: The Burgers and Fries are good, but the gem is the apple pie a la mode. If we knew how good it was, we wouldn't have gotten shakes and gotten two pieces!
PORTS OF CALL
The itinerary was great, as we went to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and Labadee (Haiti). Our favorites were the first two, we found a taxi to go to Orient Beach and Magen's Bay Beach respectively, and then came back around lunch time to do some shopping (You can walk to the shopping if you desire, it's only about a mile). If you do your research, you can avoid overpaying for ship excursions. Puerto Rico was fun, but it rained pretty hard. Our only suggestion would be to extend the amount of time there, we were only there until 1 PM. Labadee felt like a big money trap, and the beach wasn't nearly as great as the ones in the first two ports (Labadee is RCI's private island). Most of the things to do on the island are shore excursions, and are extremely expensive ($80 for a 5 minute zip-line ride). If you're into high adventure, and willing to pay, I'm sure it's a fun island.
Overall, this was the best boat we've been on (I've been on 3 Carnival Cruises, and this was by far the most impressive ship). The sports bar was great, though I wish they had some bar food like wings or nachos, and not just drinks. The rock climbing wall was fun, the sports court (basketball and mini-golf) were fun when we weren't having fun lounging around by the pool or in a hot tub (The adult only Solarium was particularly restful. Chairs were much more comfortable!). On-board entertainment was good, both the singers and dancers, as well as the ice-skaters in the ice shows.
There were a couple of negatives. Not all of the crew was super friendly, particularly some of the folks who tried to sell drinks on the ship. There were times they were a bit forceful in the way they sold the drinks, and it was pretty obnoxious.
Hopefully this was a helpful review, we will definitely sail with Royal Caribbean again!