We travelled out of Bayonne New Jersey on December 30, 2012. We picked this cruise as we did not want to pay for flights to get to the embarkation port this time. We knew going into this cruise that the itinerary was not that great, but decided this would be more of a cruise to be spent on the ship. More on this later.
We stayed at the Double Tree Hilton across from the airport on the Saturday night. We made arrangements for a limo to take us to the cruise port and left at 10:20 am. We arrived at the port at 10:40 left our bags with the porter and proceeded to the entrance area. The crowds were huge and we thought on no! However, we quickly came to realize that most of the people we actually saw were still disembarking. Anyway, we made our way through the crowds to the entrance area where we were greeted and because we had a Suite were directed away from the main area to a smaller section for suite holders! This was nice and very fast. We showed them our Set Sail Pass, they made up our Sea Cards and then we seated ourselves in a small area to await our bus to the ship. We were on the ship by 10:55 and without a hitch! So, hands off to RCCL for the very speedy embarkation process!!
We stayed in Suite 1394 which is at the very aft of the ship on deck 10. Highly recommend this to anyone! Our stateroom attendant was just average however. We had heard that one of the benefits of being on the 10th deck was that we would have the cream of the crop of attendants as this deck houses all the suites, but we cannot attest to this. Also, some have commented about noise. The only noise we heard were the chairs being moved in the Windjammer which is directly above at about 8am and over the lunch hour. It never bothered us as we were always up early and never around at the lunch hour. Throughout the evening and overnight we never heard anything.
Overall we thought that the cruise was good, we did not notice any drop off in food quality from our past cruises and the service for us for the most part quite good. We tried the DR for both breakfast and lunch on the first and second day, but switched back to the Windjammer as we found it much better there. If you want to be served at every meal then the DR is for you, but we found the food better on deck 11. You cannot beat the fresh made omelet in the Windjammer!
We thought the overall service to be just good on this cruise. The ice show was the highlight for us with respect to the live shows. The only complaint we have is that they have a limited number of tickets for this event and we were lucky enough to get two of them, a perk for being a Cruise Critic member and attending the Meet & Mingle gathering. However, we arrived just a couple of minutes after the start time to be told that we would have to stand as all seats were taken. I guess having a ticket means little if they allow people to take a seat even though they did not have a ticket. Anyway, still enjoyed the show, very well executed and entertaining.
The ship band that plays for all the singing and dancing in the Palace Theatre was excellent! They did a set one night of Big Band music and they were fabulous!
As stated earlier, the itinerary for this cruise leaves much to be desired for us. With only three stops in the seven days would it not be possible to make those days full days? To arrive at 2 in the afternoon when daylight is gone at 5:30? What's the point of stopping?
We will not book this cruise again unless an itinerary change is made. We like being at sea, but when 5 of the 7 days out are on the ship, this is not our cup of tea. Don't get us wrong, we loved the ship and enjoyed our trip, just for us, we need more port time for a change of pace.
Debarkation process was the best ever, we took the early departure and were off the ship at 8:00, through Customs by 8:05 and to our car and on our way home by 8:30. You can't get any better than that!
We will continue to sail with Royal Caribbean. We think for the most part the value we receive for the money spent is well worth it!
By the way, all the posts we see stating how old and run down the Explorer is, well we thought she was in pretty good shape! How would you be if you had over 3,000 guests walk all over you every week for over 12 years?