My husband, his parents, and our two boys ages 14 and 16, headed out from Northern Indiana the day prior to the cruise. Our destination for the night was the Westin hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey, approx 20 min from the Cape Liberty (Bayonne New Jersey) departure port. We had never cruised from this location before, and being winter time were concerned about travel conditions. Unfortunately we were right to be concerned. We left at 4 a.m planning on arriving at our hotel around 4 pm. About 1 hour into our drive, it started to snow and sleet and got progressively worse. We crawled along at 45 mph almost the whole way! The entire way through Pennsylvania there were semi trucks jacknifed and cars off the road and flipped over , etc. Amazingly we never got stopped in lines of traffic for more than 5 min at a time. Just had to keep that excruciatingly slow pace of driving in order to stay on the road. Thank the Lord we did finally make it to the Westin at 8 pm,very stressed out but very thankful.
We had prior planned to take the Path train (which is a short walk from this hotel) into NYC for dinner and to see the 911 Memorial, as we had prior ordered the online mandatory free tickets , but arrived too late and too stressed to do so. Instead we ordered yummy Italian food into our rooms, and then enjoyed the beautiful pool and hottub and fitness area at the hotel. This is a beautiful hotel in a safe, wonderful location. We did bundle up after dinner and walk across the street from the hotel to the end of a pier/walkway, and view the beautiful NYC skyline. It was very very cold and windy, but this was alot of fun.
The next morning we left the hotel around 10 a.m and headed to Hoboken to have breakfast and go to Carlos Bakery (Cake Boss!). Hoboken is literally 5 min or 1.5 miles from the Westin in Jersey City. Such a cute little town-it was a nice relaxing morning. We then drove 10 min more and we were at the Bayonne cruise port.
This was the worst port we have every cruised out of. Very congested and it looked and felt like we were standing in line in a concentration camp or army base or something. No chairs to sit in while we waited as in most other ports we have departed from. Port Authority people were impatient and rude. Took about 1.5 hours from arrival until we were on the ship-and we were in the fast group since we arrived ahead of many people! Very very unimpressed with this departure port.
However, once we were on the ship it was all good. Explorer is a beautiful lady with sparkling public areas and many places to be quiet and relax. We loved the Solarium pool area! THis was never crowded, even though it was mostly sheltered from the wind, and much warmer than the other pool area. Had 2 giant 20 person hot tubs that we spent ALOT of time in.
Our rooms were ready at around 1 pm and all our luggage was waiting there as well! We had booked 3 rooms: one for the inlaws, one for us, and one for our boys. All were on the same side of the hall next to one another, and were Interior Promenade View rooms. Boy did we ever love these rooms and this set up! For the price of a regular interior room, we had a lovely bay window with window seat overlooking the promenade, a small sofa and coffee table. It was so fun being able to watch the parades down below, or just to people watch from the privacy of your own space. There was some noise that filtered up, but we were on the 8th level, so it was minimal and never a problem.
For parents traveling with children, I would highly recommend spending a bit extra for a 2nd room. Having 2 bathrooms and 2 storage areas was SO nice compared to all 4 of us in one room. I would rather get 2 interior rooms and do this, than to spend just as much or more on one larger oceanview or balcony room.
I will say that while the public areas are sparkling, the rooms show wear and tear, scuffs and there was a small stain on our sofa. TVs were the old tube kind as well. However this did nothing to make our trip any less fantastic. Everything was kept spotless by our fabulous female room steward..her name now escapes me.
One thing I dearly love about RC over Carnival, is that they have more outdoor lounging/relaxing spaces that are not around the noisy main /pool area. Love the wrap around walking deck-on this ship it was on 4. There are tons of loungers down there, shuffleboard and the walking track. Usually the only noise you hear is the slapping of the waves against the hull..we loved to go there and just sit or read. Like our own private huge balcony, since there was usually not many people down here.
One side of the ship is smoking and the other is non-smoking, so you are not choked with cigarette smoke on RC as much as you are on Carnival either.
Shows were great, especially the Ice Show. The juggler was wonderful.
We loved Cafe Promenade which was open 24 hrs and had free sandwiches, sweets, fruit and the best coffee on the ship.
Again, as on prior RC cruises, we did note that the food and Dining service overall was much better on Carnival! Better selection, better quality, and better service and entertainment in the dining room.
We were impressed with the decorations on the ship, and the New Years celebrations.
One of the perks of choosing this cruise and itinerary from a cold port, was that if you are a hardy person and do not mind cold weather, there are many times you will have the outdoor public areas to yourselves. we played basketball and enjoyed the hottubs from day 1, and did not have to fight any crowds at all. It was also really neat to sail out of a very cold area and progressively get warmer. Another key thing about this itinerary that made it unique and very relaxing, is the fact that we arrived in port in the afternoons and did not have to be up and ready early. We also were able to enjoy sailing into port, whereas before we were usually asleep or getting ready.
There was much to love about EOS, and we would sail on her again if we get the opportunity. Maybe after to supposed dry dock refresh in Jan 2015.