Royal Caribbean International Explorer of the Seas Western Caribbean Labadee, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel Sailing October 11-18th, 2003 By Carmen B.
Day 0 - Friday
Friday, October 10th, 2003 We flew from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at 8:00am. Wasn't too happy about the early flight out as we had to be at the airport at 6:30am but what can you do. Flew to Toronto, had about a 1 ½ hr delay, went through U.S. Immigration. For such a long line up, the wait was pretty minimal. Boarded another plane and flew to Miami. Once in Miami, Royal had a bus waiting to take us to our hotel. Because we flew out the day before our cruise, Royal had us registered at the Miami Hyatt (what a beautiful hotel) for the evening at no cost to us. We also received a 20% discount on our dinner and breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
Day 1 - Saturday - Embarkation
Royal had a bus to take us to the pier, which was only 5 minutes away. Be prepared the bus driver will ask for a tip. I think we gave him a couple of bucks. We watched a porter take our luggage (two suitcases) off the bus and he wanted a tip too so we have him a couple of bucks too. Tip: have some small bills handy so they don't see your $10's or 20"s.
Surprisingly enough, the embarkation went very smoothly. I was expecting a long line up but we registered very quickly. We presented our tickets and credit card. Royal requires a credit card for all on board purchases. They issue each passenger a "sea pass card" which enables you to make cashless purchases and becomes your boarding pass each time you live the ship at ports and board the ship. You do have the option of paying off your purchases at the end of the cruise with cash. The sea pass card will also show your seating table and time for your meals in the main dining room. Check out your table as soon as you get on board because you have the option of changing it if you so wish. We had a table right in front of a porthole, which was perfect. We could see the ocean as we dined. We put our carry on in our room. They also have a safe, which you key in a pass code for you valuables. This is a great feature. We had an interstate room and even thought it may look small when you first enter, it has quite a bit of storage space. Tip: if you have an interstate room bring a flashlight along as you won't know what time of day it is as the room gets very dark when all the light are out. If there are two or more of you, you might want to bring some more hangers for your clothes.
We then went up to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. They do have free ice tea, lemonade and water. Pop is extra and you can buy a prepaid coke card (I think that's what it's called) if you like. After lunch, we explored the ship. What a sight to behold. I can not really describe what you're going to see; you just have to see it. It is so beautiful. My husband was awed buy the craftsmanship and what not. We went up on deck for the remainder of the afternoon and waved to the other (smaller) ships and we sailed out of Miami. Stay up late and don't miss the Bon Voyage parade at about 11:00 PM. Bring your camera. It's fun to watch. There are a couple of people on stilts and fantastic costumes.
Day 2 - Sunday - At Sea - Formal Night in Dining Room
We just kind of hung out. I brought my skates along and went ice skating in the morning. Just do what you want. They have a daily newsletter called the Compass and it will tell you what's going on at what times. Make sure you read it the night before cause they may have things happening early in the morning that you might miss. If you are at the pool, don't be surprised at all the bar service people walking around. Every night there will be a show in the Theatre so don't miss them. Some shows are better than others but fun to watch. Bar service there too. You can also keep track of how much is being charged to your account from the TV.
Day 3 - Monday - Labadee, Haiti - Casual Night in Dining Room
Royal owns a small private island. It is very beautiful and hot, hot, hot. The water is crystal clear on the beaches and warm. You will take small boats from the ship to the island and the Royal Photographers will want to take your picture by a sign for each port. We did buy each picture (6.95 each) to prove we visited that place. When you first disembark, don't feel obligated to stop at the first beach. There are other beaches if you just walk a little or they have a guy with a tractor pulling a small train to take you further up the island. We stopped at the beach near Dragon's Rock, which was just as beautiful. Royal also sets up a bar-b-que lunch with drinks and food that they bring from the ship. You can rent a floating mat or go on a banana boat ride but we just relaxed on the beach and swam in the salt water. This was awesome. Out in Western Canada, you don't have beaches like this so we thoroughly enjoyed the water. There will also have the locals selling their goods outside and inside a building. If there is something you want to purchase, don't forget to barter. My husband wanted a painting and the Vendor quoted $40.00. My husband was willing to pay this price. I bartered with the Vendor and got him down to $15.00. In all ports. Funds are U.S. Carry smaller bills for your shopping excursions with the locals.
Back on board, we showered off the salt water, took a quick nap as we had early seating for dinner. Tonight is formal night and Royal Photographers will have different backgrounds to take pictures. Take all the pictures you like, as you don't have to pay until you buy the ones you want. The Photographers will also be going around during dinner taking pictures at your table. Again, no obligation to buy.
Day 4 - Tuesday - Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Caribbean Night in Dining Room
This by far was a fun port for us. Get up early on this day. When you disembark, make sure you take your picture by the sign. A full view of the Explorer will be in the background. We booked a tour with A-Z Planners. This tour was $50.00 each. Our tour guide Oscar was fabulous. We had a tour planned to visit Dunn's River Falls, Fern Gully and White River Tubing. We ended up being the only couple on our tour that day. He took us to the falls and he had us by-pass the crowd and advised us how to climb the falls. All you'll need is an underwater camera; your bathing suit and water shoes. You're going to get soaked. You can take a tour with a Dunn's Guide but we wanted to climb the falls at a quicker pace. Oscar showed us where to climb and we had a fantastic time. You must climb the falls in Jamaica. After the falls, we drove through Fern Gully. We decided to by pass the river tubing and Oscar toured us about Ocho Rios and showed us points of interest. We stopped at a vendor and had freshly cut coconut milk and sugar cane. He also showed us the Jamaican version of Viagra. You'll have to book with A-Z Planners for Oscar to show you this natural ingredient. We also stopped at Wassi Pottery where we toured their shop. Just amazing talent when you see the finished products. You can purchase cups, platters, vases and much much more. Every thing is done right in their shop. We then stopped for lunch and then Oscar took us to a market to purchase souvenirs. I must admit that the vendors can be persuasive and pushy but if you don't want to buy, just give a polite "no thanks" and keep walking. They may call you back, but keep walking. Simple as that. If you plan to purchase goods, don't forget to barter. I have to say that Oscar definitely made our time in Jamaica fun and informative. He is so polite, friendly not to mention funny. You'll have a ball with him. I would highly recommend A-Z Planners any day.
Note to mention. Always keep you watch on ship time. There is a one-hour time difference is Jamaica and if you don't board on time, the ship won't wait for you. On our cruise, three ladies got left behind cause they thought they had one more hour. The Jamaican Police boated them out to tour ship, they had to climb a rope ladder to get back on board and the Jamaican Police charged them each $300.00 U.S.
Day 5 - Wednesday - Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands - Formal Night in Dining Room
What an experience of a lifetime. We booked a tour with Captain Marvin's and we were happy we did it this way. This tour was about $38.00 each. There were about 40 people on board our vessel. They had three staff members on board and boated us out to two coral reefs to snorkel and Stingray City. (Snorkel gear and fins are supplied or you can bring your own). The ocean is unbelievable. As we were in the water a Barracuda swan by. We then went to swim with the Stingrays. This was breathtaking. It's freaky at first when they swim up against you and touch you. Our guide held up a stingray for each of us to hold and take pictures. When in Grand Cayman, you must do this tour. You will also have the opportunity to feed the Stingrays. Captain Marvin also provides punch and water on board. I would certainly recommend booking a separate tour for Stingray City from the Ship's excursions. You can see the Ship's boat full of about 100 people. With Captain Marvin you get more personal attention. They also take a video of your trip for purchase. Again, bring your underwater camera. After we arrived back to town, we had a quick lunch and I mean quick and boarded the ship. You will also have to take a tender for this port. Showered and dressed for dinner and enjoyed the evening.
Day 6 - Thursday - Cozumel, Mexico - Casual Night in Dining Room
We didn't have any excursions booked for this port. At this port, you don't have to take any tenders. The boat parks right up to the pier. Don't forget to keep taking your pictures by the signs. We actually took a horse drawn carriage tour to downtown Cozumel. This cost $35.00. We didn't do much in Cozumel. Walked around downtown and purchased a few souvenirs. Some vendors you can barter with but the stores have set prices. Then we took a cab to Mr. Sancho's beach I think it's called. The cost for the cab ride was $14.00. Beach is clean and water was beautiful. You won't have anyone bothering you on the beach. Just lazed at the beach for the day. This is the port where you will dock the longest. Took a cab back to the ship and showered for dinner. Enjoyed the shows in the evening and just enjoyed the ship.
Day 7 - At Sea - All Nations - Casual Night in Dining Room
Hung out on the ship and went to a couple of seminars in the Spa. Went ice skating in the morning for a work out. The rink is small but still you will get a workout. Just enjoyed ourselves on the ship and it was my husband's birthday so I told our waiter a head of time and they sang happy birthday during dinner and had a piece of cake with his name on it. Went to the farewell show and pack our luggage to put out before midnight.
Next morning, you have to get up early and have breakfast. The disembarking is a little wait as you disembark by your assigned color. Went through customs fairly easy as you disembark and picked up our luggage. Royal had buses to take you to the Miami Airport. Now we have the long flight home as we have a stop over in Toronto then on to Edmonton.
This was my second cruise and my husband's first. He was in amazed at the size of the ship. Funny enough, there was 3,499 people on board that cruise and we only saw about 20 people more than once. You won't believe there is that many people on board.
Go to as many programs and seminars as you can and just relax. If you want something and they don't have it, ask the staff and they will try and get it for you. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try and answer your questions.
My husband was so impressed with the cruise that we are planning another cruise October 2004 on the Navigator to the Eastern Caribbean.
Now get out there!