We traveled four hours from Annapolis, MD to Bayonne, NJ. Once we hit Cape Liberty we were reminded of how Baltimore is a much better port. The process at Cape Liberty is disjointed making the initial start of the cruise just a little annoying. First you drop off the luggage, find the pot-hole filled parking lot, pay $19 per day, walk back to the luggage drop off the wait for a bus to take you to the terminal. THEN once you check in, you wait for another bus to take you to the ship. Once finally on board, most of this is forgotten...until you have to reverse the process getting off when you return.
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our sailing for the first couple days. We encountered 100+ mile an hour winds with approx 25-30 ft waves. We were tossed around like a toy ship in a bathtub. As a result, three large windows in the Main Dining Room were blown out on the second evening. Fortunately, it was long after the last seating and no one was hurt. The windows remained boarded up for the remainder of the trip. The Captain kept us well informed of weather conditions and did extremely well keeping the Explorer and her passengers safe. KUDOS!! He was not happy, however, when he announced that we would have to miss our first port, Labadee. We had the extra sea day which was good, but a very long day in San Juan (not our favorite port). But we were safe and that was all we cared about.
The Explorer is a beautiful ship. We had sailed her once before and it was a pleasure to sail on her again. Our stateroom (7620) was right around the corner from the elevator and next to the library which overlooked the Royal Promenade. We were very happy with our room and our attendant, Herman, although on the shy side, took very good care of us. One thing we were disappointed about was the lack of tables on the starbosrd side of the pool deck as other ships do. Even though I am not a smoker, those who do did not have a table to sit and enjoy a drink or meal with others. We hope they rethink this when the ship goes into dry dock in 2015.
We were THRILLED to find Richard Spacey as our Cruise Director and Chris Walker as the Activities Manager. Even though this was Chris' first cruise on this particular ship, the pair were awesome together. The entire CD Staff were friendly, enthusiastic, helpful and fun. We participated in many of the activities such as Trivia, dance classes and other games. We are huge Quest fans and was not looking forward to the way it is handled on the larger ships...it is held in Studio B and the different sections make up the teams. Richard and Chris ampted things up by asking for four team captains per section...2 male/2 female. This made the "running" much easier. Our team of captains were great...a couple of which had never played the Quest but took off like old pros. We laughed so hard my cheeks hurt by the end of the 1 1/2 hours we played. The parades and 70's night in the Promenade were beyond fun...we danced and enjoyed every second.
RCCL's new menu is nothing to write home about. As an example, the chicken cordon bleu was mushy on the outside, dry and tasteless on the inside with next to no cheese inside. Even the lobster was tough and tasteless. We found selections in the Windjammer to be much better...we even had make-you-own pizzas!
All in all our trip was great and we are looking forward to our next cruise in November!