We (my parents, brother, son & my husband) left home at 6:30am. We had arranged for Borders limos to transport us to South Station in Boston for our Amtrak regional train to New York City.
On arrival at South Station we got a Red Cap to take our luggage so we could go and get Breakfast before we boarded the train. We had arranged to meet the Red Cap at 7:45am so we could board the train before the crowd so we would have time to get settled and all our luggage stowed safely. Our train left South Station on time and we were soon on our way to New York City. Our journey passed fairly quickly and before we knew it we were pulling into Penn Station we were running about 10 minutes late but that was not a worry for us as we had no definite plans other than to get to New York and checkin to our hotel. We had booked 2 rooms at the Doubletree by Hilton on 128 W 29th Street. It is within walking distance of Penn Station. What a sight we must have looked, 6 adults all in a line with 6 large cases and 3 smaller striding down 7th Avenue on a very cold Thursday in March. Once we arrived at the hotel we discovered that the 2 double rooms we had booked were not available and we were offered one double room and one king room with a rollout bed. for our inconvenience we were offered free buffet breakfast for the whole group.. more about this later. These rooms were ready and we could dump our stuff and go exploring.
We set off back towards 7th Ave in search of some lunch. We found a place called Harringtons Bar & Grill and we headed in there, it was a bit noisy as there was a large crowd watching a basketball game on the large TV's but the food was good and not too over priced. From here we continued up 7th Ave to Time Square where we took a few photos. It was very very cold so a visit to Starbucks for a hot drink was in order. We then walked along 49th Street to 6th Ave and headed back toward downtown stopping to check out a few shops along the way. We came across an incident where we saw 6 fire trucks and a few police units all with flashing lights, very exciting... we were not able to find out what it was all about. Once we were back at the hotel we chilled out for an hour before we headed back out to find somewhere to have dinner. We found a small diner called Andrew's and decided we would eat there as there was something on the menu for everyone. I enjoyed my Meatloaf dinner very much. We headed back out onto 7th Ave with the idea we would explore some more of the area but it was so cold and windy we all decided to head back to the hotel for some heat and an early night. Now more about the room situation... As I mentioned before the two double rooms we booked were not available so we had had to take one double room and one King room with a rollaway bed added.. Well anyone who has ever stayed in a mid priced hotel in NYC will know that you cant swing a cat in the rooms never mind have room for a full sized rollaway and still have floorspace to stand up in.. so my parents and my brother ended up three in the king... not the best night sleep they have ever had. to top it all they could not get there TV to work either.. so they had a very early night. For the rest of us we were able to chill out and watch some TV before getting some much needed sleep.
DAY 1 - March 15th 2013 - Embarkation Day
The (free) buffet breakfast was very good, not sure it was worth my parents ending up in a room no bigger than my closet back home! but the food was hot and did not look like it had been sat in a hot tray for half a day.. we were also able to order fried eggs, omelette, pancakes & french toast which were made fresh to order.. So after a good breakfast with lashings of hot coffee and fresh orange juice we were ready to check out and wait for our ride to the Cruise Port in New Jersey. We had booked a company called "Dial 7"to transport us to the ship, they were to pick us up at 10:30 am.. we were sitting in the hotel reception waiting for the driver to appear when my mother went outside to checkout the weather she came hurrying back in to tell us the van was outside.. turned out he had been out there for about 10 minutes, we had thought he would have come in to the hotel to find us... Our journey from our hotel in midtown Manhattan to Port Liberty, Bayonne NJ only took 35min. We arrived at the dock just after 11:00am and were surprised to see people still getting off the ship. There was a bit of a wait for us to get to a off loading bay so were could get out. We left the men to take care of the luggage while mum and I took care of the paperwork with the driver.
The Port at Cape Liberty is not as nice as some port terminals we have been in but it was well organized, clean and warm. There is a lot of new building going on around the port, there is parking right beside the port and the terminal itself is an old warehouse with a covered loading/unloading area in front. Because we are all Crown & Anchor members were were able to join the Priority checkin line, so this cut down a lot of standing in line. Before we knew it we were checked in and waiting to board the little shuttle bus to the ship. The Explorer of the Seas was a stunning sight as we pulled up along side her, we got off the shuttle bus and headed up the walkway and onto the ship. We got a very nice welcome back from the crew as we boarded, they directed us to the elevators so we all could head to the Windjammer on deck 11 for lunch.. Now the Windjammer on embarkation day is a experience not to be missed, it is the only time you will see everyone try to fit into this one area of the ship all at the same time... you get some people who for whatever reason choose to carry all their luggage with them rather than checking it and they are trying to get themselves and all their luggage through this very large group of people some of whom are carrying plates of hot food, to find a table big enough for them and all the luggage. it make for an entertaining lunch. You also find a number of people who choose to get their food then find somewhere to sit, you can see them getting stressed when they cant find a seat and their food is getting cold.. not easy when most people find the table first then go get the food.
Our staterooms were ready at 1:30pm and we were able to go and drop off our heavy coats and bags. We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship before we headed outside on deck 4 for the Muster drill. It was very cold outside so I was really glad when the Captain said we were dismissed and the drill was over. We all headed back to our staterooms to unpack and get ready for Dinner at 6:00pm. Our table was over by a window so we hoped for some good sea views every evening but sadly the window was very dirty and we never got a very good view of anything until after our first port of call. We met our waiter Pascal and the assistant waiter Carlos. We enjoyed our first dinner on Explorer. We headed off to the Theater for the Welcome show, the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were excellent as always. After the show were headed to the Cafe Promenade for coffee. The Captain had already warned us that there would be "Motion in the Ocean" that night as there was a strong wind coming out of the NW, I was not surprised to see some people looking a bit green.
DAY 2 - March 16th 2013 - At Sea
I woke very early and headed down to the Cafe Promenade with my iPad to get my review started. Its is very pleasant and quite sitting with a coffee a 5:00am. One thing I did notice was because the ship was moving about a bit there was a lot of banging coming from the elevator cables, now I don't know for sure if it could be heard in the cabins right next to the elevators but I will be careful not to book a cabin right next to the elevators. I joined the rest of the family at 8:30am and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. After breakfast we went for a walk on deck 11 but it was still very cold outside, We found a sheltered place in the Solarium to sit and read for a few hours. The sea was still very rough so there was still lots of "Motion in the Ocean" I had already taking some anti-nausea medication but there were people who where suffering. We found the soft serve ice-cream machine so enjoyed a strawberry cone, I know realize the skill needed to get the ice-cream in the come, mine looked nothing like the one you get handed by the expert behind the counter in my local ice-cream shop...
We then headed down to deck 5 to explore the shops on board before lunch. The Windjammer was as busy as ever but we were able to find a table for 6 with no issues, I always enjoy the curry that you can get at lunch time my only disappointment is that there is so little choice of sugar free deserts, only two choices today were a cookie or a mouse cake. We went for a walk after lunch and fount the "peek-a-boo" bridge on deck 11 forward, you can see down into the bridge and there are some signs explaining what it is you are looking at, this was very interesting and the bridge looked nothing like I thought it would. I was a little disappointed that there was not large Ships Wheel, just some joy sticks and a small wheel no bigger than the one in my car!!! As it was still cold and windy we headed to the Viking Lounge on Deck 14 to enjoy a comfy seat and a drink. This is an excellent place to watch the waves from as you can see for miles. There was quite a swell on the sea and you could see each wave rolling across the ocean some were very high. We ended up having a lazy afternoon as the Ice Show we had been scheduled to see at 2:00pm had been cancelled because it was to rough and the skaters could hurt themselves if the boat was to move at the wrong time.. so we just chilled out and it was soon time to head back to the cabin to get ready for our first formal night.
After another wonderful dinner we went and had some formal photos taken of us all in our formal attire. Then we went to the theater for the show. I am always amazed at the high standard of entertainment that RCCL provide. After coffee and a light snack it was time to go to bed..
DAY 3 - March 17th 2013 - At Sea
Got up at 8:00am and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. Mum and I had decided to go to the embroidery class that was being held in the conference center on deck 3, so after discovering that you cant get from the Aft of the ship to the from of the ship on deck 3 we then had to go up to deck 4 and walk the length of the ship to go back down to deck 3, we waited there for about 10 minutes with another group of ladies before on of the crew told us that it had been moved to deck 14, so we had to go up in the elevator but the one we go in only went as far as deck 12 and we needed to get to the back of the ship not the front.... we eventually found the class and we made some basic bookmarks that we were allowed to keep.
We met up with everyone else at the Cafe Promenade where we all had coffee. It was warmer outside today and the sea was not as rough and we decided that we would give the hot tub and pool a try after lunch. We were able to find some sun chairs that were not in the direct sun so we were able to relax without worrying about getting burnt. The hot tub was wonderfully warm and relaxing but 30 mins was long enough for me.. I went for a refreshing swim in the solarium pool. The Solarium area is meant to be adult only so when a young mother arrived with her two young children and proceeded to get them in the pool the group of ladies who had been sitting on the paddle step became very vocal about how children were not meant to be in this pool and they were making way too much noise and disturbing others, the mother just ignored them all until one woman asked her is she was aware that the sign said no one under 16 was allowed in the pool.. The this the young mother turned and cussed at the group of ladies and then left with both her children.....
Once again it was soon time to get ready for dinner. Tonights show was changed because it was still rough and the dancers were not able to do the routines they needed for the show so they had the comedian that was meant to be on tomorrow night do the show tonight. He was very funny. Coffee and light snack at the Cafe Promenade before we headed off to bed.
DAY4 -March 18th 2013 - At Sea / San Juan PR
Had a late Breakfast in the Windjammer this morning. Very happy to report that it is at last warm and calmer although still a bit windy, We were able to sit outside to read for a while this morning. we decided to have lunch in Jonny Rockets, The onion rings are very very nice as is the milk shakes.. The Ice Show that had been cancelled from our second day has been rescheduled to today at 2:00pm, we enjoyed the ice show very much. The skaters have an amazing talent, the routines they do would be hard to do on dry land but the fact they can do all these jumps and spins on a moving ship is incredible.
After the ice show we all went on deck to watch our approach into San Juan, I was able to take some good photos of the castle as we sailed into the harbor. We were able to use our cell phone to get email and make calls before we had even docked. Discovered it was snowing again in Boston... I was happy to report it was 75f sunny and warm in San Juan.
We went ashore as soon as the boat was cleared, we walked up to San Francisco street where there was many good shops. Edward found a leather shop and was able to get a nice stetson type hat and wallet at a very good price. We found a nice bar serving Mojito's as the special of the day, so we just had to stop and try them out. It was soon getting dark so it was time to head back on board for a late dinner in the Windjammer. After dinner we went to the Champagne bar for a few drinks then coffee and bed as we had to be up early for our round the island trip of St Thomas.
DAY 5 - March 19th 2013 - St Thomas, US Virgin Island.
Up Early for breakfast today, the Windjammer was busy as I think people wanted to get off as soon as they could. We exited the ship and went in search of our tour, we soon found a whole group of tour guides waiting with signs for all the trips.
We boarded our open sided tour bus and set off on our round the island tour. Our driver was also our guide and gave us lots of details about the island of St Thomas covering the history, culture and geology of the island and its people. We very quickly climbed up the hillside over looking the harbor where we got amazing views of our ship. We traveled to the north side of the island were we stopped at several view points including a view over Megan's Bay. A stop was made at a view point that had a shopping outlet and a bar selling Banana Daiquiri, while we were in the shop there was a tropical downpour outside and we were so glad we were inside and not in the open sided bus. Now we know why the island is so lush and green. We headed back to the ship at the end of our tour and had a late lunch and then went back ashore to explore the shops. Edward got a good deal on a new watch and Allen got a very nice cap. We decided that as it was so hot we would have a drink at the local bar.
We had to be back on board for 4:30pm so we could not stay too long at the bar. We went up to deck 12 to watch the ship sail away from St Thomas, it was so funny to watch the last few passengers have to run to get onboard before we left them behind, in fact there was one guy that we had seen staggering up and down the dockside we thought he was on one of the other ships that were in port but it turned out he was from our ship and one of the crew went and guided him onto the ship... We had coffee at the Cafe Promenade before heading back to our cabins to get ready for dinner.
We did our usual after dinner entertainment, we went to the show. I am always amazed at the talent that they have on the ship. Our Cruise Director Richard is so talented and entertaining, he could do a show all by himself..
Coffee at the Cafe Promenade and then bed - Sumanna, Dominican Republic tomorrow.
DAY 6 - March 20th 2013 - Sumanna, Dominican Republic
I was awake early this morning so headed up to deck 12 to take some photo's of the coast line as we arrived at Sumanna . As we did not have a trip booked we did not need to have breakfast early.
As the ship cannot dock in Sumanna we had to get tender tickets so we could get on the tender boat to the shore. We waited by the pool for our tender number to be called. It seams that there were some technical issues as it was almost 1:00pm before we were able to board the tender. The boat ride took about 15 minutes from the ship to shore, as we got off we met some people we had been talking to the day before, they warned us that there was little to see and they had been hassled by the locals so they were headed back on board. We headed off the docking pier and onto a pathway leading to the town. We were instantly approached by lots of local men trying to get us to do island tours with then, there were so many of them that they were beginning to fight between themselves. We saw two men right next to us punch each other, we hurried on just keeping our eyes straight ahead... We were heading in the general direction of the town on a pretty walkway with good views over the harbor and our ship.. There were lots of beggars on this walk way and also people selling water and other drinks. There were some boys trying to sell polished shells. We could see some craft stalls up ahead and we headed for them. We did buy a sealed bottle of water as it was very very warm. Mum did buy a neckless for $15 but we decided that it was too hot and we did not want to walk any further so we headed back to the ship.. back on the tender boat we heard others saying that one lady had decided to buy the polished shell from the young boys on the walkway and when she got out her wallet to pay them the $1 they were asking one of the boys snatched her wallet and ran....
The views of the ship were amazing from the tender boat and we were able to get some good photos of the island too.. Back on board Explorer we headed to the solarium to chill out and read and use the hot tub. It was soon time to go for a shower and get ready for Dinner.. We did our usual activity after dinner and went to the show and then coffee and a snack before heading to bed..
DAY 7 - March 21st 2013 - Labadee Haiti
Up at our usual time this morning, heading off to the windjammer for breakfast at about 8:30am. We have a hillside cabana book for the day so we went straight down to deck 1 to get off the ship as soon as we finished breakfast. We had heard they allocate the cabana's on a first come first served basis so we did not want to leave it too late.. it is a very short walk from the ship to the information desk on the island.
We asked were we had to go to get to the cabana's and we were told to head over to the long golf cart and we would be taken there. We climbed on board and soon we were been taken to Barefoot Beach where we were checked in and each given a wristband that we had to wear for the day. we were then driven to our cabana on the hilside. We were met by Leon our cabana attendant for the day, he led us up the steps to our cabana. We had an amazing view of the ship and the beach. There was two loungers and a long sofa and two chairs for us to use.. there was plenty of towels although we had brought towels with us from the ship as it said in the Cruise Compass that no towels would be available on the island that day.. There was also a cooler box full of ice and 3 large bottles of water, Leon explained about access to the beach and also that we could get as many floating mats as we needed. He was also able to get any drinks we needed from the bar.
I headed off to the beach to have a swim before it got too busy and also before the sun got too hot.. The water was wonderfully cool and as clear as clear can be. I swam out the the line of floats that were just below our cabana, I would recommend you bring water shoes to wear as the sand is made up of broken coral and pebbles and there is lots of small rocks under the water. Some of the other family members joined me in the water and we all had a very enjoyable swim. I started to feel the sun getting hot on my neck so decided to head back to the cabana to get out of the sun.
As soon as I arrived back at the cabana Leon our attendant was there to see if I needed anything, he was the best. Soon it was time to head to Barefoot Beach for our lunch. While we joined the food line (not very long only about 6 people) Leon found us a table and got extra seats so we could all sit together. The BBQ lunch was very enjoyable there was salad, chicken jerk, spare ribs, shrimp, hotdogs and Burgers with all the usual sides, baked potato, fries, rice, veg and corn on the cob. There was a good selection of desserts including a wonderful fresh fruit selection. Leon was happy to get us any drinks we needed to go with lunch.
Once we finished lunch we asked Leon how far it was to the Artisan Village he said about 5 minutes but he would get us a ride there. We only had to walk over to the gate to get on our golf cart that would take us to the Village. We had a good walk about the village looking at all the beautiful craft items that were for sale. It was hot and a post lunch nap was needed so we headed back to the cabana, as if by magic Leon was there to meet us. He had brought fresh bottles of cold water and had replaced all our towels with clean dry ones.. Before we knew it it was time to head back to the ship as we had to be back on board by 3:30pm, Leon called for the golf cart to take us back to the ship, we said our tanks to Leon and gave him a little something to show our thanks and we headed back to our home from home.. I had not realized just how hot it was outside until we stepped onto the ship and walked into a nice cool air conditioned space... Went straight to our cabins to shower and change as I think we has sand in places we did not want it to be!!! The Cabana was wonderful and worth every cent..
Met up with everyone at the Cafe Promenade where we chilled out until dinner. The show was excellent as always and we all fell into bed exhausted after a wonderful day on Labadee..
DAY 8 - March 22nd 2013 - At Sea
I woke up extra early again this morning, so I headed down to the Cafe with my iPad to do some more of this blog.. Went to breakfast with the rest of the family at 8:30am in the Windjammer.. as we were at sea today the Windjammer was not too busy and we were able to sit for a while before we went to the Crown & Anchor sales people to get an Open Cruise Booking as we would like to book a cruise on the New Quantum of the Sea's in 2014. We then headed off to the photo center to sort out the formal photos we had had taken. We then headed up to the Viking Crown to find a comfortable seat with a good view to read for a while. As we were heading north it was cooler outside and there was only a few brave people in the pools but here was a few lying on loungers.
The Captain was doing a presentation in the theater called "Captains Corner"so we went along to listen to the question and answers.. All the Executive Officers were on the stage and were taking question from the people in the audience. The Captain gave us an overview of the distance we had traveled and our cruise in general, the Chief Engineer gave some very detailed replies to questions about propulsion and energy that was generated on the ship. A few people asked about the new ships that are being built and if the Quantum of the Seas will be coming to Bayonne NJ.. none of the Executive officers would confirm or deny anything. So time will tell.
We had a walk along the promenade and checked out some of the sale items they had to offer before heading to the Windjammer for some lunch.. After lunch we spent some time in the Casino playing the slots and then went to chill out for a while in the cabin. Tonight is the last formal night so we needed to get ready that bit earlier. I like dressing up for dinner and it was good to see that most people were dressed in formal attire, I would hate to see this part of the cruise disappear altogether.. We had been invited to a Crown & Anchor Top Tier event that was taking place in Studio B We were planning on going but my brother was not feeling to good so we decided to give it a miss. We went to the theater as usual and then Allen, Jon and myself went to Studio B to watch the Quest... Very Funny is all I will say!!
DAY 9 - March 23rd 2013 - At Sea
Up early again, so off I went to the Cafe Promenade for coffee, the waiters have got to know me and now come over to see how I am and ask what day I am writing about now!! They even know how I take my coffee and will bring a fresh one over every now and again.. Went back to the cabin in time to wake Jon for Breakfast at 8:30am. Again because we were at sea the Windjammer was not to busy and we were able to enjoy our breakfast in peace.
It was now very cold outside and we did not see anyone sitting in the pools or hot tubs. Went to the Viking Crown to read for a while but as you can imagine it was very busy as nobody wanted to be outside. There was a towel folding demo being done so we got to see who they create the amazing animals we find in our cabins at bedtime.. before we knew it it was lunchtime and we went to the Windjammer as usual, then back up to the Viking Crown to read and have a afternoon drink, the Mojito's were wonderful.
Soon it was time to head to the cabin and get out the cases from under the bed and pack.. It is always at this point that I always think I should make a list of the clothes I have actually worn so that I could pack less next time, but like always I just wanted to get everything in the cases as quickly as possible as this is the one part of the cruise I don't enjoy.
We went to dinner for the final time and as always we had wonderful service and we enjoyed the food. Our waiters for the cruise Pascal & Carlos were very attentive and made each meal they served very enjoyable. As the gratuities are not automatically added to your Seapass account on a daily basis there were no envelopes to give our waiters but we gave them some cash as they went above and beyond to make sure all our needs were met..
The Farewell show was as good as all the other and we were a bit sad to leave the theater known that would be our last show for a while.. Coffee and Bed.
DISEMBARKATION DAY - March 24th 2013
Woke up at my usual early time but today I did not go for coffee, I connected my iPhone and got all the emails that were sitting on the server waiting for me. We had decided to go for breakfast at 8:00am as the Windjammer closes at 9:00am.. it was very very busy and we were glad to finish our breakfast and go back to our cabin to collect our hand luggage and go to the theater to wait for our number to be called to leave the ship.
As soon as our number was called we went down to deck 1 and left the Explorer of the Seas for the last time. Our luggage was just inside the luggage hall when we got off the shuttle bus so we were able to join the line to get through customs and immigration quite quickly. We had arranged for Dial 7 to pick us up and take us back to Penn Station for our trip home to Boston ..