My wife and I just completed our second cruise. Both have been with Royal Caribbean the first was on the Splendor of the Seas and this one was on Explorer of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has treated us well. This cruise was booked entirely through the Royal Caribbean web site.
We arrived in New Jersey on Saturday evening for the Sunday afternoon cruise, driving from western Ohio. We stayed at the Holland Motor Lodge (low cost, convenient, and safe) in Jersey City (about 5 miles north of Cape Liberty in Bayonne). On Saturday evening we went to the World Trade Center site and Sunday morning to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
The weather (one of the most important things) was cloudy and at times rainy throughout the time we were in New Jersey until about the time we got on the ship. It miraculously cleared up and we had sun and 70's for Monday at sea. Tuesday was sunny and 80's for the first day on Bermuda (very pleasant). Wednesday was cloudy and windy, but warm in the 80's. It did not rain, just cloudy. Thursday back at sea was sunny until late in the afternoon and warm again 70's and 80's. Friday on arrival back in New Jersey it was cloudy and cool. I know the weather changes rapidly, but I looked through all of the reviews to find something about the weather and found no mention.
On Sunday we arrived at the port at about 1pm. The ship is magnificent. The hardest part was parking the car. Their parking facilities are not the greatest, but seemed to have been safe. We took cash and parked for $75 for the 5 day cruise. The porters were prompt (maybe a little too much, but this has been true at both ports we have used). We were aboard, including the bus ride from the terminal to the ship, within 30 minutes. We dropped our carry-ons in cabin 8336 (superior ocean view) and headed to the Windjammer.
The superior ocean view was a D2 at 188 square feet. This cabin was more than big enough for 2. With as little time as we spent in the room it wouldn't have mattered much. I did enjoy sleeping with the door to the balcony open and listening to the ocean as I tried to get to sleep. During time in the room , if we spent time it was on the balcony. I highly recommend balcony cabins. The cabin was kept very clean with service twice a day and the bedding was very comfortable. They changed all the bedding while we were in Bermuda and I only question white comforters (are they crazy?). Towel animals nightly.
We found the Windjammer to have very good food with a good variety. We had all breakfasts and lunches there throughout the cruise and one dinner. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries at lunch and dinner. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for having Crispy Crowns (hash browns) for every breakfast. The remainder of dinners were in the main dining room. The food there was very good as well.
After lunch on the first day we explored the public areas of the ship. We were able to visit all of them within a few hours. Some of the other reviews mention that the ship is to big to explore, but we did not find this to be the case. The Peek-a-Boo Bridge was neat as you could see all the navigation equipment. Forward on deck 12 there is a weather station where you could explore. Down near the Aquarium Bar there are interactive displays including the ships position which were neat.
In the Windjammer we never waited more than a few minutes for any of the serving stations with the exception of the fried egg and omelet station in the mornings. There was a shortage of window tables at times, but this is to be expected. Always several good desserts at dinner and lunch. Several nights we went there after dinner in the dining room just to sample all of the desserts (the same dessert and entrees were usually served in both).
The dining room had a reasonably good selection every night. We were at table 307 with 6 other cruisers and ended up spending most of our evenings with 4 of them. There was not a bad time when we ate at out assigned table in the dining room. The service could be improved. At times it seemed rather disjointed and took a long time to get our food. One comparison to our previous cruise here, the wait staff did not seem as personable. I really feel this was because the first time we had our children and this time it was just the two of us. The kids seemed to improve the personalness of all members of the crew, but this is not a complaint. The service was not bad, just not as personal.
The sea days were spent walking on the 1/5th of a mile walking track or lying in the sun (we are both avid walkers and did 5 or more miles every day). One of the other couples we met also suggested walking on deck 4 which goes all the way around the ship with some steps thrown in. Also fun for exercise was the in-line skating track The rock climbing wall was fun as well and if there is not a line (there always was) it could be good exercise. I also did the discover SCUBA at the pool and this proved to be a great deal of fun.
We only caught one of the headline shows, a comedian who was funny and interacted well with the crowd (Tony Daro). We went to "adult Karaoke." This means easy listening tunes. It was not horrible, but not what we expected. We were looking for rock and roll Karaoke. This was held on the last night when everyone was tired and ready to relax. We went hot and heavy with the wonderful bar facilities just about every night. There is no shortage of alcohol, but also very few obnoxious drunks. Every one seemed to have a great deal of fun. We actually stayed on the pool deck (we did not do this on our first cruise) for the midnight party and found every one enjoying themselves with no one causing problems.
Bermuda would have been better if there was more time. We did one excursion, the Bermuda Triangle Glass Bottom Boat and Snorkel tour. It was much more enjoyable than the snorkel I did at Costa Maya. After looking through the glass bottom at a ship wreck and reef we were allowed to snorkel on our own for over an hour and then enjoyed free Rum Swizzles on the trip back in. The tour boat docks right across from the ship making it easy to get to.
On the second day we rented a scooter (not a recommended activity by the cruise line). This turned out to be fun, but it was easy to see why it could get dangerous very quickly. We saw one accident where a tourist slid in the gravel and ended up with a large road rash on his arms and legs. We also had close encounters with a truck when we came a little wide around a corner and at one point I came around a curve and there was a surveyor in the road and I almost hit another truck. I think next time I would take the public transportation which I understand is very good and significantly less expensive. It also would have been much quicker on the ferry. It took almost an hour to get from Royal Naval Dockyard to Hamilton. It is also quite frightening to look up and realize you are on the wrong side of the road (they drive on the left).
I could probably ramble on longer, but I will work on wrapping it up. The ship is magnificent. I can't say enough about how cool this ship is. The service from the staff was above average, but was not as good as our first cruise. On the occasions I used the Purser's desk, I was treated well and they took care of the problems (like the refund for the horrible drink at Seattle's Best). Staff all over the ship was energetic and friendly. Even the maintenance workers would wave and smile.
The only real complaint I have was the gentleman working at Seattle's Best in the morning had no idea how to make a frappuccino and used powdered hot chocolate to flavor the mocha drink. I didn't hear a lot of complaints from others on the ship either.
Getting off was actually pretty quick once our tag was called. It took quite a while before they started calling the color tags. We docked on time at about 0700 and were off at about 0900.
We thoroughly enjoyed the ship and the trip and hope everyone else will too.