Four of us (me, wife, and two sons, ages 22 and 24) sailed on the Explorer for a nine day cruise out of Bayonne on May 16th. Here is a brief review:
Ship: Wow! This ship is not very new but it is in great shape. Clean and sparkling. Great artwork (we wished the art auction art was even half as good). The employees were all excellent. In the old days (the 90s?) it seemed the ratio was about 1:1. Now it is more like three passengers for every crew. It appears that this has allowed the employees to be better paid? Just speculation, but it had that feeling.
Cabins: My wife and I had a balcony cabin on the bump (7612). We had room service breakfast on our balcony every morning except the one where we slept past 10 and room service was no longer serving breakfast. Are the bump balconies bigger? Perhaps, since they are on an angle—so they are normal size at one end and a bit deeper at the other. We liked it, but then we have always liked our balconies, wherever they were. The cabin steward was perfect—honored all requests (e.g. robes), never bothered us but yet, took care of everything.
Food: We had anytime dining and had 7:30 reservations for all but one night. Always seated within five minutes at a table just for the four of us, and always with the same waiters. The food was better than I can remember on any prior cruise with any cruise line (We have been on about 10 cruises, on RCCL, NCL, Princess, Celebrity and Carnival). The portions were not huge, but you could order as much as you wanted. Three of the four of us are vegetarians and they ate very well. The other night we ate at Portofino ($20 each plus a tip)—all agreed it was well worth the extra money.
Entertainment: We did not go to any of the singing and dancing shows. The prime time comedians were good. The late night "adult" comedian was not very funny. My wife and I spent about four evenings up on the 14th floor listening and dancing to Take Four, a very good group of musicians and a good sense of humor. They stopped around 12:30 and we wish they had stayed later. The boys were mostly down at the nightclub, which they say was OK. Note that since it was mid-May, there were not a lot of people their age on the ship. By next month that is sure to change, but for a myriad of reasons, this is when we had to go.
Ports: In Bermuda, one son when scuba diving with a ship excursion and had high praise. The rest of us just looked around the port since we had previously cruised there and spent three days docked. In San Juan, an old friend took us around Old San Juan, but that was it since the ship was leaving at 1:30 pm. In St. Martin we spent a great day at Orient Beach. We took a taxi (about $32 each way for the four of us) and rented beach chairs with umbrellas and a "free" drink for $7 each. The nude beach is separate and marked, so you will not end up there by accident. In Labadee we wandered off the ship at 11 am and had no problem obtaining four beach chairs under a palm tree (the local employees wait around for a tip, but the ship handout the night before admonished us not to pay, so we did not and all was fine). We rented mats ($12 each) and floated around in the water until about 3 pm, since all-aboard was 3:30. We surmised that they were over-charging for the water slide ($20) since hardly anyone was using it. We were in Labadee nine years ago, and it is much more fixed up, and of course, has many more opportunities to use your Sea Pass. But like the rest of the cruise, that is all up to you, as anything you would really want (beach chair, lunch, beach) is included.
We had a lovely cruise and have high praise for RCCL. The only snag came at the end, when someone (a shore worker) apparently speared one of our suitcases with a forklift, destroying the bag and damaging some contents. This seems to be a bit common as they had a claims rep right there. I expect the matter will be amicably resolved in the near future. We had parked at the pier ($171) and just piled into the car and drove off back into the real world.