My wife and I booked this cruise as our early 25th anniversary celebration. We had never been to Bermuda, and the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in New York City was a plus. This was our second cruise on the Explorer, the last having been way back in 2004. That was our first week long cruise and really cemented our love of cruising. Coming from Florida, you can imagine the looks we got when we told people where we were from, flying into NYC to sail the Explorer. Yes I said, I know we have cruise ships in Florida!
Because of the length of the cruise, we flew into Newark after work the night before. Hotel shuttles are fun late at night, especially when you are schlepping luggage across the air train. But we arrived and got a decent night sleep in Newark. The next morning, the hotel arranged a car to take us to Bayonne. The first thing you notice are the large tents and then you notice there is no terminal on the side of the ship. Well, being always flexible, we checked in and discovered we have to take a short bus ride over to the ship. Easy enough and we were on the ship very quickly.
The ship itself is still in good condition. Yes, you see the occasional rusty spot outside, or the missing lights on the elevator, or the jets on the hot tub not quite working properly. But after sailing on the Monarch last year, the Explorer is really in nice condition.
We almost never do the sail away party but decided to see what the big fuss was about sailing under the Verrazano Bridge. Well it was the coolest thing we have ever done at sail away. We went to the top deck, and though it was windy and a bit chilly, was well worth it. Seeing the ship pass under the bridge is totally cool.
One thing we noticed was the service was outstanding. We got excellent service in the dining room, Johnny Rockets, Windjammer and especially from the concierge. We really felt valued and well taken care of. The onboard entertainment, especially Home Free, were all top notch. Now, if we have one complaint it was the activities. I was surprised at the lack of inside activities during the afternoon hours. And for example, the night that you turn the clocks forward and lose an hour and had a port of call the next morning, that is the night they had the midnight comedy show. But on the night with a 1 pm port of call, and when we turned the clocks back, there was nothing past 10. Just seemed like strange planning.
We were surprised at the low number of families and children on the ship. We are used to sailing the Caribbean from Florida, and we have been on sailings with close to 1,000 kids. You really never saw kids much at all. Since it was just my wife and I that wasn't a big deal. I did notice the demographic was definitely 60 and up.
Disembarking was odd - again, when you are used to getting off the ship at 8ish, the first luggage call at 9:30 was different. And then you have the bus ride to the tent city to pick up your luggage. Assuming it's there. In our case, we had two bags not show up for a bit. But then once they did, we breezed through customs and were on our way.
All in all this was a great cruise. I think this run will even be better when the Quantum arrives.
The Royal Dockyard area is very cool-lots of little shops and restaurants. There is some cool historic stuff there too. We took the ferry into Hamilton and walked around there for a bit, before taking a bus to the beach. The weather and more importantly the 68 degree water kept us from going in. We took the bus back to the dockyard.
We did the snorkeling tour there. Not impressed - as someone said, we snorkeled in 6 feet of water with 5 feet of coral. But our luck changed as we went back to the port. We saw the concierge at the entrance to Barefoot Beach. We are D+ but didn't stay in a suite so we are not allowed to go onto the gated area there. Well Mahmoud hooked us up and we were living large. First we ate lunch - the lunch there had your burgers, dogs, and chicken but in this area they had strip steaks and shrimp skewers as well. After lunch we got free beach mats and floated in the ocean for a bit. It was perfect!
We did the Bacardi Rum tour which was a lot of fun. Kind of like the world of Coke but for Rum. The weather wasn't great early but when we got back from the tour it was sunny and warm. We walked around the town for a bit but didn't buy anything. Supposedly they have the biggest Pandora boutique but my wife wasn't impressed. This was another short port day so we were back on the ship by lunch time.
We love St. Maarten and love to shop there. We arrived at 1:30ish so it was a short day. We did some shopping, and bought new wedding bands for our anniversary gift to each other. While they were being sized, we went along the beach for a bit and then also had some ice cream and got on wi-fi to check in with the dog sitter. It was a great day but too short.