Hello. Just got from 5 nights out of Bayonne to Bermuda. I just want to say how uninformative most reviewers are. So I decided to post a good review to give you tips and insights as I hoped but did not find in the reviews I read. I will start with the ship and cruise and end with the port issues.
The Explorer is a really nice ship. It is our (wife and I) favorite of the 3 Carnival, 1 RC and 1 Princess that we were on. Just the right balance of elegance and taste. Not over done and garish like other themed lines. The art work and design and decor touches throughout the ship are tasteful and impressive. The size is perfect as it is not overwhelming nor too small. You can easily walk the length of the ship and not be exhausted. You are not as harassed for photos like all other cruise lines and some nights no photos are taken. You generally get seats by the pool and at the shows without too much problem. First row pools side lounges are taken by 7AM though. You only need one dress outfit and casual all other times.
I had an indoor cabin and booked (only one left) the handicapped accessible room. Wow, it was very spacious and extremely comfortable for an interior. Big bathroom and shower. Couch and sitting area too. No issues there.
Take the MY TIME DINING. 7:30 is perfect for dinner. You have an early lunch and a mid day bite and still you are hungry for dinner. You also easily make the 9:00 production show. It's worth the few extra bucks. The food was generally excellent (we had one blah dinner out of 5) for mass produced food. Lobster tails wins the prize for well done! Feel free to order multiple starters and entrees as we did. Service was excellent. You can dine for two and there is no big interruptions and announcement distractions as in the regular 6 and 8PM seating.
Buffet was deck 11 in the Windjammer. Well run dining area and very nice selection. Surprisingly, breakfast was not a zoo and the food was nicely displayed with good variety. We dined one breakfast in dining room, it was fine, but note, they seat you with others and it's not really any better than buffet. Lunch was a nice wide variety. No qualms here. Service excellent. Wash your hands!!!!! The negatives, are that it closes at 5 PM and no food or free beverages or ice cream or frozen yogurt are served on deck 11 which is the pool and hot tub deck-- after 5PM. At night, you have to but ice cream if you want some. You simply can't even get a glass of water or snack late night on top decks and have to go down to deck 5. THIS IS A HUGH OVERSIGHT! NEGATIVE We saw no need to eat in the few restaurants what have an up-charge.
Late night, there is one place on the ship, deck 5, for light snacks (pizza and desserts) and free beverages. Gets the job done but there can be a line as it's the only game in town for late night. There was one late night buffet on deck 11 and it was excellent. Again a real omission to not have something open for snack or free beverage on upper deck.
Drinks are good and typical. They offer a $55 unlimited plan but its per person and each adult in a room has to take it. If you all drink like a fish, it's a deal. Average drink it 7 to 9 bucks plus tip.
Pools are nice with plenty of lounges and chairs all over. Not many young kids on my week, which was wonderful. They do have an adult pool right behind main pools and it's great with nice lounges. Too bad there is no water or lemonade station nearby. ANOTHER OVERSIGHT. NEGATIVE
Health club was simply the best of all my cruises. Full selection of weight machines and plenty of cardio machines. Great big sauna and steam room. Well done!
Cruise Director was awesome and ship offers all the silly contests and audience participation stuff that is common.
Only one late night comic, which we missed, and they really should have it had at least another late night show. NEGATIVE
Casino was just right, though the 2 nights they only offered it, I wanted to play Texas Hold'em but you could not get into the one table they had. Clearly they want you to play the table games.
Shopping on board was crappy for experienced cruisers with only standard fare. More cheap brands of watches than I have ever seen. Spirits were no real bargain, so why schlep it. The last day it looked like a rummage sale on the main deck.
Late night make sure to hit Dizzys Lounge on Deck 14 and hope Synergy is playing there. Great time!!! Dancing and fun. Also, the piano lounge (Scooner) behind the casino is wonderful to relax and have a drink.
Productions show did not live up to hype, but cast tried hard and singers were good for cruise line talent, but overall just passable for 40 minutes of singing and dancing.
Take the 7 bus for $9 bucks (round trip) to the Elbow Beach Hotel. Pay $65 bucks for 2 lounges, covers, towels, umbrella and water. Luxurious day and not crowded. Have lunch on the cafe on the beach there. Expensive but for just over 100 bucks for two, you get transportation, lunch and use of the really nice facilities. Can't be beat. A classy day and memorable. Water and beach is amazing. Horse Shoe Bay is mobbed and they steer all the tourists there. No need to take expensive (35 dollar) shared taxis anywhere. Buses are right there off the ship and easy. For second day take ferry to Hamilton for shopping (very hot though) or simply walk to Snorkel Beach near ship. A little OK beach for convenience. Shopping kinda sucked again, but Cuban cigars can be found at crafts store near Snorkel Beach. 10 bucks a pop and customs could care less.
Port sucked and really can't handle in and out flow at one time. If you get there early, 10 to 10:30 or later afternoon, you should have no trouble. We got out of car and hoofed it with luggage and walked 100 yards. Well worth it. They start loading at noon and if you got a long wait, well, be cool and slip on with earlier group called, pretty easy. Same with leaving ship. We took our own luggage. They do not really enforce the group numbers for getting off the ship so if you feel sneaky, head to deck one and scram.
Overall nice adult crowd. Lots of later aged teens. Not a lot of young kids.
Enjoy. Feel free to email me at (bruce at allbruce) (dot com) for more info.