We just returned from a 9 night cruise to Bermuda, San Juan, St. Martin and Labadee. Overall we had a wonderful time but I thought it necessary to share some thoughts regarding the areas that really need some improvement.
Our family consists of myself, my husband and our 7 year son. We have cruised many times and this was our 2nd cruise on the Explorer and with Royal Caribbean. Our last cruise was in February and we also had a great time.
This time we stayed in a balcony cabin somewhat forward in the ship. The cabin itself was adequate and the balcony was nice to have on this itinerary as we used it much with the beautiful weather. The condition of the cabin was worn (once again stains on the carpet) and there was some mold in the shower. I understand that the cabin is not brand new but mold in the shower is unacceptable and fixable by proper cleaning. There were some positives such as fixing our soap dish rack without us even having to ask (it was hanging off one side) and painting our somewhat rusty balcony while we were off in port (without us asking again). The cabin steward did fulfill any requests we had like we needed a refrigerator in our room and some distilled water for my husband's CPAP machine but then again we had requested these items about 6 months earlier. They were not in the room when we arrived. The bed was hard as a rock and very uncomfortable. We are not big people and are used to a somewhat softer bed. I think the beds are firm because much of the clientele is "large". We should have asked for some more padding but we were so sleep deprived we couldn't think straight. Room service as usual was very prompt and we used it quite a few times when we had early port days.
The ship condition overall is approaching "poor". Pieces of furniture were missing or falling off. Elevator buttons were missing! Come on RC! They really REALLY need to have this ship in dry dock sooner or need to have some major work done on it while in port.
Our ship tour in San Juan to the rain forest was excellent! Rocky, our guide was so knowledgeable and we learned so much not only about the rainforest but also about Puerto Rico.
We were somewhat disappointed with St. Maarten but did enjoy the Yoda Guy museum. Very interesting and quirky. Phillipsburg has changed a lot and not for the better. It seemed a bit more run down and somewhat depressing. I haven't been there since the 90's so perhaps I was seeing it through rose colored glasses in a sweeter time. The area next the port has improved with many nice shops.
Bermuda was beautiful and the people were so welcoming. In the past (the 90's) I remember them not caring one way or the other but this time it was different. Our taxi drivers were so friendly and Horseshoe Bay was gorgeous. Wish we were there longer.
Labadee was super hot but we had a great time. I took a walking tour about the area and learned so much about the people of Haiti and their life on the island.
The children's program needs some improvement on this ship. My 7 year old sailed in February with us as well when there were 1,000 less children on board. I blame the lack of engaging activities on the overcrowded conditions in the Adventure Ocean program. Plus, my child who has some sensory issues (he bites his nails; finger and toenails) was embarrassed by the counselor and kids during a session. I explained to them before hand that he had some attention issues (ADHD) but they didn't seem to hear me (too busy with the 1,000 children on board). Needless to say, my son did not want to go back. He said it was too much like school. So many of the activities were like "circle time". When I asked the counselor about the lack of "fun" activities their response was that with the large amount of kids on board it was necessary to do more "quiet" activities so the kids wouldn't get hurt. How very uncreative Royal Caribbean! There is a whole ship available with plenty of outdoor deck space. Perhaps they need to hire more counselors during the busy summer season. These kids are on vacation too! We did enjoy the family activities. We did a family scavenger hunt and the family "quest" game. They really need more family activities at night after dinner around 9pm. Nightly family karaoke would be great.
Overall, the food was good and I was fasting (for religious reasons) vegan for 3 days. The wait staff did a good job trying to accommodate my requests. The desserts are delicious! It was really tough for me to resist but somehow I managed to lose 1.8 pounds on this cruise (I'm on weight watchers and was able to stay on track during a 9 night cruise!) There are plenty of healthy options available if you are motivated to stay healthy with all the temptations. Our waitress Michelle and her assistant, Kayann were fabulous. They had nightly tricks for my son and the other two boys at our table. We had a great time at our nightly dinners.
Captain Henrik was outstanding! He was always around and actively participated in some of the activities, like the Make a Wish Walk and Nautical Trivia.
The cruise director John Blair and his wife the assistant cruise director, Katrina were so sweet and good at their jobs. I felt like we were their personal guests.
The entertainment was "ok". The only acts we really enjoyed was the comedian on the first night and the ice show (of course!) We didn't attend the production shows this time as we didn't care for them last time and they are the same shows. The hypnotist said he was not going to make a fool out of his volunteers but he definitely did. I found the act a bit boring. We attended some trivia and I attended a lecture on Bermuda which was enjoyable. The "Quest" game was a good laugh.
So, I would say overall we did have a great time. I also felt it was necessary to point out some of the areas needed for improvement. We were going to travel again on the Explorer next August but because of the amount of children traveling during the summer we changed our minds. We are going again in February instead. However, because of the condition of the ship we booked an inside cabin. We don't feel it's worth the extra money for a balcony or suite with the current condition of the ship. We still love this ship because of the service and atmosphere. We still felt like we were the only guests on board. Hopefully they will make some repairs to make us feel even more at home.