I am Brendan (36 yr old male) travelling with my wife Jenn (34 yr old). We are Platinum Members with Crown and Anchor- this was our sixth (6) cruise with Royal Caribbean and our very first together to Bermuda. We had a Junior Suite booked on the Explorer- our very first suite experience.
We live in Albany NY which is not too far from Cape Liberty but we wanted to get down there early so as to start our vacation right away and to be close to the ship terminal so we did not have to race around on Sunday morning. We arrived to Newark on Saturday night the 28th staying in the Best Western off of rte 1 and 9. We got a great deal- the room with parking for the entire length of the cruise and a shuttle bus to/from the terminal for just 155.00- awesome deal. Jenn found this on line and we learned that other Cruise Critic members had seen our posting and took advantage of this as well- we were happy to see that others had taken our lead. :) The shuttle took off from Best Western at 11 am sharp- the bus driven by Jose- was full of excitement as we headed towards Bayonne and to eventually Bermuda- we were glad to have met Patti and Stu from Cruise Critic on the bus and spent some nice time together during the week . Forgive me there were others on the bus from Cruise Critic as well but I cannot recall their names. We arrived to the port by 11:30 and immediately encountered a back up in traffic- this was okay though as it gave us all sometime to chat and get to know each other and in no time we were moving progressively through the line. We did find out later that it was better to have arrived in a bus as the vehicles in line had to go through it twice- once for luggage and once for parking. We were greeted curbside by Royal Caribbean staff who took our bags. Note here- there is signage up indicating that tips are optional- I did wind up tipping our gal but i did not see my luggage until 9 pm that evening- more on that later.. with a suite booked- we did not have to wait in line and literally walked right up the check in desk - following behind little brit and family and made our way on to the Explorer in a matter of mins. Now I must add- we had booked a suite guarantee- they initially had us in cabin 9264 and at the last moment switched our assignment to 1312- this was not a problem but it did cause the delay in receiving luggage as our prior tags were eliminated from the bags and were lying in the hallway on the 9th deck unbeknownst to us. A lesson here- check and double check with cruise line before proceeding to your cabin assignment to assure that your bags have the proper tags.
A Junior Suite is a real treat- nice extra square footage comes in real handy. The expanded bathroom with tub is a pleasure to have as well. Our cabin steward was right on with all duties and made us very comfortable during the week. He was a pleasant man who spoke highly of the cruise line and really was genuine in his show of concern to address our needs while on board- it makes for a very pleasurable time. The cabin had an extended balcony- this was a hump cabin- so your view from behind you was limited- however we could see all the way up the front of the ship and the bridge- we were on the starboard side. The condition of the carpet and furniture was in above decent shape for a 6 yr old ship although we did see enough reason for a heavy cleaning of the carpet. SHIP Jenn and I over a number of times during the week spoke of how impressed we were with the condition of the ship- there was always present a group of employees who were cleaning- waxing- sweeping and spraying all over and around us- all very happy folks who always greeted you first- a real big plus for RC! It shows that the crew is just as happy as the quests to be on board and apart of the experience. Awesome The public restrooms were stocked with fresh soap- a lot of toilet paper And fresh paper hand towels- Im really a fan of the paper towels rather than the hot air deal- I did notice that both were available in every restroom- Carnival was not as good- only with hot air terminals. The Royal Promenade is something to marvel at! Just a great place to people watch- relax and enjoy a drink or snack. everything nicely maintained and well staffed. I would comment that the Cafe seemed to always be the busiest and it from time to time would be short on staff- particularly when you wanted an ice cream- it seemed to be a bit on the slow side. The artwork in the hallways and the aquarium bar were nice conversation pieces. I really enjoyed the aquarium- as this is rare on ships and was a nice thing to sit and watch after dinner or later in the evenings.
CRUISE DIRECTOR Alan Brooks was our cruise director- I gotta say- he was not the "King of Kings" Ken Rush but he was decent, funny, involved, and accessible. He made our experience enjoyable.
ENTERTAINMENT RC Just continues to out- do itself in this area. comparing to their competition-the RC Dancers are that much more better- costumes were up to date- music was easy to follow and the production people were top notch. The Ice Skaters were fantastic- the Majestic was equally enjoyable-the only area I see that needs improvement upon is the comic. I am yet- 13 cruises total- to see a comic that is really funny and consistently funny. This gentleman at least did not have me get up and leave the room- I stayed until his act had concluded but I did not elect to stay up and go to his midnight experience the night or two later. FOOD Windjammer was where we initially went upon boarding. The food selection was very nice- a carving station and various different buffet items- everything was hot- not lukewarm- the burgers were very good- ground beef deal- not thin patties. The hot dogs were not as hot- my wife stated that they could have been a bit hotter. The staff was accommodating- their to pick up your plates. One area that could be improved upon was that the area had no trays- you needed to carry your plates and drinks back w/o the assistance of a tray- made it hard for some of the other passengers to navigate. Our dining room waiter was Giovanni. We were second seating at table 355. Our tablemates were a bit disappointing- not as friendly as they could be and not very "warm" when spoken to- a number of occasions we tried to make stories and conversation only to feel like we had been interrupting something more important or that they did not care to listen. Giovanni was very quick- accommodating. He did appear to be a bit inexperienced as when we would order multiple entrees it kinda threw a "monkey wrench" into his ordeal. We had breakfast each morning on our balcony-coffee and danish- and then we went to the Dining Room for eggs and meats. Each morning we wanted a table for two and had to wait to be seated. This was not a problem as we did not mind waiting. We went to Portofinos for our last night Thursday- we thoroughly enjoyed this meal and the service. The experience was just wonderful and the attention given is top notch. Well-worth the 20 charge. I could not say enough about the service provided by GIGI and JJ. the food selection and quality is just fantastic-
EXCURSIONS We did the Helmet Dive - we would highly recommend this to anyone- the best experience- i would most agree that this is the best experience that i have ever had in the water- much better than snorkeling. For the other times- we took a bus and went to Horseshoe Bay and Elbow Beach- I would not recommend the motor scooters- the rds are highlight congested and the driving on the left side of the rd can be more than a battle
IMPROVEMENT AREAS - the disembark- why not have self disembarkment? Why not enforce the rules of colors. I know there were many amongst our first departing group who were not suite holders who enjoyed the privilege given those that pay more for a suite. A bit disappointing. - the tipping- we paid pre- tip- yet we needed to give our waiter the envelope- all it included was a voucher. - septic system- early on in the cruise there was a noticeable stench in the hallways and Promenade. This is just unbearable and needs a quick fix. It did go away after the first day.
WHY RC IS THE BEST - the attention given to the paying customer- to me- is just splendid- everyone from our room steward to the pursers desk- to the shops- the bartenders and lastly- the cruise director- makes you feel that your dollar is well spent and that they want your loyalty- they work very hard on earning repeat customers- which is just great customer service. - the attention given from the Dining Room Staff- how they continue to service each and everyday- with smiles and no more than 5 mins wait in between courses is just plain awesome- to see all the parties working together and with smiles is something that all should try to replicate - the layout of the ship and the quality of design- workmanship- Carnival cannot compare- no way=- no how
My wife and i enjoyed our trip tremendously- every aspect of it was what we were searching for and most important- what we would recommend to friends/family. We spent just over 800.00 on board on top of our pass and we feel that every dollar spent was well invested for our return. I would most certainly recommend the Explorer to either first time cruisers or repeat cruisers. It was a great value and a enjoyable- memorable trip. We will most definitely book with RC again. if anyone would like to ask me questions or discuss with me-please feel free to email me- firstname.lastname@example.org My wife and i enjoyed meeting our fellow Cruise Critic members and look forward to hearing from them again soon.