Hello, I must admit that we were a little nervous reading some of the reviews and the average or negative comments about the food on Explorer of the Seas, mostly MDR. Happily this was not our experience. My wife and I cruised with RCI back in 1993 and with Carnival three times (2010, 2011, and 2012). The cheaper Carnival cruises had good food, but the quality of the food on the Explorer of the Seas was excellent. We enjoyed stellar efficient service from the MDR with hot high quality meals. We dined one night in Portofino and the food rivaled the finest restaurants we have ever eaten in. The Windjammer/ island grill was also excellent with every possible combination of food. Much better than cafeteria food described on other posts. Ship is dated and ready for a refit of the cabins and hallways, but fastidiously clean and in good order. The common areas are first rate, do not appear dated and far exceeded the newly refurbished Carnival Conquest class ships we had been on.
The entertainment on the Carnival ships were all identical, and very high school production. In fact on the Glory last March the music for the big broad-way number was an IPOD plugged in and run by the ACD, and the show was repeated a second night to a crowd of bored cruisers. By comparison Explorer of The Seas had a live band, different entertainment every night, the headliners were great and thoroughly entertaining. The ice show was also very good. We took this cruise to scope out the ship for a summer drive to New Jersey and take the kids (Teens) cruising. Kid activities are plentiful with an in-line roller blading rink, mini putt course, golf simulator, rock climbing wall, ping pong tables, decent basketball and soccer court, large games room, movie theatre and the real ice rink with skating for the kids three times a day. Add pools and hot tubs and the whole family will be entertained.
The royal promenade is a great place to browse or sit with a pastry/ice cream/coffee or favorite drink and just hang out listening to live bands or people watching.
I can't say that we ever encountered a grumpy employee on the ship, everyone smiled, when eating in the Windjammer, officers and staff alike would clear plates, get you beverages, and always ask to ensure you were enjoying yourself.
Our last comment will be about the Captain and the CD (Leigh) and ACD (Erky). Captain Henrik Loy was very visible as were his officers. They interacted with the passengers and always thanked them for cruising. The Captain communicated several times a day about weather and position of the ship. A credit to him and the way he runs his ship, the entire ship understands they are there for the passengers and they delivered. The CD and the ACD are an incredible funny, witty, and down to earth team who can put a smile on anyone's face. By the end of the cruise people would crack a smile when Erky walked in a room, and he loves his job.
Summary; thank you RCI, EOS Captain and staff, you have renewed my faith in cruising with such a great vacation. We don't know why we didn't cruise Royal sooner.
Embarkation was good. The port is just a warehouse and tent so there are not any nice desks or baggage drop off areas, no nice seating areas or glass windowed waiting rooms. However we were in the lines and through security to the waiting area in about 15 minutes. Then on the ship 20 minutes after that.
Disembarkation was another matter. The baggage handlers misplaced luggage tag #4 bags (tags supplied by the ship to locate luggage). Early departure was delayed by 2 hours while many searched for lost bags. We found our lost bag after 1.5 hours of searching, apparently some of the baggage handlers do not know the numbers or cannot count. Our bag tagged as #4 was in the #38 bin. Numbers are 1-40 in the order they leave the ship for the baggage area. Once we had the bags, the lines were huge at the customs officers.
Two lines exist, non US citizens and US citizens. The customs staff here that guide people to the lines are confused. In fact one particularly stunned woman demanded we enter the US Citizen only line, we told her we are not US Citizens and she took no notice and demanded we enter that line so we did. As we approached the customs officer, we asked again because a large sign read US CITIZENS ONLY. We were told that we are in the wrong line with about 5 other couples but to go through anyway as the officers can process us. Then the officer left his post and closed the line. The same stunned lady arrived and shuffled everyone to another line en masse in front of another backed up line of anxious travelers. As there was an empty line in the Non US Citizen area with a customs officer and no one to process, we moved over to this line. It was very chaotic and the floor was uneven with a divit. This divit caught the wheel on the suitcase my wife was pushing and she went head over the suitcase onto the cement floor injuring her hand.
At this point the stunned lady came over and demanded we fill out a report for the injured hand and called a supervisor.
We collected ourselves ignored this lady, and went to the customs agent who looked concerned about my wife and when I explained that we just need to get to the airport as our flight was leaving in 3 hours now that we have been delayed by 2 hours looking for the lost suitcase, we would appreciate being cleared or checked as long as it got us out of the warehouse. He understood and processed us quickly. As we were leaving, the stunned woman with her supervisor arrived and once again demanded we fill out a report. I forcefully told her that we are not filling out a report, we need to catch a plane, and she should just go away. As she continued to yell at us that we would not be able to file a medical claim unless we filled out this report, we left the area, found the RCI shuttle bus, and had to wait another 45 minutes on the hot bus until it had enough people to leave. We made the flight just In time and when safely back home a trip to the hospital produced a right hand cast. Had we stayed for reports and medical we would have missed the plane.
I understand that the port will be undergoing construction to improve the conditions, I hope they also upgrade some of the staff!