It took a while, but everything started to fall into place, the port of debarkation, the ship (Explorer of the Seas), and the destination (BERMUDA!!!). So, this Carnivalite booked an RC cruise.
I did as much pre work just to get me along, as I wanted to let my first RC cruise to bring me back as a sort of newbie again. All this cruising eventually makes things seem simply standard.
The other thing I wanted to make sure of was not to "COMPARE" everything to Carnival. I did that once on a cruise on NCL, comparing EVERYTHING, and almost ruined what was a nice cruise.
But, I found myself doing just that once I boarded, but this time with a more open mind.
We arrived just after 10:30, which was an hour earlier than recommended, and sat in traffic waiting for those still getting off to do so. We parked the car about 11:00, checked in at about 11:15, and was on the ship at 11:45.
Two disappointments hit me right away.
First, there was no grand atrium upon boarding, but we found the second set of elevators while looking for the stairs, and tried to make our way to our room, just to drop our carryons off. But, the corridors were blocked, so that wasn't going to happen.
So we made our way up to the Windjammer.
The food in the Windjammer was not exactly to our liking, especially with what Carnivals Spirit class buffets are now. I barely touched each of my selections, mostly because for some reason I also wasn't exactly hungry.
Next, we were off to find the dining room, as we were assigned late seating. The MD reassigned us to a table of 10 in a side room off the main dining area for early dining. Turned out, by day two, they had assigned two other couples to that table as well, so it was 7 of us to a nice size table. Lots of elbow room.
So back up to the Lido Deck (not even sure if the decks had names, so deck 11), found ample space. Lots of empty chairs, and never had or saw a lack of chairs the whole week. They were everywhere, and I loved that they didn't "round them up" each night. And having a pool and hot tub available 24 hours was a definite plus!
After our first foo foos we headed to our cabin.
We got what was the last available triple at our time of booking. I liked that we were high up, but not necessarily so far forward. In retrospect, we never felt anything. We were also waitlisted for the next available JS, but the only one that became available was aft on deck 6. Not a good choice, so I let it go.
The room was a disappointment. Although it claimed to be the same size as a standard Carnival balcony room, it sure wasn't laid out like one. It was narrower, with a slightly different configuration, but it was still larger than the closets that kept me away from RCCL all these years. But we got used to it.
And then the balcony really threw me. All the openness was gone. Even breathing resonated. I liked the rail to floor plexiglass on the other ships better.
Also, they could have done better with the bathrooms. Besides a "round" shower, it smelled of urine. It was faint, but it was there. Lately, I see the stewards closing the drains. I wonder if that's where it's coming from, or if there's another reason they do this.
But the BEDS! Saggy and cot like. So I ordered the foam layered whoosie from the steward, and she had it installed by the time we retired, except that we never told her we switched seatings. Oh well.
Another thing I didn't like was not having the major networks on the TV. But I did get to catch up on old episodes of Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and the partridge Family.
But, none of this was gonna get me down. There was a whole HUGE ship to explore!
We spent the afternoon at the pool, and headed down when it got close to dinner time.
The food turned out to be very good. I do see it's debated quite often on the boards, so I set my expectations low. Something to chose from here and there. I enjoyed all I ordered, and sometimes ordered more than one meal. My only disappointments were the lobster and the turkey, but they were still palatable. Just prepared different than I was used to. Our waiter even brought us second helpings of the lobster.
What I didn't like was that off hours, food was not readily available. I've gotten used to having something available at all hours. We did try Johnny Rockets one night at 11:30. Never had their food before. Never will again. Not my kind of grub. The stuff they had at Cafe Promenade never looked that appealing, and I stayed away from the pizza.
The Windjammer fare was better all the subsequent days of eating there. We only had lunch once in the DR, just so we had more pool time. Never had breakfast there.
After dinner, we went to the first show. It was the welcome aboard affair. All the entertainment all week was very good. Again, didn't have to worry about what I had seen before.
We went to most shows, and enjoyed each and every one of them. They have a talented lineup on this ship.
The Ice show was over the top. You had to get tickets, and I made sure I was there early to get them.
BTW, I was worried about what I wouldn't have priorities to not being a Crown and Anchor member. I had read there are priorities to those members for all sorts of things. Well, it didn't take anything away from me, so I guess it's all extra value stuff.
I always enjoy a good, personable and funny cruise director. We were fortunate to have one on this trip. His name was Allan Brooks, but for those looking for him now, he just left for vacation. There is at least one family doing a B2B this week. I wonder what they think of the new one!
We arrived in Bermuda on Tuesday morning, and all we felt like doing was beaching it. We got our bus passes right on board, and headed to Horseshoe bay both days.
On Tuesday and every Tuesday night, they have a street festival next to the clock tower mall. It's some shows, and local flea market stuff, but it was nice. It's like one big block party. Later that night, they had the deck party on board. We grabbed our grub, ate, and retired.
Now as far as the ship went, it was stunning! More than lots to do, and we still never came close to seeing everything. Loved the Royal Promenade. Love the lounges up in the Viking Crown. The views are stunning, as is the atmosphere. We never even got up there until the fourth day, and unfortunately, never got back there. The main show lounge is accommodating, although they should do something about the bottle neck. I wasn't used to having only two (four) banks of elevators. We did our sneak trick of going up one flight, and then heading down into the masses, just to go back up again. But I was NOT going to walk up 9 flights of stairs!
Everything about this ship was soothing and enjoyable.
I was surprised to find the lower decks to be non passable from one end to the other. And was even more frustrating if I found I was on the wrong end on the ship. Having two atriums really screwed me up.
What I did like was being able to go to the front of the ship. I've been waiting to do that for 18 years!
The service was fantastic! Loved how they ALWAYS called you by name. Nice touch. All were very friendly.
The other thing I noticed was that how some discount Carnival for certain things, yet I found the same experience on RCCL, some slightly different.
For example, Carnival has it's hairy chest contest. I guess the equivalent on RCCL is the hairy leg contest. Other things found were hawking of drinks, the announcements, the in your face selling tactics.
Will I sail RCCL again? YES, and have already booked. It was truly a rewarding experience. I found most between the two lines interchangeable, and offering probably the same product to the same target audience. What lacked here, was compensated there. And vice versa. The size of this particular ship wins over anything Carnival has, just for the variety and diversity it offers. Do I need an Ice skating rink, rock climbing, or golf? No, but others like it, and there's plenty of other things to do as well. I think I could probably sail for two weeks and have not explored everything this ship had to offer.
BTW, debarkation was a pleasure. We were the fourth group called, and was in our car within 15 minutes, and home in a hour. A nice touch at the end of our trip.