This is only our second cruise, so by no means are we an expert. My expectations on RCI were set a little high as it was going to be a good size ship and sailing for 9 days. Plenty of time to be pampered.
Over all it was OK to good. We had a good time. Our steward (Danny) was great. He kept our room clean, kept my ice bucket filled and even taught us how to make the little towel animals. Most of the other staff were good too. From a staff point of view the problems were minor. The hall ways in the sleeping areas always were partially blocked with cleaning supplies at just about all hours of the day. Carts, trash, vacuums etc were always in the hallways. I saw them occasionally on Carnival, but not all day long. The other issue was that the dining room staff had little regards to the passengers. Constantly cutting us off as we walked to and from the dining tables. Several times I almost dumped my food or drink because of it. I will say there was no pushiness on the sales staff and they were always willing to help.
Food was a big disappointment, both in the main dining area and the buffet. When you talk to most people the first thing they talk about is the FOOD. In this case it is also the FOOD that was at the top of my mind. But not because it was so good, but the fact that is was so mediocre. In the dining room the food was about what I would expect in a diner, but more limited in selections. The quality was also nothing to write home about. In the nine days of dining, I cannot think of one meal that was exceptional. Deserts were disappointing and on several nights, I skipped the deserts as nothing was appealing to me. Breakfast was probably the best of the meals and menus. Lots of fruits and a good selection of cereals and breakfast foods. Quality was good as well. HOWEVER, coffee sucked! I haven't had coffee this bad since I was in the service. It was STRONG, Bitter and lacked flavor. I did find that if I added whipped cream to it from the fruit bar, that it was OK. Lunch was nothing to write home about. The menu was limited and mainly consisted of pasta and other low cost items. Water, Ice Tea and Lemonade were the only free drinks available. Sodas were extra or required a purchase of a drink package. For some reason teaspoons were not readily available and had to be asked for when needed. Splenda was in short supply.
Entertainment was good. The acts were worth while seeing. Some of them were scheduled late (10 PM or later) so we didn't see them all. They did have a sailing away party one night but it was way too late for us with the arrival in port the next morning. There was a problem at one port with getting everyone off in time. Something to do with docking of the tender boats. We missed our scheduled excursion. Since we hadn't prepaid for it, there wasn't any lost. In fact the highlight of the trip was an excursion with "Tour Samana with Terry". They provided a private tour for us that we would have never been able to match with RCI sponsored tours. It will be the 'talk' of our cruise for years to come.
We stopped at San Juan for about 5 hours on a late Sunday afternoon. Shops were closed and our tour was pretty much a joke. The stop at the fort being the only worthwhile stop. Next we stopped at St Thomas. Pretty nice trip. We did our own thing here. Found lots of tour options once you get off the ship and saved some money as well. Samana was our third stop. No dock here so you take shuttle boats to the island. That was where the problem was delaying us from getting off the boat so we missed out scheduled tour. Again Terry and his crew saved the day. Our final stop was on a RCI owned resort. Basically a big ripoff. You pay for just about everything. Water at $4.50 a bottle, no soda, all the shops are keyed to selling you as much as possible. Got to the point we walked in the middle of the street and didn't pay any attention to the calls to come in and shop. Lunch was about par for what was on the ship.
Drinks in the bars are not our think, however, I do occasionally like to have a Kalula and Cream. We went to one of the bars to listen to some music on our second night at sea. I ordered my drink and before it even made it to the table I saw there was a problem. Turns out it was made with skim milk. The waiter remade the drink and again I knew it wasn't right. The second time the waiter said he made it with half and half. I asked the bartender what they used and he also said half and half, so I asked to see the container. He pulled up a bottle of whole milk. Apparently they didn't know what half and half or light cream was. At $7 a drink, I wasn't happy with it and had them remove it from the bill. That was my last drink.
Pictures of the cruise were a big rip off as well. $21 a shot regardless of the size of the picture. But since we don't cruise that often we did purchase a couple of them.
Last item was the motion of the ship. Explorer of the Seas is not a small ship, but you felt every wave. Seas most of the time were 2-5 feet and it was like being a drunken sailor most of the time. The only time it didn't rock and roll was when she was stopped or going dead slow. Not sure why, but was very noticeable.
So our hats off to Danny for taking care of us and Terry and his crew for showing us a great tour. As for the rest, better luck next time.