My husband and I sailed on the Explorer of the Seas on the November 23, 2013 sailing from Bayonne to Labadee, Samana, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. The itinerary also had four sea days which were really nice.
We stayed in Owners Suite 1600, which was a great location. I added a more detailed room review with a link to photos separately.
The ship is in great condition given her age - if you look closely, yes, you were see rust spots and some areas where the carpet is frayed, and the decor is a little outdated, but the ship is clean, well functioning, and we found that it exceeded our expectations.
For breakfast we usually ordered room service, which was delivered on time, and good. There were a few times that the order was slightly wrong, but nothing that would ruin a cruise. The day that we ordered off the suite menu was the best breakfast - we'll do that more often. Also, on the last day, I learned that you can order Room Service from the Interactive TV.
For lunch, it was either Room Service, the Windjammer or MDR. This was the first cruise that we ate lunch in the MDR, and it was really good. We'll also try that again. The Windjammer was good as well, but it was the typical fair.
For dinner, we ate in the MDR most nights, and service was excellent. Our waiter, Luke, always had great recommendations. I know food is subjective, but this was some of the best food we've had on a Royal ship. One night we had dinner at Portofino's, and it was wonderful - way better than our experience on the Navigator earlier this year.
As far as ports, we had a Barefoot Beach cabana in Labadee, which was really nice. Quick tip - there are electrical outlets in the cabanas, so bring chargers if you'd like to charge anything. Also, the floating maps and buffet were good.
Samana wasn't as bad as we expected - leading up to that port, everyone was telling us not to get off the boat unless we had an excursion. We tried it anyway - was it a developed port with a Diamonds International, Margaritaville and duty free shops? No, but it was a quaint little port town that is has a high level of poverty (there were children begging for money), but nothing that we hadn't seen in our travels before. It was kind of nice to see a port that hadn't been developed yet. The people were warm and friendly, and at no time did we feel unsafe.
St. Thomas was a fun port. I went scuba diving, and then we had lunch and did some shopping.
San Juan was also nice. We were there very early - 7am to 1pm, so most of the shops were not open. We walked around a little bit and then headed back to the ship.
We didn't go to any shows or do any of the entertainment, but the one comment I have is that the music was WAY too loud. We're in our thirties, and we could barely hear ourselves think. The musicians were outside the bars and promenade, so it was hard to escape them, but we found ways to.
Service was also excellent - most requests I made were granted with a smile, and if not, a friendly alternative was given. The crew definitely seemed eager to please and help resolve whatever issue we were running into. Because we didn't do the shows or any of the entertainment, we didn't have any interaction with the cruise director, but they seemed to be having a great time when we did see them and on their daily show.
Other than the music being too loud, the only other negative is that the price of the house wine seems to have gone up to $9/glass. Seems very high to me for St. Martin. Oh, and the casino hit us pretty hard, but that's not really the ship's fault. Also, hopefully with the refurb, there will be wi-fi in all the cabins. It was a pain to find a connection sometimes, and if you don't successfully log off, your account will continue to be charged.
Finally, make sure to use your relaxed, patient state when you disembark the ship, it's a little painful. Hopefully that will be fixed with the new terminal. Embarkation was easy.
Definitely consider the Explorer of the Seas - she's an oldie, but a goodie.