This is my first post on Cruise Critic so I really can't be very discriminating, but giving a blow by blow would be counterproductive. This was our third cruise and the longest we have ever taken. To make reading this more interesting I'm posting under what I feel is important to know about the cruise in terms of my own interests;
Karaoke: For me this was a huge surprise. After screwing up the courage to do it on the first night, I went up to the mike every other time there was a session. I realized that some of the songs were hopelessly out of my key. I also realized that although I think I have a good voice, some people have amazing voices and really know how to sell a song. I also realized that listening to others sing is a real community builder and such a community formed. I believe I was the first person on the cruise who proposed a duet to another passenger. It was great fun. Others followed suit. All of the people who sang became part of a Karaoke community. We acknowledged one another elsewhere on the boat. Interestingly enough, people I met in other activities, gave me the honour of attending to hear me.
The common theme on many of these posts is that those who participated enthusiastically got the most out of any activity. I was particulary struck by this at the Quest scavenger hunt. Some people just sat in chairs waiting for the others to do something. What fun is that? If that's all you're going to do, why are you sitting there?
I guess on that principle, I led the Sabbath services the first week. People coalesced around their common activity and another group of 'cruise connections' was formed. Other activities that I did included Trivia. A great group of people got together there. Some people memorize the answers to the questions from one cruise to another, so it's not likely that you'll win, but the intellectual activity is fun. Also, don't be shy about teaming up with others. Frequently our team name was 'Total Strangers' because we were at the beginning.
Another piece of advice to bring to this column is that if you intend to skate and are driving to the embarcation, bring your own skates. My wife always brings her own skates and for the first time I brought my own. I'm not a great skater, but there was a real difference when you skate in skates that fit!
In general I found the shows by the visiting entertainers more interesting than the in-house staff, which is not to say that I didn't enjoy all the performances. My favorite was the acapella group playing off of Jersey Boys. They were super. Also, I can't believe anyone found the food anything other than superb. We're mainly ovo-lactate vegetarians and we found plenty to eat that was great. Our room concierge was super as well.
My fondest memories got to the social staff Gabriel, Helmie and Bas became real friends. I would be super happy to see them on another cruise. Although I don't feel I had a personal relationship with Leigh and Erky, the social director and second-in-command, I certainly felt they were also doing a great job.
If the Explorer was staying in Bayonne, I would be sorely tempted to repeat the cruise another year. We'll probably wind up booking Royal Caribbean out of Florida in the future as the Quantum doesn't have an ice-skating rink.
Half a week after getting off of the boat in what was truly a grueling procedure, I still have a glow about the trip. If this is retirement, bring it on!