My boyfriend and I went on our first cruise ever on the Explorer to the Bahamas on Jan. 5th and while this was our first, it certainly won't be our last! A friend of ours dropped us off in Bayonne and initially we felt a little overwhelmed with all of the hustle and bustle going on around us and weren't sure where to even start! Luckily, almost immediately someone assisted us with our luggage and we ended up finding our way onto he ship pretty easily and without too much of a wait. We opted for a room with a view of the Promenade, and while it was no ocean view, we really enjoyed the room! We never noticed any noise from the Royal Promenade, even when parades an such were going on, and I enjoyed being able to look out and see what was going on on the ship and how many people were out and about and such.
Not at all RCI's fault, but day 2 on board was extremely wavy. My boyfriend and I both had on our Sea Band wristbands and we still could not get out of bed without feeling queasy. Being first time cruisers we weren't sure if these kind of waves were common, but we ended up meeting a gentleman who played in a band on board and his said that is was the waviest day at sea he has ever experienced! The first few days we didn't venture outside too much, not only was it cold but the winds were wild! We enjoyed exploring the interior of the ship though and Royal Caribbean felt the itineraries full with things to enjoy inside.
We enjoyed the Windjammer, the food wasn't anything exceptional, but it's a massive buffet and we were able to find plenty we liked and always left with full bellies. And whenever we were a little tired of the Windjammer we would head up to Johnny Rocket's, which is not included, but you can pay a $5 cover charge and enjoy as much food as you'd like! We were very impressed with the dining hall, we did My Time Dining and were seated in the Columbus dining room. The menu changed every night and even my boyfriend, who is a bit of a particular eater, not only always found a starter, entree, and desert that sounded appealing, but he never had a complaint! We were very impressed with the food there and found ourselves looking forward to dinner each night. We saw a lot of the shows and found the ice skating show to be the best! We also really enjoy the adult game show, "The Quest" we were really unsure of what to expect but it was a lot fun really high energy and, Leigh, the cruise director made it a lot of fun.
Port Canaveral; Day 3: Once again, not at all RCCL's fault, but our day in Florida was during an arctic chill and it was 38 degrees and super windy! Because of the weather, we decided not to book an excursion. Instead we took a shuttle to Ron Jon Surf Shop and explored that, had some starbucks, enjoyed the wifi a bit, then took a quick stroll on the beach before we decided we had enough and headed back to the ship.
Nassau; Day 4: Finally a break from the cold! While it was pretty much all overcast, we had 80 degree weather and couldn't find a reason to complain. We think this day was probably the highlight of our trip. I have always wanted to see Atlantis, and we were contemplating booking a tour through the cruise line for $60 a piece. In the end, we decided to listen to some reviews I read on the internet prior to the cruise about not booking an excursion and just taking a cab from the island to the resort and purchasing day passes once you get there. Do this! Seriously the best decision we could have made! We were snatched up by a man almost as soon as we got off the boat, along with probably 6 to 8 other people and he took us to a van that would take us to Atlantis for $4 a person. we got a bit of a tour on the way over, and our cab driver told us where to go when he dropped us off, but said that if nobody stops you, keep walking! We took his advise and walked all through the hotel, the casino, the lobby, and eventually made it outside without ever being stopped. Once outside, we weren't entirely sure if we were breaking any rules or not, but decided to just take our chances and explore the resort. It was incredible and we saw so much! We kept passing "checkpoints" where staff were hanging around and we were certain we would be stopped at any moment for not having any wristbands on like everyone else we saw, but they never did! In the end we saw the all of the resort minus the water park, the aquarium, the beach, and plenty of the interior for free! We felt like we got the deal of the century and only had to pay for our cheap cab fare. We even ran into two other couples that we shared a cab with on the way over and they all got stopped and had to pay at some point. Overall we had an incredible day and I was so happy to finally see Atlantis, and for such a steal! :)
Cococay; Day 5: There was a bit of a delay getting off the boat in Cococay, I guess the waves were intense and the boats that transfer everyone to the island could not do their jobs safely. We didn't mind too much, we took our time getting out of bed and about an hour or so later they started allowing us to the island. It was finally a beautiful sunny day! I was ecstatic to finally see the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas and was in my glory. I remembered a tip I read somewhere prior to the trip, and this I would definitely recommend! Right when you get on the island there are lots of beaches nearby but they get very crowded very quickly! If you just keep walking almost directly across the island, you were reach Barefoot Beach. It is beautiful and way less crowded! We laid out here and enjoyed the water and it was much more private. The only excursion we booked was on this island, we booked the Wave Runner tour. So much fun for thrill seekers, we were airborne most of the time! You definitely get your moneys worth I was surprised at how far away from Cococay you actually get to go and it is just a fun experience with unique views, but be prepared to get soaked!
Overall, this trip was kind of trial and error for us. There are some things we will do differently next time, and others we will not!
-We did "My Time Dining" and paid had our gratuities prepaid. This I would do again, we liked not having that extra money tacked onto our bill at the end, plus it was nice to go to dinner whenever you were hungry!
-Next time we think we will purchase the alcohol package. We are both 21, and while neither of us are big drinkers, but we realized quickly that we were not all not comfortable enjoying a drink here and there because of the steep prices. We would have liked to be able to enjoy a drink here or there more comfortably and for about $40 pp/pp we could have and still got our moneys worth!
-Next time we also might splurge a little more on a balcony, not a necessity but would be nice for sure!
-Also we don't think we will do another winter cruise, at least not when leaving from such a northern port. It really puts a limit on the activities! We would have loved more outdoor time on board.
-We did the "express" option when we disembarked. Meaning we decided to carry our own luggage off the boat and while I certainly worked up a sweat going down 7 floors, it was quick and easy and will do it again!
-Ultimately we did decide we will definitely cruise with RCI again! We truly enjoyed their service and Leigh and Erky, our cruise directors were fabulous!