I sailed on the Explorer of the Seas out of NJ on February 23. This was my 4th cruise but my 1st on Royal Caribbean and my 1st out of NJ. (I have sailed on a 7 day Princess Cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale and 2-3 night Carnival’s out of Port Canaveral). I went on this trip with a friend of mine. We are both 30 year old single females. We booked the cruise about 5 weeks before based on the price for length of time.
Embarkation: We were staying on Deck 10 and arrived at Port Liberty around 11am as advised by the guest ticket booklet. Check in went fast but we had to wait until almost 1pm for our bus #23 to be called to get on the ship. Once we got on the ship we had to wait another half hour for our room to be ready which was OK because we just wanted to eat lunch and explore. Once we went to our room I was surprised that we had plenty of room for all of our stuff. It was an interior room with no window.
Entertainment: I feel that Cruise Director Leigh Xuereb and his entire staff were the best part of the entire cruise. The Sail Away Party on night 3 when leaving Port Canaveral was great! A bunch of finger foods everywhere. We danced the entire time. The 70’s party on day 5 was a lot of fun. The cruise staff did a good job of making sure people were dancing and having a good time by starting a conga line and posing for pictures. The Quest Game show was hilarious and so much fun. Next time I will remember to wear pants though because it involves a lot of running and jumping around. Aside from the parties anytime the cruise staff was around they always interacted with the guests. Leigh, Andre (the Activities Director), Helmi (another staff member) and all took the time to talk with us more than once and make sure we were having a good time. The staff was very entertaining and I would choose to go on another cruise if I knew the majority of them would also be on there. The ice skating show was great. We were assigned by muster station and able to sit in the 2nd row. Since they told us the first day which day we were assigned we were able to plan so we didn’t miss it. The Chamber bar could use a revamp but the Silent Party that they had was a lot of fun. Guests were given headphones and could change the station and dance to a different song than their partner. I had never participated in anything like that and thought it was a great idea. I wasn’t a big fan of the Broadway style shows. I felt like it was a lot of singing and focus on the main singers. The first comedian Jeff Nees was funny during the Adult Show but the second one that was brought on later in the week Jimmy Carroll was not entertaining. The Edge Effect was a 6 man vocal band that performed one night. They were great!
Food/Meals: The windjammer was average. There were a variety of options both healthy and not so healthy. The omelet line was always very long. We never ate there for dinner but one night after dinner we walked through and noticed there was a Mongolian station. It would have been nice to know what types of stations would be offered before we decided to stick with the main dining room, but I will keep note for next time. We ate in the dining room one day for lunch and there was a great salad bar station. We chose the My Time Dining for dinner and usually at between 5:30-6:30 every day. We asked to always be sat with a large group but 3 of the nights they sat us at a two person table. During those nights the wait staff was excellent. Remembering what we had ordered the night before and being accommodating if there was an entrée we didn’t like (such as the eggplant parmesan – too watery). The other 4 nights we ate at different tables with other people. The lobster was great. The lamb chops were my favorite dinner of the week. The steak was OK (my friend and I both ordered Medium Well and they came out looking completely different). The appetizers were really good particularly the bay scallops and I was able to eat a Caesar Salad with my meal every night. If we tried to order one appetizer they would always ask what else we wanted to try. I had hoped they would have some out of the ordinary items to try (such as frogs legs like I had on another cruise once) but everything was normal. We dined in Columbus on Deck 5 and the waiters did not participate whenever there was music and the other two levels did. One night the fried seafood platter was very greasy and I asked for a salad instead and the waiter brought me out two salads to make sure I had enough food. There was a mini buffet one day in the promenade that had sausage stuffed with cheese and jalapenos (it was great!) as well as pulled pork, meatballs, snow cones, desserts, etc. We joked that it was the buffet that was supposed to be served at Cocoa Cay. We did not eat at Portofino or Johnny Rockets.
Beverages/Bars: I purchased the Premium Package before I boarded which included all alcohol, beer and wine under $10. A soda cup was delivered to my room to use in the Coke Machines which I never used. This was perfect for me because I definitely had 6-10 drinks depending on the day. It was great that I could order a drink and if I didn’t like it or wanted something different I could just order something else. The bartender at the Aquarium bar was great! He was personable and could make anything. We ordered Chocolate and Coffee Martini’s one night which he made perfect. The rest of the bartenders on the cruise were not very friendly and didn’t seem to want to have a conversation. The same goes for the bar waiters especially on the pool deck. I have been on previous cruises where they were much more friendly. I did like the fact that they were not annoying or trying to hound us down for drinks though. Except for the one female server at the Irish Bar. She was able to get me one of the best Irish Coffee’s I had ever had. But the next day when I went back she was not there and I was told they didn’t have coffee and I had to order the liquor myself and then go get my own coffee. I loved that every bar was able to make Mimosas. I was surprised that the pool bar allowed glass bottles and that they did not offer any beer buckets. I will definitely order another beverage package for any future cruises that I go on.
Deck Activites/Daytime events: There was an adult mini golf competition on day 2 which we participated in that was fun. The rock climbing wall was never busy. There were two ping pong tables which we used once a day. There was a dodgeball competition on day 6 which had a decent turnout of about 45 people. We played BINGO on the 2nd and 7th day. I had never played BINGO before and I felt it was a little pricey ($32 for 4 games, 6 boards each) but I don’t know if that is average or not. Ice skating was available on days they didn’t have the show. The hot tubs were never crowded and there is a separate adults only pool with two hot tubs. You can also use the hot tub in the gym if you wanted. I would have liked for there to have been a covered pool since it was a ship leaving in the winter from NJ. That is something I will keep note of for the future. You can also walk out onto the helicopter pad which was a great experience. You can get there by walking through the Cigar Bar or Maharajas Lounge. There were Singles Events scheduled every day but never really any turnout. I would have liked those to have been promoted more.
Shore Days: I did not participate in any excursions in Port Canaveral as I was meeting friends for lunch. My friend participated in the Surfing excursion. She said it was disorganized and not something she would spend $81 on again. In Nassau we got off the ship fairly quickly and explored downtown but didn’t spend much time there since we had been there many times before. The day we were supposed to go to Coco Cay they said the winds were too high to tender (35-45 mph) and that a few sailings before a boat had flipped therefore it was unsafe to go there. Since everyone was ready to go to a beach that day the pool area was packed and turned out to be one of the best days on the cruise. I was impressed how fast they were able to come up with activities to fill the day. Even though there was a downpour right before the Belly Flop competition there was still a big turnout.
Other: We didn’t have any major issues. I would suggest that they provide liquid hand soap in the staterooms considering they were very aggressive in making sure everyone sanitized their hands. Not once was I worried about getting sick. I also found it to be odd that if I left a half a drink in my stateroom all day/night that they would not clean it up. I had to leave it in the hallway for it to be taken away. I would suggest providing a better selection of sandwich items, maybe to include wraps.
Overall: I felt that the cruise was definitely worth the money (with taxes we spent $575 each before the beverage package) and I would definitely sail again from NJ. I would just wait until it was a little warmer so that there are more days to be outside. I would definitely recommend this ship for people that want to just have a laid back vacation and enjoy some great entertainment.