We sailed on the Explorer out of Bayonne NJ with some friends on a short 5-day cruise to Bermuda in May. The weather and the sea conditions were near-perfect. I guess I should have read some more of the reviews before we "seniors" booked this cruise. The ship was too big, too crowded and too noisy for our taste. We spent many hours waiting for elevators as the proliferation of baby strollers took up so much space. The dining room was so noisy we could barely hear each other talking at the table. I would suggest providing a dedicated dining area for families with young children and especially infants -- even the best-behaved 3 year-old gets noisy and cranky after being forced to sit in one place for over an hour. If I wanted to eat with my grandchildren every night I would have stayed home.
I must be getting pretty old and cranky myself because this cruise seemed to be filled with more overly tattooed, sloppily dressed, foul-mouthed, hard-drinking and foul-mouthed 20's and 30's than I have ever seen in my 25 years of cruising. So many people don't seem to know the difference between their "inside" and "outside" voices...The parents of the family next door was using the cabin as a baby-sitter for their pre-teen children who were left unsupervised several nights. The children were obviously physically playing as they kept bumping into the interior cabin walls and ran the TV at a loud volume.
Be careful of the information published in the daily activities list; there were numerous errors, including some which sent me to the wrong deck or wrong time for different events. In addition, the dinner menus at our table were different, the name of the Dining Room (da GAMMA) was misspelled on our Seapass card (There were 1000's of those printed)...they need a good proofreader before printing the daily information.
The ship is showing its age; paint was flaking off in large pieces on our balcony - on the third day, they put up a "wet paint" sign on our balcony window but never painted anything ! On 2 occassions, brown/yellow/milky water came out of the bathroom tap - I guess that helps to sell the $3 botles of water provided in the cabin. The entire TV service (in-cabin and in the public areas) crashed on the 3rd day and was only partially restored by the time we left the ship.
The Bayonne cruise terminal is a mess; dirty, incredibly crowded with impossible traffic. We parked at a private garage 3 miles away and it took well over an hour for the pickup van to get to us on departure.
Now the good stuff - Our cabin steward and our dinner wait staff (table 490) were wonderful - friendly, responded immediately to our every request - yes, they do still make hanging monkeys out of towels but we missed the pillow chocolates.
I will not sail on this particular ship again, never sail out of Port Liberty, and will probably stick with longer cruises which the younger guests and families with small children may not favor.