Overall, Royal Carribean did a good job. This wasn't the quality level of 10 years ago on RCL but it was still OK. Compared to Carnival, RCL still has it beat. The Explorer of the Sea is getting dated but it is still a capable ship. The stabilization system is getting old and 4 foot seas were challenging it, maybe the stabilization system was inop. The crew was friendly as always and the food was good, not great, but good. The menus didn’t change much at any of the meals. 10 years ago, there used to be outdoor grills going all day around the pool and you could always find something to eat. You could find food from a different country every day of the trip which was always interesting. There was no shortage of good fruit but very limited salad bars. Now, the food is more limited, less available and the menus aren't as diverse. Food used to be available all day but now there are “windows” where each meal is served. Of course you can get a ham/cheese sandwich or cookie anytime at one little shop on mid deck (5).
The cruise ship excursions were over priced as usual and you could almost always do better once you get to Bermuda setting it up yourself. Almost every fun thing is across the street from the ship in port at Bermuda. For example, the ship charges $30 person for a round trip to Horseshoe Bay Beach, you can get a two day bus/ferry pass for $25. Taxi’s aren’t necessary (See TIP below).
Warning, RANT: The objective of the ship is to extract as much $$$ from you as theoretically possible, its just their job. When you arrive at the ship, they charge $95 - $125 for parking. They will hound you relentlessly until they have your credit card on file. They pay their workers slave labor wages and then put a gratuity on your charge card the last day of the trip so that you don’t have time to argue with customer service before the ship arrives back in port. Then they give you envelopes and say please tip our workers. Didn’t you just take gratuity out of my credit card, we hope you didn't see that on your bill yet?? How about paying them a better wage and stop with the shaming the guests into paying the poor underpaid workers. Also there is something new this cruise. on two occasions, the ship director said “Don’t be cheap, go out and eat in Bermuda”. In other words, if you don’t eat on the ship, we make more $$$. He also (Leigh) continued to insinuate in multiple interactions with audiences in the auditorium that you people are too fat and should consider skipping a meal. He actually said "You people have changed in 5 days, mostly because you ate so much, your motto should be, If you can see it, you'll eat it" Wow! I'm not a fat guy but I'm sure he offended a large group of passengers.... There was more but I'll save that for my letter to RCL.
The jet skiis were lame because you couldn’t go out by yourself, you had to go out single file with a guide…because there is so much coral around the island. I watched them “circle the wagons” around the starting point in the port, maybe wasting time with “instruction?” There were 30 jet skis lined up but I only saw a couple ever running…wonder why?? Not to mention ~$145 - 160$/hour.
I never saw the parasail boat go out and the scuba boats came in in the morning and turned around and left empty, I think people aren’t paying the high prices anymore.
TIP: Always, always pay attention to the age of the ship. The newer the ship, the more modern and the more that everything will work. We traveled on the Navigator of the Sea when it was new and it was smooth as glass in 10 – 12 ft seas.…The Explorer of the Sea was challenged with 4 ft seas.
TIP: Another tripadvisor saved me a load of $$$ by telling me about the bus/ferry passes for getting around in Bermuda instead of taxis. You can buy a two day bus/ferry pass for $25 for adults and 12.50 for kids 5 – 15yo. You can buy the passes literally 100 ft from the cruise ship exit. I have to hand it to Bermuda, their public transportation system was excellent!! The buses were air conditioned, lined up waiting, and there were plenty of them…. I thought for sure that with two cruise ships in port and everyone and their dog wanting to go to Horseshoe Bay Beach, that this was going to be a huge goat rope. Bermuda pulled thru in style and had bus after bus lined up and running. BRAVO.
Bermuda also pulled thru on the ferry. The ferry is literally 200 yards from the cruise ships and goes right to Hamilton city. On the second day in port, everybody obviously had the same idea of riding the ferry to Hamilton. There were only two Ferry boats so I thought this would be another huge bottleneck but Bermuda called up two additional Ferry boats and they had everyone moving quickly, BRAVO again. Btw, riding the ferry to Hamilton and back was more fun than walking around in Hamilton in my opinion, there were more and better (overpriced) shops near the ship. Have your camera, lots of good places to take pictures during the ferry ride.
SUPER TIP: :) When you get to Horseshoe Bay beach, there will be a million people and Reggae rap music blaring. Go to the far left limit of the beach and walk back behind what looks like a rock wall up a shallow sandy incline. To the right (toward the beach) there is an alley to an entirely separate beach that 99.9% of the beach goers cant see and dont know about. My kids went looking for it after the bus driver gaves us a tip. They went exploring and found it. Heavenly beach, highlight of the trip.
The only food is where you came into the beach at the bottom of the hill. Basically you can get chopped chicken or hot dogs. The jerk chicken is third world for sure. Basically take a half chicken, cook it with skin and spice, pick up a machete and hack/smash it into little pieces, bone and all. It took more calories to pick the shattered bone out of the meat than we actually got eating it, yuck, what a mess. TIP: Just get the hotdogs.
Technology : The ship WiFi is $30/hour and is awful. I highly recommend T-Mobiles new international plan for when you are in port. T-Mobile worked OK in Bermuda and is free texting and data. Telephone calls were about .20 cents/minute. Be advised that you are roaming on Bermudas antiquated network but it is better than nothing. Also note, not every phone has the ability to roam in Bermuda, the phone has to have coverage for the band that Bermuda operates on. My Samsung Galaxy S4 and Motorola Moto G both worked. When you are off shore, only an Iridium phone will work, like I said the ships wifi sucks, plan accordingly.
Overall, we had a fun trip. As long as you know all of the cruise ship nuances, then your trip will be fine. Know about the nickel and dime stuff and then go out and have fun.