This was my first cruise with RCI; my last two were on Carnival Triumph and Valor. I went on this cruise with my husband, parents, sister, and her boyfriend. We ranged in age from 27 to 59. Everyone had a wonderful time. Here's my review:
Embarkation: We drove straight to the port and arrived at 12:05pm and were onboard at 12:35pm. We basically walked on the ship, and would've been onboard faster, but our check-in person was in training and was pretty slow.
The Ship: Explorer of the Seas (EOS) is absolutely beautiful. It was very easy to navigate our way around. I climbed the rock wall (most of the way on my own, then the guy hoisted me the rest of the way so I could ring the bell). I also played mini golf several times and ping pong. I learned that we could go to the bow of the ship, so I showed my family and they were all impressed. We got some great sunset pictures from the bow. I did the Ocean Lab tour, which was pretty interesting, but I'm into that type of stuff. According to the tour, EOS is the only cruise ship in the world with extensive scientific equipment onboard.
Food: We ate in the dining room three times. Our wait staff was nice enough. Our waiter was Eray from Turkey and I can't remember the assistant's name. What we did eat in the dining room was very good. My mom liked the food on EOS better than Carnival. Three nights, we ate dinner in the Windjammer, which was very good also. I loved the French fries!! On our last night, my husband and I ordered room service. They delivered two entrees that were on the dining room menu, and it only took about ten minutes. Just a note, we could order several types of fruit juice and milk through room service any time of day with no charge, in case lemonade and iced tea isn't your thing. I did not like the hot cocoa on EOS at all. They have Nestle dark chocolate cocoa. I can't stand Nestle cocoa, so I wasn't too happy about that. Carnival had great cocoa dispensers, which I definitely missed. My mom and I didn't like the Seattle's Best coffee either. Every restaurant had hand sanitizers at the door with employees directing guests to sanitize their hands.
Entertainment: What can I say. We went to Vibeology and the Ice Show. That was it. I'm not into shows, so Vibeology was just okay. I got ice show tickets for everyone. It was a good show, but now that I've seen it once, I don't need to see it again...unless I have nothing better to do at the time.
Ports of Call: San Juan - we walked to the Old Fort on our own. It was pretty interesting and the walk wasn't that bad. The streets and sidewalks were very narrow and very crowded. Shops were okay.
St. Maarten - we did the Loterie Farm Tree Tops adventure. I mistakenly thought this would be like the Canopy tour in Belize that was all zip lines. The tree tops adventure was a very physical ropes course. I did not enjoy it at all, but most of the kids that were on this tour had fun. After that, we did some shopping. I liked the atmosphere in St. Maarten.
St. Thomas - we did a catamaran sail and snorkel booked through the ship. This was probably one of the best excursions I've ever done. The catamaran sail was gorgeous. Our guide said she had never seen the water as calm as it was that day. We snorkeled at a location that had a ship wreck about 25 feet deep. I thought it was awesome. After that, we went shopping - again.
Nassau - I didn't do an excursion, but my dad snorkeled and said the water was freezing. He thought it was about 75 degrees. I'm so glad I didn't go with him. Instead, I went shopping! I didn't buy anything, though. Just a note, I compared some prices on items I spotted in other ports, and on those few items, Nassau was more expensive.
Debarkation: we did self-debarkation that was supposed to begin at 6:15am. We were in line at 6:15, but they didn't open the doors until 6:30. After that, we basically walked right off. It was super easy. We were home by 7:30 and back in bed for a nap!
Final thoughts: my family had so much fun. I think the consensus is that we like RCI better than Carnival. The ship was classier, the staff seemed friendlier, there were more activities on board, I liked the pizza better, and the passengers seemed calmer (if that makes sense). The weather was perfect (except the last sea day) and the seas were very calm. Now a couple bad things. My husband's nice dark blue shirt was ruined by bleach in a public bathroom on deck 4. We brought the ruined shirt to guest relations and they credited our seapass account $20, which I thought was fair. They also lost our first formal night pictures. After several days, speaking with several different employees, they concluded that the pictures were gone forever. I was really looking forward to those because I know we looked good that night, so we settled for our second formal night pics. We didn't let those minor incidents bother us and had a wonderful time. I'd recommend this ship to anyone.