This was our 6th trip to Bermuda and second cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We had previously cruised to Bermuda once on the Voyager of the Seas and twice on the Norwegian Dawn. We also stopped at Bermuda on other extended itineraries on the Voyager of the Seas and the Crown Princes. My wife and I have been on 20 cruises since we started cruising in 2013. Five of us traveled on this cruise: My wife, college aged son and I were in one cabin and my 2 sisters in the adjoining balcony.
Since this was a 5 day cruise we packed light. Each of us had a standard carry on and a backpack and still felt over packed. Without luggage to drop off, we arrived at the port at 10 A.M., parked and checked in very quickly. Since we had a friend who worked at the port we were able to go to the VIP lounge and get priority boarding. The VIP lounge at Cape Liberty (Bayonne) has nice chairs, but other than that, there is nothing VIP about it. Maybe it will be better when the new terminal is completed for the Quantum of the Seas. Once it was time to board we took the shuttle bus to the ship. Immediately upon boarding a crewmember recommended we go to the dining hall and make reservations since we had my time dining. We did so and selected a 5:45 dining time at the same table each night, thus making it more like early dining instead of my time dining. This worked out well since we wanted early dining, but it was already filled when we booked our cruise. We ended up getting a round table for the 5 of us with a great location right by a window on the port side of the ship.
Next we went to the Windjammer for lunch. Having early boarding meant there were no lines and plenty of tables. The Windjammer offers a great variety food, some good, some just ok. The best item that day was the carved, melt in your mouth pot roast. This would be our only time using the Windjammer. We preferred long, leisurely dinners together in the dining room as well as lunches there. As we anticipated our cruise, our son was looking forward to dinners together more than anything else. We were looking forward to leisurely dinners with great conversations as well, so all our dinners would be in the main dining room.
Following lunch we enjoyed some frozen yogurt out on the pool deck while waiting for our cabin to become available. Once the announcement was made we went to our cabins on deck 7 mid ship starboard, a few doors down from the library. Great location. First thing we noticed is that when you have adjoining cabins, you have a chair instead of the normal couch because a couch would block the door connecting the cabins. Also noted that we had nice Samsung flat screens. Not all cabins on the Explorer have flat screens. Old technology is being replaced when needed.
The next thing we noticed was a checklist on the bed. This is the first ime we have seen this and it makes so much sense. Using the checklist, we noted that the pull down bed should be opened, that we needed ice each day, and requested robes. This list is also used for your bed configuration, together or apart. You fill out the checklist and leave it on the bed for the steward. This is a great idea because you often don’t get to meet your steward on the first day. Our cabin was kept immaculate by our steward. One day he asked us, after cleaning, if we would mind not leaving anything around after cleaning as senior staff was inspecting his work that day. We gladly complied.
Muster drill on the Explorer is done under the lifeboats, which I think is better than going to a lounge like some ships do. This way you really know where to go in an emergency. At the end of muster, our American/Canadian Captain welcomed us aboard for our cruise to beautiful Hawaii!! This captain had an incredible sense of humor and, unlike other captains we’ve had, enjoyed the microphone. His day two report involved more comedy including letting us know that our current position was “on the ocean”. Once muster ended it was off to the bow heliport for sail away. What great views you get from this spot.
First night dinner’s best choice was the prime rib. It was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth. Our server Nepthale, and his assistant Mario were absolutely incredible. We were never without rolls or water. In fact, our water glasses were never less than half full. Nepthale was also great with our 21 year old son who wanted and did try everything, each night ordering 3 appetizers, 2 or 3 main courses and 2 desserts. And sometimes Nepthale would bring him a 4th entrée so he could try something else! And my son finished everything he ordered!! Royal’s food is top notch and better than some other mass cruise line fare. The menu offers great options making it sometimes difficult to choose. Of course you can order what you want, so if you think two (or more) items look good, go ahead and order them. You are on vacation. Several times my wife and I would order different items to share and a third item between us.
The welcome aboard show included one dance number and a comedian named Don Gavin who was somewhat funny, but not memorable. As a matter of fact, the overall entertainment on this cruise was extremely week with only one production show and 4 nights of so-so comedians. No magicians, no hypnotists, just comedians. The best show on this ship is still the ice show, which had the same theme as 3 years ago when we were on this ship. One nice thing is that you no longer wait in line to grab tickets to the ice show. You are assigned to a show based on your muster station. So much simpler.
Day two was a sea day. I love these and spend much of the day reading on promenade deck 4. I dislike the fact that many of the newer ships have done away with this deck in order to maximize revenue producing venues. This wrap around promenade with shuffle board courts is perfect for a leisurely stroll, reading, or just sitting and watching the ocean go by in a quiet place without all the noise of the pool deck. We also took advantage of the great weather and very smooth seas to play some mini golf on the sports deck.
Breakfast was in the dining room. The menu consists of typical breakfast foods that are available each day along with two daily specials. The French toast is excellent! There is also a fruit, cereal and yogurt bar where you can select additional items. For lunch, this becomes a salad bar where you pick out the items you want in your salad and it is prepared for you assembly line style. The lunch menu is similar to the breakfast menu in that it has every day items and a couple of specials each day. I would suggest you avoid the pasta of the day at all costs because it is overcooked and chewy. If you order it anyway, get the red sauce, which is excellent and avoid the white, very bland, cream sauce.
On the morning of day 3 we arrived at King’s Warf in Bermuda. The Norwegian Dawn was already in port when we got in. Our plan was to take a ferry to St Georges for the day and then a bus to St. David’s. Unfortunately, the ship was not cleared quickly enough by immigration for us to catch the ferry and we would have a 2 hour wait for the next one, so we took the ferry to Hamilton instead, walked around Front street and a couple of parks before boarding a bus to St. Georges. The ferry and bus system in Bermuda is economical and easy to use. I just wish their schedules were more frequent. You really don’t need an excursion on this island. Weather was humid, but not too hot. Once at St. Georges we headed down to the waterfront for the historical reenactment of the dunking chair punishment. This is held at noon each day during the summer months and the cast does a great job. I had seen it before and expected it to be fun. What I didn’t expect is that they now use a “volunteer” to play the town drunk and I was drafted for the part (fortunately the town drunk does not get dunked). I was coached on my lines and enjoyed being part of it, although I think my wife and son enjoyed it more as I was arrested and tied to a post. In the end we got some nice photos and a big wet hug from the woman who was dunked, so I did end up getting wet. Afterwards we had local fish sandwiches at a place called GoJos before hopping on the ferry back to the ship. It rained on the trip back, but we did not get wet.
On day 4 we decided to stay around the dockyard. It was very humid out, but we wanted to try Fun Golf, a new miniature golf course right next to Snorkel Park, a lovely beach. The golf was somewhat expensive at $15 per person but well worth it. It truly is one of the best mini golf courses I have ever played: 18 holes modeled after some of the most famous golf courses around the world, including sand traps and water traps, all with a great view of the Atlantic! The owner of the course told me that a good score would be anything around 65 so I was pleased to get a 60 while my competitor family members all got on the 70s and 80s.
After golf we went to the nearby Clock Tower Mall and did a little shopping before heading back to the ship. As we got back to the ship it started raining. Upon entering the ship you must remove sunglasses and hat for security. While waiting to board the elevator, my wife noticed that somewhere, in the course of the day, she had lost a favorite earing. Another passenger heard her disappointment and directed us back to security where the earing had come off when she removed her hat. They had placed it in an envelope for lost and found. Crisis averted.
Once on the ship we decided to get lunch at Johnny Rockets. There is a $5.95 service charge and a fee for drinks or milkshakes, but everything else is included. They serve you onion rings and fries as soon as you sit down. Food and service are excellent here.
After lunch it was back to promenade deck 4 to read and watch people run back to the ship in heavy downpours and gale force winds that reminded us of late afternoon Florida rains. With departure set for 5 P.M. and all back on board by 4:30, under sunny skies, we watched the ship pull her lines in and begin sail away at 4:35. Shortly afterwards, the Norwegian Dawn began to follow on its trip back to Boston.
Looking back we could see the sun disappear behind clouds and more heavy rain that we had avoided by leaving early. Later that night, after a wonderful dinner of lobster and prime rib, and not so funny comedy show, we saw the Norwegian Breakaway in the distance, lit brightly and headed to Bermuda from New York.
Day 5, our last day, would be a sea day. Seas were slight and you could barely feel any motion. This was a disappointment because I like the rocking motion at sea and this cruise was just too smooth. Again, much of the day was spent reading and enjoying the treats of the Royal Promenade Café where fruit, pizza, small sandwiches, fresh baked cookies and coffee are available 24 hours per day. We would laugh at the people spending $4 and up for Starbucks in this area when Seattle’s Best (a Starbucks brand) was equally good and free.
After our last dinner on board we went to the Bon Voyage show. We had missed the farewell parade in the Royal Promenade because it was scheduled at our dinner time. The last show always has the crew represented, which is great, because the crew on this ship always offers incredible service. After 20 cruises on all the major lines I can say the Explorer of the Seas offers, without a doubt, the best service of any ship. The show itself was once again a lackluster comedian. Once the show was over, I stopped yawning, woke up and played some shuffleboard on deck with my family before heading to the cabin to begin packing. Packing would actually be quite simple with just carry on luggage.
We do not gamble, so I cannot review the casino. And none of us drink, so I cannot review the bars. For us cruising is about relaxing, unplugging, and enjoying family. We did have $50 onboard credit which we actually had trouble spending but managed to use it for our Johnny Rockets fee and several souvenirs. We couldn’t help but smile the last morning as people were going through pages and pages of on board expenses and we had none.
Arriving home in New York Harbor is always fun. We woke up early and watched from our balcony as we got closer and closer to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, while looking at Brooklyn and Queens in the distance and watching planes fly into Kennedy Airport as the sun came up. Took our cell phones out of the room safe and began to reconnect. There would be close to a thousand emails to deal with later in the day. Posted on Facebook that we would soon be home. Facebook gave my location as the nude beach at Sandy Hook!
We got dressed and went to our last breakfast in the dining room, which was good as usual. Once finished we went to our cabin, watched the ship dock, finished getting ready and headed to the lounge to wait for the announcement that those doing self assist could leave. This became the only real frustrating part of the cruise. Though well organized, this process was extremely slow due to the logistics of the shuttle buses taking you from the ship to the terminal. The last time we cruised on the Explorer, you got off and waited in a holding area for the shuttles. This time, because of the new terminal construction, there was no holding area. The shuttles came one at a time right to the ship. This made the process extra slow as the line backed up the stairs and elevator areas in the ship itself. It took us about an hour and a half standing in line waiting to get off. I felt bad for families with young children who were antsy with so much waiting in crowds. And this was the easy self assist! This will not be a problem once the new terminal is completed and the shuttles are no longer needed.
Once off the ship, we got into our car in the parking lot and were home within 30 minutes, wishing that we were embarking. Now we are dreaming about our next cruise in October on the Coral Princes to the Panama Canal.
The Explorer of the Seas is an older ship, but still a wonderful, clean and well maintained ship with a great crew. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the newer stock, but it does provide a wonderful cruise experience with plenty to do, or not do, depending on your interests.