My family traveled on the 5-Day Bermuda cruise out of Cape Liberty on August 2014. We have sailed on many river and ocean cruises before and have been on 7 previous Royal Caribbean cruises prior to this voyage. Our family comes together only once a year and coordinating so many people's schedules (14 in total) made this vacation truly important. Needless to say, we were massively disappointed in the travel vacation and felt that our vacation was not worth it (spent $7000 for 6 of our party, not including on-board spending and tips).
First, the good. The service level was acceptable. Despite our cabins' worn look, our cabin attendant was very friendly and service levels for evening dining was very good. In essence, the crew members that we had the most contact with (housekeeping & dining) did a great job in cleaning and delivering their service. Their professionalism and smiles were on par with our expectations. In addition, we have to say the fitness center and sport facilities were on-par and adequate for active travelers. We liked the quality of the commercial treadmills (LifeFitness 95T) and felt the spin and bootcamp classes were good with a large studio located on the 11th Floor for classes. Did not have much interaction with the Cruise Director so have no comments there.
Now for the negatives. Embarkation was a nightmare. We arrived at Cape Liberty around 12:10pm and essentially hit rush hour for embarkation. It literally took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get onto the ship. We spent about an hour and a half in our car because the passenger dropoff area is the main bottle neck because it is one single lane for cars to get through the passenger area. Subsequently, priority check-in, security, and check-in was another 45 minutes. Afterwards, you had to take a shuttle bus to the one single vessel entrance and then onto the vessel. Once onboard, the chaos that is Windjammer took place. Fellow travelers fighting for tables, trays, forks and elbow room. We were in in Windjammer at 3pm with food service shutting down at 3:15pm in order to get people to their muster stations for the 3:30pm drills. The bedlam and chaos in Windjammer was absolutely unnecessary had the embarkation process not been so bottlenecked.
Another problem was the itinerary. Captain on Day 2 informs us that the ship has some engine problems, thus we are going to be 2-3 hours late into port for Day 3. We end up able to disembark around 12:30pm in Hamilton but are informed that the ship has to leave in 18 hours due to Hurricane Cristobol. Here was our biggest peeve: we were essentially cut short one day in Bermuda. First, we arrived 3 hours late to port and then we essentially have less than 12 hours in port. Captain says ship will depart at 7am but this is essentially telling everyone to be onboard that night. Kings Wharf was a washout due to the rain. Couldn't see much in Hamilton because it just rained and rained. Staff in King's Wharf didn't provide much guidance as the info centers were packed from people trying to stay out of the torrential rain.
The ship's public areas itself seemed small and worn. Our cabin was fine and housekeeping did as good a job keeping the cabins clean and maintained. But the swimming pool is too small for 3000+ passengers. Only one swimming area and it was just CROWDED all the time. In addition, the swimming pool is next to the smoking area and the non-smoking area did not have enough seats as people were taking several beach chairs at one time. There were no water slides for our kids and with the pool at 1.7m (5'6" feet), our kids couldn't even go swimming on our last sea day.
The biggest problem we had, however, was the food. The food lacked variety and we just got sick of the dishes. This 5-day vacation in essence turned to 4 Days-At-Sea. Windjammer's cleanliness bordered on inhumane as there was the constant "vomit" smell in the buffet area. The plates or dishes smelled like vomit. The whole appearance of the buffet just didn't appear sanitary or appetizing as we had kids/people grabbing at the food with their barehands and service staff not keeping the buffet tables clean enough during meal times. Main dining room service was slow in the morning to take orders, serve coffee, and simply pour water. Lunchtime, the Main Dining Room menu was uninspired and what annoyed me was how petty the Make-it-yourself Salad bar chefs were. On two separate occasions, I asked the Chef Salad crew member for more mozzarella balls and Prosciutoo and on both occassions he grunted and gave me two small two mozzarella balls and a SINGLE EXTRA SLICE of Prosciutto... A SINGLE SLICE.
Given that the Explorer of the Seas did not have many extracurricular activities, we were bored and just turned off from the cruise vacation. What makes us very upset is we spent $7000 for this vacation. This cruise vacation was NOT worth $7000- not for 4 Days at Sea, not for dirty food and crowded swimming pools. RCCL gave a $200 voucher for the inconvenience for the shortened stay in Bermuda but considering that tipping/gratuities was $500 alone, it hardly made our trip worthwhile.
We just felt ripped off on this trip. From the nickle-and-diming at the salad bar, to the $67 Bingo Machines and paying for everything on the ship ON TOP of our $7000 vacation, this was just about as bad as it got.
We had three future RCCL trips scheduled and will be cancelling at least one of them at this point. Hopefully after some time has passed, our view may change. But at this point, we are leaning towards our vacations on Disney Cruises and NCL.
King's Wharf is a decent port. Only issues are that the info center is way too small, especially when weather is an issue. Also- not nearly as enough vessels to St. George, needs more departures to this port.