This was our third cruise on RCCL all have been Voyageur class ships. Mariner of the Seas was our first in 2004, and the Navigator was in 2005. My husband and I are in our early 50's, and mid 40's respectively.
We booked this cruise exactly 1 month prior to sailing, it was planned as a birthday get away for the hubby. We sailed 04/22/07 - 04/29/07. We were more concerned with the cost, and not the cabin location. Cabin 9201 is directly under the bridge and beside some sort of utility room, it made afternoon naps noisy, but still possible.
We left Toronto at 7am, and flew to FLL. We were then bussed to Miami. Our tour company was Air Transat, and I have to say they have this process down to a fine art. Our previous cruise & transfers were through Air Canada and the cruise line , they could take a lesson from the folks at Air Transat. We arrived at the pier at 11:30ish, and were in the Windjammer by noon.
The Explorer is in great shape what a beautiful ship. There are very few signs of aging, we really had to look for them. The new beds are wonderful. Our room steward Gerald from Costa Rica was great, our room was clean, and tidy all the time..He was a pleasant and always smiling gentleman.
We made our reservations for Portofino immediately upon boarding. We were slightly disappointed when the Cruise Compass listed the Murder Mystery Dinner would be held on the Sunday evening. When we tried to book it we were advised it was cancelled, due to a staff turn around. Wouldn't they have known that prior to printing the Compass?
We had late seating for dinner, we were assigned to table 574, in the Columbus Dining Room. That's the top or third floor of the grand dining room. We were very pleased to find our table was nestled into a corner and against a lovely window. It was perfect. This was our first meeting of 7 of our 9 dinner companions. We shared this lovely table with another couple in their early 50's Eddie & Joyce from Florida, very very nice people. There was also a "family of 5". Mom- Cathy, and Dad- Bob from Missouri. They were given the cruise as an anniversary and Christmas gift by their daughter Tammy. Tammy hooked up with two of her childhood friends Karyn & Amy, and surprised her parents by coming along. They were like one big extended family. More on that later.
Boon was our waiter and Prada was our assistant waiter. They took great care of us all week. The food was actually very good all week.
We attended the CC Meet and Mingle on Monday our Sea day. And although we weren't on the Roll Call all that long before the cruise I still chatted with a few, and threw a couple of questions out there. It was so nice to be able to put faces to the screen names. Hubby ( John ) and I were still there enjoying the chit chat when who should come in, but our dinner companion Tammy. We'd chatted online before, and had dinner together the night before and CC never came up.. We were both pretty surprised.
This was our formal night, dinner was great and the company was better. We caught the Karaoke show and late Night Comedy show with Michael Dean Ester, he was very funny.
It was this night we first encountered Justin , the tall and handsome member of the cruise director's staff.. He's a Canadian from Newfoundland, we instantly felt a tug at on our heart for this fine young man.
Later that evening as we strolled through the Promenade, the Cruise Director Allan Brooks made contact with us ( we wear our Seas passes on lanyards from ROOTS CANADA) they kind of mark us as Canadians. Allan is Canadian too from Vancouver via Montreal, infact this ship has more than 50 canucks on staff. Maybe they should rename her the Maple Leaf of the Seas !!! LOL.
TUESDAY / BELIZE Belizians first language is English. The lining up for tenders is not as organized as other cruises we've been on. They issue tickets, and of course ship excursions get first priority, but we did make it to our meeting place on time. They use many different private contract tender boats here in Belize,some are bigger and more comfortable than others. We'd booked Beach/ and Manatee Watch online with Coral Breeze Tours. Coral Breeze has contracted out to Hammerhead Sports to run this tour, we met them at the Wet Lizard as we'd been instructed too. Mr. Big, Justin and Capt. Mark took John & I and three ladies from the Carnival Glory for the day. That's all there were 5 guests and 3 guides. We took the boat ride out to Bannister Island, it was about 15-20 minutes by boat. My first impression of Bannister Island was WOW!! When we got there, no other tours had come in yet, it was like our own private piece of heaven. They have changing rooms that were pretty funny- they're thatched huts. They have very very clean bathrooms, and a very nice bar, restaurant. The masseuse "Mary" set up at the far end of the beach, and charged $1.00 per minute, she was good but you can get better prices in Costa Maya- SO WAIT! The beach on Bannister Island was lovely the chairs were in great shape, and we were never asked any extra $$ for the use of them. The bar staff come down to the beach for drink orders should you need a beverage or two. At the height of the day I think there were 60 guests on the Island, it was a quiet beach day. We loved it. The guys from Hammerhead came and got us from the beach about 12:15- 12:30 and we then spent some time slowly cruising through the mangroves in search of manatee. We actually saw two, and a resting stingray also. The whole day was great. They had us back to the pier about 2:00 - 3:00, lots of time to tender back to the ship for some quiet time.
Dinner was casual attire, and I think we made an early night after dinner.
COSTA MAYA / WEDNESDAY We were pleasantly surprised by Costa Maya. After a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer we strolled into the pier area. After looking around at the shops, bar and pool we decided to take the bus to Majahual, as I'd read good things about The Cat's Meow and wanted to check it out. They charge $3.00 to go there by bus and $2.00 to return by cab, not bad . At the bus we again met up with our dining companions Bob, Cathy, Tammy, Amy and Karyn they too were headed to Majahual for the day. Once we got there we all wandered past the vendors looking for a piece of beach that we like the look of. Note: All of the beach front here is occupied bars, vendors, restaurants.
We found Cat's Meow but their beach front is pretty small, we spoke briefly to the waiter and decided we'd come back after more exploring. A few minutes up the road we met Adolfo, he's from Belize and speaks perfect English. He's a fabulous host/ waiter.He works at Oxtankah Bar Restaurant, you can't miss it. It's a new-ish two story thatched roof structure, they have swings instead of bar stools. I think we bargained and got beach chairs there for $5.00 each for the day. Upstairs is open to the air and they have massage beds, 6 I think. We negotiated $20 for an hour and although I personally didn't have a massage I was told they were great. Adolfo & Oxtankah made our day there AMAZING, ONE OF OUR BEST CRUISE EXPERIENCES. We did stop back at Cat's Meow and had a quick bite to eat, the food was great but the attitude of George left a bad taste in our mouths. We won't be back. We took a cab back to the pier bought some silver jewelry and walked back to the ship for a nap (mucho cervesa).
We had dinner in Portofino this night, what a fabulous meal we had. Hubby had veal, and I had the seafood skewer.. it was great. We each had the dessert sampler and it topped of the meal nicely. This was a busy evening we went to the Love & Marriage Show, Dancing under the Stars, both very very good. But boy were we tired !
COZUMEL/ THURSDAY I can't say we were too impressed by Cozumel.I know it's rebuilding after Wilma's 2005 visit, but the vendors literally drove us away. I couldn't believe how aggressive they were. It's not for us. We visited Chankanab (sp ) walked around and took pictures. We then went back to the pier and shopped a bit before going back on board.This was the only day we saw any showers, it rained for about 20 minutes total, in two downpours.
This evening was a blast the Pre-dinner show was a Beatles tribute band THE RAIN. We thoroughly enjoyed them. After dinner we took part in the Quest with our new friends,and my husband actually dropped his drawers !!!! I was so proud of him.
GRAND CAYMAN/ FRIDAY
Another lining up for tenders nightmare. We got through it quick enough I suppose. However, this time our excursion was booked through the ship. We hit the pier running- I had a shopping list to work on before the tour started since we hadn't shopped in Cozumel as much as I'd have like. They have the Tortuga store right at the pier and they'll package your cakes and rum and transport them back to the ship for you. Much easier than carrying it all day. We also stopped in Jimmy's Buffett's Margaritaville to shop & take some pictures. We were booked on the Racing Catamaran Cockatoo, they take you out to StingRay City, and you're in chest deep water...It was a perfect day. Back to port and shopped a bit more.
Formal night,more pictures, Lobster and Prime Rib !
Day 7 Saturday/ At Sea We pre-ordered room service breakfast and it was exactly what we ordered. The Explorer of the Seas is the only ship with a fully functional OCEAN LAB on board. We booked a tour earlier in the week ( at the Library). We found the tour very interesting. We spent the day reading and relaxing as our trip home was going to be an early start the next morning. We had our last dinner with our wonderful new friends, and they really truly are wonderful. John and I were truly blessed this cruise, we've never clicked with tablemates so strongly. We all exchanged addresses and email addresses and promised to keep in touch.
Although we have cruised newer ships, the people we met on this cruise made it our favorite cruise..