Summary of 5/25/07 9-day cruise on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. Ports visited: Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Puerto Rico.
My husband and I drove from Rhode Island to Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ via the George Washington Bridge on the Friday before Memorial Day---what a mistake!! We left our house at 9:30 a.m. and didn't arrive at the port until 4:15—about 6 ½ hours with most of it stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic getting onto the Bridge while fearing much of the time that we were going to miss the 5:00 ship sailing. Luckily, we did make it on time without a moment to spare. My husband dropped me and the bags off at the entrance while he parked the car (about ¼ mile away). As I was waiting for his return, I was approached by a Royal Caribbean staff member with a clipboard and an attitude. She proceeded to alert me that I was "late", and she needed to know my cabin number. As I scrambled to sift through my boarding documents, she informed me that she would "have to give away my cabin" and "mark me as a no-show" if I could not produce the cabin number quickly. She even tried to convince me that I needed to board the ship RIGHT NOW, leaving my husband behind. I don't think so!!! There was one other party waiting in the lot like I was, and they were told the same thing. I ended up finding my cabin information about the same time that my husband came running (and panting) to the gate. One good thing: there wasn't any line!!!
Once on the ship, and in our cabin, the announcement was made to attend the mandatory fire drill. Because we were so late in arriving, we missed out on the afternoon buffet. Suggestion: if you are driving to Cape Liberty and need to cross the GW Bridge....LEAVE EARLY just in case! Otherwise, you may need a divorce lawyer if you miss the ship!
Our cabin was a "Grand Suite" equipped with a huge bathroom complete with a tub and shower combination. We had a balcony that was double the size of the junior suite balcony and sported a lounge chair, end table, two deck chairs and a large dining table. Our queen-sized bed was very comfortable. There was a CD/DVD player with two mounted speakers on the wall (only one of which worked). Spacious closets, drawers, a mini bar and a center island that separated the mini-bar and closets from the sitting area. There was a pull-out couch, two chairs and a coffee table. Next to the bed was a vanity with make up mirrors, a hairdryer, and sufficient outlets for a curling iron, etc. Because we are Platinum members (having sailed RC 8 times), and because we were in a suite, we were given an option of four different pillows to choose from: Isotonic and body-length pillows plus two other choices of which I cannot remember. We did not take advantage of these premium pillow choices as we were happy with the standard pillows. We were also given a key to the concierge lounge and a fruit basket.
Our luggage arrived shortly after the mandatory fire drill, and was brought into our cabin by our cabin steward. Our steward was very nice but very stiff. Overall, he did a fine job of cleaning the room, but neglected to keep our mini-bar supplied with diet soda, even though that is all we were drinking. We had to ask him for soda more than once.
Before dinner on the first evening, we checked out the concierge lounge that was for Platinum, Diamond, Diamond-Plus, and suite owners. The lounge was very small, and there was no place to sit. They had an open bar and cheese and crackers, so after grabbing a free drink and requesting and receiving ice show tickets, we left the lounge. On the 3rd night of the cruise the concierge opened a second lounge since it was obvious they had a demand for seats. We found that the people in the "open" lounges were much friendlier so we ended up opting out of this special "perk".
We sat at a table of 8 in the 3rd floor dining room. Our waiter was good, but didn't have much of personality. Our assistant waiter, on the other hand, memorized all of our names and used our names each time he served us water or bread, etc. He was extremely efficient and friendly. The food was nothing great: the presentation of the food was much better than the taste I'm afraid. Nothing was "awful", just very bland tasting. Some of our dinner companions had tough steaks and a few of them were very unhappy with the selections. We ate a few dinners at the Windjammer buffet and were very pleased with the selections. You could get anything from pizza to pasta to Asian food, and it was a very good experience. We also tried room service for dinner, ate it on our balcony, and found that to be very enjoyable as well. We had breakfast and lunch in the dining room and at the Windjammer, and enjoyed lunch at Johnny Rockets. The selections and service were excellent, but the Windjammer seemed to always serve the same foods. It was much better in the evening.
Early in the cruise, we received phone calls and were visited by various members of the ship's staff asking if everything was okay with our cabin, etc. It was beginning to be annoying, and I am glad that these courtesy calls didn't continue—one call would have been plenty and appreciated.
The pools and hot tubs were great. The hot tubs were MUCH hotter than I've ever experienced, and 3 hot tubs were reserved only for adults (yeah!). I did witness 2 babies who were not yet toilet trained being held in the water by their doting parents in the main pool. Goodness knows what was seeping out of their diapers! There are signs by the pool, but who really reads anymore?
We didn't attend any of the shows, but in talking to others that did the response was that a few of the shows were "okay", but the comedian just wasn't funny. Many people we spoke to said that they left before half the shows were over. I have found this to be common on most RC sailings, which is why I didn't attend any shows.
My husband and I were invited, and we attended, a bridge tour, a galley tour, a backstage tour, and a special brunch. This "perk" was, again, for those in suites and members of the Crown & Anchor Club. These jaunts were very informative and a real treat!
The ports visited (see above) were very nice except for Puerto Rico. We arrived at 8:00 a.m. and left at 2:00 p.m.--not enough time to do much on the island. We ended up spending the days shopping and going to the beach on the other islands, opting not to sign up for escorted tours since we have done these many times before.
My last comment has to do with the debarkation, and in particular, with the "special" room set aside for Crown & Anchor Platinum, Diamond, and Diamond Plus guests. One of the perks of being a member is that we were to have our own lounge where we could wait until our color tags were called for us to leave the ship. All guests were to vacate their cabins no later than 8:00. My husband and I left our room at 7:45 and when we got to the "special" lounge, we found that it was jammed with people and there were no seats. This was due to poor preparation by RC—they knew how many guests were eligible to take advantage of this, but did not prepare enough seating for everyone. We ended up standing in the hallway for an hour until a seat became available in another lounge. I have written RC to complain about these accommodations.
Nothing was spectacular about this trip, but nothing so devastating that we would not sail with RC again. I do think, however, that we will try out Celebrity for a change.