My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the Explorer of the Seas. We chose this cruise because my husband does not fly. (This is the first time we sailed with Royal Caribbean. Once with Princess and twice with Carnival.) We left the Pittsburgh, PA area Sunday around 6 a.m. Stopped for breakfast and arrived at Cape Liberty around noon. We got lost one time. The New Jersey turnpike is not labeled "New Jersey turnpike". It is in a logo NJTurnpike and if you do not know that you can miss it. When we arrived at the terminal everything was clearly marked and luggage drop off was quick. You give your luggage to a porter and don't see it again until it is delivered to your room. Parking is pre-pay. We paid $80 for the 5 nights. After you park your car you walk to the check-in area, check-in, get your picture taken then wait for a bus to drive you to the ship. There is a lot of help so it all moves very quickly.
The ship is as large as I had read. Our room, 7332, deluxe balcony, was centrally located. The room was not incredibly large but very adequate. I loved the balcony and will probably get one on my future cruises. From reading reviews from previous travelers I was leery about the shape of the bed and bedding but I can assure you that my husband and I were very pleased with the bed. In fact we slept sooo good. The bedding was new and the mattress great. The bathroom was good so I was pleased with our room. If I had any complaints it would have been the couch. A bit worn but nothing to complain about. Our stewart was nice. On other cruise lines you really don't see the room stewart. They sort of blend into the surroundings. On Royal they greet you, dress professionally and are available usually throughout the day. In fact my husband added an additional tip for his services. Ernie is from Costa Rico. I had visited Costa Rico so we talked about his country. Very nice stewart. Forgot to mention - my husband is a diabetic. If anyone is a diabetic who uses insulin needles you need to let Royal know about 2 weeks inadvance. They will provide you with a hazardous needle container for your disposable needles. We had to get that taken care of while on board.
FOOD - on our past cruises we ate all of our breakfasts and dinners in the main dining room. I don't know if the late sitting that was not good for us this time or if the service was slow but we only ate 3 meals in the main dining room. The first night it took us from 8:30 to almost 10 p.m. to complete our meal, not including dessert. (We were sitted with another couple but only ate one meal with them.) So after that we ate most of our meals at the Windjammer. The Windjammer is great. They have a ton of selections. Almost too much. It was crowded at times but that was not usually the issue. The help was great. They got us drinks and cleaned up quickly. It was nice to see sugar-free desserts on the menu everynight. I suggest looking around before getting in line. There are many lines to get your food and every area has different food so check out the choices first.
We had room service twice for breakfast. You should tip the person who brings your food. It was prompt and good. We did not go to either of the two restaurants that were an additional cost. We did not feel the need for this.
DRINKS - Drinks were alittle more than I remembered on my cruises. Everyday they have a "drink of the day" but when you get the drink you keep the glass. I didn't want the glass so I ended up paying for something I did not want. Drinks ran about $7 to $8. The drinks were delicious and service was everywhere.
POOLS - The one thing I love about cruising is lying on deck, reading a good book, enjoying a drink and looking out to sea. Well when we were "at sea" it was nearly impossible to find a deck chair. Royal has a "no saving" deck chair policy but it was not unusual to see towels on about 70% of the deck chairs with no one on them. I did see a deck patrol person, there is such a person, once, asking if chairs were being used. I wish they would enforce this policy. I almost got into a fight with a girl who insisted the seat was saved for her friends who might come back. I told her I would get up when they came. She told me I would "for sure".
SHIP AREAS - I do not exercise so I did not use any of the ship exercise facilities. My husband worked out once. Explorer of the Seas has a beautiful gym, hot tub and sauna. We did not play miniature golf, climb the rock wall, or take advantage of these kinds of activities. The ship had some good specials on alcohol. We bought about 8 bottles of liquor and did not find out till the last day that you can only get one bottle per person tax free. So I worried that the money I saved on alcohol I would end up paying in taxes. More on that later. The Promenade is a nice area of the ship. It was nice to be able to get a cup of coffee, sandwich, or cookie anytime of the day. Stores, bars, and entertainment are all located there also. I love to shop and I was satisfied with the store selection. We usually visited a bar on the Promenade nightly, had a drink before dinner and just watched people.
ENTERTAINMENT - We went to all the shows. They were good. We did not have any trouble getting a seat in any of the shows. The ice show is great. If you miss any of the shows or entertainment you can watch them in your stateroom. They show them the next day.
BERMUDA - I had done alot of reading about Bermuda so I had an idea of what I wanted to do. First, I want to say that everyone rents scooters. They are everywhere and I wish I would have rented one. But my husband took the advice from previous travelers that they are dangerous and we did not rent one. We bought the 2 day unlimited travel pass for $20 each. This was nice but we spend a good portion of our day getting to our destinations. You have to catch a ferry to get a bus to get to the beach. Our first stop was Horseshoe Bay. It is a beautiful beach and a must see but the water was rough and everyone went there. So, if you want to rent a chair or umbrella you have to get there early. If I had to do it again, I would go to another beach. They are all beautiful and water is calmer is some areas. I was not able to snorkel. To get to horseshoe Bay you walk down a steep hill. There is a man who will bring you up for $1 a person. It is a good investment. We ate at Tio Pepe's which is right at the top of Horseshoe Bay. Nice restaurant. Moderately priced. Once thing we noticed about Bermuda is that you can not go into restaurants with sand on your feet. We had to eat outside, which was fine, but the restaurant is almost on the beach. We did not spend anytime in Hamilton. The second day we were at Bermuda we stayed right in the Royal Naval Dockyard. We found that we could have spent more time there. There is a Snorkel Park that offers snorkeling for free and has chair rental. Also a mall, glass factory, rum cake bakery, and alot of cool things to do. We ate at the Frog and Onionery. Okay. The first night you are in Bermuda they have a park festival with locals selling stuff. I bought a beautiful necklace and wish I would have bought more. That was nice. I love homemade stuff.
DISEMBARKMENT - Everyone had to be out of there staterooms by 8 a.m. The only thing open was the Windjammer. It was crowded but still we were able to share a table and service was good. After breakfast everyone goes to public areas to wait for their color to be called. We were towards the end. The first color was called around 9:15 and we were called around 11:15 a.m. Once your color is called you depart, catch a bus, claim your luggage then proceed to customs. There are porters everywhere. At first we were going to try to get all of our things to customs on our own but we decided to use the porter services. It was again a good investment. For $5.00 he got us through customs in 30 seconds and the alcohol was not an issue. Once through customs you take your luggage to the pick-up area. I waited with the luggage while my husband got the car. Very easy and quick.
OVERAll - The cruise was great but there were too many children. It seems as if the new family vacation is a cruise. I guess I never noticed it before. (I have taken my kids on 2 cruises.) Maybe because it was just my husband and myself that I noticed it more. If I go on another couple cruise I will definitely pick a cruise line that caters to adults. Service was so good on the ship that at first we were suspicious of everyone. But as the cruise went on you could tell that the people on the ship were just generally nice people. It almost seems as if they try too hard to please everyone. I can honestly say that my husband and I had a very enjoyable and memorable 25th anniversary.