My husband and I have cruised 4 times previously, 2 on RCCL, 1 on Princess, 1 on Celebrity. We have read the reviews many times, but this is the first one we decided to submit. Please excuse the "not too perfect" english, we are from Montreal and this is a second language for us!
We do find that some of the reviewers complain for such little details. After all, you are on vacation, have fun, you are privileged to enjoy nice cruise vacations!
We always book a balcony room, because although everyone tells you that you are not on a cruise to stay on the balcony, it does give you more space to breathe and it is very enjoyable in the morning for breakfast, or late afternoon when you come back from the islands. Anyway, we now book a "guarantee" stateroom, which generally comes cheaper than an inside category!
We did find that the Explorer was starting to show its age, compared to other ships, even though we saw a lot of people maintaining it all week long. Lots of rust on our balcony, missing paint, carpets not clean everywhere. But overall, it is a very nice ship.
Embarkation went smoothly, we arrived at 11:00 and were in by 12:00 due to some delay (?). Yes, it is an hour wait, but there are worst things in life than waiting to get onboard a cruise ship.
As usual with RCCL, we enjoyed very good service from our cabin attendant, our waiter and assistant waiter. We were also pleasantly surprised that the head waiter came to our table every night to make sure everything was OK. This was actually a first in all our five cruises! On other cruises, the head waiter would show up only on "tip night"...
The food is rated 3-3.5/5, as with other similar cruises. We are used to eating in fine restaurant, and a cruise ship of this category does not offer such food. But hey, they cook it for you, and you do not have to do the dishes, so we enjoyed it. Remember, you get what you pay for.
The shows were the worst we have seen on all cruises. The singers and dancers were really below average. We are normally like children when we go to those shows, but this time it was very ordinary. Voices were shaky, and the dancers did not seem to be in very good shape. The ice show was good, and worth seeing.
Labadee: RCCL private resort, lots of space and not overcrowded. Haiti however does not offer a lot to visit.
Casa de Campo: We took the shuttle and went to Altos de Chavon. Good thing we paid only $6. for the shuttle, Altos de Chavon takes a big 30 minutes to visit... We then went to "La Marina", since we are sailors and wanted to have a look at the rich and famous sailboats. Not really worth going there, although we were told that it is a great place to hang out, only a few shops there (all closed that day...), and three restaurants.
San Juan: We had visited the San Cristobal fort on a previous cruise, this time we just walked around in old San Juan and did some shopping.
St-Thomas: We rented a scooter, and went around the island all day. The sights are magnificent!! Made a stop at the Hilton for lunch because they have nice lounge chairs and a quiet private beach.
Overall, we did enjoy this cruise, for the excellent value for price. We were looking for 10 days to relax and get treated like royalty, and this is exactly what we got! It is definitely different from a cultural vacation in Europe or Asia, where we travel with a "backpack" and no reservations whatsoever. A cruise in the Caribbean should be enjoyed for what it is: Sunny, carefree, and relaxing.