We had a wonderful time on the Explorer of the Seas. The ship is truly magnificent. This was our third cruise (took 7 day on RC Monarch of the Seas and 5 day on Carnival Imagination). Driving from Virginia, we stayed overnight in Allentown, PA, at the Staybridge Suites off I-78 (exit 49A.) Very nice hotel with restaurant within walking distance. It only took us about 1 1/2 hours to reach the cruise port from this hotel. We had no trouble finding the cruise port--just stay on 78.
We arrived at the cruise port around 11:30, which was a bit too early as we got mixed up in the traffic of people who were just getting off the ship from the previous cruise. Once we figured out where to park and where to drop off our luggage (make sure you give it to someone who is taking luggage that is going ON the ship), it was very easy to get through the check-in process (do it online ahead of time to get your setsail pass). We did not have to wait in line. We checked in and were then told to wait in a holding area for a shuttle to the ship. We were on the ship by 12:30 or so and went to the Windjammer for a nice lunch. About 1:10 we were able to go to our stateroom. Be sure to take a small bag with things you will need for that day/evening. Our luggage wasn't delivered until about 9 or 10 pm.
Our stateroom was very nice. We had a balcony (D2) cabin on Deck 9. It was spacious and had plenty of storage for our stuff. The bathroom was a bit small, but adequate. We were on the port side so had a view of the Statue of Liberty and NY skyline. I would recommend port side because in Bermuda, port side faced the Royal Naval Dockyard.
We ate in the dining room every night and had two breakfasts and one lunch there as well. The rest of our meals were at the buffet (Windjammer/Island Grill). The food in the dining room was excellent. Our waiters were wonderful and we were very impressed with the whole experience. The windjammer was good too, but the food was not superb, just very good. I would have liked some more Asian dishes. There is an Asian section of the buffet, but I found it somewhat lacking. The main line served sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. We did not go hungry. The desserts are very good. The Windjammer does close at certain times of day, but we found them to be open and serving something (they close down parts of it in the afternoon and just serve limited fare) when we were wanting it.
We didn't do much shopping onboard, but it was fun to look around. The Promenade is really something. The cafe has really good coffee (free) and the parades (in particular the 70s night) were great. Our Cruise Director, Allan Brooks, was funny and seemed to be everywhere. The solarium pool area was very nice. It is adults only and there are large hottubs, which we enjoyed on two occasions. The main pool area was usually pretty crowded--a lot of kids, but we did get in the pool one evening and had it to ourselves for a bit. If you tend to get seasick, I would recommend taking dramamine. I was hoping that since the ship was so big, I would not feel the motion, but I woke up Monday morning (had not yet taken any pills) feeling really sick. I took a dramamine and slept and felt better by lunch. After that, I took them about every 12 hours (except Tues and Wed in Bermuda) and was fine.
Bermuda was wonderful. I wish we could have stayed there longer. We did the Ultimate Catamaran on the first morning in Bermuda and it was a nice, relaxing trip. They took us to a shipwreck site to see some fish and turtles and then to a lovely beach area to swim/snorkel/kayak. We floated around with a noodle and had a great time. Back on the ship for lunch and then caught a bus to Hamilton. We took the 8 route which went directly to Hamilton, but if you get the 7 route, you take the southern route which stops at all the beaches (realized this later). In Hamilton, we shopped a little on Front Street and then caught the ferry back to the Dockyard (20 min ride). You can get a ferry/bus pass for $20 for two days. In retrospect, we could have just bought the one day pass for $12 as we did another excursion and just looked around the dockyard on Day 2 and did not use the pass. After the ferry trip, we got our suits and headed to Horseshoe Bay on the bus (number 7 this time). It was truly beautiful. You have to walk down a big hill to get to the beach from the bus stop. After playing in the water for a while, we walked down the beach to the left and the crowds really thinned out. The rocks are beautiful. Instead of going back to Horseshoe Bay, we walked back to the main road to catch the bus. We found a bus stop (blue pole) and waited a while, but no bus came after about 20 minutes so decided to walk back along the road toward the bus stop where we got off. There were a bunch of tourists there (it was about 8 pm by this time) and some said they had been waiting for a bus for almost two hours. We decided to get a cab since we didn't want to miss our dinner onboard at 8:30. It was about $24 and the driver was very nice and informative. Apparently, there was an accident plus construction that was holding up the buses. No biggie. We made it to dinner and got to see the sunset on the way. The next day we did the Wild West Kayak excursion in Elys Harbor which was great. I had never kayaked before. My husband (6 feet) found it a little uncomfortable after a while since you have to sit with your legs around the glass bottom well in the boat, but it was not bad. One of the guides dove down and got a sea cucumber which we passed around. Pretty cool. The 2-man kayaks are stable and no one flipped over. After a nice trip, we went back to the beach where we got to play around in the water for a bit before the boat came back to take us back to the ship. I would recommend this excursion. The guides were great and very informative. That afternoon we looked around the dockyards and were back on the ship by 3:30 (it leaves at 5 pm). There was more I would have liked to have done in Bermuda (Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, St George), but there wasn't enough time. Guess we will just have to go back! The people were friendly, and we found the island to be clean and safe.
Other thoughts...the comedian, Carl Strong, was hilarious. The ice show was very well done. Dizzy's Lounge was a comfy spot to look out over the ship and have a drink. Take the stairs as often as you can as the elevators are usually crowded and slow in coming (and the exercise can't hurt). The casino was fun, but don't plan to get rich on the slots. The Chamber is a fun place to dance. Getting off the ship was fairly painless. We had orange tags and were called around 10 am. Finding our luggage and getting through customs was a breeze. We were in our car by 10:10. We had a great vacation. I wish I could have lasted longer! We will definitely cruise with Royal Caribbean again.