My wife and I decided a few years back that it would be much more fun to pick a cruise vacation than to buy Christmas, birthday, or anniversary presents for each other. This one was our seventh on RCI, and nothing has happened yet that would cause us to go back to buying gifts! This was our second cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We took along our youngest son and one of his friends, both 17-years old. Our trip from Oklahoma started out pretty rocky, with bad weather causing flight delays and cancellations. We ultimately ended up flying into Boston at 2:00 am, renting a car, and driving the 4 1/2 hours back to Newark airport. After that misadventure, everything went according to plan...dropping off the car, finding ALL our luggage that had flown into EWR the night before, and arranging transportation to Cape Liberty. The embarkation process went very smoothly, though I agree with other reviewers that the port facility is pretty primitive. We made in onboard by 12:30 and headed for the Windjammer for a bite. We've learned to pack swimsuits in our carry-on bag, so after lunch we relaxed in one of the hot tubs, which we had all to ourselves. The sail-away was great! My wife and I had both been the New York before, but never seeing it from the harbor like that. The big cheer that welled up from the deck as we passed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge was hilarious! Several of the reviewers previously on the Explorer had complained of poor service in the dining room so we were a bit leery. We ended up with probably the BEST wait staff that we've ever had on any of our previous cruises. Geffrey and Maria were absolutely fabulous! Our great table mates also had teenage boys, so we kept the two of them hopping taking care of five teenage appetites. Geffrey and Maria played right along the entire week, smiling, joking, and providing top-notch service. The Windjammer food was OK, but I thought the breakfast selections were a bit limited. We only went to Johnny Rockets on one evening, but it was (as usual) a good time.
Our first stop was Bermuda, which was gorgeous! We had never been there before, and it was a real treat. We purchased a taxi tour of the island, which enabled us to catch a glimpse of its beauty. At first, our driver came across as an Archie Bunker-type, ranting about everything from government crooks to retirement pensions. He finally mellowed out and gave us a fun tour, and we saw all the promised sites, with plenty of time to enjoy everything. We then kicked back on the small beach near the fort before boarding. At our second stop, Saint Maarten, the four of us took a cab over to Maho Beach, where the incoming airliners land literally right over your head. We spent the day hanging out on the beach, airplane watching, and eating lunch at the Sunset Grill. The boys also joined the crowd holding on the the fence while the airliners took off, trying to levitate and getting sand-blasted in the process...dumb tourists! Our driver, "Cool Cat 82" was right on time picking us up, and we had plenty of time shopping for some souvenirs before getting back onboard. My wife found a beautiful ring and I got a rusty license plate for the garage wall. Saint Thomas was right up to expectations...sunny, warm, and picturesque. However, we didn't stay long...having purchased a Saint John beach tour and we headed off on the "Island Girl". The boat ride was fun (and wet!) and lasted about 30 minutes. After a short (and wild) ride in a modified Ford F-350 carrying about 25 people, we arrived at Trunk Bay, which is almost indescribably beautiful. We sunned, snorkled, and otherwise simply hung out and enjoyed the beach. In a word...AWESOME! One final note...my wife's ring needed resized, and everything was professionally handled by the Shopping Guides, Andrea and Michel. They kept the ring overnight and had it redone while we in Saint Thomas, and we picked it up onboard that same evening. We share this because we have a friend still awaiting her ring from its resizing while on a Carnival cruise...back in May!
Our last stop was San Juan, where we walked around the Old Town and wandered around San Felipe el Morro. Interesting and very historical! The time ashore was short, probably because of the long voyage back to New Jersey. The at-sea days were so-so. Great because of the Cruise Director, Alan Brooks, and his hilarious antics. Not-so-great because of overcrowded pools, groups of bored teens, and a few cranky passengers. Back at Cape Liberty Sunday morning, The disembarkation was a piece of cake...especially since we had an early flight out of EWR and got off the ship relatively early. Overall, however, the cruise was a blast! It was definitely up to the standard that we've seen in the past from RCL. The entertainment was lots of fun...the 70's party, the Beatlemaniacs, Dave Morgan with Chucky the Duck (OK...was the blonde girl staged?), and especially the brand-new ice show (simply unbelievable!)! The boys had good time onboard, climbing the rock wall, cleaning up playing poker, and playing putt-putt. The uppers were many...calm seas and good weather, great dinner service, a fine job by the cabin steward (everyone really earned their tips). The only downers we experienced were minor...the so-called high-speed internet service was anything but; and a few big city dwellers who seemed to forget that they were on vacation. Now...where do we go for Christmas?