General Info: This was my 5th cruise. I have previously sailed 3 times with RCI and once with Carnival. I'm 28, and traveled with my husband, parents, aunt & uncle, brother, and his girlfriend.
Embarkation: We arrived to the cruise ship terminal very early (We got there a little after 10:00.) because my dad is always chronically early for everything. There was a nice waiting area where we sat for about a half hour until they started checking people in. While sitting there, we were given a ticket with a number. This was the number for boarding the shuttle to the ship, and it was a great way to keep everything organized and moving smoothly. Shortly before 11:00, we were led to the registration area and we were the very first ones to check in! The only problem we had was that they did not have my aunt's SeaPass card. They told her they would make one and have it ready in a few minutes. After about 45 minutes (and asking a few different people about it) she finally got her More
card. Our number for the shuttle was called about 20 minutes later. It was a quick and easy shuttle ride to the ship, and we were onboard around 12:30. We had lunch at the Windjammer while we waited for our rooms to be ready. We went to our room at 1:15, and our room steward, Teddy, was just finishing up.
Food: This was a big disappointment for me. The food is not nearly as good as I remember it being on my previous cruises with RCI, and it didn't even come close to being as good as Carnival. I ate mussels twice—once in the Windjammer and once in the dining room—and they were horribly overcooked both times. Dining room food was great the first two nights (The scallop entree was excellent!), but the quality quickly went downhill after that. Our table would often receive the wrong food, or the food would be missing ingredients that were listed in the menu description. Occasionally, some of us would order the same entree, but each person's food arrived looking and tasting slightly different. For example - one night I ordered pasta with scallops and portobellos, but was disappointed to see the tiny diver scallops and no portobellos. My brother ordered the exact same thing, and his came with larger bay scallops (that had been cut into pieces) and he had portobellos with his. Another night, several of us ordered cheese cannelloni. As usual, half of us were served several minutes before everyone else. Those of us who were first to receive the meal had quite a bit of sauce on our plate. Those who received their entrees later had almost no sauce at all. There was not a single night where service went smoothly; every night some of us were given the wrong dishes. (And we ate in the dining room 7 nights.) At first we would correct the server, but some of us just gave up after several days of this and just ate whatever was brought out.
One other thing that upset me about the dining during this cruise was that the servers seemed reluctant to bring out more than one entrEe. On all of my other cruises, the servers encouraged us to try more than one entrEe. It's not like I order two entrees every night, but I had been telling the new cruisers in my group that they can feel free to order as many things as they want, but on the few occasions we did attempt to do this, the servers gave us the impression that we were making a big imposition on them, and one time the other entrees we had ordered were not even brought out at all.
Another big problem we had was that the bar staff (especially in the theater) were very reluctant to serve my brother and his girlfriend who had purchased the soda card. The problem with the soda card is that you pay the gratuity on the entire value of the soda card at the time of purchase. So the individual server who serves a soda to someone with the card doesn't want to serve you because they're not getting a gratuity from that. (They really ARE getting the gratuity that you paid when you purchased the card, but if they can ignore you and serve someone else an alcoholic beverage—getting the tip from that—then they'll make more money.) Some servers rolled their eyes when they saw the soda card, and once when some of us ordered alcoholic drinks and my brother and his girlfriend ordered sodas at the same time, the server came back with only the alcoholic drinks. Then when we reminded him about the sodas, he came back with only one.
We also had a problem with our helmet diving excursion in Bermuda. When we received our tickets for the other excursions we had booked through the ship, the helmet dive tickets were missing. At the shore excursion desk, we were told that RCI had switched to a different company for the helmet dive, so we were given our tickets for the new helmet dive company. When switching people over to this other company, RCI combined what had been two excursion groups into one. So there were A LOT of us on this excursion. The excursion consisted of 5 groups of 8 divers. Each dive lasted about a half hour. We were the first group to dive, which meant that we then had to spend 2 HOURS on the boat waiting for the other groups to dive. We were all miserably hot, not to mention wasting what little time we had to spend in Bermuda. We were not even allowed to swim around the ship, we just had to sit there in the sun for 2 hours doing absolutely nothing. The 30-min. helmet dive was fantastic, but not at all worth the 2 hours spent broiling on the boat afterward!
My final complaint is that the pool attendants need to do their jobs and keep the diapers out of the pool! I think there is a governmental safety rule about this, and if nothing else it is posted on the ship's pool rules sign, but this rule is largely ignored. The first time I saw a diapered toddler in the pool, I notified a pool attendant who told the woman that her child could not be in the pool. The woman complied, removed the child, and I was thrilled! The second time I saw a diapered child in the pool, I again notified a pool attendant. She didn't do anything for several minutes. Then she sent another employee to tell the woman to get her kid out of the pool. The woman put up quite a fuss, so the man who had talked to her went back to the pool attendant I had talked to. So she (the woman I had notified about the situation) went to talk to the mother. Again the mother argued, so the pool attendant did nothing. Why should rude people be allowed to break the rules simply because they like to argue?! This infuriated me, but I ignored it for 30 minutes. Finally I went and told someone at the purser's desk, and then decided I had had enough of the pool for that day. I saw diapered kids in the pool nearly every day, but I got tired of spending my vacation doing someone else's job, so I gave up on the main pools and spent my time in the solarium instead.
I know it sounds like I have nothing but complaints about this cruise, but aside from the things mentioned above, we really had a great time. As a skating coach and choreographer, I was blown away by the ice show. It truly is incredible that they're able to put on such a professional show on such a small ice surface. In fact the entertainment in general is one of RCI's strongest points. I saw nearly every show and guest performer and they were all fabulous except for two: "Ole, Ole!" and "The acrobatics of Sara and Daniel." I guess flamenco dancing just isn't my thing because I loved the musicians in "Ole, Ole!" but I was not at all impressed with the dancing. And I wouldn't call what Sara and Daniel did "acrobatics." Instead it looked like they were ice skaters doing pairs lifts on the stage. Had they been on ice skates, it would have been marginally impressive, even though I have seen all of their moves before, but just standing on stage and doing various lifts was kind of boring. But the production shows and comedians were all fantastic!
Of the five cruises I've been on, this was my least favorite, but clearly we still had fun because we booked two Next Cruises while onboard! I really want to do another Carnival cruise, but the Next Cruise program is so easy and worthwhile that I just couldn't resist! Less
Explorer of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean