This was our first cruise, so we had a very limited idea of what to expect. Embarkation was a nightmare, but that was really the only thing that would deter me from going on another RC cruise. It very was organized, but took way too long. When we got there (around 10:00 a.m.), we went through security. They took our pictures with that little podium thing and then lined us up against the wall. As more people came, they were put next to us in additional lines. There were refreshments put out, coffee, tea, juice, but by about three hours later, when we really needed them, we had four cramped cattle-chutes of exhausted people between us and the refreshments. At least we had the wall to lean on. The rumor was that the ship "was not ready." We didn't actually get on board until around 3:00 p.m. when we were told we would be able to board at 11:00. After being up in the wee hours of the night before to travel all night and all day and then standing in line for another four hours with aching More
feet and aching heads, none of us had much energy to enjoy our first night on the ship. They actually threatened to remove my father from the ship because he wanted to stay in his cabin and sleep through the muster drill. I know it's very important to attend, but it seems like an excessive response to immediately want to kick someone off because they ask to be allowed to sleep through it.
As far as the cabin goes, we didn't have any problems with it, despite my DH and I both being larger people. My parents complained non-stop about the size of theirs, but I think DH and I just took for granted that on a ship where space is limited, the rooms are going to be much smaller than a normal hotel room. We had an inside stateroom on deck 7, so it was one of the smaller rooms on the ship. The space wasn't a problem because we spent very little time in our room...only to sleep, shower and change. The shower itself was very cramped, but other than that, no problems. My bro & SIL had a balcony room, which they said was nice at night when they wanted to sit outside, but for the price, I don't think we missed anything that couldn't be gained by just going outside whenever we felt the need.
DH and I spent the chief of each non-port day in the pool on the main pool deck. The pools were nice and clean (there are two, side by side), although they are saltwater. We also checked out the hot tubs. One thing I didn't like is that they did not have all of the hot tubs open during our cruise. The two large ones at the end of the pool were open all the time, but the smaller ones around the sides were not open. There were lots of servers coming around all the time, so you could order from them, but it took a little while for them to get back to you. We all really liked the free ice cream machine pool side, and there were always plenty of deck chairs, most of them in the sun, but lots in the shade too in case you needed to get out of it for a little while. There was also a band, or music being played most of the time. And there was plenty of space to just walk around and stretch your legs outside...lots of deck to explore on the ship.
The overall dining room was good. The food was superb, and I don't remember ever walking away from the table still hungry. The portions were small, but it is a fine-dining experience, so the point is to take advantage of the multiple courses, not to expect to be stuffed by your entree alone. If you get your appetizer, salad, entree and desert, you'll most likely be full by the end of the meal. If you're not, the staff certainly have no objection to giving you seconds! On lobster night, my bro and dad both asked for more lobster and were given two extra tails each. Later our server came out with another plate-full and handed them out. We ate in the dining room every night, at the late seating, but the meal itself took a good deal of time (up to 2 hours), and we seemed to miss the evening entertainment because of it.
The food on the rest of the ship was good. We ate at the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch most days. It was completely chaotic and usually packed, but they always had a good variety of food, it was clean, and it was a quick bite for when we had other things planned. I liked that most of the restaurants on board had hand sanitizers at the doors. Once we ate at Johnny Rockets. The food was so-so, but we had fun when the servers started dancing. We tried to get reservations at Portofino, but it was completely booked by the first night of the cruise.
We did make our way into the promenade, but aside from a variety of jewelry stores, a liquor store, a bar and a cafe, there isn't much to see there. Most of the descriptions of the promenade say it spans four decks, but really it's one deck of stores, and three decks of cabin windows overlooking the promenade. The prices are ok, but the liquor store sells exactly the same kind of alcohol you would find in the states, at prices just a tad less than what you would normally pay, even duty-free. One of the jewelry stores has really good 2 for $10 deals on jewelry, purses, watches and sunglasses. We also found our way into the casino. Before we went on the cruise, DH and I agreed not to gamble, but it's very hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere of the casino and we ended up playing some slots anyway.
At our ports of call, things went very smoothly. When we docked at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we were surprised that there were so few people lining up to get off the ship. In fact, throughout the entire cruise, we were surprised many things weren't more crowded. After my bro & SIL's wedding, we went to the beach and hung out there for a while before getting back on the ship. They checked our bags on embarkation, but it only took a few seconds and there wasn't a long wait for an elevator. Tendering in to Grand Cayman was a breeze as well. The excursions were excellent. If you go to Grand Cayman, I recommend the Stingray City snorkel.
At the end of the cruise, disembarkation was much easier than getting on the ship had been. We just packed our luggage, waited until they called our tag color and walked off the ship.
Overall it was a great experience, and I can't wait for a repeat! Less
Explorer of the Seas Cruises to the Western Caribbean